Unlocking the Power of Play: How Original Play Can Transform Your Relationships and Parenting

When someone invites me to play, it opens up a world of possibilities. However, when my child becomes stressed, terrified, or overwhelmed, I find myself disconnected and flooded with fear and shame. Receiving empathy support and learning about the brain has helped me live in congruence with my values, especially when it comes to parenting.

But I remember how I still felt like something was missing. I longed for a dis-confirming experience that would allow me to keep my heart open and present regardless of environmental factors. Then, my empathy buddy invited me to a weekend play workshop in Portland, and I was thrilled with the possibility!

During the workshop, I sat with 30+ others in a big circle. Our instructor, O. Fred Donaldson, introduced us to the world of Original Play through a framework of concepts, choices, distinctions, and patterns. I found the guidelines illuminating: no contest, no winning, no losing, no fault, no fairness, no revenge, no tickling. I realized that the kind of play I had learned in the world was cultural; games, activities, and sports, which were commonly presented to children with rules to live by. The new kind of play was a way to hold one's children with unconditional love and acceptance, and I was eager to explore the possibilities with my child.

We learned how to let our bodies mirror the child's body and to wait for their invitation for play to be accepted, to slow down and follow the child's lead. As I listened to all of this, I had a renewed sense of clarity, and a new way of seeing the world opened up to me.

Fred spent 10 years playing with wolves and five weeks in Australia playing with wild dolphins. He also played with deer, elk, bison, black bear, and grizzly bear in Montana. All the animals played with the same patterns.

Original play is not just a human activity to solve a human problem. It's a gift given to all creation, and all of life knows the patterns. Original play is not about having fun. It's not a dance, sport, or extreme sport. It's a gift from creation so that I can love completely, fully, whatever comes to me.

I know that experiencing this way of being is key to perceiving my child in a whole new way, with much more consistency, and it feels hauntingly familiar.

As I took in the information, I felt my stomach and jaws clench tight in resistance to the thought of active participation. I was terrified I'd "do it wrong," and I felt an impulse to hide as panic began to expand in my chest.

But when I glanced over at my empathy buddy and felt a gentle warmth cascade over me, my tension released. With a trusted playmate, I was able to relax and open up to learning! This piece of experiential learning was huge for me and totally amazing to experience with awareness.

Warm and resonant attachment relationships facilitate the expansion of our coping capacities. This piece of experiential learning was huge for me and totally amazing to experience with awareness.


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