An Invitation to Play

invitation to play

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon baby, let’s get ridiculous.”

I love this song by Redfoo! Maybe it’s because being ridiculous did not feature in my childhood; I was far too serious for playing games and being silly. Nowadays I celebrate playfulness and a touch of the ridiculous!  

Cultivating time and space to play has become a vital ingredient for my life and it’s become an integral part of my work with men and women on tantric retreats over the last 11 years. Natural exuberance and vitality can be buried under self-consciousness, achievements and competitive focus, the burdens of broken hearts and a lack of safety in self-expression.

Some people move through life with their ability to play intact. But for many like myself and many of my clients, life has been focused on the responsible side, providing and taking care of others. There is often emotional pain associated with the inability to play. I have seen people struggle in groups when play is an open invitation, with self-doubts prevent them from joining a crazy dance or a cuddle puddle.

There is a third category of people, those who use fun to hide their pain, for example, the comedian who does not know how to deal with serious issues for fear of exposing their suppressed pain. Their humour and fun can often go too far, hurting others or being strongly self-deprecating, as it’s not coming from a grounded sense of self-worth.

When the ability to play disappears life can feel overly serious and burdensome. My clients often have an urgency to be productive, to learn, to grow, with the mind pushing past the warning signals of emotional overwhelm or an aching body.

The pent up effects of being serious or denying one’s serious side can leak out – an inappropriate outburst of emotions, a desire to disappear or confusion about the strong feelings bubbling up. The effects of this can escalate over time into explosive emotional experiences, high levels of anxiety and depression, and a sense of disconnection from the inner world and a lack of joy.

Clients who are parents will recognise that their children need to release pent up energy, however, they often don’t give themselves the same permission.

They might use drugs, alcohol and television as a temporary panacea to lighten their load. However, this doesn’t address the inner suppression, a broken heart, self-rejection or the shadow aspects. There is a direct correlation between addressing our inner hurts and opening up to natural lightness and play.  

Which leads me to ask: what creates the ideal conditions for play to happen? There’s a sense of following the inspiration from inside, being exploratory, not having an agenda, simplicity and lightness. Most critical of all, there must be a feeling of acceptance and safety for play to occur.

When I first started facilitating Tantric Nights one of the participants who was new to Tantra commented, “It’s just like kinder for adults.” Given the opportunity to connect gently, to enjoy non-sexual touch, to hug each other and to relax in each other’s company without any need to perform or please activated the sense of being a child and feeling free for him.

New romance can bring light-heartedness, flirting is very playful, inspiration is alive and there is an appreciation for the simplicity of being with our new love. However, as relationships develop, people forget these simple gifts and become goal focused in sex and life generally.

It’s why I often suggest to couples to look at each other with curiosity, to imagine that they are seeing each other or touching each other for the first time. When agendas are set aside, curiosity, acceptance and love can cultivate playfulness together with new depths of union.

At tantra retreats, simple practices such as gentle touch and eye gazing create a strong sense of bonding, creating feelings of being seen, loved and accepted. This paves the way for the barriers of protection to come down. Then we increase the level of risk in play by asking people to step out of their comfort zones and to move like animals – a tiger, a cat, a bird, a whale and many others. The playful spirit can come forth as inhibitions diminish.

Play comes in many flavours from childlike and innocent to sexy and flirty, it can be physical in nature such as dancing, it can be telling fantasy stories, it can be spending time in the forest or the ocean. There will be freedom and safety to explore, to embrace life and the sensations of the moment.  

Healing and playfulness go hand in hand, as I embrace my wholeness; I give myself more permission to play. I remember a moment in a padded therapy room some years ago where I threw dolls and stuffed animals around the room, tore up old phone books and had a 5 years old tantrum. I could finally scream, feel and express the suppressed parts of me, the tantrum passed and then it was pure delight and enjoyment of feeling free, I could be me without apology.

Profound healing of this nature has carved the pathway for me to express who I am in the world, to be more experimental and creative in my work and to enjoy my multi-faceted nature. On a recent retreat I commenced the morning session full of creative spirit and play after having enjoyed a solo hour of dance, music and play. I had no fixed plan for the morning, but I could feel something strong brewing. That morning I facilitated a practice that took women to a whole new edge of healing in this work.

Play supports healing, healing supports play. The simple act of giving yourself 5 minutes to play is a bridge towards more vitality, opening your heart to new depths of truth and feeling.

Go on, I dare you, start today, take a minute to play!