Thursday, 28 July 2011

Stuart Brown's properties of play

from Play, p17:

“Properties of play:

Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake)


Inherent attraction

Freedom from time

Diminished consciousness of self

Improvisational potential (“we aren't locked into a rigid way of doing things. We are open to serendipidy, to chance.”)

Continuation desire [it makes you want to do more of it]"

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Fun Fed at Wellbeing in the City

I don't look this cracked out in the whole thing...

Friday, 1 July 2011

"Storytelling is a God-given gift."

Listening to the radio on May 18 I heard Jeffrey Archer say:

“Storytelling is a God given gift.”

“But where does that storytelling instinct come from?” The interviewer asked.

“I think that’s God-given. I always say to young people when they say to me, ‘I want to write a book Jeffrey,’ and I say ‘well you have to decide whether you’re a writer, or whether you’re a storyteller. And storytellers -  like ballet dancers, and like opera singers, and like painters -  it’s a God-given gift. Writing you can do it on a good education, marvelous command of language, good upbringing, that all helps, but storytelling, it’s a gift.”

My ears perked up.

The storyteller is one of Stuart Brown’s player types.

As is the kinaesthete (Archer’s ballet dancer perhaps,)
And the artist creator (Archer’s painter)
And I have added another, The Musician (Archer’s opera singer.)

I am reminded of Brown’s belief that "When people know their core truths and live in accord with what I call their 'play personality,' the result is always a life of incredible power and grace." (Brown, 2009)

I’m not a Christian, but there seems to be a theme between these men’s language; would a life lived in accord with your ‘god-given’ gift not be a life of incredible power and grace?

I think also of the importance of uncovering and living in accordance with your purpose that is central to the spiritual practices of many cultures. (See, for example, Malidoma Some’s account of Dagara ideas around this).

And I think of Bill Plotkin’s writing about the soul.

Are our player types somehow our ‘god given gifts?’ God meaning what you will; that which we come into the world with, the irrepresable well spring of aliveness within us that wants to flow and causes suffering if we try to pave it over.

I interviewed the team last year in an attempt to identify our player types. Each person, when they came to the area about which they were most passionate, used the language of ‘let me’, Let me host, let me sing, let me perform, let me move, let me make you laugh, let me tell you a story.

And I wonder if our player types are somehow our soul’s preferred medium.

In the Fun Fed we think a lot about joy. At the moment we’re thinking about it in terms of softening the controlling part of you – that which tries to ensure success and avoid failure – and making space for the feeling part of you – that which loves, cries, plays, and feels joy.

I tend to call these parts the ‘casing’ and the ‘creature’; others seem to call them the ‘ego’ and the ‘soul.’

So, if our work, ideally, somehow calms the controller and brings out the soul, do our souls speak in different languages and are our play preferences what those languages are??

The preferences are as follows:

Brown’s preferences:
The Storyteller – creates, shares and relishes stories
The Artist / creator – paints, sculpts, cooks, gardens
The Joker – spots and delights in opportunities to create laughter
The Kinaesthete – plays in and through the body
(Brown also identifies The Explorer, The Competitor, The Collector and The Director, but my boss has rejected these as not relevant to the Fun Fed [with some disagreement from the team]).

I’ve added
The peformer – loves to play before an audience
The musician – finds home in sound
The engineer – delights in making and fixing things; precision, physics, timing.

Parents not playing much with kids

Just stumbled across this article from last year's Guardian. I've edited it right down. The full version is here.

Parents are forgetting how to play with their children, study shows

Family games becoming 'lost art' as survey cites overwork, boredom and generation gap
father children swings park
Photograph: Elly Godfroy / Alamy/Alamy
One in five parents say they have forgotten how to play with their children, with a third admitting that taking part in games and activities with their family is boring, according to research.
But while more than half the children questioned for the report by Professor Tanya Byron said they want more quality time with their parents, one in 10 said they know that their parents feel family playtimes are dull and a waste of time.
The State of Play, Back to Basics report interviewed 2,000 parents and 2,000 children aged five to 15 about their play habits. It concludes that play is in danger of becoming a "lost art" for British families, with 21% of parents admitting they no longer remember how to play and struggle to engage their children in creative and imaginative activities that will help their development. ...
"Nearly one in three parents choose to play computer games with their children thinking that's what their kids will most enjoy," said Byron. "However, nine out of 10 children said computer games were something they would rather play on their own, while three-quarters said they would prefer to spend time with their parents enjoying more traditional pursuits, such as challenging each other at board games or playing outdoors together."
Time pressures were also cited by parents, with half of those interviewed blaming work and chores for reducing the amount of quality time they are able to spend with their children. Nearly a third of children said that they were aware that work worries prevented their parents from playing with them.
Play is super important for healthy development during childhood, for wellbeing and fulfilment throughout life, and for the quality of the parent-child relationship.
We should get a move on with our parent-child play workshops.

Play and parenting

More from Stuart Brown:

“On commercial airplanes, the instructions for emergency procedures tell adults that in the event of cabin depressurization, they should put on their own oxygen mask before they assist children. Likewise, in order to help our children we have to recover memories of how we once played, by retracing our own early play footprints. When we do that and create a playful household, everything from education to chores will go better.” p81

“Parents who provide a loving, safe atmosphere and model playfulness will allow the play drive to express itself. If these elements are not present, children may miss one or more pieces of the natural modes of play.” p94

“Movement play lights up the brain and fosters learning, innovation, adaptability, flexibility and resilience.”

“We may think we are helping to prepare our kids for the future when we organise all their time, when we continually ferry them from one adult-organized, adult-regulated activity to another. And, of course, to some degree these activities do promote culturally approved behaviour as well as reinforce our roles as 'good' parents. But in fact we may be taking from them the time they need to discover for themselves their most vital talents and knowledge. We may be depriving them of access to an inner motivation for an activity that will later blossom into a motive force for life.” p105

“It used to be that self-organised play was all kids did.” p105

“Certainly, parents and mentors are pivotal, but the self that emerges through play is the core, authentic self.” p107

“It's easy to start to worry about risks when kids create their own play. … But part of being a parent is learning to accept the limitations of our ability to make our kids safe, successful, and happy.” p108

Play, work and creativity

In the book Play, 2009, Stuart Brown suggests that early play helps us to find our creative preferences:

“If we look at a life over time, and observe the origins of many artistic expressions, they are rooted in early play behaviour that gets encouraged by natural talent and richness of opportunity in the environment. Watch a two-year-old who is drawn to music spontaneously dance to the beat of a summer band concert in the park. Fifteen years later, that kid my be a consummate pianist or just spend hours humming and strumming a guitar. But the draw to rhythm and music were kindled by spontaneous playfulness when the band started playing during that long-ago summer.

The emotions that fostered this embrace of music were not verbal nor a product of thoughts like “I think I'd like to be a musician.” They were prompted by a deeper, more primal process, which I believe Jaak [Panskepp] has captured in his descriptions of processes that link brain stem (movement) to limbic (emotional) to cortex (thought).” p62

“After taking play histories of Nobel laureate scientist Roger Guillemin and polio researcher Jonas Salk, I realized that what they were doing in the laboratory every day was playing.” p63

“The work that we find most fulfilling is almost always a recreation and extension of youthful play.”

(Yup. Personally, I spent half my childhood singing and dancing around the house, garden and nearby woods, and the other half divided between playing with maths, other kids, and looking at the sky or the ceiling and asking questions like, 'I wonder if I can think without language.' My personal and professional life is pretty much the same now. Less maths.)

“If we let the play drive express itself well into adulthood, as we are built to do, we find opportunities to play everywhere.” p70

I see an example of this!


(neck brace was probably due to characteristic physical jumping around recklessly)

(there's a piano there you just can't see it)

Notes from Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch

“There is an old Sanskrit word, Lila, which means play. Richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation, destruction and re-creation, the folding and unfolding of the cosmos. Lila, free and deep, is both the delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God. It also means love.” p1

“Improvisation, it is a mystery. You can write a book about it, but by the end no one still knows what it is. When I improvise and I'm in good form, I'm like somebody half sleeping. I even forget there are people in front of me. Great improvisors are like priests; they are thinking only of their god.” Stephane Grappelli, quoted on p4

“I am a musician. One of the things I love best is to give totally improvised solo concerts on violin and viola.... My experience of playing in this way is that 'I' am not 'doing something'; it's more like a following, or taking dictation.”

“There is the story of one of Bach's pupils asking him, 'Papa, how do you ever think of so many tunes?' to which Bach replied, 'My dear boy, my greatest difficulty is to avoid stepping on them when I get up in the morning.' And there is Michelangelo's theory of sculpture: The statue is already in the stone, has been in the stone since the beginning of time, and the sculptor's job is to see it and release it by carefully scraping away the excess material.” p4

He explores questions of how “inspiration of any kind arises within us, how it may be blocked, derailed, or obscured by certain unavoidable facts of life, and how it is finally liberated – how we are finally liberated – to speak or sing, write or paint, with our own authentic voice. Such questions lead us directly into territory where many religions and philosophies, as well as the actual experience of practicing artists, seem to converge.” p5

“Any action can be practiced as an art, as a craft, or as drudgery.” p10

“In this journey there is no endpoint, because it is a journey into the soul.” p11

“Our subject (play) is inherently a mystery. It cannot be fully expressed in words, because it concerns the deep preverbal levels of spirit.” p12

“...the prerequisites of creation are playfulness, love, concentration, practice, skill, using the power of limits, using the power of mistakes, risk, surrender, patience, courage and trust.”

“And the struggle, which is guaranteed to take a lifetime, is worth it. It is a struggle that generates incredible pleasure and joy. Every attempt we make is imperfect; yet each one of those imperfect attempts is an occasion for delight unlike anything else on earth.” 

“The creative process is a spiritual path.”

“As an improvising musician, I am not in the music business; I am not in the creativity business; I am in the surrender business.” p21

“Being, acting, creating in the moment without props and supports, without security, can be supreme play, and it can also be frightening, the very opposite of play.”

“What, then, is this seemingly endless stream of music, dance, imagery, acting, or speech that comes out of us whenever we let it?... Spiritual traditions the world over are full of references to this mysterious juice: ch'i in China and ki in Japan (embodying the great Tao in each individual); kundalini and prana in India: mana in Polynesia; orende and manitu among the Iroquois and Algonquins; axe among the Afro Brazilian condomble cults; baraka among the Sufis in the Middle East; Elan vial on the streets of Paris. The common theme is that the person is a vessle or conduit through which a transpersonal force flows. That force can be enhanced through practice and discipline of various sorts; it can become blocked or bottled up through neglect, poor practice or fear; it can be used for good or evil; it flows through us, yet we do not own it; it appears as a principle factor in the arts, in healing, in religion.” p33

“...everything in nature arises from the power of free play sloshing against the power of limits.” p33

“Play is always a matter of context. It is not what we do, but how we do it. Play cannot be defined, because in play all definitions slither, dance, combine, break apart, and recombine. The mood of play can be impish or supremely solemn.” p43

“...this is the evolutionary value of play – play makes us flexible. By reinterpreting reality and begetting novelty, we keep from becoming rigid.” p43