When you think about what’s really happening when you REALLY start playing, not just pretending to play or pass time until you get to go to sleep, or appease the child, but playing in a way that you’re greedy for, playing hard, playing into the deep kind of play. When you play like that, imagine little Luke Skywalker, not-yet Jedi, going into the Dark Side Cave where the only way to succeed was to come to terms with his elemental self.
Or Atreyu, in The Neverending Story, who had to pass between the Phoenixes with the laser eyeballs that would burn him to death if he were anything but the purest form of himself in the Never Ending Story.
Play is your own personal Laser Eyeballs Phoenix, because it focuses, distracts, and demands the full attention of the player, and prevents people from easily going back to their everyday concerns, so that while they’re playing and focused on the play, they’re clearer than normal, and become more elemental.
The more they play this way, the more they develop a joyful stamina at being clear, being inspired, and being very happy. The more that familiarity extends, the braver they get about identifying with that state of being, that clear, funded and very powerful state of being.
Once we begin to deeply know ourselves in this state, and through the lens of play, we say different things because we’re looking at different things, and we’re seeing them through a clear lens. What you see from a calm and happy state of being is very different from what you might say in a confused or despairing state.
When you start to really play with different aspects of life more, you’ll discover that you’re more clear minded, and that happiness just comes easier, so it doesn’t actually take so much courage to express your true feelings.
In fact, deep, shared play almost demands that you say what is true for you, because lies don’t work, aren’t as fun and take up valuable brainspace to keep up with. The play space falls apart. Lies, or half-truths disintegrate the structure of the play.
By requiring so much honesty, both with yourself and with others, play can be used as a tool to keep it real. Time and time again, play will serve you by falling apart when you try to leave what’s really true for you behind.
Play gives you the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect.
I love courage! It’s the sudden blazing spark within a seemingly dead lump of coal, catalyzing decision and movement. I keep matches in the freezer for a similar reason: to feel the fullest range of possible experience; from frozen to fire in a searing instant.
Acts of courage kind of highlight this hot n’ cold range because when you are in a space to be courageous, it means you feel there is some leapin’ to be done. We’re not courageous about putting oatmeal in the bowl.
But don’t have to cold call courage. Even considering the idea of being a little courageous is a way of bouncing up, of beginning to play with whatever ain’t movin’.
Have you ever tried to play in a relationship where the person kept all these old stories of you and you had to work so hard to explain who you’ve become? Remember how unfun that is? We get into that kind of relationship with ourselves when we stop the courageous act that is playing with our own lives. And sometimes it takes a bit of courage to renew this relationship.
Play helps you get courage. It not only relaxes and focuses, but also calls in clarity and willingness to deeply engage, just like meditation, deep acts of artistic creation, yoga, or extreme sports.
In the play, we discover how it focuses our attention on the good feelings associated with whatever we are playing in. Potters are deeply engaged with the clay’s journey, dancers, on the movement, music, and the poetry between, writers, on the symphony of words and the inspired spark conducting the parade into meaning, mathematicians, on the connections and lay lines between patterns, yogis, on the presence between an atom of breath and a molecule of pure life force as found in the body temple, and so on.
Operating in this deep state of engagement affords the player the benefit of being unsplit and all here. The deeper and more fully you give yourself over to the play, the less bandwidth you have to maintain falseness.
In that pared-down space, you’re all clear, and able to flow freely with the Great Creative Life Force, which offers you vantage and cleans your filter. And with your lens clean, it’s very easy to be courageous about playing in life the way you most want to. It’s those states of profound clarity where all acts of “courage” originate.
A good game or a deep immersion into a creative project plunges you into the pared-down heart of what it means to be a You. The play experience is a cozy raft, suspending you in a pool composed entirely of those good feelings that you spend your whole life wanting more of: engagement, discovery, connection, inspiration, delight, freedom, pure joy … and the entire span of time that you spend in a playful mood, you get to lounge around in those bucket listy feelings. You could say that choosing to play with something is opening a magic portal into your bucket list.
The reason you put all that stuff onto that list is so you could feel the kind of feelings you feel when you’re truly playing. It’s a short cut.
The more fully we give ourselves over to a play experience, the more we’re able to experience that timeless absolute beingness, and the more your courage to be yourself steadies out. These play pockets let you experience yourself clear and new, which helps you keep up to date with your most elemental and aligned self.
But the secret of having the courage it takes to be true to yourself, is in knowing where your joy lives, because what you are courageous towards shapes your life.
The knowledge of your own joy is so valuable that if this were a heist movie and the team of sexy and slightly ne’er-do-well thieves were scheming to steal the most valuable thing in your vault, they’d be coming after your joy, and your ability to value and grow it true. They’d steal your joy system and sell it for a gadzillion dollars to some lonely French prince who never figured it out and is willing to pay any price for a functioning joy system, one where joy is valued, fed its proper food and is thriving and blooming the flowers and fruits that are its nature.
Real joy, the joy it takes courage to grow and play out of, locates you inside the fountain that flows from within you, and is radically personal to the player. What seems fun and joyful to you is a unique hailing, calling you ever deeper into a life experience that will be personally thrilling to you, and locate you more exquisitely on your path.
So you see, joy is the most essentialist, most crucial ingredient in the soup called Successful You, and I don’t mean wearing-pinstripes-on-Wall-Street kind of successful, but live a life that blooms you and kisses you back kind of joy. In that life, you consistently access courageous in a way that leaves you feeling actively proud excited for tomorrow.
That’s why the lonely French prince wants it.