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Deep Play As a Path to our Dreams

“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation.” –Joseph Campbell

As a child, our imagination is constantly active and play becomes an outlet for exploring the world around us without danger or fear. We go about our days believing we can be anything we act out from video games to people we see on television, we are always fantasizing and creating ourselves as characters in the world in which we desire to live. As adults, we tend to disregard this active imagination, quieting the voices telling us to follow our deepest wishes, our hopes, and our dreams. More often, we tend to listen or attempt to fit in with the culture surrounding us.

Yet, when looking at the most prosperous and thriving cultures throughout history, we can see how everything created which was remarkable, innovative, or contributing to great discoveries all began through the simple concept of imaginative play. Look at the Inca Civilization, also known as the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, and possibly the largest empire in the world in the early 16th century. Through their mystical fascination and ritual sacrifices to the sun god and Pacha mama, they were able to contribute to advanced discoveries of engineering, agriculture, architecture, textile, ceramics, and ironworks. This was a civilization formed and built without any of the modern technology we have today. They built their empire without the wheel, powerful draft animals, iron workings, a writing system, or any form of currency. How could they possibly have been so successful without having any money?

Instead of paying taxes in money, everyone living within the Inca society was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life. The environment they lived in was so difficult to sustain that all of their innovations revolved around agriculture rather than economics. Fully embraced in their life’s work, labor was the only form of currency.

Diane Ackerman wrote a wonderful novel on this idea of imaginative play called “Deep Play. She defines Deep Play as the more intensified form of play that puts us in a rapturous mood and awakens the most creative, sentient, and joyful aspects of our inner selves. She describes an arrangement of artistic, spiritual, and athletic activities, claiming that these activities allow us to be “in the moment” and totally, transcendentally human.

What if you were told the character you are playing in your life is not limited to who you think you are at this moment? What if you stopped to view your life as more of a journey, rather than a fixed path, what kind of thoughts does this open up for you? If you knew that the views and judgments others placed on you are creating your self-image which in turn shapes the circumstances you choose to live in. Would you change anything?

“In our dream state, the conscious center is sidestepped and we see directly into the windows of the unconscious.” –Joseph Campbell

If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie, and you’ve allowed it to inspire you, you have chosen to create your environment. Or maybe you’ve taken a trip and it completely changes your perspective; you have allowed this experience to nourish deep creative centers within the mind. We are predisposed to seek these types of experiences in order to grow and develop as individuals.

Dreams are supposed to arise within us all, and often they are seemingly quiet, almost whispering to us to listen. They are made up of fantasy, desire, and longing for the beautiful world in which our spirit wishes to belong. We hold the power and capability of following these visions, just as the Incans did so many years ago. When attention is brought to them, these dreams can develop into desires containing extreme power and force, and if we allow them to inspire us enough they will help us in understanding the best choices to make throughout our lives.