Be Playful

Archive for the ‘self development’ Category

Inspirational quotations and uplifting photographs to reawaken your inner playfulness and creativity.

Difficult Sentences

Write (by tosaytheleast)

‘Writing sentences is difficult whatever their subject. It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby-Dick. So you might as well write Moby-Dick.’ Annie Dillard


Writing a sentence that expresses exactly what is on your soul, and does so beautifully and effortlessly, is an extremely difficult enterprise.  In fact, writing any sentence that articulates precisely what you’re wanting to say is a challenge.

Sentences are the building blocks of the writer’s trade.  A bricklayer building a strong and elegant structure needs a transfusion of raw talent (steady hand, level eye) and dedicated learning (how to mix cement, which bricks to use where).  Writing’s no different.   Talent is some of it.  But mostly you need the devoted, unswerving tenacity of a terrier chasing down rabbit holes.

What are the bricks of your creative talent?  Are you building a wall for security, a home to live in, or a sacred structure to nourish the life of all who enter it?

Do you use and stretch your natural talents to their outer limits?  Are you ever tempted to settle for putting together recipes when you could be writing Moby-Dick?


‘The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.’
John Vance Cheney

Rainbow Guard (by linh.ngân)

A rainbow is formed where sun rays and raindrops meet.

Life is a lot like a rainbow – a mixture of rain and sunshine.  At any one moment in time, some aspects of life can be going wonderfully, whilst others seem stuck in a rut of pain, doubt or fear.

Rainbows are magical spaces of growth and opportunity.

In Norse mythology, rainbows were believed to be the road between gods and human beings.  Rainbows represent a meeting point with the sacred, a place of transformation.

Indian mythology understands rainbows as the bridge between death and life.  When our soul-life deadens within us, we journey along the rainbow to be revived and refreshed.

The well known Irish story is of a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.  Rainbows in the soul are a sign of inner riches we have yet to find.

The Bible story of Noah tells us that the rainbow is a symbol of God’s blessing.  The complexity of rain and sunshine, pain and wonder, light and darkness fused within the human soul are the sign of a life being truly lived.

When life seems both dangerous and beautiful, cloudy and clear, abundant and scarce – when all of these feelings lighten and darken our soul at once – let us remember the wonder of rainbow blessing, the truths that nature shares.


Your one stop reference guide to all things playful.

Photo by shibainu.


adventure, n. 1. being brave enough to do the things that make your feel alive; 2. everyday life
angels, n. ordinary people
art, n. making something beautiful


bouncy, adj. the word to remember when choosing new chairs, shoes, beds, or carpets
bubbles, vb. ability to float carefree through the world


conversation, n. art involving more than one person.  Often created using words
conflict, n. creativity waiting to happen; the midwife of creativity
creativity, n. being yourself
children, n. playful people
clown, vb. making sensible look silly; turning foolishness to wisdom
celebration, n. playful memory
curiosity, n. 1. remembering to look everywhere for goodness, magic and beauty, even when the world laughs at you for doing so; 2. refusing to accept anything at face value


Photo by D&J Huber.

doodle, vb. 1. the realisation that art can be done by anyone; 2. playful art
delight, vb. the ability to see the wonder in everyday things
dancing, vb. playful movement
danger, n. boredom, blind habit, addiction, workaholism
dream, vb. remembering your true self


everyday, n. opposite of mundane
enchantment, vb. to get lost in wonder


fairy-land, n. 1. the bottom of your garden; 2. anywhere you choose
freedom, n. embracing your limitations as strengths


grace, n. giving and expecting nothing back
gratitude, n. remembering to say thank you


happiness, n. gratitude for being alive
hope, vb. knowing that things always get better
humour, n. knowing that things could always be worse


innocence, n. seeing the light in everyone’s soul


joy, n. the emotion of play
jumping, vb. when standing still is not an option


Photo by striatic.
knitting, vb. weaving together the threads of your life into a beautiful, colourful, unique and playful pattern


listening, vb. grace-full conversation
life, n. one big clowning adventure of artful doodles, magical enchantment, everyday delight, sleepy wonder and risky conflict
laughter, n. the noise of a person fully alive


magic, n. reality


nonsense, n. 1. money; 2. power; 3. violence; 4. common sense


optimism, n. 1. see ‘hope’; 2. see ‘humour’


playfulness, n. a state of being.  Describes what an ideal world would be abundant with
peace, n. the soul of playfulness


Photo by Alorza.

quiet, n. where playful ideas are formed


radiant, n. the countenance of playfulness.  Cannot be acquired through make-up or plastic surgery.
randomness, n. playful order


sleep, n. the most creative place in all the world
social justice, n. the aim of playfulness
sacred space, n. anywhere playful acts are committed
sparkles, n. those little bits of magic that make life special.  Noticed and given away by exceptional people
sunshine, n. the source of sparkles, smiles, stories, dreams and angels
smiles, n. 1. little things that make a big difference; 2. things that make someone else’s day
spontaneity, n. playful planning


tension, n. see conflict


ubuntu, vb. embracing others, helping others to be playful, to live out their dreams and be fully alive


vivacity, vb. waking up after a good night’s sleep
vitality, n. the knowledge that playfulness need have no correlation with being young.  Usually found in older people.


wonder, vb. a sense of awe at the beauty of each human being and the world we live in
work, vb. fulfilling your potential.  Sometimes known as life


excitement, n. early morning feeling at the possibilities that lie ahead
exhilaration, n. felt when fears are confronted, dreams are followed, and adventures are lived


yummy, n. playful food


zippy, adj. speedy without rushing
zany, adj. has something important to say
zigzag, n. playful direction
zing, n. the curiosity, desire and bravery needed to start a creative act

Photo by Anonymous Account.


Photo by Daquelle Manera.


Photo by


Photo by Jenny Webber.

Being playfully minded, I was slightly shocked when reading an article by Simon Parke, one of my favourite writers, I came across the following words:

‘The truth is this: life is work.’

Curious, I read on:

‘The two are not separate, but one. Chatting to a friend, collecting the children, having sex, attending a funeral, cleaning the floor, going on holiday, doing the shopping, singing a hymn, building a wall — all these things are work. Each requires an effort on our part — the effort to be present.’

In rest of the article Simon Parke debunks the notion of the work-life balance. According to Parke, life is work and work is life.

Work is life. Work is beautiful, human, creative, life-affirming, life-giving, wonderful action. It is doing the things that allow you to be and become all that you can be – and being present in those things.

Life is work. Imagine the impact on friendships, relationships, marriages, families and communities if it was realised that these need to be constantly worked on and crafted to make them into beautiful creations.


Photo by ChicagoEye.

Once this is realised, that work is life and that life is work, our attitude to work changes. Work is no longer something that we have to do to earn money for living, but is living itself. Work creates and transforms who I am, what I am, my identity and my way of being in the world.

Creativity in our work then increases. Ideas can be pursued playfully, because they capture who we are or make us feel alive. We no longer need to fear getting things wrong or making mistakes, safe in the knowledge that much of what is good and beautiful in the world today began as a mistake – before being transformed and redeemed.


Photo by creatingkoan.

The last words should go to Parke:

‘Personal experience tells us, being present, being alive to this particular moment, being free from both history and future imaginings — this is the hardest work of all.’

Does your work help you to feel fully alive? Does it affirm who you are and put you on the path to who you want to become?


In which  some thoughts are shared on place and space.

Photo by Ahmed Zahid.

Recently I have been thinking about my relationship with the space around me.  When I enter a room to sit down, I prefer to head to a corner, to sit quietly and watch the action in the middle of the room.  I’m like this in social situations, at university, and at work.  Sitting in a corner helps me to feel confident, to study better and to work harder.  I am energised and charged by being close to a corner or a wall.  I feel safe and comfortable, happy in who I am.

My whole life I’ve been learning to make myself feel comfortable in the centre of a room – after all, it’s not always possible to choose where you sit.  However, in social situations I still feel incredible uncomfortable in the centre of a group, and if I sit in the middle of a room at university I am easily distracted, finding it more difficult to focus.

Play Spaces

Photo by fazen.

Moving into a new, bigger house, I have found it very liberating to have separate spaces for work, play, and sleeping.  Living in student accommodation, I used to work, study, read, exercise, sleep, go online and relax all in the same room.  Everything I did, I never felt fully in the moment.  There were always distractions around me when I was trying to study, or more things to get done when I was trying to relax.

Photo by Carbon NYC.

I prefer small rooms to big halls.  I love finding secret places to hide where no-one can find me, safe from my worries, free from interruptions.  When visiting my younger sisters I still love building a secret den with them.

Reflecting Spaces

Photo by

Some spaces make me reflect on life.  Entering an ornate church or a grand cathedral always makes me catch my breath, to sit for a moment and wonder about my existance, to pray to the sacred.  Simple, silent chapels have a similar effect, pausing the busyness of life in a time of reflection.

Other spaces I do anything but reflect.  My bathroom, for example.  The most time I spend in there is early in the morning when thinking is the last thing on my mind.  I just want to go through the motions: brush-my-teeth-shave-shower-done.

Outdoors I feel free, but lost in my soul.  The beauty of nature overwhelms me, I wonder how I can ever live up to such splendour and grace in the small world inside me.

It’s been good for me to realise what spaces make me feel comfortable and what spaces make me feel awkward or scared because it means I can push the boundaries of comfort out a little further, expanding the space that energises me.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear of other people’s relationship to space.  Please take a moment to think about yours, and share your thoughts in a comment.

  • Where do you feel energised?
  • Do you get a bigger buzz from being with people or spending time alone?
  • Are your favourite places indoors or outdoors?  In the cityscape or in the countryside?
  • Do you prefer to be surrounded by ornate beauty or simple minimalism?  To hide in the shadows or dance in the light?
  • What spaces help you to get in touch with the sacred?
  • Where are your spaces of play?  Does play invade your work?

Photo by thp365.

I have recently been wondering what to do with my life.  My university degree has come to an end, and I am at a juncture.  I must make a decision about my new direction.  It is a place of boundless possibilities and opportunities.

There are so many things that I could do, places I could go, dreams I could follow.  And so what do I do?  I do nothing. I am paralysed by choice, by the fear to begin.  Faced by an empty canvas I dare not draw my first line in case it is wrong.

I am scared of failure.

I know my dreams, yet I have been failing to live up to them.  They seem too distant for me to begin making them a reality now, to take those first few steps in the right direction.

And yet, there is poetry in my soul, something that keeps prodding and prompting.  I listen to its words:

The aching dull pain
of the cost of your calling
that haunts you at night
and in moments of doubt.

I am realising that this post-university funk, this verging on the edge of depression, staring into the deep, dark pit of failure, is because I am refusing to face up to my calling, to my daily responsibilities and my long term dreams.

Even in this despair, I feel fortunate.  This depression that follows me everywhere, that lurks in the deepest part of my being, is a continual reminder to live up to my calling, to follow the calling of my destiny.  Though it is painful, it keeps me on track.  I wonder how many of us run from this pain, scared to look back upon it and realise all the dreams we have left to rust and fester in the dirt.


Photo by ReefRaff.

Many self development blogs and books highlight the importance of living your dreams.  According to these blogs, your main responsibility is to find out what your dreams are and strive to live them.

I agree that every person should take responsibility for the course of their life, that every person has a responsibility to pursue their dreams.

However, I also think that there are greater responsibilities, that each person has a number of more important callings.

Daily Responsibilities

  • Getting up early
  • Doing the dishes after dinner
  • Taking small steps towards your dreams
  • Work – earning money
  • Engaging in a spiritual practice
  • Doing something you love
  • Resting

Relationship Responsibilities

  • Keeping in touch with friends
  • Telling family members that you love them
  • Taking responsibility for the well-being of family and friends who are unable to care for themselves
  • Quality time with loved ones

World Responsibilities

  • Working for social justice
  • Praying for change
  • Ensuring you are not complicit in injustice
  • Random acts of kindness

Dream Responsibilities

  • Knowing your dreams and goals
  • Breaking your dreams down into short term goals
  • Doing something each day to make your dreams a reality

Some responsibilities will take priority over others.  Personally, I place relationship responsibilities first, followed by world responsibilities, then daily responsibilities, and lastly dream responsibilities.  To put it slightly differently, I allow my relationships with family and friends and my commitment to a better world shape the direction of my dreams.  So, for example, I choose not to fly when travelling, but instead to take the train or cycle to visit somewhere local.

Your Thoughts

What responsibilities do you place first in your life?

Have you ever run from your calling?  How did it haunt you?  Are you still running?

Please share you thoughts in the comments section below.

I’ve been going through a difficult time lately moving house and searching for a job, so I was hugely grateful when Damien Riley of Postcards from the Funny Farm emailed to check that I was okay and with the offer of a guest blog post.  Even better was his choice of topic: being playful when times get tough.  Thanks to Damien for this post.

Photo by xirannisx.

When life gets hard for us humans, we often turn to what we are used to for comfort. For many Americans that means turning to religion, the same people, books, music, routine and anything else we find familiar.

While turning to the familiar can indeed fortify our psychology and even our physiology, it can prevent us from advancing or becoming fully conscious. Most people who experience difficulty need to advance, they need a paradigm shift. If they grow comfortable in their difficulty they may not see clearly the way to solve their issues.

When we lose something precious to us, it can be easy to see it as negative. We need to see the possibilities. Like the gestalt optical illusion: one person sees the vase, another sees 2 faces.

Creativity suffers as well when people retreat. While the retreat may bring comfort, it is often at the expense of creative solutions.

People in times of difficulty should spend time “playing” mentally. Opening ones mind to their inner hopes and dreams and finding a way there is what this sort of play is about.

Many people in America can relate to difficulty right now because the recession is causing many layoffs. But there can be an upside of recession: consciousness. The value of play through difficulty is consciousness.

10 ways to play through difficulty

Photo by woodleywonderworks.

  1. Imagine your environment a place where you have only things you really want. Write down what it includes. You might be surprised to find your all-time wants are within reach. Be like a kid when you do this.
  2. Look at all the cans in your pantry. Rearrange them different ways. See your life as the order of the cans. See how much you can change such a simple thing. Imagine how much you can rearrange such a complicated thing as your job, or your life.
  3. Look at the books in your house. Remember that everywhere you see words someone was paid to write them. What other services/products do you enjoy that you could do for a living.
  4. Write ten endings to this statement -“I am clown because …”
  5. Roll around with a cat on the floor.
  6. Simplify your day, almost to the point of being ridiculous.
  7. Read something you want to read cover to cover. Write a thoughtful review of it on your blog or another online source.
  8. Go on a political forum, invent a persona and argue from a radical position.
  9. If something exciting is happening in your local area, take part. Invite people to your house to share food and conservation.
  10. Eat sweet things instead of a meal – e.g. custard filled donuts instead of a sandwich.

I hope these ideas for playing through difficulty will get your creative juices flowing. Many are stuck out there and a great way out of that “rut” is through play. How do you play through difficulty?

Thanks to David for helping me flesh out this idea and then agreeing to publish it here. For anyone interested in a similar topic, check out my series called Possibility Thinking.

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