Remembering that Life is Play

Originally written in December, 2020

The other day my housemates were having a conversation about the nature of reality, consciousness, and basically what the hell we’re really doing here on Earth. My housemate Stuart comes from the traditional Tantric lineage (not the sex stuff btw, the ancient spiritual lineage that predates Buddhism), and Stephen from a wide swath of traditions with his center of gravity at mystical Christianity.

Stu said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Life is just play.” There was an uproar of agreement and a sigh of pleasure in the simplicity and resonance of the statement. Both believed that life is just a chance to play – that somehow we’re here, alive and conscious, for no other purpose than to play as consciousness, to play as fragments seemly separate, but truly undivided from God (i.e. consciousness, love, aliveness).

Life is not a game, because a game has an objective (to win).

Life is not designed to be a challenge either – it’s designed for you to experience life as it unfolds and to play however you want to play. At the very core of it – life is purposeless, for to assign our souls a purpose would limit everything we could explore in the boundless state of play.

So that’s the zoomed out worldview, but let’s zoom in on you a lil. If the background quality of life is play, you get to have goals, you get to have desires, you get to declare your purpose, you get to create structure for your life, you get to commit yourself to a chosen purpose. All of this very important and serious stuff…is play.

I’m not saying that we should be so carefree that we don’t consider the consequences of our actions – of course not. But could we see even those consequences as part of the play that’s unfolding, and that we (our souls ultimately invulnerable and untouched) can now be with the new set of experiences that then unfold? Can we be ready and curious about how life is arising now without the story that this is a “bad” situation, but rather just what’s neutrally happening now?Life is not inherently good or bad – those are just labels our mind creates to keep us safe.

This statement “we’re just here to play” – it touched something in me, something that knew it’s always been free – free to express myself however the fuck I want, free to dance and sing in the grocery store, free to start difficult conversations, free to say the wrong thing that’s oh so right, and do whatever I want in each and every moment.

As you’ll read below, this mindset shift helped me become effortlessly confident and comfortable in situations that would have been outside of my comfort zone before. Wooo baby, that’s a juicy statement to write, but it’s true.

Shifting from "Should's" to Playstate - A Journal Exercise

So here’s your first step. I want you to bust out your journal and write about (or just have a think right now) on the following 2 questions:

  1. Where in your life are you operating from a place of “should”? Of obligation?
  2. Where in your life are you listening to what others think you should do or be, rather than what’s most true for you?

Here are some of my answers if you’re curious:

  1. I operate from “should’s” by marketing my business the way everyone else is marketing instead of what was true and authentic for Nicole and I. (It’s easy to copy the old/popular way of doing things when you’re not confident in or connected to the new way that’s emerging through you.)
  2. I operate from “should’s” in how I relate to men I’m attracted to by being shy, unsure, or writing off guys who liked me to protect myself instead of being open to the possibility of connection with someone new.
  3. I operate from “should’s” in how I hold back my joy and my “big-ness” in the world to be more “socially acceptable” and “normal” and not “rock the boat.”

Juicy and a little confronting, right? Good! That’s right where we wanna be. With your answers to these questions in mind, you’re now seeing that your current way of being is no longer serving you. Keeping your comfort zone locked in place with “should’s” is limiting how much life you can have.

So now that we’ve opened you up a little, I give you the “Life is play” mindset practice.

Life is what you make it.

We’ve been told that life is a lot of things. Here’s what it’s not:

  • It’s not a schlep
  • It’s not a game
  • It’s not a challenge
  • It’s not a struggle
  • It’s not what we’ve been told it is by the people who wanted us to be easier to manage
  • It’s not what we’ve been told it is by people who never did anything great and thought success was feeling comfortable all the time.

I believe life wants us to be radically ourselves, to honor our deepest desires, to create our art, to live our dreams, to give our gifts generously, to love big. And life wants us to enjoy the ride.

And to flip all of this on its head, if the play that you want to have is to not honor your deepest desires and to pretend to be someone else your whole life, that’s the perfect experience you can play with in this life too! If that’s your choice, that’s perfect too. Are you getting this? It’s all not that serious!

Ok, so here’s a question for us to reckon with now: what is it like to choose to have goals in an inherently goalless existence? I think the awareness that life is play makes having goals more fun – and it takes the pressure off in a BIG way. Everything becomes an experiment.

“I have to get this client.” becomes “What can I do to show this client that my solution will truly solve their problem?”

“I really want them to like me.” becomes “How can I create a meaningful connection with them?”

“I want to buy a house, but I have no money.” becomes “What methods can I explore to make enough money to buy a house?”

“I’ve gotta lose weight.” becomes “Let’s try this and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll try this other thing.”

And just like that clenched fists become open palms.

Can you feel the difference in pressure and levity between these statements?

There’s also an inherent empowerment that comes as well when we shift from “should’s” into playstate. Why? Because as they say at Landmark, “you’re on the court.” Let me explain: if you’re speculating, thinking, judging others, or criticising the situation you’re in, then you’re not in the game, you’re not on the court of life getting busy living. If you’re actively experimenting, you’re on the court, out of your head, showing up, making moves, and dancing with life. Nobody ever made their dreams come true by talking about everyone else’s.

Play is active, engaged, experimental, and ALIVE.

Ultimately we can’t guarantee results in life, we can only become as skillful as we can and show up to the play of the moment.

"Life is play" Mindset and Practice

The practice of this mindset is where things start to get interesting. You know how you need to practice things over and over again and only after many repetitions, do they start come naturally? Just like an athlete learning how to shoot a basketball, it takes practice to make this mindset your natural state.

So let’s practice!

All you do is ask yourself the following question: “How do I want to play in this experience?”

Another is: “How is life playing with me right now? How do I want to play with it?”

Ideas for Where You Can Use this Practice.

This mindset applies broadly to all of life, so it’s applications are everywhere, but here are a few specific ideas for how you can make to playstate your natural state:

  • When you wake up in the morning ask yourself: “How do I want to play right meow?” and do whatever comes!
  • When you start a new task, ask yourself the question: “How do I want to play in this experience?” and move from that space of inspired action.
  • When you go into a new space like the grocery store or a coffee shop, ask yourself: “How do I want to play right now?” and see how the way you show up shifts. (I did this exact thing at the grocery store the other day and it resulted in me feeling completely at ease introducing myself to a guy I have a crush on. This shit works, y’all!)
  • When you start a conversation with someone ask yourself “How can this connection be play?” and move from that space.
  • When you’re having a difficult time or have the feeling that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, ask yourself: “How can I play in the experience of feeling?” This to me is powerful It’s not that you need to feel any differently, it’s just that you’re aware of how you feel, you’re not trying to change it, and you’re actually seeking to be with it deeply like a curious meditation. There’s some real freedom in that.

I really hope you try out this mindset for yourself and I would really like to know how it goes for you.