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Fun as a Spiritual Practice

I discovered last week, via feedback from my #tgif blog post, that I am not the only one for whom fun is challenging. We all live in a culture that prizes productivity. As we go about the activities that keep us employed and our practical needs met, there is no one reminding us that we need fun as much as food, that we are nourished when we are not productive, that following what delights us is as much a spiritual practice as prayer.

First, let me define what I mean by spiritual practice, beginning with my definition of “spiritual”.

For me, “spiritual” has to do with the inner, unseen part of me, the essence of who I am. It may or may not include a religious ritual or tradition. I know agnostic individuals who have what I consider a strong spiritual connection, though they may not define it that way.

In my understanding, a spiritual practice is that which connects me with what is true and real for me, and is often connected to something beyond me, a sense that there is a force or energy or … something … greater than me. Maybe it’s called God, or Love or the Universe … I know the words I use for relating to this Something, and I’m always curious about the words others choose and why.

So what does Fun have to do with Truth and the Divine?

Fun is anything I do purely for the enjoyment of doing it. When I engage in fun, I feel what delights me. I connect with what I like, what I want, what feels good.

These are not elements of self-knowledge that either our culture or our religious structures encourage us to explore. What I like, want or enjoy has no relevance to what I produce for the consumption of the capitalistic machine. The religious tradition in which I was raised taught me from my earliest days that, in fact, what I like, want or enjoy is suspect, that these will distract me from what I was told is God’s will—hard work, productivity, following other people’s expectations for my behaviour and life choices.

Fun brings me back to what matters to me. Fun reminds me that my desires are important, that I can enjoy the experience of being alive. When I give my attention to what brings me enjoyment, I feel my ramped up nervous system settle. My shoulders drop away from my ears. The tyranny of time softens. I connect with me and remember that I have value simply because I am.

So what does fun look like for me?

There is “big fun”—an event I schedule such as going golfing with my spouse, or a special dinner with my loved ones. There is “little fun”—taking time to notice the pansies in my yard, watching the colourful pinwheel in my campsite garden spin in the breeze, seeing my son’s eyes twinkle when we share a joke. I find the more I give conscious attention to the “little practices”, the easier it is for me to remember to make time for the bigger ones. It also primes me to remember that I actually enjoy some of the routine activities in my daily life, such as sipping my morning coffee while sitting on my deck swing, participating in a workout class at the gym I attend, tending my flower gardens.

Fun connects me with the part of me that is both more than and less than productivity. It heals the inner places wounded by patriarchy, misogyny, racism, ableism and all that is prejudiced against the innate worthiness of the human being in all our varieties and complexities.

Fun helps me remember joy … and who doesn’t need more joy!

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