Deep Play: #A-Z Challenge
“Deep play requires one’s full attention. It feels cleansing because, when acting and thinking become one, there is no room left for other thoughts. Problems aren’t shelved–they don’t exist during deep play. Life’s usual choices and relationships are suspended. The past never happened and the future won’t arise. One is suspended between tick and tock.”
Suspended between tick and tock. What a lovely image for the transcendent experience that Ackerman describes as deep play.
‘Flow’ is a similar concept to deep play. If you’re a runner, you may also know it as being “in the zone.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to love sports or be a risk-taker in order to partake. Ackerman tells us that it is not about the activities we pursue, but about how we feel when pursuing them.
And that feeling? Well, that’s where it gets really good. Ackerman describes deep play as “a waking trance,” “a combination of clarity, wild enthusiasm, saturation in the moment, and wonder.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who developed the better-known concept of ‘flow,’ would agree, although perhaps not with the word ‘trance’. He explains that many people think of flow as “spacing out” when it is actually the exact opposite. Binge watching Game of Thrones does not qualify!
Some Activities are More Likely Than Others
Art-making, religion, and some sports lend themselves to an experience of deep play. Csikszentmihalyi studied what the experience looks like in the workplace, so he would add jobs that demand our full attention, like surgeon or computer programmer, to the list of likely activities.
We can’t ever guarantee an experience of deep play or of flow, no matter what we do. But there are things we can do to increase our chances of feeling this wonderfully absorbing and exhilarating state of mind.
The most important is to drop the multi-tasking and focus our attention on all of the emotional and sensory aspects of the activity at hand. And then, if the gods allow, we just might have some of our own moments suspended between tick and tock.
Have you ever had an experience of deep play or of flow? What were you doing at the time? (ahem – sexual activity doesn’t count. I can explain why in another post if you want to know.)