Remembering how to play

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch” (Palmer, 2000).

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

Part of coming to know our essence is understanding what sparks our desire. Recognizing and expanding desire and meaning enables us to see through our cultural conditioning, tapping into deep intuitive knowing. Often, it is not an entire activity or event that inspires us, it is certain qualities or a mix of qualities within the topic or format that resonates with our sense of meaning and piques our unique interests, pulling us more fully into the moment. Besides the more obvious pleasure associated with play, engaging in play as adulthood is also a good stress management strategy. 

Playfulness is the ability to transform our environment to make it more enjoyable (Barnett, 2007).

Those that are more playful are less likely to perceive stimuli as stressors and are more creative, adaptive and are also less likely to devolve into isolating and escape oriented reactions (Magnuson & Barnett, 2013). Adults who play are more likely to feel satisfied with life and are more inclined to seek enjoyable activities and to be more active (Proyer, 2013). Finally, while mental fitness benefits are more obvious, those who self-identify as playful are also more likely to maintain their physical fitness (Proyer, Gander, Bertenshaw, & Brauer, 2018).

Now that I’ve highlighted the role of expanding desire, sparking an ability to engage in play, reflect on what qualities spark your sense of desire. Think of one activity that excites you.  Perhaps something that resonates with your inner child as you recall the days when you acted from your essence, easily engaging in play. Do you remember getting lost in a specific activity as a child? Can you recall what qualities of that activity sparked your desire, the moments you caught yourself smiling, laughing, or immersed in a sense of timelessness?

What quality of that moment captured your attention in this way?  How might you expand this quality in your life now?

What are the obstacles to engaging in play or in letting yourself feel and respond to desire? 

What belief systems may be stopping you?   

What actions are necessary to navigate the obstacles?

When will you take these actions?

Start small as you practice noticing and responding to what sparks your desire. Practice self-compassion when you notice yourself quenching desire.  In this way, every action and reaction is a learning and loving opportunity.