Be Playful

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

The Zen of Baking

bake-a-cake

“Forget meditation; forget yoga: bake a cake.”
~ David Myers

Reflections

When I feel stressed or upset I love to bake.  The careful focus to measure ingredients, the aggressive stirring strength to fuse together solid and liquid into dough, the patience whilst the aroma of sweetness fills the house, the anticipation of wonderful food.  All these help to clear out the negative energy from my body, whilst the sense of accomplishment in creating something worthwhile puts my worries and concerns of the moment into perspective.

My favourites are chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake.  Click through the links for two of the best ever recipes.   (Tip: Don’t put jam inside the chocolate cake.  Jam is for sandwiches).

What are your tips for clearing negative energy from your body?  How do you put your worries and concerns into perspective?

Thanks to Gaetan Lee for the photograph.

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Pets are expressly banned in our household by decree of our landlord.  Nonetheless, from time to time we are visited by a scruffy brown tabby cat whom we have christened Puss Puss.

If ever she’s feeling lonely, she’ll saunter up to our house, and meow at the door until someone lets her in for a cuddle.

puss-puss-the-wondercat1

Puss Puss’s carefree manner has taught me a great deal about living the playful life.  In this post, I share what I’ve learnt from our little brown cat friend.

Puss Puss’s philosophy of life is based on five simple maxims:

1. Enjoy the present moment

puss-puss-the-wondercat2

Puss Puss knows how to have fun here and now.  Whether she’s pouncing on blades of grass, chasing butterflies or playing tag with her moggy friends, she knows that now is the best time to be making the most of.

Whatever is happening around her, Puss Puss looks out for opportunities to have fun.

2. Nurture your quirks

puss-puss-the-wondercat4

Puss Puss has a  squirrel style fluffy tail.  Because the rest of her coat is sleek and smooth, it makes her look lopsided and unbalanced.  It also takes a disproportionate amount of time to lick clean compared to the rest of her body; yet Puss Puss gives her tail the extra licking time and attention it needs.

Our strangenesses and weaknesses, the places where we feel the most wounded, need care and attention.  It is these places that are also our wellsprings of life, beauty and creativity.

Puss Puss’s tail, though seeming odd and out of place, is what makes her unique.   It is strange, but also strangely beautiful.

3. Spend time sitting in the sunshine

Puss Puss intuitively understands that the sun is good for you.  Being outside in the sunshine is a recipe for happiness.  If somewhere is warm and sunny, Puss Puss will be there lounging.

Sunshine is a different thing for every person.  For some, it’s reading inspiring books.  Others, it’s spending time at the local art gallery.  Swimming, meditating, walking in the countryside, or a regular afternoon nap.  My parent’s dog, for example, loves lying down by their open log fire, absorbing its gentle warmth.

Whatever helps you unwind – remember to give that thing the time it deserves.

4. Follow your spirit

Puss Puss is a carefree wanderer.  She doesn’t really know what she wants from life yet, she has no clear goals, so she follows her spirit.  She intuitively feels her way through every moment of every day.

This means she has the time to follow opportunities and chase down hunches.  Most of all, though, she can simply have fun and learn about being herself.

Mice are pretty cool to chase.  And little birds.  Sometimes it’s amusing just to pounce on the lawn, not aiming at anything in particular, just practicing the silent power launch, the claw swipe and the sharp toothed jaw grab.

5. Expect love to come your way

puss-puss-the-wondercat51

Most of her time Puss Puss spends away from our house.  Yet everytime she turns up, she has the confidence to trust that if we are around, we will let her in for fuss, attention, and the occasional free meal.
Puss Puss knows that given the opportunity to flourish and be who they really are, all people deep down have the capacity to be loving and caring.  She trusts that if she shares her love with the world by being her true self, love will be returned to her.

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Creative inspirations is a new series of inspirational quotations and uplifting photographs to reawaken your inner playfulness and creativity.

The Artist Child

child-artist-1

‘All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once she grows up.’ – Pablo Picasso

Some Reflections

I’ve been fortunate to discover blogging and writing as a way of expressing my creative side – to breathe life into my inner child and to refuse to completely grow up.

Have you been able to remain an artist whilst growing up?  How do you express your creative side?

Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments.  I’m excited to hear other people unleash their creativity.

Thanks to ishrona for the photograph.

‘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.

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In the economics of play, the currency is grace.

dancing-in-the-rain
Photo by geeknerd99.

‘Grace finds goodness
In everything’

U2

‘Grace is everywhere, like lenses that go unnoticed because you are looking through them.’
Philip Yancey

There are two kinds of economy: the economy of what is due, and the economy of grace.

Much of life is spent in the economy of what is due – at work we receive the pay that is due to us, shopping we pay the price that is due to the shopkeeper.  In this economy of merit, we get the good things and the bad things that we deserve.

Some of life is spent in the economy of grace.  The mother who loves us unconditionally, a letter of apology after a bitter argument, a stranger who shares his umbrella whilst we stand for a bus in the city rain, an evening sunset of breath-taking beauty.  In the economy of grace we receive beautiful, elegant and surprising gifts, whether or not we deserve them.

Signposts to Grace

sign-post
Photo by nicksarebi.

I want to learn with you how to dance through the world with grace.    As much as I search, I still spend my life learning about grace, journeying through life trying to find her.

I would like to share some signposts I’ve discovered on the road to grace.

Grace means giving more to the world than you take from the world

dancing-sunset
Photo by notsogoodphotography.

‘The cardinal property of the gift is that whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again.’
Lewis Hyde

We have been given life. Let us choose to live life fully, being an exemplar of all that is good and true and beautiful, sharing the inner life of our soul through our outer life in the world.

We have been given talents and skills.  Let us share the fruits of these with the world – with those who are close that we love, and with the stranger we have never met.

We have been given time.  Let us be generous with our time, giving our full attention to the things we care about rather than shards of attention to many things, most of which we don’t care much for.

As the songwriter Martyn Joseph sings:

Are you down to your last drop of love?
Even so you should give it away.
Let it sail with your dreams to the sun,
And return to you laden with promises.

Grace transforms who we are at the core of our being

‘Gifts are a companion to transformation. A gift may be the actual agent of change, the bearer of new life.  Gifts carry an identity with them, and to accept the gift amounts to incorporating the new identity.  It is as if such a gift passes through the body and leaves us altered.  The gift is not merely the witness of guardian to new life, but the creator.’
Lewis Hyde

Grace is scary because it means change.  To accept a true gift is to accept a new way of being in the world.  If we are feeling devoid of life in our soul, grace fills us with new life and hope.  Hyde writes:

‘Lifelessness leaves the soul when a gift comes towards us.’

In my younger years, I suffered from depression.  I’d lock myself in my room, hiding from the world as a paradoxical cry for attention.  One day my cousin came to visit and I refused to let her in.  My brother, seething with anger at my apparent callousness, broke down my door.  My cousin came into the room and wrapped her arms around me.  At the moment, my brother’s anger and my cousin’s presence were a gift of grace, reviving my depressed and lifeless soul with life and hope.

Giving at life’s events of transformation

Gifts are given at life’s liminal times – christenings, weddings, birthdays, graduations.

Wedding gifts, for example, are the first shared property between a newly-wed couple.  They exemplify a new way of being where all things are shared – material things and concerns of the soul – with another person.  Wedding gifts are an outward sign of a new inner bond.

Grace creates communities

love
Photo by Hamed Masoumi.

A simple way to understand the meaning of a gift is to contrast gifts with commodities.  Commodities are integral to economy of what is due.  We pay a stranger for them, and then we own them, they belong to us.

Gifts, on the other hand, are integral to the economy of grace.  In giving a gift, we create a relationship with the person we are giving to.  A gift is never fully owned by ourselves, but always contains the memory and soul of the person who gave it to us.  This is particularly true when the gift was nurtured or created by the person giving it.

There are two ways to create community.  One is to choose to exclude certain people.  The other is to create community through the giving of gifts.

Grace breaks down boundaries

barrier
Photo by aussiegall.

Gifts break down barriers between people.  This is why we give a bottle of wine or flowers when we are visiting someone for dinner – the gift breaks down the boundary created by our absence.

True grace – the grace of forgiveness – is the most powerful gift of all.  The gift of forgiveness can break down emotional strongholds and fortresses that have stood strong for generations.  Forgiveness is not only a gift to the person being forgiven, but to the person doing the forgiving.  It relieves the tension and bitterness of resentment created by refusing to forgive.

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

U2

Grace seeks out the empty-handed

flower-girl
Photo by malias.

In market economics, to make money you’ve got to have money.    In the economy of grace, to receive a gift, you must be empty-handed.  Grace seeks out the broken and the lost, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, the ‘the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on’.

As Lewis Hyde puts it:

‘The gift moves from plenty to emptiness.  It seeks the barren, the arid, the stuck, and the poor.’

Kester Brewin transforms this radical economics into a call to action:

‘The market always seeks a profit, but the gift seeks out the empty-handed.  So let us become empty-handed, happy to receive gifts and pass them on into mystery, refusing to hold onto them for our own blessing.’

Grace arrives when you least expect her

Because the gift seeks out the empty-handed, grace always arrives when we least expect her – sometimes when we know that we need her most, sometimes when we’re sure that we’re doing fine-thank-you-very-much and our lives are ruptured by the change and beauty that a gift brings.

The words of Martyn Joseph resonate again:

Are you down to your last ray of hope?
Well they say that’s the moment things turn around.
Don’t you give up the fight, you can cope,
You can be so amazingingly strong.

Grace seeks out the artist who is empty of inspiration, the hungry who hope each day for a meal.

Living this ’empty-handed’ life means not having everything planned out.  Trying to control life anticipates that there will be no grace.  An empty-handed life of giving and grace is a spontaneous life, a life of humble love.

A life of grace means not knowing all the answers.

Grace looks for the good in other people

To be grace-full is to be an eternal optimist; it is to know that everyone has the potential to create wonderful and beautiful things, and to look for (link to digging for gold) and nurture this potential in all people.

‘Grace,’ wrote U2’s lead singer Bono, ‘finds beauty in everything’

man-laughing
Photo by Per Ola Wiberg.

girl-smiling
Photo by Victor Bezrukov.

flying-angels-1
Photo by poshyananda.

‘Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly’
~ G. K. Chesterton

The Secret to a Life of Beauty

Have you ever been so captivated by someone that your life suspends itself for a moment whilst you absorb the infectious radiance of their being?

There is a secret to this life of beauty.  The secret is humility.

A humble person is like a child at play.  Like a child so engrossed in her imaginary world that she forgets to question how realistic pink dragons and invisible giants really are, humble people are so engrossed in the act of living fully, and of sharing this utter-aliveness with everyone they meet, that they forget to wonder whether or not they are really being humble and generous.

Humility, then, cannot be learnt.  As soon as you try to learn humility, you begin to reflect on how humble you are being, and you are invaded with self-consciousness and pride.  Humility cannot be learnt – it must be lived.

Light-hearted Humility

There is something light-hearted about humble people.  They abound with laughter.  They know deep down that the world we live in is a place to be cherished and enjoyed.    They also know, even more deeply, that it is a far from perfect world, that all human existence is far from ideal.  They know how to laugh at the absurdity of the world and the incongruence of their own lives.

Humility cannot be taught, but light-heartedness and laughter can, and this is one step towards the humble life.  Humble laughter is not cynical or spiteful, but beautiful and ripe; it is laughter that resounds from the core of your being.

Laughing at something – not mockingly, but genuine laughter of delight – is to cherish that thing, to recognise its true value whilst realising that it will not last forever, that it is not ours to keep, but only to share with others.

What then, can we laugh at?

Laughing at Ourselves

lady-laughing
Photo by doug88888.

Humble people laugh at themselves.  They know that they will never have complete control of their life – so instead of trying to control their exterior lives, they let the true life within them flow out into the world.

Laughter exposes the gap between what we think life should be like, and what life is actually like.  Humour is only possible because of the conflict between dreams and reality.

Being able to laugh at yourself makes life less stressful.  It helps you realise that although you can’t control when life knocks you down, those knock-down moments don’t have to control how you feel.

It is often said that the saddest people are the funniest people.  Those who have experienced the worst in life no longer need fear it, and are able to laugh at and within everything life throws at them.

Laughing at the world

girls-laughing
Photo by World Resources Institute Staff.

The world is an absurd place.  We think we are safe, building up a secure castle around us, and suddenly the walls fall down and we have no idea what happened.  Powerful people pretend they are in control and know what’s going on, but really they are as blind and clueless as the rest of us.

Stock markets crash, oil prices soar, and food shortages plague much of the world.  We used to laugh at the few lone voices that predicted these things would happen.   Now, would it not be better to laugh at the power that thinks it is in control, but never sees these things coming?

Laughing is an act of standing up for justice.  It allows us to look beyond the pomposity of everything considered important and everlasting, and to see its fallibility and transience.  It reveals the incongruences and contradictions in the world.  It deflates the inflated and elevates those who have been devalued.

Laughing at other people

children-laughing
Photo by sytoha.

To laugh at other people is to delight in the beauty and wonder of all that they are, and everything they bring to the world. Laughing alongside them, we share in their joy and happiness.

Laughter builds community and relationships.  It breaks down barrier of mistrust and fear, puts rivalry to one side and makes reconciliation possible.

Perhaps most importantly, having a good laugh makes you fun to be around.

Health Warning

At the risk of taking laughter too seriously, I’d like to share its health benefits.  According to medical people, laughter can:

  • reduce stress
  • boost your immume system
  • lower brood pressure
  • lift your mood
  • protect your heart
  • make you instantly relaxed

In Conclusion

Humour and humility both recognise the foolishness of pretending to be something we are not. They both know that every person is a fallible, messed-up, beautiful human being – and that this is the reason to sing, dance and smile in celebration of being alive

Your one stop reference guide to all things playful.

a-z-cow1
Photo by shibainu.


A

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

B

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

C

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

D

art-child
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

E

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

F

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

G

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

H

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

I

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

J

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

K

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

L

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

M

magic, n. reality

N

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

O

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

P

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

Q

boats-at-sea
Photo by Alorza.

quiet, n. where playful ideas are formed

R

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

S

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

T

tension, n. see conflict

U

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

V

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.

W

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

X

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

Y

yummy, n. playful food

Z

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

alphabet-jukebox
Photo by Anonymous Account.

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