Playful and Free
[ theme music & intro ]
Remarkable things happen in us and around us when we choose to be a little more playful, especially during stressful times like these.
We’ll lighten up this week as I share a playful experience that not only surprised and delighted me but awakened something in me that had been half asleep. Stay with me.
[ brief pause as theme music fades ]
To set the tone for what we’re considering this week, I’ll start by sharing an excerpt from one of my daily journals.
“Returning to the place in me where I am playful and free, I’ll make my choices and decisions from there. Today, I’ll allow the perpetually childlike part of me all the room it needs to show up and stay present. Today, I’ll play a bit more, wonder a bit more, laugh a bit more, and worry a lot less.”
A few years ago I had a joyful encounter while sitting in the restaurant of Fort Worth’s Modern Art Museum. Before the pandemic, it was my weekly habit to arrive half an hour before the café opened and sit at my usual table where I would spend time going over my calendar and writing in my journal before I ordered lunch.
As the staff finished setting up the dining room for the day’s guests, the quiet atmosphere of that perfectly designed space offered me an ideal setting for stillness and contemplation. That day, however, I was in for a marvelous surprise.
No sooner had I written a few impromptu lines about being childlike, including the excerpt I just shared with you, when a group of sixth graders ran over and asked if they could take my picture. Bubbling with excitement and all of them talking at once, they explained that they were on a scavenger hunt and needed to find someone in western wear and that I was exactly what they were looking for.
This is Fort Worth, after all, and I still dress in my old-fashioned cowboy best when I go out.
We laughed together as they stood around me. One of them took pictures with her cellphone and one of the others told me about their project. As most often happens when I’m around kids, the playful part of me showed up quickly and I put my large cowboy hat on the head of one of the girls beside me. She grinned and struck a cowgirl pose with one arm over her head like she was twirling a lasso, then carefully handed my hat back to me and hugged me after the picture had been taken.
They skipped out of the dining room laughing, and I smiled as I returned to my journal and wrote about what had just happened.
It had been a marvelous example of what can happen when we’re open to the moment. Within minutes of writing how I wanted to engage with life that day, the universe delivered exactly what I needed to set it into motion. I’ll leave you to your own thoughts about cause and effect or the law of attraction or the power of focused intention.
What I can say with the confidence of an inside-out thinker is that my intention to remain childlike was the key to how I responded when the students showed up. Had I been in a more serious state of mind, I might not have responded as positively as I did, and I would have missed having a bit of fun. But because I had consciously made a place for play and spontaneity, I chose to be more childlike and flow with whatever showed up.
When I did, a kind of inner door quietly opened in me—a door to openness and wonder, a door to spontaneity and freedom, a door to presence and joy.
photo: Scott Lennox
Think about one of the other words we use for play. Hyphenate the word “recreation” and you get “re-creation.” When we’re playing, we are quite literally re-creating and revitalizing one of the essential parts of ourselves. Play helps us become more open to possibilities we wouldn’t see or experience if we were merely thinking hard or working hard.
I can’t speak for you, but when I’m stuck in my head, I often miss things, overlooking what’s right in front of me. On the other hand, when I’m playing—when I’m allowing myself to be a bit lighter—the old limits fall away, and I find myself wide open to wonder and discovery and improvisation. I’m also free to engage with things that are “out of the box” (to use an outworn phrase) because what is fresh and new has no “box” in the first place.
There is no question that we’re living in a serious time that is loaded with serious issues. While I’m not suggesting that we turn away from what’s important, it is worth considering how much more effectively we cope when we playfully liberate ourselves from the constrictions of our inner push and pull. How much energy do we gain? How much fresher do we think and feel? What else becomes possible for us?
[ skipping sounds ]
Equipped with the laughter and smiles and kindness and joy and wonder that are built into each of us, what might happen if we hopscotched our way through the things we’re dealing with, skipping from one thing to the next the way a child might play?
[ brief pause ]
With that childlike state in mind, this week’s three Beautiful Questions are designed to help you set yourself free by becoming more playful with your life, regardless of what you’re dealing with or what’s ahead of you right now.
One: What doors will you open within yourself and how much more fluidly will you respond to your life as you allow yourself the freedom of being more playful and spontaneous?
Two: What things might you do today to play with the tasks ahead of you instead of working on them?
Three: If you were to choose to be more playful with one specific thing in your life, what would it be and what would playing with it look like or feel like?
As always, I’m looking forward to hearing what comes from your considerations. Write and tell me.
As I say each week,
My Light with Your Light
[ theme music rises ]
I’m Scott Lennox, and this has been The Beautiful Question.
[ brief pause ]
The Beautiful Question is a One Light production, written, produced and engineered by Scott Lennox at HeartRock Studios in Fort Worth, Texas, as a way of paying forward to life, being fully present, becoming better engaged with things that truly matter in a complex world, and committing to a healthier future for all of us.