I was cheerfully reminded of my need for play at a men’s retreat, how a water balloon and squirt gun fight, with little or no rules, can lift my heart and mind. I’ve been in play deficit, probably for some time. My inner grown up has been in charge much too long. Although I consider the craft of writing, both science and poetry, a form of play, rarely do I experience physical play. Working out is not really play, but it can be – see Go Animal.
My girls claim I play like a boy, a bit too wild. When I was playing pickup soccer, or actively studying martial arts or dance I played daily. Stuart Brown at the National Institute for Play presents research in a TED Talk from 2008. Take a minute and review your own life. Are you playing enough?
I do play using my mind quite frequently, my inventive creativity a strength. I firmly trust the concept of Beginners Mind, as espoused by Shunryu Suzuki. I find in mentoring herbalists and researchers the freedom to play is a great asset that few have learned. This is especially true in multi-disciplinary environments. Here’s an example I ran across recently about the power of trusting in play.
Justine Musk’s blog discusses the Innocentive problem solving website started by Alpheus Bingham, a vice president at Eli Lilly. He asked the public to solve some of the company’s hardest scientific problems by offering a financial reward to anyone who proposed a solution.
When solvers “rated the problem as outside their own domain”, Alpheus noted that they were more likely to stumble upon solutions. They were “bridging knowledge fields” – taking ideas from one domain and introducing them into a different domain. They reframed problems, combined and recombined ideas, and opened up new lines of thinking.
This message echoed my own experience. Pursue your passions outside the explicit area in which you “work”. Embrace your inner renegade. And don’t back down from throwing unusual ideas into the conversation. Have faith in your own unique perspective. You never know when creative people in your sphere of influence will “run with it”.
I want to give a shout out to my best bud, Chas Murray. Whenever we are together, we play. Let me share what I miss the most. He was living in Norfolk and when I’d visit we inevitably ended up at the beach. Our favorite game was to take a ball or a Frisbee and play catch with a twist. The player without the ball ran into the surf at full speed and the thrower tried to lead them into a full layout just as a cresting wave arrived. You had to trust in what would unfold and that your commitment to the moment was a joyful act in and of itself!
Not knowing is the most intimate thing (Zen Master Jizu).