The Basic Practice

Coyote. Nasrudin. St. Francis and his order of Jesters of the Lord. Zen masters. Taoist sages. Hasidic storytellers. Clowns and performance artists. Such prophets — and all the spiritual traditions have them — encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously. They say that what we know is not worth knowing, and what's worth knowing cannot be known through our ways. To our sensible selves, their actions seem silly, shameless, even shocking. But they have an important role in the spiritual life. They carry the banner for the spiritual practice of play.

Play is the exuberant expression of our being. It is at the heart of our creativity, our sexuality, and our most carefree moments of devotion. It helps us live with absurdity, paradox, and mystery. It feeds our joy and wonder. It keeps our search for meaning down to earth.

Practice play by doing things on the spur of the moment. Take time out to experiment, to try on different parts, to relax. Laugh heartily at jokes, situations, and yourself. Remember, laughter heals body, mind, and soul, and by extension, communities.

Why This Practice May Be For You

Most of us don't play enough. We're either too "busy," a code word for workaholism, or we're too serious, mistaking earnestness for accomplishment. We're predictable, too, equating free-spiritedness with irresponsibility. The best treatment for these conditions is play. We need to lighten up.

But there is also a shadow side of play. Sometimes we get so involved in role playing and just having a good time that we never reveal our true selves. Then we need the company of other fools to point out the folly of our foolishness.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

  • Hearing someone laugh is my cue to practice play.
  • A swing set reminds me that all ground is playground.
  • Whenever I participate in a game, I vow to make my play more cooperative and less competitive.
  • Blessed is the Giver of Life who has provided play as a way to celebrate the lightness of our being.