Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


From the Archive :: Best of 2010 :: Stuart Brown Says Play is More Than Fun

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Stuart Brown’s fascinating TED talk was the most popular video of 2010. As we move into the new year, we can take his talk under consideration. 2011 can be a year of play no matter what we are doing if we can tap into our natural way of being. We tend to live from this place when we drop the story lines and exchange imagination for a close appreciation of the reality of now. 

We tend to think of play as something kids do and as frivolous for adults in our work-ethic driven culture. But as Stuart Brown demonstrates in this TED talk, play is anything but frivolous and not just for kids. Since animals play, play is part of our genetic inheritance and serves important developmental biological functions. It’s too bad that as a culture we don’t nurture play into adulthood. I view play as integral to exquisite self-care and something that we should do often and with others. Play often provides a spontaneous form of mindfulness. We naturally fall into mindfulness when we are engaged in play. Having fun holds great power to move us into the present moment. So have some fun today!



  • Colleen

    OH, HOW I LOVE THIS!
    From the time I was a baby, my mom taught me that there is humor, joy and playfulness in almost every life situation. I grew up living this concept, and often felt like a foreigner in this earth school. Skeptics, which there seems to be a lot of, often accused me of being crazy, living in a fantasy world, denying reality! It is WONDERFUL to see neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers talk about the concept of playfulness as an important part of life:>) On a deep level, I have always believed this, and there’s always a part of me that thinks maybe I AM crazy! Maybe I am living in a fantasy world, but it’s my fantacy, and it makes the life experience much more enjoyable:>)
    I speak of “playing” rather than “working” because with our words, we paint a picture of our experience, which is retained by the brain. “Work” suggests that the task is a difficult struggle, and resistence is often involved. When I say I “play” with an idea or task, I program my mind to percieve exploration with the curiosity of a child:>)It is simply my playfull way to face challenging life experiences. Being playful is just as serious, and can sometimes allow us to see different angles and perspectives.
    When I co-facilitated cognitive self change sessions with offenders in correctional facilities, I noticed their protective mechanisms right away. The defenses and masks, including the tough macho demeanor they adopted to protect themselves comes from fear, which most of them lived with as children. When we are coming from a place of fear, we do not experience the qualities of playfulness, which comes from a place of love and trust. After doing a few sessions, they began to trust me, and then I noticed they were more willing to be a little playfull with dialogue at times. By the end of the 3 month sessions, they were more open to exploring and we could often banter playfully about certain things. As Stuard Brown points out, exploration with curiosity is part of the process of being playfull.
    As the bear and dog scene demonstrates, we need to be vulnerable to be playfull. We need to trust the big bad bear! AND, we need to trust ourselves. One person in an interaction has to make the first move to trust playfulness, as the husky does in the video. She sent the message that she wanted to be playful and vulnerable rather than react with agressiveness to the bear…smart dog!!!
    In life, we are often protecting ourselves, and become unable or unwilling to open our heart and mind to possibilities. We often stay in the “skeptics” box, thereby preventing exploration with the curiosity and playfulness of a child. To be playfull, we sometimes need to set aside our preconcieved ideas, like…that bear is agressive, so I better be prepared to protect myself and/or fight back. We can make the choice to try something different and be playful, which is often contagious, fun, and creates a whole different perception of the life experience. If anyone saw the bear/dog scene on u-tube, the story tells us that the bear kept coming back every day to play with the dog:>)
    “Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused”:>)
    May we all have the willingness and ability to be playfull in the New Year and always…all ways:>)

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