Stuart Brown, author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul has spent a career studying play and how even just getting a little play in our lives can make us more productive and happier in everything we do.
One example of this is Laurel, the CEO of a successful commercial real estate company. During her late twenties, Laurel married and had two children, all while establishing her business. Her relationship with her husband was close and compatible, and she adored her four- and ten- year- olds. She saw herself as blessed and fortunate.
Her days hummed like a turbocharged engine. Up at five, she usually ran four or five miles on odd days and swam and lifted weights on even days. She didn’t work weekends and usually had enough steam left for “quality time” with her supportive husband and kids, church, and her closest friends.
She felt that she had a healthy mix of play and work, but when she passed forty she began to dread her schedule. She didn’t yet feel a need to quit any of her commitments or ease off, but slowly she realized that though she had fun with her husband and kids and a sense of enthusiasm about her work, she was missing . . . joy.
So Laurel set about finding where it had gone. She remembered back to her earliest joyful memories and realized they centered on horses. As she reconstructed her own play history, she realized that horses had grabbed her from the first time she saw one. As a toddler she loved bouncing on her hobbyhorse. One of her fondest memories was befriending a local backyard horse and secretly riding it at age seven. She would entice the horse to the fence with carrots and coax it to allow her to climb up and ride bareback, completely unbeknownst to the owner or her parents. As dangerous as it was for a seven-year-old to ride this way, it gave Laurel a sense of her own power. Later she started hanging around stables, becoming an accomplished horsewoman and as a young adult competing as a professional rider. She eventually burned out on horse shows and settled into marriage and business.
Yet she now realized she longed “just to ride.”
Laurel decided to make this happen. She found a horse to lease and began to ride again. The feelings of joy and exhilaration came back the first time she climbed onto the horse. Now she makes the time to go riding once a week.
What surprises her most since she incorporated the pure play of riding back into her life is how complete and whole she now feels in all other areas of her life. The bloom of “irrational bliss” she experiences in the care of her horse, from riding it regularly, and even occasionally riding again in small local shows, has spilled over into her family and work lives. The little chores of daily living don’t seem so difficult anymore. (read more)
As a piano teacher, I can’t help but ask myself if my students are viewing piano as their “varsity sport”, rigid and competitive, or if in fact I’m laying the groundwork for them to incorporate piano into their lives for the sheer joy of “playing”?
Oh, by the way…my recording this week for the “Go Play Project” is Chopin’s Waltz Op 64 No 1. Listen here. It will only take a “minute!”
- A Piano Teacher’s Guide To Fooling Around At The Piano (meganhughesmusic.com)