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Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination For Personal Growth


Posted February 1, 2002

Nourish Your Inner Self With Play

Linda-Ann Stewart

What do you do to play? Do you even know? Some years ago, I was asked what I did to play and I couldn't think of anything. Do you allow yourself to play? Play is a very important part of any type of growth, spiritual or otherwise. Children learn by playing. As they put one block on top of another, they learn about gravity, and hand-eye coordination.

When I was a child, my father had a load of sand delivered to our yard, which he wanted to spread over the grass. The neighborhood children flocked to play in it. My father noticed that the kids were dispersing the sand. It clung to their clothes and fell off as they walked around the yard. My father, realizing this, listened to his own inner child, who didn't want to do the work of spreading the sand, and let the neighborhood children do it instead. This way, everyone got to play and the work got done.

Many of us have grown up with the idea that we have to be responsible, to work hard, to leave behind childish things. We become grownups, and forget to nurture the fun side of ourselves. The problem is, if we refuse to find time to enjoy ourselves, a part of us rebels and gets our attention in some way.

There's still a little child deep inside of you. You've probably heard of the "inner child." And if this part of you doesn't get his/her playtime, it throws a temper tantrum, just like a child. Remember that cold you had a while back that made you stay home in bed? It's quite possible that your inner child was fed up with all work and no play and caused you to be sick so he/she could stay home and watch television.

Robert Johnson, in his book "Inner Work," wrote about how he had to negotiate with his inner child. In his first years of practice, he had to see patients in the evening, which he found he resented. He wound up fighting himself over that, coming close to missing appointments or taking his irritation out on his patients. Realizing that his inner child was upset that he was having to work in the time slot that "should" be fun time, he struck a bargain with that part of himself. He promised his inner self that he'd go out to a late dinner every night and a movie a couple times a week after his clients had left. As long as he fulfilled his promise, he had no problems.

If you don't give your inner child attention, he/she will make sure they get it. You don't have to indulge your inner child, but you do have to nurture it. Giving it a treat to reward it for its cooperation will reap great benefits, just as it did in Robert Johnson's case. When your inner child is content, you'll find everything in your life flows much smoother. You'll be more at peace, and more connected with the Universe.

Find some small thing that you can do each day that will nourish your need to have fun. Then make sure that, every so often, you take an entire day out of your busy life to play. It may be hiking, it may be going to a movie or renting a video, it may be finger painting. But whatever it is, when you find a way to play that satisfies your inner child, you will be much happier on every level and in every part of your life.

I know that my inner child was created by the Universe as the part of me that loves fun. I recognize my inner child as a wonderful, special part of me. Knowing this, I find ways to play, to nourish and nurture my inner child in ways that are agreeable to my whole being. As I do, my inner child shares its blessings and joy with me.


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