The Re-Creative Flow of Play

One of the utter delights of summer for me, here in Wisconsin, is spending time on my bike. In the last week I have had the joy of experiencing two separate long bike rides out in the country side. Both times I had the experience of losing track of time. What felt like a thirty minute ride was actually more of a three or four hour ride, as time flew by. Such is the nature of what I call the re-creative “flow” of play, that experience we have when we are deeply immersed in something that is truly recreative for us. You may not experience the re-creative flow of play by riding a bike, but there is quite likely some way in which you do.  Perhaps you experience it while gardening, swimming, going for a run, walk, or hike. Or maybe it’s when you are playing a musical instrument, reading a book, or laying on the beach. Some people find it through knitting, practicing yoga, going canoeing, dancing, fishing, playing golf, or by going to concerts. And certainly many find it when playing with their children or grandchildren, or by simply laying in a hammock and resting. One of the ways we know we are experiencing the re-creative flow of play is when we lose track of time, as we are so fully absorbed in enjoying the experience.

Even though I regularly write and speak about the importance of a healthy dose of rest and play as being essential to one’s well-being, I still, on occasion, find it challenging to put this into practice in my own life. I think it is because I have unconsciously bought into the mindset of our “culture of busyness” that defines us by our work, activity, and productivity. Last year alone, 54% of American workers did not take all the vacation they were due. This, of course, can be due to many factors, including the very real experience of  job insecurity, but it is no doubt also related to the value our culture has placed on work over play.

If you are like me and struggle to give yourself permission to make time for play, there is comfort in knowing that recent studies show that taking time to unplug from always being “on,” actually increases our ability for creative and expansive thinking. Recent brain studies confirm the beneficial effects that meditation has on our ability to pay attention, concentrate, and relax. I love it when science confirms what humans have always known intuitively, that slowing down and unplugging is good for us in a multitude of ways.

The paradox is that when we are able to lose ourselves in the re-creative flow of play, we are actually finding ourselves. This is when recreation is truly re-creation.

I plan to both lose and find myself on a long bike ride this weekend. What about you? How might you both lose and find yourself through the re-creative flow of play during this coming week?

by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Founder and Director, Living Compass