deep play

In her post, Adventure Bag Love Train, Nat tells the story of a moment of play she instigated, armed with little more than love and her adventure bag.

An “adventure bag,” she explains, “is a bag you pack as you contemplate the question: how do I want to open myself to Delight today?  with myself and others as fully as I am willing?

She’s packing for a three-week trip. During the trip, she”ll be “visiting a dear friend who is in the midst of chemo treatments.” She explains:

“I wanted to get up to date with these friends, with the sweetness of who they had become, and so, I was anxious to be lost inside of deep play with them, but felt at a loss for exactly how to go about getting there, enter: Adventure Bag.  While everyone had drifted away, mildly bored by my early attempts to engage them, I opened the AB and trailed my fingers through the contents, letting the inspiration bloom.  Than I selected a Spider Man mask and a Rockette dancer type mask and placed them opposite each other on the long table.  Between them I stuck a back of Fairy tarot cards I’d found somewhere.  At the next set of chairs I placed a deck of traditional cards, and at the last set, I put a roll of small blank round stickers and some fancy colored pens.”

“Deep, true play has a kind of drawing power to it, like a tractor beam in Star Trek drawing a stray alien to the mothership.  In that light, relaxed state, everything was clear. (italics mine)

This passing observation about the nature of deep, true play, is of vitalizing value to anyone of us who is devoted to making the world a little more fun. It’s not about you as a play genius – though, in deed, your genius is of cherished value – it’s about your bringing people into play. It’s about the invitation that you create: your genuine, gentle, accessible, unthreatening invitation to play.

“I invited a pair to sit down at the masks station,” Nat continues,”and to take turns telling each other’s fake fortunes. The listener got to wear the spiderman mask.  The Fortune Teller got to wear the feather one.  There were no more rules or prompts but it was enough to get them running, and the ‘fake’ fortunes were actually bright, clear, hopeful expressions of love for each other’s futures.  The next group played a game called Spit, a very focused, fast card game that draws the aliveness up by compelling such total focus and also opens the doors for some very fun trash talking, which can be so damn fun and bonding.  The last space became a waystation for people who wanted to make something they wanted to stick on someone else.”

Fake fortune-telling. A silly card game. A place to draw, if you’ll forgive the doubleness of my meaning, together. All created with props. Each providing a different invitation to play. All combining to establish the grounds for the emergence of a true play community.

I asked Nat to tell us more about her friend in bed. She adds:

Earlier that day, my getting-well-again friend, told me in response to my query about what her current favorite things to do now that her body was in a huge transition and she told me that she loved to lay on the bed and knit and listen to something she loved.

Later that night while we were playing, it occurred to me that our burgeoning joy might be a tad too loud, and when I asked her if I could shut her door, she said, “but I’m having my favorite moment, listening to those I love, laugh and play. Please leave it open.”

She told me that what she loves about her current partner was how incredibly playful he is, how is response to everything is to play with it, to laugh with it. One night, after a chemo treatment, she went to see him and was very conscious of how much certain parts of her hurt, conscious to a level that was almost overwhelming. They played during her visit, laughing and sweetening as they do, and as she went to leave, it occurred to her that not only did nothing of her hurt, but that nothing of her could ever remember hurting, or even that there was a possibility of hurting.

Finally, we’re cuddled up together on the bed. We’ve been talking for days and mostly about play and laughing and the power of it. She’s asked me to add her to the 10 Fucking things group. She sees it as you and I do, a practice, a fun, fantastic practice, but an important and life-giving one as well. AND she has just started playing SUPERBETTER, Jane McGonigal’s simple, wonderful game that games the experience of wellness. I’m going to sign up and play along with her, because I’m interested, and because I want to comrade her on the journey to joyous wellness.

If you want to add playfulness to the world as you know it, mark this post, like this post, post, subscribe to NatPlays.

1 Comment

  1. Lily on July 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Wow. What a beautiful thing that play, laughter, joy can create “pain amnesia”. Not only relieving pain, but the memory of pain as well.

    I also love that she refers to her friend as her “getting better friend”. Always on the positive.

    Thank you Bernie, for introducing us to her.

    Love and laughter,

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