Personal Growth

Play, the Inner Child, and You

Smiling person sitting on sofa with window background
Smiling person sitting on sofa with window background

Being allowed to play makes children happy, but growing up changes this and not for the better. Children play, but adults work. That’s the prevailing view, as it has been for centuries, so let’s see where the playfulness of life went and why it needs to come back. The ideal, in fact, is to infuse your whole life with play, including your spiritual life.

Consider your typical day and how you spend your time. For most people, work has pushed aside anything as frivolous as playtime, and leisure hours are spent as the reward for getting your work done. As work expands to fill more and more time, however, what suffers isn’t just the lost hours but the spirit of playfulness, which is meant to be joyful.

Your Inner Child

Your inner child isn’t just a memory. It is the aspect of your awareness that wants to feel joy, innocence, and freedom. In modern life this aspect is undernourished and sometimes starved. Often when we say we are playing a game, outlets like tennis, football, or just sitting down to a game of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuits can be serious business. Competitiveness can take the fun out of playing games. Winners may gloat while losers sulk. We all know the pattern.

Clearly there is an imbalance when life is all work, but how to reintroduce play into life eludes most people. They assume that a vacation, leisure time, hobbies, and creative outlets are incidental or even luxuries—they are the occasional rewards you “earn” for working so hard.

Bringing Play Back Into Your Life

To bring playfulness back into your life, you need to go back to the source of your awareness. On the surface of the mind is a constant stream of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images. This stream of consciousness is distracting and demanding. It never stops; it never ends in its demands. Yet at a deeper level what really matters isn’t mind-made. All the qualities that make life worthwhile spring from a deep source.

We give names to the qualities that uplift our lives—peace, love, contentment, fulfilling relationships, creativity—but in reality, everything flows from the same source. At the very beginning, every positive impulse is creative, intelligent, and blissful. The reason children love to play is that they are naturally connected to the source. On the other hand, the reason adults ignore play is that they are disconnected from the source.

For the average person there is no relief from mind-made things, which include habits, conditioning, likes and dislikes, and core beliefs. We are so intent on building a successful life that it becomes an end in itself. That’s how you become disconnected from your source, and the easiest way to tell is the absence of joy, playfulness, and creativity in your daily existence.

Leading a Creative Life

We were designed to be different. There is supposed to be a steady flow of creative intelligence that connects you to your source. When this happens, you lead a creative life and then work turns into play. In Sanskrit the word Lila refers to the cosmic play that underlies and impels our world.

Once you see that the cosmic dance is playful and blissful, you have a new vision. You realize that your life is an expression of play and creativity coming from a cosmic source that is also your source. The creative intelligence bubbling up inside you never goes away—every cell in your body is vibrantly alive already. Cells have no choice but to be aligned with the flow of creative intelligence, but you do have a choice.

Align With Your Source

In practical terms, there are many ways to realign yourself with your source.

  • Find an activity that brings you pure joy, and make time for it, preferably every day.
  • Be playful whenever you have the choice, in other words, lighthearted, accepting, approving, and appreciative of what life brings you.
  • Take delight in other people and show your delight in ways you are comfortable with, like a friendly word and smile.
  • Reduce the time you spend focusing on the media’s 24-7 steam of worrying news.
  • When you play, play for fun. If a game becomes serious and grimly competitive, see if you can lighten the perspective, and bring back a spirit of playfulness.
  • Find people who are uplifting and inspiring to be with.
  • Give yourself a daily experience of joy that bypasses the thinking mind, which might be music, art, the appreciation of beauty, or going out into Nature.

Living closer to your source is the best choice you can make. Through meditation and by consciously choosing to let the flow of creative intelligence get expressed through you, you can become more and more aware of the flow of creative intelligence. This should be everyone’s goal—nothing is more fulfilling.


Discover how to cultivate awareness and develop a quiet, alert mind in a special conversation with Deepak Chopra, available now in the Chopra App.