We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.     Charles Schaefer

The Skill:     Knowing your decision making zone

The backstory:      It was a rainy autumn afternoon and I’d just put myself back in my PJ’s; I was in time out for the shittiness of my day. I literally had my head under the covers when my computer alarm went off and the words “Aliveness Salon in 4 hours” flashed, ominously across the screen.  

Oh. My. Buttface hell.  Soon, the community would be full of wild people playing and exploring aliveness together.  I stuck my face deeper into the comforter and kind of whimpered.  Then I started moaning and making half/gurgle half/scream sounds that all meant “NO!  I don’t want to pull it together!”  I felt so absolutely out of range of all things amazing.

At first, the noises coming out of me were unconscious.  Clearly, my my inner brat had taken over the helm and was having a proper hissy, but when I became aware of them, I realized that I actually felt a little better than I did before I started gurgle/scream/moaning, so I did it more, and as I did, I felt an inspiration to go even deeper.  I did a quick check around before I flipped myself over on my back so I could kick my feet.  Yeah, exactly like a two year in a tantrum.  Oh, that felt fantastic. I kicked harder into the mattress.  How satisfying!  Wham, bounce, wham!  Why didn’t I do this all the time?  This flailing, whamming bounce was giving shape and release to my internal frustration so beautifully.  I started pummelling the mattress with my fists like a nutter, harder and harder until I broke into a sweat, and then a little harder still.  I’d plum wore myself out when I finally opened my eyes.  

Of course there was a gaggle of children and adults in my open doorway, isn’t there always in stories such as these?  And just like in the movies, they were fake-trying not to watch, slack jawed, and failing miserably.

While my little troupe at the door continued to watch the spectacle of me,  I hopped up, suddenly crystal clear about what I needed:  more flailing, more wildness.  Part of the reason I was in such a skunk earlier is that I’d paved over my day without checking in to see what I really wanted to do, and so by the time one more commitment came due, I was in full revolt.  My soul was thirsty for the kind of play that happens when you follow a genuine yes.  Still in jammies, I stuck my feet in boots and jumped out the back door into the wild woods and into my yes.  

Hours later, I scrabbled back in, with time enough to shower and greet the guests with a genuine smile and a great readiness to play.


How we fall Out of Range of a decision:


Ever say yes to something and wonder who is booking all your appointments?  We often say yes to things, when we’re already happily playing.  Maybe you’re on your first cup of coffee, Facebookin’ and clickin’ yes to invites, or you’re in the middle of an already warmed up playspace and someone makes some suggestion and from your level of happy Playin’, all you can see or say is YES!

But most of us don’t live at that level, so when the time comes to do the Yes thing, it feels different to you then it did when you first said yes to it.  It feels like an imposition, and you wonder why you said yes to it in the first place, what were you THINKING?  Or not thinking?  All the things about the yes that you liked you can’t remember, and aren’t even trying to, because you’re just trying to think of what excuse will get you out of this.

(It’s fine to change your mind. It’s fine to say yes then no, but for those who may wish to play fully and closely with others, this tendency can slow down intimacy.  It erodes our trust in ourselves to be able to direct our lives and play in it fully.  And if we don’t trust ourselves, others can’t trust us either.)


Before your next Yes, do math:


When you’re about to say yes, scan to see how in alignment with that yes you actually are.  Listen for the “yes, buts” because these are the very things that will seem insurmountable when the time for playing comes round.  Are there parts of you that aren’t quite sure?  Usually there is lingering stuff, like, you want to go dancing, but you don’t like this particular venue and are just trying to ignore that fact.  When I give yesses, I sometimes give a percentage, like, I’m 60% yes on this, and the person I’m comrading with will know where I’m at.   

I usually don’t do things that I’m not at least 80 or 90% lined up with because a partial alignment with something brings in partially satisfying experiences.  I try to do the work to clear out whatever resistance I have about doing something so that by the time I get there, I’m fully ready to play.

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The Tool:  Play ElevatorThe Backstory:   Life Rocks Conference, North Conway, NH

I shoot out back into the light like a cannonball, pummeled from behind by thousands of gallons of warm salt water, shoving me under in sworls until I emerge in the center of a circle of erratically spouting fountains.  I decide to float, letting the ebb and flow have its way with me.

It had been a day of travel, a day of challenges, some of which slid into fun opportunities and others simply remained challenging.  We arrived at the Life Rocks Conference, as I opened the I knew I wasn’t up to speed this, that i was going to feel profoundly overwhelmed, but we’d driven all this way.  I stepped into a wall of zigzagging energy blasting out of all the activated and wild playspaces at this kind of burning man for families, already in full swing.

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My only response was to sulk, retreat, sulk some more.   I found myself devoting the next four hours to avoiding playing with anyone (all the invites felt out of range and “scary” the way play does when you’re in a funk) and then segwayed into feeling inadequate in various ways, body, career, not enough jelly beans, whatever.

Then the kids had the audacity to ask me if I wanted to go waterslidin’.

Did I?  Did I want to get into a bikini in front of hundreds of people?  Uh, hell no. Did I feel up to the task of remembering how to have fun at a water park?  Uh, not at all.  Not even a little bit, but the difference between this invite, and all the other ones I’d been dodging was that I was so fucking bored of feeling like a wanker.  It had lost every drop of novelty and charm.  Four hours in and I sorely missed Me.

I missed how great I feel being my playful, mischievous, funded, creative and ready to play self.  So, I said yes.  And started lining up with that yes.  As I slipped into my bikini (didn’t take long, it’s freakin’ teeny) I paused to rub coconut oil on my body and thank each part for its work in my life. I paused on my soft, warm belly and thanked it for bearing three children, and for dealing with the occasional MacDonald’s french fry with such grace. And for being so good at letting me know when I need more fuel.  My legs I kind of fell in love with in a new way, realizing how they run so beautifully, and dance so inspiredly.   After the ritual, I felt differently about my body and my readiness.

As I entered the water park, with fountains and slides and wave pools and all the watery playful splendor you can imagine, I found myself climbing the layers and layers of stairs to my first waterslide experience in years, and my first indoor one, still in that haze that accompanies a fuss.  Stair after stair, bare feet carrying me to the top where four different tubes, gushing water awaited me, there and I felt like Indiana Jones at some important crossroads.  I chose the blind one first.  It was certainly the most difficult and most scary but I was tired of being asleep.  I longed to be awake in the life I’d chosen.

As I let go into the darkness, I felt something let go in me.  I didn’t fight the speed, but relaxed deeper into each tail spin, drop and curve, as my body picked up more and more speed.  And I could see nothing.  Absolute darkness.  When I came out of the pool, the only thought in my mind was, “again.”  I felt like a child, all thrill and greed for thrill as I tried out every slide, loving the feeling of being carried and shot out into the air, loving the immersion in so much warm water and the proximity to so much thrill and speed and whush.

Later, I lay in the circle of fountains, finally relaxed, not coma-relax, but play-relaxed, ready, happy, open, and I stumbled upon a new understanding of the word balance, which has been kind of an irksome topic for me. (I get so bored by the notion of perpetual balance, with no gaps or spaces of growth-rich chaos, that I think I’d thrown out the baby with the bathtub there.)  Here, I felt in absolute balance.  I was in love with my body again, as a vessel for my full tilt playing.  I was even in love with the sadness earlier, as clarifying as it was.  I felt, in a way I never have before, conscious of how properly poised upon the fulcrum of my beingness I am.  It isn’t that play solves all my problems, but that it elevates me to where I can move with the movingness.

The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.    G. K. Chesterton

The frolic zone:  A community of players, living together.

The backstory:  Living with a bunch of players is many things, but boring is not one of them.

The thread that connects us that we all value the power of play to help us consistently be who we are.  Even when we forget a teensy weensy bit.

I got serious and fussy after a break up a few months ago and as I’d pass the forts full of laughing unschooled kids or the juggling maniacs on the roof of the acro-yogis doing unnecessarily daring shit in the living room, I found myself hating everyone, but when I sat with that, it felt like one of those crazy untrue things you think in a fever dream.  

So I sat with it and I realized that what I was unhappy with was my unhappiness.  I didn’t hate my beloved darling juggling Jojo, or blissed our heart-dancing Kara and her gorgeous daughter.  I hated the thing that I was hung up and that was keeping me from being on the roof.

The invitation of this place, to play myself new, to play my way through, is something I feel a little teary about. 
I’ve never been so absofuckinglutely happy or so damn home.

I can’t count the number of relationships that have been played back into grace here, how many children and parents have found their elemental groove, or lovers sweetened into the honey of true shared play. My own relationships have never been so solid, so love drenched, so, damn, fun. Whenever I’m not lined up with doing something for one of my children or a lover, someone else is right there, a brimming and playful cooperative component.

We’re packing up today.  I’m packing up the guitar Max left behind, and the art Shallon bloomed into being as she fell in love with Max, here.  I’m packing up the blue glass Rodney took off the tops of old railroad markers during our Aliveness Salons, and all the treasures his beautiful soul magnetized into being. 

I’m packing up the acres of art all the wild kids have given as gifts and have made because art is their primary language. I’m packing up the hundreds of lovenotes the world has sent me and, yeah, I’m crying a little. 

I’ve lived so richly, so happily here, that I’ve been a fucking love magnet. The world has tsunamied me with love, and now, I’m in love again too. Hoo ha.

Some of our players are going on walk about to Bolivia, Africa and on roadtrips across America, some of our players are on their way to build yurts and tree houses on the new land.  

Some, we’ve never met, are just encountering the idea that you can live a wide open, love-drenched playful life, and to you, I say, welcome to the party.  We can’t wait to play.

What I want more of:


Inspired, synnergized, high up fun conversationing around playful structures for people living together and doing big amazing stuff. 

I want flowful, inevitable structures.  I want to have as much fun in the dishes getting done part of living as I do in the adventuring deeply with sexy lover parts.

How would your life be different if…You decided to give freely, love fully, and play feverously? Let today be the day…You free yourself from the conditioned rules that limit your happiness and dilute the beautiful life experience. Have fun. Give – Love – Play!       Steve Maraboli

The tool:  Frolicking

Our Aliveness Salons are a regular invitation to drop down as silly as far as free and whee as you want.

Which, is so. Damn. Good for the Soul.

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.    Alan Wilson Watts

Tool:  Following the Aliveness

The Backstory:  It’s winter in New England and the girls and I are coming home the island on the ferry.Even though it is, as an old cowboy lover used to say, “colder than a witches tit in a brass bra,” I can’t bring myself to go into the berth below. I see the other passengers relaxing and removing their coats in the warm cozy, but I feel too hungry for wind to ignore that hunger. It’s just one of those awakey nights.

As I climb the stairs the boat pulls out of dock and as I feel the movingness begin I sigh into it. 

It is the exact shape and tenor as the movingness within. The wind in me recognizes itself in this cold, sluicing breeze off the midnight ocean and my heart warms in the honeyed hello.

As I stand, grinning into the waves, my girls join me and we laugh at being the only ones on a freezing deck, we’re overjoyed at the sudden privacy within a public sphere. The delight invites a deeper noticing…

…how light is carried differently through a frosty, moist air field, everything shimmers, the space between has become a prism carrying the world to us in a splay of light and color that dazzles…

…how the roll of the waves do not sicken the stomach when you are up here, staying with them, rolling into the tuck and hop…

….how dancing is just as fine a way to stay warm as sitting…

….how the wind carries voices back again to the singers, for a split second, when you are singing on an open deck, so that the music you are making checks in on you to make sure things are going well… 


…how the cosmos is reflected for the tiniest recurring fraction of a second on each wave, when the angle is just right…

Today, I celebrate being awake for those moments when the angle is just right.

I hope your angles are singing today.

And that you have the bravery to sing back.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.    Plato

Frolic Zone:  Parenting with an open, willing, playful heart

The backstory:  The other day my daughter and I paused in our writing date because I was feeling, what my french-speaking grandmother used to call a word that sounds like “fahtsee-ah” and means, when you’ve been sitting too long and your body is thirsty for some kind of romp.  We were aiming for the cluster of highly climbable trees, but got interrupted by the roar of the beautify river beyond.  I had not walked in this river before, and you never really know how walkable a river truly is until you get in.

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pausing on the island to dump water out of my boots

My feet and legs discovered that this river was fat, chilly and gorgeous with weeks of autumn rain.  At one point, concentrating with every shred of focus I had, to hold my weight against an incredibly strong current, I thought, a single drop of water more and this would be too much, and it was in this exact moment that I realized that I was elated beyond words, fully engaged, and playing with my beloved daughter, who’d just dunked her mermaid head in the freezing water and howled. We paused to explore an island in the middle of the river, and discovered a ring of secret forts, both of us lost in that kind of easy grace that comes when you’re both awake and teeming with aliveness and conscious of not wanting to be anywhere else.
After getting out, one of the people who’d gathered to watch the show, a deaf woman was asking her friend to explain what we were doing. As we scurried up the cliff to the path above, I heard the friend tripping over the “why” question. Why indeed?  When there were perfectly sensible trails running up and down this beautiful river, why would we choose to walk in it?

My why has changed over time.  I used to slip into a river, while crossing on my way to somewhere else, and occasionally would just stay in the river, like, why not?  Or, I’d get lost in imagining that I was an Indian princess on the run and the only way I could escape was to walk upstream to safety. Now, I do it because it demands that I come all the way awake.  I can’t walk in river mildly, there are too many choices, too much risk, also, the sensations are immediately compelling: the roaring water in your ears, the feeling of water pushing and pulling your body like a siren, the unknowingness of every step calling your absolute and fully-body attention.

I remember my mother talking about how she never got the people she called “thrill-seekers” who would do things that were absolutely unnecessary, in her mind, like climb dangerous mountains or jump off high things.  At the time, I was in the middle of living a secret thrill seeking life and I had no words with which to challenge her assumption that these people were wrong for choosing to engage challenges beyond the ones that come with every day living.  But I have those words now.

Persephone and I have fun answering the woman’s questions through her interpreter.  It’s like a game of telephone.  Then I realize what my why is right now: I walk in rivers because there are no paths there.  And it is the very act of finding/creating my own path that locates me so ineffably in my fullest experience of this wonderful life.

I tell the woman it is fun to feel your own aliveness in a new way.  She seems to like this answer.  She asks if I think she would like it.  I ask if she likes feeling excited and encountering her own power in thrilling new ways.  She tells me she honestly doesn’t know.  I tell her I know one way that she could find out….

(Mind your own business) ‘Cause if you mind your business, then you won’t be mindin’ mine.    Hank Williams

skill: Staying in mah own damn business

The Backstory:  I’m at a Sunday morning ecstatic class, formless and inviting, and I’m remembering what love…
and what I hate, about formless dance: I can’t successfully do it unless I’m in my own damn business, fully.

Dance is so lovely an invitation to return to my business because I simply cannot dance when I’m out of my business.  The urges and impulses are only available to me when I’m feeling my feelings, tuned into the momentum, going with it.  

My body won’t fully receive the impulses, then properly translate them into graceful movement if I’m in someone else’s business, wondering what they’re thinking about what I’m doing or not doing. 

Being in someone else’s business takes bandwidth. And I need that bandwidth to discern my own intrinsic responses, to the music, to life, and then to allow a weaving of soul impuls, body movement and human delight and longing to flow out onto the floor, or in other words, I need all my bandwidth to know how to dance.

When I’ve lost a bead on my business, there always seems to be some challenge that presents itself for me to get back in.  
A recent ex is here and I am having a hard time reconnecting to that primal urge to dance because of the big emotions of guilt I feel over the break up.  

Every time I make my way back to center though, there is this tremendous catapult of exhilaration, like bungee jumping and feeling the rope catch and hold you.  I love the way my playgrounds allow me to so tangibly taste the fruits of my own expansion.

This centering doesn’t preclude noting other’s responses to me, it just doesn’t center in it. If they are having a negative experience of me, it won’t destabilize me, and if they’re enjoying their interaction with me, it will only bolster my already connectedness. 

When I’m in my business, I’m tuned into Source energy and feel full up.  Needless. Strong.  When I’m out, I need almost constant approval from external sources.  In American culture there’s lots of emphasis placed on physical appearance as a standard for worthiness.  It’s tied up with lots of confused ideas of love and pleasure.  People are offered so many opinions about their own beauty that after a while, many of us start to listen more to the outside ones than the inside ones.

Celebration:  I found a new steadiness and deepening in my dance playground that I literally never knew existed during Dancing in the Light

We’re driving home into the wilds of Maine  and start to lose the radio signal.  As I go to change the station, my daughter stays my hand, saying, quietly, “let’s see what happens.”  

It’ll be fuzzy and annoy the  *-*! out of me!  I think, but then, another part of me, the sometimes distant part of me, that is always looking for windows to leap through into Fun and More Fun agrees with her and so, we wait.  

At first, it just wanes, and static cracks in and out of the rap song involving big old bootays. And that small rigid part of me that hates gaps and wants everything clean and done all the time feels vindicated, ah ha!  I was right!  NOTHING happened and therefore I was right and your curiosity was wrong!   (I’m not proud of the response, but include for story texture)  

Just as I turn to look at her, knowingly, one song fades out on the lyrics, “…me so horny” and a new song faded in on the words “…my baby calls and says I NEED YOU HERE” and then static.  Persephone laughs out loud, probably feeling vindicated as shit, but too much a lady to say I told you so.  I drop my hand.  How interesting.

Now I’m not t trying to talk myself into being curious, I’m just curious.  The deeper we go into the woods, the more the songs butt into each other, with sometimes fantastic interchanges back and forth, my favorite being;

The road has got me hypnotized
And I’m speeding into a new sunrise  …   So ladies, if the butt is round,
And you want a triple X throw down,
Dial 1-900-MIXALOT
And kick them nasty thoughts
Baby got back!

You know how sometimes you’ll be in the middle of an experience and you’ll know, even then, there’s a moral to this story.  I had that sense powerfully while I was listening, with bated breath, to see what happens next.  I just can’t decide what the moral is.

There is something really glorious about my powerful kid asking for a moment of curiosity and full presence rather than rushing through to known states, her adventure mindset.  It’s so pretty, and it’s so freaking nice for me to have comrades who continually ask me to play more fully in my now.  When I think of my kids I feel like Maria in The Sound of Music singing (one inch from the Captain’s chin)

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

The deeper interest for me was around how painful it was for me to be in split frequencies, how I had a really hard time lining up with either experience because I was stuck between both, and being pulled apart in two directions.  

As I felt into my life, I found like six or seven decisions that I’ve been kicking my heels about making and really lining up with and seeing how that’s creating static in my beingness that really dampens the fun.  It’s also keeping me from going gung ho, which is my favorite way to go.  As the song Radar Love pulled ahead in the race and Big Butts faded away completely, I felt myself relax into the Radar Love.

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current 
that will carry him to places he had 
never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
Paul Coelho From The Alchemist

And fall in love, anew with the power of a whole hearted decsion.  I like that the song Radar Love won, because it’s a song all about decision, all about fucking going for it, driving through the night to answer the call.  I began to fall in love with momentum in all those areas where my small, gap fearing self had been protecting me from taking some yummy leaps and going with the Great Goingness.

Later that night I let myself sit with some of those Need To Be Made/Let Go of/Downstreamed decisions and did some work to line up with them, to find the wonderful stuff that I was deciding for and moving towards, I began to feel more playful.  I felt lighters, surer, more available, less hampered, less Weird.  My daughter’s playfulness and capacity to explore and be curious in a gap had opened a space for me to be more who I really am.

If you have a playful darling in your life, who interrupts your sleeping, find some way to playfully thank them, or to interrupt them in kind.  What kind of Grateful Heart ninja shit can you get up to this week?

All my love,
Natalie