The Realm of Play

by OneTaste Living Library  Jun 28, 2012

 nnnnBy Nirmala N. nnSo what is this mysterious thing called turn-on, anyway?nn“Turned on” is simply the best way to describe what really happens when a woman opens up. It feels like someone has finally turned the electricity on, or like the genie has sprung full force out of the lamp. It’s that fire in you that longs for fuel, even if that means setting the whole world ablaze.nnTurn-on is the feeling of arousal and ignition in the body. It isn’t about force or exertion, which usually end up exhausting us and having us slink back shamefacedly into the parts of ourselves that find it convenient to stay small. Turn-on is a feeling of something greater than you picking you up and sweeping you along. It’s the feeling of being in the “flow,” where all of your movements happen effortlessly and with ease, where your deepest desires rub noses with synchronicity and naturally burgeon from your body out into the world. There’s a feeling of euphoria, headiness, like everything is finally happening just as you’ve always wanted it to. It might feel alert but relaxed; it might feel hysterically happy and excited. No matter how it manifests, it always feels like something is coming through you from fathomless reaches.nnThe feeling of turn-on is being swept away by the pleasure of whatever you’re doing, right here and now. We feel it most potently when we’re sexually aroused, but turn-on happens in various areas of our lives. Maybe you get into that space when you’re having a great conversation with a new friend, splashing joyously in puddles during a thunderstorm, acting in a play before an audience of hundreds, or enjoying a delicious evening indoors with your lover.nnIn essence, turn-on is what happens when you let your desire out to play. Turn- on puts us in overdrive, sends us diving headlong into our experience. That rush is what makes life rich and meaningful. And, for the Turned-On Woman, success in one round doesn’t mean she gets an easier round the next time; what fun would that be? She might lose the game but she plays it anyway.nnAccording to Stuart Brown, the author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, humans are fundamentally equipped for and need to play actively throughout our lives by nature’s design. In fact, our adult biologynis unique compared to other animals, as our capacity and need for flexibility, novelty, and exploration persists as we get older. Adults who don’t play tend towards narrow- mindedness, inflexibility, humorlessness, pessimism, and the tendency to react to stress with violence or depression compared to the adult whose play life persists. Given the continuous and rapid-fire changes that we’re facing in our world, those of us who can roll with the punches and innovate by virtue of our imaginations are better equipped to survive. Through the trial and error of millions of years of evolution, our penchant for play is encoded in the very fabric of our DNA. And it’s what turn-on is made of.nnIn many ways, our earliest relationship to play is connected to desire. As children, for example, we don’t need to be taught what we want—we simply know we want something. We see a puddle, and we jump into it! We anticipate the splash with delight, and we relish the feeling of floating through the air and landing. But we were probably civilized by a harsh rebuke from Mom and the message that allowing ourselves to be impelled that irrational urge to get dirty and play made us bad. We internalize the message that following our desire, engaging with it in the spirit of play and non-judgment, is bad, and so we learn to domesticate the wild beast of desire, only grudgingly entertaining her rampant appetite from time to time. As a result, later in our lives, we often are at a loss as to what we truly want, and even if a genie popped out of a lamp and granted us three wishes, we might be hard pressed to say what would tickle our fancy the most. This is because we’ve essentially forgotten how to play.nnSo if we want to coax our desire out again (civility be damned), we must learn how to do one of the things that play mandates: that is, walk steadily into the unknown. Getting clear on what we want is like upping the ante in slow gradations. If we want to learn how to swim, we start off at the shallow end of the pool. But soon we’re going to master the basics, and we are going to start getting curious about trying something a little bit harder. So we dip a toe in. We get excited by the new challenge, and it lasts for a few weeks. Soon we’re ready to upgrade again. The key is not to be recklessly spontaneous; it’s to take it slowly in order to build trust one inch at a time. Accordingly, with our desires, we start following them where they want to go, little by little. We might need to dip back into old patterns and take cover in familiar shelter. But once we regain equilibrium, we can walk back into the water and explore a little more.nnLearning to play again takes practice, and you can begin by making a list of everyday turn-ons—things that engage and enliven you, and bring you joy. What items on that list have you been depriving yourself of lately? Start treating yourself to some little experience that turns you on every day. It can be as trivial as wearing the pretty scarf that you have been saving for a special occasion, or taking fifteen minutes off to people-watch while sipping an espresso. Savor the turn-on. Notice what happens in your body as you do so. Stay with it until a feeling of gratitude washes over you. Be grateful to the desire itself for leading you to this place of enjoyment. Gratitude is how you console desire that has experienced getting its feelings hurt. Feeling fully appreciated, even in a very small way, encourages it to come out of hiding.nnWhen we begin to engage with our desire, and to play with our fears and boredom, a world that once appeared shadowy and dangerous begins to reveal its charms and particularities. The first trick is to simply identify what brings you pleasure, and move in the direction of that pleasure. What absorbs your attention, drives your energy, activates your curiosity, delights your senses, and fills your veins with rapture? How can you begin to incorporate these experiences into your life on a daily basis? When you start to view your world through a lens of childlike wonder and become more attuned to these things, even a seemingly mundane encounter holds the potential of serendipity and surprise, and the darkest of corners will surely be lit up by a splash of color and excitement.nn nn nnWith out surrender and flexibility, play is impossible. Remember playing dress up with your friends, and all of a sudden you have to play mom when you really wanted to play baby...and then you got upset, and then you threw a fit and you said, 'I'm going home!' Game Over. The same applies to your adult life. The moment we grip to our expectations and ideas of the way it should be, we stop the play; we refuse to open and bend and flex with what is arising. OM is a practice that cultivates play in our lives. In OM we get to practice riding the edge of uncomfortable or unfamiliar sensation and staying open, we get to practice remaining relaxed even when we can't feel a thing, or if they are miles from the spot; we can ask, like it's the first time, every time, 'Can you move a little to the left?' If that doesn't build flexibility and us.