Playing does not seem to come that naturally to me, annoyingly, except in certain moods. I guess a lot of us have it drummed out of us when we’re growing up; we must pay attention, not daydream, not be ‘silly’, calm down, be quiet, grow up etc.

And like many creative types I’ve known I’ve been accused of being too intense and serious on more than one occasion.

I’ve been discovering through learning Tai Chi the importance of play. The main thrust of the issue seems to be that it’s nothing to do with your brain, and my brain is not only super hungry and busy pretty much all the time, it’s also been extremely well trained.

Playing is everything about imagination, inspiration, pretending, story telling, and nothing about rules, boundaries, or ‘right and wrong’.

Having a brain that wants to be right a lot of the time, and that needs to understand and dissect and analyze and ‘make sense of’, inhibits the freedom and spontaneity required for just playing.

It is good to have a good brain that works well, and I LOVE learning new things and thinking about stuff, but sometimes I need something to take me out of geek mode and stick me right in the middle of the mess and non-attachment to outcomes that play insists on.

Painting does that for me up to a point. But it’s very mood dependent {especially lately for some reason}, and can require conscious effort, as in “Right, I’m going to play in my studio now”.

Tai Chi removes all need for conscious thought or effort; in fact, Tai Chi is not really what I thought it was at all, and it doesn’t work to apply my brain to it, because my brain makes rules and boundaries. Today my teacher encouraged me to PLAY with the Tai Chi. To let go of the rules, the way I do it, even the order, if that’s what happened.

At first my brain was like, what? Mix up the moves? When I’ve just spent two years learning to do them in order?!

And Jeanne, my teacher, was like ‘Yeah! If you find yourself mixing up the moves that’s the chi flowing. Just let it happen. Let the chi LEAD YOU.’ Control freak alert! My brain was alarmed. But I, the self that is not my brain/ego, was intrigued and excited. The possibilities!

So while I mix it up with the Tai Chi and see what that has to teach me about myself, and about play, and freedom, and all the other things I need to learn or unlearn, I am also playing, on a small scale, with projects that are not big paintings on canvas.

These envelopes are just such a thing, and I love them particularly because they EVOLVED via inspiration; my brain did not think them up. And they are so fun to do! Especially when you have a creative urge but the painting isn’t happening.

If you’re wondering why envelopes; I pay in cash for my classes, and I didn’t like just handing it over in my grubby paws, so I started putting it in envelopes. Then the envelopes looked a little dull so I started writing Jeanne’s name on them, which grew increasingly more creative and fancy with each passing week.

Sometimes I used paint, sometimes collage, sometimes I drew and coloured in. They are so small I didn’t feel threatened by the possibility of effing them up, and if I did, I just started a new one.

Then one day she asked if I would write different words each week, so I started doing that. And now she receives an envelope of joy every Monday! She even invested in a laminator so she could laminate them and put them up in her bathroom, and apparently they are getting enthusiastic feedback from her other clients. I laughed so much when I heard this!

The thought that some little thing that emerged of its own accord and gives me such pleasure to do also brings pleasure to others is so satisfying. It makes me think of the butterfly effect. I’m always asking how I might serve more, and I forget that it doesn’t always look how I think it’s going to.

Sometimes it looks like envelopes in someone’s bathroom.