The role of playfulness in healing and awakening

There are some general orientations that seem helpful in healing and awakening.

The most obvious ones may be receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, dedication, and even fascination and passion.

To me, it seems that many traditions overlook one of the most helpful orientations, and that’s playfulness.

We all have these sides to us, and we can encourage and bring them out to some extent if they are not already here.


How does playfulness look in the context of healing and awakening? What are the characteristics of playfulness?

For me, it means to bring some lightness and joy into the process. Have the freedom to explore and investigate outside of the well-trodden paths. And find a way to explore healing and awakening in a way that’s alive and juicy for us.

Why is this often left out? Perhaps because many traditions like to present healing and awakening as a serious business? Perhaps because it’s not so easy to control playfulness? Perhaps it would threaten the frames of the tradition? Perhaps they are concerned people would use it as an excuse to indulge in their hangups? All of that could happen.

Do any traditions include or emphasize playfulness? Yes. Two modern examples are Process Work (for healing) and Headless experiments (for awakening and embodiment). Both of these invite a lighter and more playful and experimental approach.

Without knowing for certain, I also suspect that many of the old Taoists and Zen masters had a more playful orientation.


There is a bigger picture here, and that’s what we can see as the playfulness inherent in life and the divine.

Existence – the universe, life, the divine – is expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, as all there is including us and our lives and experiences. To us, what’s here is fleeting and immediately gone. And something new and different is here. Existence seems wildly experimental. Wildly unattached to its creations.

Existence seems, in a sense, wildly and inherently playful.

We have that playfulness in us. We are that playfulness.

So why not bring it into our healing and awakening process and experimentations?


We can take a playful orientation in a slightly misguided way. We can use it to never be serious about anything. Not go deep. Not be dedicated. Indulge in our hangups.

How do we prevent some of the potential pitfalls of playfulness?

The answer may be in the balance of all our different orientations.

Sincerely, honesty, receptivity, dedication, and fascination all help guide and ground playfulness.

Photo: I took this one midsummer night at Nesoddtangen, Norway.

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A YES to the world

What does it mean to say YES to the world? And why would we?

First, what does it mean?

It means to say an internal YES to whatever is in our world – the situation and people, and our own emotions, thoughts, sensations, and whatever else is here.

It’s an intentional shift in orientation from the NO parts of us have towards the world to a YES.

Why would we say YES to the world?

Mainly for pragmatic reasons.

What’s here is already here. We are too late in doing anything about it. If I fight it, I just create additional stress and distractions for myself. If I say YES to it, the stress and drama calms down and I am in a better position to relate to it more consciously and do something about it if that’s appropriate.

Saying YES to my world is a kindness to myself. It helps me act more from clarity and kindness.

How do we do it?

For me, it’s easier to ask myself a question:

Can I say YES to what’s here?

How is it to say YES to this situation? To what I am experiencing now?

Can I say YES to the “no” in me?

This opens the mind to the possibility. It opens for curiosity. It helps me connect with the side of me that already says YES to this experience.

Does it mean being gullible or passive?

Not at all.

It just means to allow some of the drama to settle and finding the more clear side of myself. I’ll still act if that’s needed, and I may do it a little more effectively.

Aligning with reality

This is not only pragmatic. It’s also an expression of what we already are.

The reality is that we are already “built open” for the world, as Douglas Harding says. What we are is this awake no-thing that’s open for the world as it is. What we are is built with an inherent YES to the world.

By asking ourselves can I say YES to what’s here? a few things may happen. One of these is that we notice what we are and live from it, especially if this is available to us from experience.

Getting to know the NO in us

A side-effect of this is that we get to see the NO in us. We get to see the parts of us that say “no” to life or a situation.

It’s very natural and understandable that we have these sides of us. They were created from separation consciousness, and there is often a lot of pain and fear in there.

When we get to know them more closely, we may see that they are here to protect us and really come from and are an expression of love. They also come from painful beliefs, identifications, and sometimes trauma.

They come from unloved and unexamined fear.

By saying YES to the “no” in us, we acknowledge these sides of us while not getting caught in them.

A what-if orientation

These type of explorations work best if they come from a what-if orientation.

What if I do this? What happens?

This also opens from some receptivity, curiosity, and even playfulness.

Where does this pointer come from?

The YES to the world is something we find in many places – from poets to psychologists, philosophers, mystics, and some spiritual traditions. It’s one of the things we discover if we explore ourselves and how we relate to the world, and what works and doesn’t work so well. It’s also what we discover when we discover what we are, and explore this for a while in daily life.

I suspect that I got the “YES to the world” wording from Adyashanti although I don’t have a clear memory of where from. (I haven’t taken in much from spirituality for the last several years.)

Why do I write about this now?

Well, the answer is almost given. This is something I have explored and applied in my own life over the last few days. It’s something I have returned to since I have needed it. A lot of primal fear has come up, partly triggered by working on and exploring it in myself.

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An experimental approach to healing and awakening

If we are on a healing or awakening path, experimentation will – by necessity – be a part of the process.

We may find a teacher, guide, or approach that feels right for us for whatever reason – perhaps it makes sense to us, or it’s recommended by someone we trust, or the quiet inner voice says “yes”, or a combination. And we try it out.

What happens if I follow this pointer or engage in this practice? What do I find? What effects does it have?

Does it work? Does it bring healing? Does it help me to relate to myself and the world in a different way? (With more kindness, more from oneness?) Does it give me glimpses of what I am?

If so, it makes sense to keep exploring it. If not, perhaps I need to change how I am in relation to it or try something else.

So it’s not all the tools. It’s also me and how I am in relation to the practice. How sincere am I? How wholeheartedly do I engage with the practice? Am I willing to stay with it long enough to get results? Am I willing to ask for guidance from someone more experienced and see what happens if I put it into practice?

In my experience, when something works I tend to see the results early on or immediately. Even small shifts tells me that this may be worth continuing to explore.

This is how we would go about learning most things in life, whether it’s a language, sports, music or something else. And an experimental and pragmatic approach also makes sense for healing and awakening.

Curiosity, receptivity, and trying things out help us discover, learn, and finding new sides to what we are exploring.

An almost-synonym for experimentation is a playful attitude. A playful attitude helps us have a light touch, stay engaged, and find receptivity, curiosity, and a willingness to try things out.

In my experience, good mentors and coaches encourage grounded playfulness.

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TRE and play

When I explore the natural shaking and tremoring of the body – through Tension/Trauma Release Exercises – I find some questions helpful:

– o –

What happens when I allow the natural shaking and tremoring of the body?

What happens when I follow the form? What happens when I try it in different positions?

What happens when I try it standing freely? Sitting? Laying on my side with my legs curled? Laying on my back with my legs out? Laying on the back with the knees over the chest?

– o –

Can I find a way to do this so I would want to do it indefinitely?

How is it to move in the direction of comfort and enjoyment?

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Dream: a new dance

I am visiting an old friend in Norway (JGH), someone I haven’t seen for many years. He lives in a nice apartment in Oslo, and there is a dance there in the evening. Lots of people come over and the dance is something I have never before seen or experienced.

It is a group dance, but also individual. The group moves almost as a school of fish, with one person initiating a slight variation of the moves and many or all of the others following. The new patterns ripple through the group in a very organic and playful way, and it is clear that everyone is enjoying the dance deeply – both what comes up for them individually and what moves through the group in such a seamless and playful way.

I am struck by the atmosphere which is intelligent, playful and soulful at the same time, and which allows such an individuality yet also forms such a seamless flow of patterns on a group level.

I also notice how there is a wide open field embracing and going deep into polarities such as individuality and group, receptivity and initiation, slow and fast, rhythmical and playfully breaking of rhythms, sensuality and intelligence, and much more.

It is clear that this is a mature group, and one that is intimate with themselves, each other and life, in a way I have rarely or never seen before.

I realize that what is different is that they move, in a mature, intimate, playful and effortless way from the three centers and with an emphasis on the belly center.

It is completely different yet also intimately familiar, as something I have for a long time been looking for, yet had not thought I would find. A deep gratitude comes up for me, and a longing and desire to stay and join in on their weekly gatherings.

During the dance, someone mentions that there are groups doing this form of dance in New Zealand, Australia and Europe, but not in the US because it doesn’t fit into their culture.

Afterwards, my friend shows me a book called “God as WE” and asked me if I know of other authors on that topic. I see that it is an anthology with writings by Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, Saniel Bonder and others, and realize that this is an area that is close to my heart yet has been neglected over the last period of time. The only other author I can think of is A. H. Almaas.

This is a big dream as Jung called it, one that made a big impression and seemed to have more significance than most dreams. It is a dream that shows me a whole new different realm of being and life.

A being and living, in a mature, playful and effortless way, from and as the three centers, and especially the warm nurturing felt-sense fullness of the belly center.

The atmosphere in the dream and the dance was very similar to Breema, yet also more dynamic, playful, and with ripples of patterns at a group level I am not used to.

It is a bringing of the belly center qualities into the group level, in a more mature way. It is God exploring itself as WE through an inclusion of all three centers, and especially the belly center.

There was no coincidence that the dream was set in Oslo since the qualities of this dream were more alive for me when I lived there… the soulfulness, playfulness and intelligence all together at a group level, with my friends there.

In the dream, someone pointed out that there were groups doing this form of dance in New Zealand, Australia and Europe, but not in the US because it didn’t fit into their culture. This reflects my ambivalence about living in the US, enjoying many things here but also longing for the intelligent and playful soulfulness I find more easily in Europe.

There was also a synchronicity here: At the end of the dream, I talked with a woman for a while. I remember the quality of her presence and looks, but not the content of the conversation. This morning, a woman came over to look at a room we are renting out, and she was a very close math to the person in the dream. (Not many are.)

Why haven’t we awakened yet?

It seems that lots of folks on the spiritual circuit wonder why they haven’t awakened yet. There is a resistance to what is (which happens to be what holds it, the appearance of non-awakening, in place.)

So why haven’t we awakened yet?

The immediate and technical reason is the resistance itself, which creates a sense of I and Other, splitting the seamless field of awakeness down the middle. This comes from a belief in a separate self, which in turn is propped up by innumerable other beliefs. The initial sense of I and Other is elaborated through lots of different identities which define exactly how this I is different from the rest of what is.

Another reason is that it is all the play of emptiness. It is all the spontaneous expression and manifestation of God in the form realm. It is lila, the dance of God. God manifesting, experiencing and exploring itself as and in form, including taking itself to be just a segment of this form.

Any experience, independent of its content, is God experiencing itself. Awakened or not, it is still God exploring and experiencing itself in its vastness and immense richness.

Specifically, there is a tremendous richness in the exploration and experiencing of being a separate self. Why would God let that go right away? There is so much more to explore and experience there, so it makes sense to allow the exploration to continue a little longer.

It may not always be what our human self wants, but that too is part of the game.

So if we take ourselves as this human self, and have stories about why we haven’t awakened, then exploring the genuine gifts of not having awakened may help.

It takes some of the charge out of our initial stories, allowing us to see that they are only stories, and revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

It also helps reduce resistance to what is, or rather identification with and fueling of this resistance. This in turn eases a sense of something being off. And it also allows for an easier noticing of what already and always is. A field of awake emptiness and form, seamless, with no center, sometimes with a sense of a separate self and sometimes not.

Neutrality and appreciation

When beliefs are gone, the inherent neutrality in any situation is revealed.

From the emptiness side, we see that it is just emptiness dancing, the play of God.

From the form side, we see that any story about it, and all its reversals, all have a grain of truth in them.

Both reveal the inherent neutrality in the situation.

But what happens when all situations are revealed as inherently neutral?

What happens, at least in my experience, is a deep appreciation for life, for existence, for the world of form, for the play of God, and for this particular life. A deep gratitude and appreciation for it, as it is, independent of its particulars.

Beyond appreciation, there is also a quiet and deep joy in the freedom of the play of life and God, as revealed here and now. And beyond this, a joy in the freedom of the play of stories and their reversals, all revealing some relative truth.

If beliefs are gone, what is left?

When we are used to live with and from beliefs, and we hear about allowing beliefs to fall away, then the natural question comes up: if beliefs are gone, what is left?

First, what is a belief?

It is taking any idea, which only has relative truth, as an absolute truth. More precisely, it is adding a story onto another saying that it is absolutely true. And right away, we see that there has to be a dissonance here. We cannot know that any story is absolutely true, yet we try to make it so for ourselves. We make it appear true at a surface level, yet know at the same time that we cannot know if it is or not. Also, any belief creates boundaries for life, for what can and should happen. So when life shows up outside of these boundaries, or even when we fear/hope that life may show up outside of these boundaries, there is also stress. When there are beliefs, we get stress from two sources.

Then, what is left when they are gone?

It is simple. It is the same stories, without beliefs. The stories are there, as before, but not believed in as true. They are seen as only relative truths with limited, temporary and purely utilitarian purposes… nothing more. If we go one step further, we see that all the reversals of any story also contains a grain of truth, revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

We can still use the stories in daily life, and really, we have to. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to function. But now they are revealed as only stories, added onto the inherent neutrality of any situation. They are revealed as tools of limited and temporary value only.

There is a tremendous freedom here. A freedom to play with any story and its reversals. A freedom to not get stuck on the inside of the boundaries of any story, because it is only a relative truth.

Beliefs, no beliefs, and freedom to play

Writing the previous post on ideas about mass awakenings, I realize that it was slightly one-sided (as usual)…

A more inclusive way to look at it is to see that we have, at least, three ways of relating to stories.

First, as a belief. We take the relative truth in them as absolute, and the grain of truth in their reversals is denied or overlooked. They fall into the shadow of the belief, and as any belief also creates an identity, they fall into the shadow of our identity as well.

Then, as freedom from beliefs, and abandoning stories for the most part, resting in the wide open space of not-knowing mind. Stories may surface, as essential for the daily life of this human self, but they are seen as only stories and not engaged in much.

Finally, there is a freedom to play with the stories again, much as before the awakening, but now in a completely free way. We can engage in, explore, develop, use, play around with them, in great detail, yet knowing full well that they are only stories. Only surface ripples on the vastness of awake emptiness, and – at best – with only temporary, limited, and purely practical (instrumental) use.

Here, the stories are often used as pointers to not-knowing mind and that which is inherently free from (belief in) any stories. And if they are used to describe something in the form realm in addition to that, there is usually an emphasis of the purely relative truths in the stories and the grain of truth in all their reversals, inviting others to see the inherent neutrality of the situation and not get too caught up in any stories.