A fulfilling life is yours when you use your imagination and play.
As Stuart Brown, M.D. states in his book, “Play – How it shapes our Brain, Opens our Imagination and Invigorates the Soul,” living a fulfilling life is one in which we live and grow in accord with our true, core selves, in harmony with our world. A successful life is one in which we can fulfill our own basic needs and give of ourselves to others. We are happy when we live an expansive life, one of which we are aware that we are actively participating in something greater than ourselves. When someone doesn’t keep an element of play in their life, their core being will not be light.
Almost all of us were full-on players when we were little. To get imagination back in your life, according to Brown, you need to stroke a fire that has always been in you. Brown provides the following guidelines that can serve as a test to the hypothesis. Try these few simple steps and see for yourself if Imagination is Play, and if it has a purpose:
- Construct a play history: The development of a play history is to get back in touch with the joy you once experienced when you used your imagination. Find the joy from the past, and you are halfway to learning how to create it again in your present life. It can be a guide to free-flowing empowerment by identifying natural talents that may be dormant or that may have been bypassed. The play history is a journey through your own personal past that should take ninety minutes of concentrated, unhurried time to achieve positive results. Start this exercise by spending some time thinking about what you did as a child that really got you excited, that really gave you joy. Try to remember the feeling that you had, and recapture it. As part of this remembrance, if visual images spring to your mind’s eye, amplify them. Let your association with them flow. Remembering may be challenging, but spend unforced time, and re-experience the feeling from your youth. Understand what your unique play temperament is, and how it has manifested itself as you have matured. Then start to identify what you could do in your current life that might let you re-create that playful feeling. Ask yourself: When have you felt free to do and be what you choose? Is that a part of your life now? If not, why not? What do you feel stands in the way of your achieving personal freedom? Are you currently able to feel that what engages you most fully is almost effortless? If not, can you recall when you were able to experience such times? Describe and imagine settings that allow that sort of engagement. Search your memory for those times in your life when you have been at your very best. (These are usually authentic play times, and give clues as to where to go for current play experiences.) What have been the impediments to play in your life? How and why did some kinds of play disappear from your repertoire? Have you discovered ways of reinitiating lost play that works for you now in your life? Are you able to imagine and feel that the things you most desire and enjoy are the things that you ought to have? Why so, or why not? How free are you now as you play with your spouse or your family? Or do you treat them as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?
- Expose yourself to play: People begin to close themselves off to play and their imagination when they start to feel that they should always be serious, always be productive. (After all, we are adults!). Opportunities for play are abounding!
- Permit yourself to be playful, to be a beginner: The most significant roadblock to play for adults is the worry that they will look silly, undignified, or dumb if they allow themselves to open their imagination and play. You can’t be genuinely open to spontaneity and imagination if you don’t feel comfortable testing novel ways of expressing yourself, pushed along by the pleasure of the action. The act of play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t’ been before. You will be a beginner. Allow yourself to be in the awkward stage of a beginner so that you can grow.
- Experience what is fun: Follow your bliss, and work hard to find it.
- Be active: Do something physical. Just move. Neuroscience research is showing that the fundamentals of perception, cognition, and movement are very closely connected and that the circuits for higher functions such as planning and recognizing the consequences of future actions require movement.
- Free yourself of fear: Fear and play cannot go together. Discover ways to find safe havens. Find out what it is in your surroundings that prevents a sense of trust and well-being that would allow play to emerge.
- Nourish your mode of play, and be with people who nourish it too: Take time out for play. A lack of play is a health risk to your body and mind. Find the play that feeds your soul, build an environment where people understand your need, and get out there and make it a priority to stay play-nourished.
Test my prediction, and see if your imagination grows by taking the above actions. You just might unlock an inner joy and find a higher purpose.
Imagination is key, while popular media continues to focus on creativity. See Albert Hammond Jr.’s article to learn how he applies exercises to boost his creative process and find similarities in this L.A. Times Article: How to be Creative – Six Secrets Backed by Research.