For the last several months, we (staff and clients alike) have been walking through Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and exploring how to intentionally add more of that which is life-giving and less of that which is life-depleting into this one, precious life. This month, we move to guidepost seven: “Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth”.

As I reread this chapter, I was struck more by what this guidepost invites us to let go of than by what it encourages us to cultivate. Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth? Amen, amen, amen, to that.

Over and over again I find myself exploring with clients where worth comes from and how, in our society, do we start to untangle our worth from our productivity, our accomplishments, our success. How do we create a culture of being rather than doing? How do we give ourselves permission to do less so that what ever remains can be intentional and effective? How do we let go of all of the “shoulds” about how we spend our time and instead make room for using our energy in ways that are authentically led by our internal needs, desires, and drives?

In order to allow ourselves to be more intentional about creating play and rest in our lives, we may have to work through some heavy patterned beliefs and messages about what it means to be an adult and how one is supposed to act. On the other side of those messages and beliefs, however, resides a lot more fun, a lot more life, and a lot more energy. With those things, I believe, we are better able to contribute to the world in the meaningful ways that we would like. In fact, as referenced in The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Stuart Brown explains that:

Play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation. (p. 100)

I noticed this truth in my own life a few weeks ago. Amidst the busy, often stressful demands of home ownership and work, we took a break to have a couple of friends over. In our time together, we decided to walk to a nearby playground and there, four adults, late one Saturday evening, played. We went down slides and swung on swings; we twirled and teeter-totted; we laughed and relaxed. And the next day, I felt so much more rejuvenated and ready to do what I had planned for the day. I also felt more connection to each of them and to myself.

Maybe play isn’t an actual playground for you and that’s okay. Nonetheless, I invite you to explore: what is play for me? What would rest look like for my body, mind, and spirit? How do I challenge unhelpful “shoulds” in order to create room for a more life-giving way to be in the world?

Today, along with Brene Brown, I choose rest and play. I hope you join me!

Many blessings and happy cultivating,

Nikki Holm, Chaplain, MA