Making Room for the Aha! Moment

| by Priscilla Bratcher

A recent NPR TED Radio Hour touched on, among other things, the importance of play in human experience. The benefits of play were extolled by several experts from various angles, including the fact that adults with little or no empathy have been found to come from childhoods devoid of play. Although understanding sociopaths can be somewhat chillingly interesting, research reveals that the effects of play on the brain, at every age, “lights up the brain” and helps it to create new connections.

I found this fascinating and true. As I think about my work life and that of my colleagues, I find that we in the nonprofit world tend to be somewhat earnest and serious in our commitment to mission and service. I’m not sure that as a sector, we’re very good at play.

This area of play research is still fairly new, but here’s what I took away from the program: relaxing the mind and allowing for a time for play makes us ultimately more social, trusting, connected, productive and creative. And I’ll go a step further. In my own experience, it’s this imaginative, day-dreaming time that allows me to find solutions to knotty problems that may have eluded me for days or weeks. Hs this every happened to you?

Well, here’s how I “play” and engage my imagination. I go the theatre, watch movies, and read fiction. I love to play games and do jigsaw puzzles with others. I’m not a sports person (neither participant nor spectator) but I love Scrabble, gin rummy, Zombie Fluxx and a card game my mother taught my sister and me called Hell (being a minister’s wife, she always taught us it was called Hades.) It’s very fast and very cut-throat and not at all ministerial and we used to squeal with laughter and false indignation, depending on who was winning. Even though Mom is gone, my sister and I still indulge once in a while.

Here’s a question for you: Do you value play? If so, how do you play? Let me know. I’m curious about how we as a profession relax our minds. Let’s get a list going!

So in closing, I send you all good wishes for some intention and guilt-free times of joy, laughter and silliness, One last question: whose turn is it to shuffle?

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