“We play because we have an exuberance spirts and energy … but, we also are exuberant because we play” Kay Redfield Jamison, Exuberance, The Passion For Life
What happens when we loose that exuberance of spirits and energy? What happens when something that starts as play turns into an experience that leaves us “broken” ? And, can we find our way back to a place of joy and vitality?
UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi showed us you can with her performance this past weekend in the Bruins’ opening meet. She scored a perfect 10 but … as Washington Post writer Allyson Chiu wrote this week, ” The most notable feature of Ohashi’s performance was the sheer joy she exuded, which starkly contrasted the revelations she made this August about her decision to step back from her Olympic dreams several years ago after the sport left her “broken”.
At the time she left she had been competing with a fractured back and two torn shoulders. She shared her story in a video on The Players Tribune
Stuart Brown, M.D. Psychiatrist, Clinical Researcher and Director of the National Institute of Play offers some properties of play in his book Play, How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.
1. Apparent Purposelessness – we don’t do it for it’s practical value, we do it for it’s own sake. Some people might even think it’s a waste of time.
2. It’s voluntary – nobody’s making you do it.
3. Inherent attraction – It’s just plain fun. It make you feel good.
4. Freedom from time – When we’re really into it we lose a sense of time.
5. Diminished consciousness of self – We stop thinking about thinking. We stop worrying about how we look. We’re just doing it.
6. Improvisational potential – We aren’t locked in to one way of doing things. We’re open to trying different approaches, messing about, making it up as we go.
7. Continuation desire – It’s fun and when we’re done we want to do it again.
When those things are lost we risk losing that wonderful “exuberance of spirits” that is our reason to play. Watching Katelyn’s performance, number seven really stands out – it’s fun and when were done we want to do it again. If it’s not – it might be time to pause and pay attention.