Serious Play (The Story Behind It All: Part 5)

This is part 5 in a series. "The Story Behind It All" introduces the stories leading up to the creation of the new BeingBreath offering, which will be shared in just under 1 week from now. I'm taking you along the process and introducing some new contemplations along the way! 

To read more about this series and Part 1, CLICK HERE. To read Part 2, CLICK HERE. To read Part 3, CLICK HERE. To read Part 4, CLICK HERE.


I have a sign above my back door that reads, "Life is too short to be taken seriously all of the time". I've taken chalk and crossed out "all of the time".

It is a reminder to take a lighter perspective each time I'm huffing around the house worrying about being late or frustrated with a family member for once again leaving something out instead of putting it away.

But sometimes...the sign isn't what I need. After coming across the news of yet another school shooting or speaking with a loved one who is in tears of pain, I walk past the sign and straight to my meditation cushion.

Life is this. 

And like this idea of lightening up or going deeper on the meditation cushion, we can conceptualize most things in paired dynamics - light and dark, black and white, yin and yang. There is the gray in between, but always a dance between opposites.

Within our mundane life, there is a dance between Serious or Playful.

Serious is getting the bills paid. It is contemplating the deep meanings in life, doing what needs to be done, charging through. Playful is exploration. It is laughing even in the dark, skipping in the streets, trying the wildest and craziest of paths no matter the outcome.

Most of us adults get the Serious. We've been there. Lived it. Are most likely living it now.

Perhaps in response to that, I've noticed a trend of promoting the Playful. Books and sites and classes (and signs to hang above our door) that remind us to stop making things so heavy. To giggle, try the Wild path, to lighten up!

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I love this trend. Many of us do. It is like a reminder to exhale after holding in our breaths so long because we are waiting for the next Serious task we need to address.

But (and you knew there would be a but) - I'm also noticing something else.

Let me digress for a moment to explain something important: We (all of us) tend to Avoid or Cling in life. We avoid those things that we don't like, that make us uncomfortable. We cling to those things that we do like, that make us happy. Make sense?

This applies to our Serious and Playful dynamics in life.

Some people cling to being serious and avoid being playful.Those people feel that serious is "real" - and anything else is a waste of time. 

Some people cling to being playful and avoid being serious. Those people feel that seriousness is too heavy, too painful, and that playfulness is the answer.

I've lived in both camps. And, as with both things, I've found that my path is the middle way.

The way of Serious Play.

Life is going to suck sometimes. Money runs out, people get ill and die, senseless tragedies happen. Those things are very real, very serious. It makes no sense to try to cover up or run from the pain that those things cause. Indeed, it can be vitalizing (i.e. helping you to FEEL alive) to feel the depths of your emotions - even the painful ones. 

But life also offers ample opportunities to playfully explore. Any situation you are offered can be a chance to pause and ask yourself, "What If....?". Any situation is a chance to exhale, let go of shoulds, and release into a playful dance with the experience.

It is important to be able to see from both perspectives. To know pain and joy, to not run from nor cling to either path.

The way of Serious Play encourages being both deep and playful. It is a way of not avoiding pain, but of gently moving into it - like taking a torch and wandering deeper into the cave. It is a way of not avoiding playfulness, but of bringing it in while addressing the Important People at work and while doing the dishes and working out how the bills will be paid.

As we roll around to the offering, I have kept the philosophy of Serious Play in mind. I don't want you to just flitter around some exploration that leaves you content but with little insight into the depths of your life. Nor do I want to add some serious set of regimented exercises to your life that leave you stressed and worn out.

Your time is too valuable to waste.

Allow me to leave you with a poem from one of my favorite poets, Jelaluddin Rumi, that rather delightfully explains how we can enter our days through a perspective of serious play.


This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,

    translation by Coleman Barks

The Story So Far

Part 1: Going Groundless was a reminder that one small step in the vastness of our uncertainties can make all the difference.

Part 2: Integration was a invitation to integrate learning with the mundane, daily-doings of your life.

Part 3: To Pay Or Not To Pay explored getting the most out of an investment (not limited to money!) when what you put in breaks out of your comfort zonand getting the greatest return when what you are aiming for is aligned with your deepest values.

Part 4: Honoring What Is encouraged a practice of being mindfully present with all of your roles in life through acknowledging What Is and through releasing shoulds and expectations.

Part 6 - the final story! - of The Story Behind It All will be shared on Friday, June 13, 2014.

A gentle reminder: If you are feeling moved by these stories, I encourage you to sign up for the BeingBreath newsletter. That way, you don't have to think about stopping back at the blog - these inspiring stories will appear right in your inbox!  Sign up by CLICKING HERE.