The Power of Play


I just had a breakthrough.

I have been trying to make some significant changes in my life lately, and a huge part of any lasting transformation is ACTION.  I’ve known this for a long time, but that always seems to be the part where I get stuck.  It usually lasts several days at the very most. Then I get sucked back into my old habits.

But whenever I have tried to analyze my old habits, I have been confused. On one hand, I am a super hard worker. As long as I’m not feeling sick (or pregnant), I will be up and doing something. Heck, even if I am feeling sick, sometimes I will be up and doing something anyway.

So it doesn’t make much sense for me to be realizing that I am also lazy.

Yes. Lazy. Unless someone else is involved in my motivation, I have been completely lazy about doing anything. I did great when I had a job – if I didn’t get up on time and do my work, I would get fired or at least not get a raise.  But now that I’m my own boss (a.k.a., Mom) I don’t get up early unless my husband does too. I don’t clean my house unless people are coming over (and sometimes not even then, lately). And sadly, a lot of the time I don’t do what I say I’m going to do unless the consequences are pretty dire.

Pathetic. I know. I’m not proud of it. But I’m determined to change this, now that I’ve had this breakthrough this morning.

Early this morning (because my husband got up at 6 a.m., so I did too), I was reading more Joseph Campbell (Reflections on the Art of Living by Joseph Campbell and Diane K. Osbon), and Campbell mentioned the six-pointed star, or the Star of David.

He said that the upward-pointed triangle symbolized movement or aspiration. The downward-pointed triangle represents inertia, or an obstacle pushing you back. He says that you can view the downward-pointed triangle in two different ways: “One, as an obstacle; and the other, as the means by which you are going to make the ascent. So, everything in your life that seems to be obstructive can be transformed by your recognizing that it is the means for your transition.” (p.155)

We don’t have to accept that obstacle as something necessarily bad. “It is either an obstruction or the field through which the realization is to come.” (p.158)  Campbell asks us, “What is the obstruction in your life, and how do you transform it into the radiance?” (p.156)

Good question. So I asked myself that question, and right now, my obstruction seems to be inaction, or the demon of laziness.  So I read on.

“In India, demons are really obstructions to the expansion of consciousness. A demon or devil is a power in you to which you have not given expression, an unrecognized or suppressed god. Anyone who is unable to understand a god sees it as a devil.” (p.156)

At that moment, I realized that the reason I seem to be acting lazy is because I have not given expression to the power within me to simply play or relax. For some reason, if I am able-bodied and awake, I feel like I should be working, working, working—being productive 100% of the time. So when it comes to forcing myself to do something that I could get away with not doing, I have the tendency to just let it slide. It’s like I’m unconsciously forcing myself to give some kind of outward expression to that innate need for relaxation.

I love this quote by Brigham Young:

“Life is best enjoyed when time periods are evenly divided between labor, sleep, and recreation…all people should spend one-third of their time in recreation which is rebuilding, voluntary activity, never idleness.”

That’s two-thirds of your life that is supposed to be spent NOT working. Not working while simultaneously not being idle. Isn’t that fantastic?

So yes, I have been acting lazy, but it’s not because I AM lazy. It’s because I have not been honoring the God-given 8 hours a day that I have to recreate. Part of my job every day is to play. What an amazing idea!

And the real kicker is that I have GOT to show my kids that adults can play too. I never really saw my parents play or do anything just for fun. They had their hobbies, but as a child, their hobbies appeared to me to simply be other ways for them to be productive. They are both very crafty, so they would either make things and sell them (the end goal seeming to be the money, not the creative process), or they would use their skills to fix things or beautify our home, but nothing they ever did seemed to be just for fun.

And now I’m the same way. And I have got to change it.

I found this awesome clip from a documentary called The Power of Play (which I had no idea featured one of my favorite creators of super playful children’s music – Jim Gill). Take 5 minutes and watch the first segment (or watch all 6 of them) and consider how your life – and your kid’s life – is structured.

Is there time set aside for playing? Is there a specific space in which you and your family can play?  Are you honoring your recreation time as well as your work time?

And if finding time for play isn’t your issue, ask yourself what seems to be the obstacle in the way of your progression in whatever you’re doing right now.  The key is that you can transform that obstacle into an opportunity to know yourself better and move through the challenge if you just change your perspective.

In the spirit of play, here’s a little ditty from Sesame Street back in the day. It’s by the talented (and pre-Pixar) Bud Luckey, and it’s all about where you put your eyes… 🙂

Have a productively playful week!

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4 Responses to The Power of Play

  1. melanoma says:

    Love it! Love you!

  2. Pingback: New Muppets Album Rocks! | The Conscious Mom's Journey

  3. Laurel Zundel says:

    Remember when you were little and doing the dishes was fun because it seemed like play? My children always wanted to do chores with me because it seemed new and exciting. If play is a child’s work then is it possible to make work our play? I think the important part of recreate is exactly what it say. re-create. Is it possible to re-create work so it becomes delightful?

    Also, over the years I’ve often thought that to be productive I needed to be busy. I didn’t want to be idle because to me it meant I wasn’t productive and if I’m not productive then I might be lazy and useless. I think we often mislabel certain terms and adopt a twisted belief system. Being idle doesn’t mean sitting still and not doing anything. If you think about a car that is idling. it’s not moving forward but it is using a lot of energy and fuel. (It’s really quite busy) I’ve since learned that sitting quietly, looking out the window and pondering on something is extremely productive. It’s a place where I start to create and begin to move forward.

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