Spiritual Pause? Press Play

Leap Forward in Your Spiritual Journey with Play


Krishna dancing Divine Creation with Goddess Radha, by author

Have you ever found yourself taking life too seriously? I know I have, many times. Whenever I would become frustrated, impatient, or angry because things weren’t going as planned, my spiritual teachers would simply say, “Give it to God and go play.”

Sometimes that would piss me off even more, but since I wanted relief from the intense ache in my chest, I would inevitably end up doing my best to let go of my problems for the day and do something fun. And, more times than not, the next day seemed brighter and lighter, and pathways would open up, leading me out of my quandaries.

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” ~ Alan W. Watts

Many spiritual traditions encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously. They remind us that what we already know is not worth knowing. They teach us that what truly matters cannot be discovered through our usual ways of thinking. This is always a blow to the ego. The ego will jump in and say, “That doesn’t apply to me. Some things are definitely worth knowing.”

Numerous inspirational teachers of spirituality tell us the importance of play. To the ego, engaging in play instead of being serious about spirituality may seem foolish. If we play instead of approaching our spiritual path seriously, fears may come up, telling us we are wasting precious time. Self-importance may rear its head, telling us we are too mature to waste our time playing.

“Play is the exultation of the possible.” ~ Martin Buber

But, far from being frivolous, play is a powerful spiritual practice with significant benefits. We don’t have to look far to hear the call to embrace play as a spiritual practice.

Dancing With The Divine

“In India, even our gods have to dance. A God who doesn’t dance does not pass the muster. Indian people won’t buy into a serious God. He or She has to dance to prove that they are a god. Krishna is a dancer. Shiva is known as the very basis of dance. Dance is not seen as just entertainment or an art form but as an exposition of the nature of creation itself.” Sadhguru

Children, even some animals, dance when happy. My wife loves parrots. It brings us many smiles, watching our Cockatoo, Macaw, and African Greys dance to their favorite tunes. In India, not only humans and parrots but also their Gods dance as an expression of divine joy and love. The sacred dances of Krishna and Shiva often called the “Rasa Lila” for Krishna and the “Tandava” for Shiva, hold profound symbolism of the workings of creation. Both play and dance can bring authentic joy. Joy is only a breath away from the transcendent experience of bliss.

When Play and Spirituality Waltz Together

Play has a meditative rhythm.

Sadhguru says, “When fully engaged in play, the mind stills and allows for a heightened perception and understanding of oneself and the world. This present-moment awareness can lead to profound experiences of oneness with the universe. When playfulness intersects with spirituality, we find an easy yet powerful means to transcend our ego and limitations, cultivate awareness, and give way to spiritual growth.”

When lost in play, our minds find a serene stillness, opening doors to deeper cosmic connections. When play intertwines with spirituality, it’s like a dance of fireflies, lighting up our inner world and guiding our spiritual groove.

“People tend to forget that play is serious.” ~ David Hockney

Play: An Essential Pulse of Cosmic Creation

Play isn’t merely fun and games. It’s the universe’s favorite tune, a melody of our purest essence. It’s where creativity springs, where laughter bubbles up, and where joy does its most sacred dance. Play is the light-footed step that makes life’s twists and turns seem effortless, unveiling life’s magic.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” ~ Carl Jung

Playful Figures Are Found In Many Spiritual Traditions Throughout The World

Here are a few.

The Playful Coyote in Western Shamanism

Coyote is a prominent figure in the spiritual traditions of Shamanism and of many Indigenous peoples in North America. Coyote is often regarded as one of the jesters known for their mischief, unpredictability, and ability to challenge our perceptions. Coyote promotes the spiritual practice of play, emphasizing spontaneity, experimentation, humor, and laughter. He serves as a reminder of the lightness of being and the importance of not taking life too seriously.

Coyote shows us that it is okay to be silly and to have fun. Coyote is a playful and mischievous character. He is always up for a good time, even if it means breaking the rules or getting into trouble. Coyote teaches us that it is okay to let go of our seriousness and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Coyote reminds us that the world is a mysterious and magical place. Coyote is often associated with the spirit world and with the power of transformation. He teaches us to see the world with new eyes and to open our minds to the possibility of magic and wonder.

Nasrudin the Trickster

Nasrudin, the legendary trickster from Central Asia, Turkey, and the Middle East, was not just a master of wit but also the original guru of humor with a purpose. Often seen as the wise jester, he had a knack for making people chuckle while dropping serious wisdom bombs.

Nasruddin was the king of playful learning. He’d toss out riddles that would leave you scratching your head, only to realize he was challenging your entire worldview. And if that didn’t work, he’d resort to some good old-fashioned slapstick comedy to drive his point home.

Nasrudin’s playful antics were more than just amusement. He believed that humor could shatter the walls of ego, paving the way for a heart-to-heart connection with the Divine.

Here are some classic Nasrudin tales that highlight his playful wisdom:

1. When a curious student asked Nasrudin about the meaning of life, he cheekily responded, “Playing!” Hinting that the secret to life is to have fun and connect with the divine through play.

2. On a sunny day, Nasrudin stumbled upon kids playing in the forest. Without a second thought, he jumped into the game, losing himself in pure, childlike joy. A reminder to appreciate the simple joys of the present moment.

“Being playful is a key component in making us happier, healthier, more present and connected in all of our relationships.” Meridith Sinclair

3. A scholar once quizzed Nasrudin on the essence of surrender. With a twinkle in his eye, Nasrudin said, “When you play, you’re all in. No past regrets, no future worries. Just pure, unadulterated fun.” It is a profound lesson on living in the moment and surrendering to life’s flow.

In a nutshell, Nasrudin’s playful tales remind us that sometimes the most profound lessons come wrapped in laughter. So, the next time life feels too serious, channel your inner Nasrudin and embrace the joy of play!

St. Francis and his order of Jesters of the Lord

St. Francis of Assisi was a Catholic friar and saint known for emphasizing simplicity and love. He also had a playful side, and he often used humor and satire to teach spiritual lessons.

St. Francis believed play was a way to connect with God and experience the joy of life. He also thought that play was a way to break down our egos and see the world in a new way.

In his book The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, there are many stories about St. Francis using play to teach spiritual lessons. For example, in one story, St. Francis is preaching to a group of people when he suddenly begins to dance and sing. The people are confused, but St. Francis explains that he is simply trying to show them how to be joyful in the presence of God.

St. Francis also founded an order of friars called the Jesters of the Lord. The Jesters of the Lord were known for their playful and humorous approach to spirituality. They would often use satire and parody to challenge people’s assumptions and make them think about their faith in new ways. They believed that play was a powerful tool for spiritual transformation. They saw play as a way to break down our egos, to open our hearts, and connect with the Divine.

St. Francis and the Jesters of the Lord teach us that play is not just for children. Play is a powerful spiritual practice that can help us connect with God, experience the joy of life, and transform ourselves.

Krishna, the playful and mischievous God of Hinduism

Krishna is one of the most important gods in Hinduism. Krishna is known for his many qualities, including his playfulness, his compassion, his love of music and dance, and his ability to overcome challenges. He is also seen as a teacher and a guide who can help us achieve liberation.

Krishna shows us that play is a divine act. He shows us that play is a way to connect with the Divine, to experience the joy of life, and to learn important spiritual lessons.

Here are a few examples of how Krishna shows us the divine meaning of play:

  • Krishna’s play is always spontaneous and joyful. He is not bound by rules or expectations. He simply enjoys the moment and lets his playful spirit shine through.
  • Krishna’s play is always creative and playful. He is not afraid to try new things and to push the boundaries of what is possible.
  • Krishna’s play is always compassionate and loving. He uses his play to connect with others and teach them essential spiritual lessons.

Krishna’s play is a reminder that the Divine is playful and joyful. It is also a reminder that play is a powerful tool for spiritual transformation.

Here are some specific examples of Krishna’s playful nature that show us the divine:

  • Krishna’s flute playing. Krishna is often depicted playing the flute. His flute playing is so enchanting that it can attract even the hardest hearts. Krishna’s flute playing is a reminder that the Divine is always present, even in the midst of our challenges.
  • Krishna’s dance with Radha. Krishna and his lover, Radha, are often depicted dancing together. Their dance is said to symbolize the union of the soul with the divine. Krishna’s dance with Radha is a reminder that we are all connected to the divine and that we can experience this connection through love and devotion.
  • Krishna’s pranks on the gopis. Krishna is also known for playing pranks on the gopis, the cowherd girls. His pranks are often seen as a way to teach the gopis about love and compassion. Krishna’s pranks are a reminder that the divine is playful and can be found in the most unexpected places.

The message that play is not a distraction from serious spiritual work but rather the essence of it can be found in ancient stories of disguised gods and jesters, as well as in the teachings of contemporary spiritual leaders.

“Seriousness is sickness. It is not a device. It leads to death, not to eternal life. Life is playfulness and fun because the whole existence is a tremendous circus. Fun is the most sacred word, far more sacred than prayer. It is the only word that can give you a sense of playfulness, can make you again a child.” Osho

Whenever life seems overbearing, allow the spirit of the gods, jesters, and saints of old to inspire you. It can help us laugh at the world, at situations, and, most importantly, at ourselves. Through this playful dance with life, we can find not only momentary joy but also an intimate connection to the Divine.

When life becomes overwhelming, take a deep breath and surrender your troubles to your Higher Self, God, the Divine — whatever has the most meaning to you, then go play.

Remember, the Divine never stopped playing. So why should we?

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Carl Gerber (aka Kristopher Raphael)
New Earth Consciousness

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