31 July 2013

PJ Day! Why Not?

It's Wednesday!

Yesterday I ran across this interesting question posed by a friend. It's this:

Which made me think: wouldn't it be great if seriously uptight workplaces instituted a "Wear Pajamas To Work Day"? I'm serious!

Just think how it could transform the environment! In my experience--and, yes, I do have experience with this!--it is impossible to overestimate your own importance while wearing pajamas at work.

In case you think I'm off my rocker, here's a picture of Condoleeza Rice trying to turn the tide, folks:

and here's a group of folks who are putting it into practice...

 Something tells me the guy on the right doesn't actually own any pajamas. Ahem.

At any rate, it's something to think about, eh?

Have a good hump day, friends! Here's wishing you many, many smiles--both inside and out.


30 July 2013


In Thoughts On Art and Life, Leonardo DaVinci relates the following story:

“I…wandered for some time among the dark rocks, and came to the entrance of a great cave, in front of which I stood in astonishment and ignorance of such a thing. I bent my back into an arch and rested my left hand on my knee, and with my right hand shaded my downcast eyes and contracted eyebrows. I bent down first on one side and then on the other to see whether I could perceive anything, but the thick darkness rendered this impossible; and after having remained there some time, two things arose within me, fear and desire—fear of the dark and threatening cave, desire to see whether there were anything marvelous within.”

This is a picture of play at its fullest. We come to something we do not know. It astonishes us. We are curious and try to explore it from without at first, bending this way and that. But we will only know so much from the outside looking in. To enter in, we must face the fear and let desire compel us to the marvels within. To play fully is to know. Curiosity compels us to risk. And we discover. 

29 July 2013

Work and Rest

"I wonder what the best present you ever got is?"

Both young and old looked at me and looked around and searched their minds. A child raised her hand:


"Yes, that is a pretty good gift, isn't it? Anyone have something to top that?" I asked.

No, I don't think so. We laughed.

"Sometimes gifts are so big and so special, we don't even realize they are there. So, we have to go back to the beginning to remember them."

That's what we did yesterday. We went back to the beginning: we wondered about the creation story together.

But, this time I told it a little differently. Normally, I would lay the story out in pictures--left to right--day one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. And leave it at that.

But light still shines, water still flows, the sky still hugs us, the ground still produces trees, the stars still map the heavens. It hasn't ended. It keeps going.

But we rest.

And then, we go again. Until we rest again. Going and resting, going and resting. It never stops.

So, I laid it out in a circle. I took a large round piece of cloth from another story: The Pearl of Great Price. Now, we can put the days in a circle.

"See? We put rest in the middle, then, six days around it and--

--oh, here's a surprise--

--rest surrounds the whole of creation now. Everything inside of rest!

I wonder what this could mean?"

Well...rest forms both the center and circumference of our lives.

"We do not rest one day so we may work six days. No, we work six days so we may rest One Day."

I wonder how we can rest in the midst of work?

28 July 2013

A Realm of Time

In The Sabbath Abraham Joshua Heschel writes: “There is a realm of time when the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.”*

This is the essence of Sabbath; this is the essence of play. I hope that today—or some time before too many days pass—you are able to play in Sabbath.



*Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951), p. 3.

27 July 2013

Conversations With My 2 Year Old

A friend told me about these videos on Friday and they are just too good not to share! You can find a series of seven of these on YouTube but my personal favorite is episode 5. They are only two minutes long, but beware--you may find yourself watching them over and over again!

Have a happy Saturday and take some time to play this weekend! -Troy

26 July 2013

PlayBook: This is Your Brain on Joy

Here’s a book that can help folks live playfully. It’s called This is Your Brain on Joy and it’s written by Dr. Earl Henslin.

Dr. Henslin is a licensed therapist with a counseling practice in Brea, California. His book has a unique answer to the big question, “Why is Joy so elusive?”

Some counselors look for answers in one’s family dynamics. Still others pursue therapies that take the patient back to their earliest memories. Ministerial counselors tend to look at “spiritual” aspects.

Dr. Henslin looks at the brain. Literally.

A group of scientists have developed a technology called single photon emission computerized tomography (also known as a SPECT scan). These scans give therapists a picture of emotion through observing how the different zones of one’s brain activate under varied circumstances. For example, if one’s temporal lobes are unusually active, Dr. Henslin can tell this person probably struggles with anger issues. If markers in a SPECT scan point to issues with the basal ganglia region of the brain, Dr. Henslin can tell the individual is prone to fear. Conversely, Dr. Henslin can tell you’re pretty happy when a SPECT scan reveals a healthy left prefrontal cortex.

Some people find the experience of joy elusive because their brain literally prevents them from feeling happy. How tragic!

I enjoyed this book and found it helpful for several reasons:

First, it reminded me to be more compassionate. That person who has hurt me because of anger may want to control their anger but they may find it extremely difficult to overcome. Knowing there are physiological issues to consider makes me less prone to judge them.

I have always known that folks who struggle with depression often do so because of bio-chemical factors. I appreciated this book because it talked about clinical depression in a way that the average person could understand but also with some depth.

Second, I found Dr. Henslin’s insights on the impact of diet and exercise to be helpful. He even includes dosage guidelines for dietary supplements, should that be needed.

Third, I appreciated this book because it did not simply boil down the experience of happiness to physiological factors. Dr. Henslin also cites prayer, meditation, listening to uplifting music, and looking at beautiful works of art as factors that contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

In chapter three, he writes: “One of the most fascinating outcomes of clinical studies on happiness, joy, and well-being is that scientists are now able to observe brains in a state of relaxed joy. A couple of the most interesting studies involved Tibetan monks and Franciscan nuns, both during their time of meditation and prayer, and also when they went about their normal, daily routines. Since the nuns used mental words to form a prayer (a technique called centering or contemplative prayer), a part of their brain (the part that forms verbal thought) lit up that didn’t light up in the monks, who try to empty their minds of all conscious thought.

“However, both groups showed familiar brain imaging patterns: the area of the brain that was most lit up was an area at the front, mostly on the left side—the region associated with clarity and happiness. Areas that were subdued were in the lower back part of the brain—an area that is involved in fear memory, often called the reptilian brain, which activates an automatic fight-or-flight response. It is also an area that helps us orient ourselves in space, showing that while in prayer or deep meditation, we are able to let go of our need to control and simply relax and go with the flow.

“What was most interesting was that both groups of daily supplicants experienced a deep sense of well-being, peace, and joy during meditation and—most interestingly—this feeling of serenity followed them throughout the routines of their days, even through their lives.”*

If you are looking for some practical, doable counsel on how to live life more playfully, joyfully, happily…I recommend this book.


Our PlayBook posts feature brief and light book reviews designed to draw your attention to books that can help people live more playfully. If you have read the book in question, leave a comment and add your thoughts to the review!

*Citation from Henslin, Earl.  This is Your Brain on Joy. pp. 19-20. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2008.

25 July 2013

You Are The Beauty

I just love the playfulness of this song. Lyrically and instrumentally this piece is a celebration of joy, love, beauty, life. Enjoy! I hope it lifts your spirits and inspires you to play today. -Troy

24 July 2013

Reggio Emilia

A friend drew my attention to something yesterday and I wanted to pass on the word. Though many of you following PlayFull do not live in Chicago, I thought I'd share the following initiative as a great example: 
Play is a culture-changing force! 
The initiative involves assembling a team of civic leaders, educators, and experts in early childhood to travel to Reggio-Emilia, Italy to learn about a unique educational approach that was developed there as a response to the cultural upheaval in the aftermath of World War II. The educational philosophy developed there sounds similar to the Montessori approach: it is based on "principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery," according to this Wikipedia article
Read the invitation below from Jennifer Farrington, President and CEO of the Chicago Children's Museum. 
Be inspired and--if you are truly interested--join in! - Troy

From Jennifer Farrington:
Although this may seem more than a bit off-topic, I have been delighted by the number of folks in this group who are passionate about urban education, the arts, food, and frankly, Italy :) so I am sharing this opportunity with you. Please feel free to forward and share with potentially interested parties. The deadline for registration is quickly approaching (August 1) so this is my last effort to get the word out there and get the strongest multi-disciplinary team possible:
Chicago has been offered a tremendous opportunity to assemble a team of civic leaders, educators, advocates, academics, librarians, and experts in early childhood to travel, as a team, to Reggio-Emilia for a unique study tour to learn about transforming our city into a healthy and vibrant place for young children to grow and thrive. This study tour has been assembled by the Association of Children’s Museums, Wheelock College, and Louisiana Children’s Museum. Unlike most study tours to Reggio Emilia which focus on classroom teaching and learning, this facilitated tour has been developed for a multi-disciplinary team, and will focus bringing the learning back to American cities. New Orleans, Portland, Boston, and other cities are also forming teams. For full details, please see the information from Association of Children’s Museum below.
I traveled to Reggio for a similar program about ten years ago and consider it one of the most amazing weeks of my career and my life. Truly transformative. I strongly encourage anyone interested in education and the health of cities to consider it. While I am not the official organizer of the trip, and all registration and travel arrangements are done independently, I do plan to participate in the trip and would like to coordinate some opportunities for communication before and after the trip so that we might maximize the possibilities for collaboration! I am hoping that interested parties might be available to join a call next THURSDAY, July 25th at 2PM to connect and “meet” by phone. Please let me know if you’re interested in the trip and we’ll go from there.
Jennifer Farrington
President and CEO
Chicago Children's Museum
Navy Pier • 700 E. Grand Ave., Suite 127 • Chicago, IL 60611
p: 312-464-7659

23 July 2013

Two Ways to Begin Playing

I suppose there are two basic kinds of beginning. The first kind I call the “flash beginning”. Imagine a continuum: this type of beginning falls on the far left of the spectrum. It is the kind of beginning that, as the name says, comes to us in a flash, with no preparation. You are sitting, walking, driving, washing dishes, gardening, running—seemingly “doing nothing”—and then, WHAM-O!

It hits you, a sudden burst of inspiration. You are left wondering, “Where on earth did that come from?” To be sure, the thought must have come from somewhere…it must be there for a reason—but goodness knows what that reason is and you will never divine it. Best to leave it as a “flash” and let it carry you away—provided it is a flash that adds treasure to the world (like a photographic flash) as opposed to a bomb-flash that tears apart.

The first type of beginning is marked by the instantaneous confluence of thought and action—or feeling and action, take your pick. In either case, when the idea strikes you it instantaneously moves you to action. You find yourself “caught up” in the experience of something new. You need to follow the idea through to completion right away. If not, you cannot be at peace.

That is one kind of beginning—but there is another type. Some personality styles find this second type of beginning easier than others. This second type falls on the far right of our imaginary continuum. It is the kind of beginning that could follow from the first flash but it takes longer to take shape. It is the “prepared beginning”.

Sometimes an idea hits you that is so big, you cannot possibly begin acting and follow it through to completion in a short span of time. So, you need to plan before you begin acting on the idea.  All great works of art are like this, I believe. Even Jackson Pollock’s seemingly random paintings required preparation. Certainly there is a long list of creative endeavors that require this second kind of play: symphonic masterpieces, epic novels, and award-winning films. In fact, I think the classic children’s story Green Eggs and Ham falls under this category, too! Bill Waterson has testified how much thought went into the use of space and the employment of simple lines for his famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. To be sure, the idea for an individual strip may have struck him in a flash, but between the inspiration and the execution it is reasonable to suppose there was a period of (perhaps methodical) preparation.

The different types of play fall somewhere on this continuum. More complex and extensive expressions require a great deal of patience and perseverance. The irony is: Play can be hard work, can’t it?!  

When have you experienced play as simpler (the first type) and when have you experienced it as more complex (the second type)? Do feel free to share your thoughts with us. We’d love to hear what you think.


PlayFull is dedicated to helping people and organizations understand the nature and value of playfulness. We believe play is one of the world's greatest untapped resources. To find out more about PlayFull download our mission statement or write us

22 July 2013

The Difference Between Can't and Want

Here's a little graphic that represents the essence of a PlayFull person. I find it encouraging because the distance between "can't" to "want" is minimal but that change in mindset makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between play and unplay. (Yes, we can make up words!)

I also like to think of a playful God walking these steps with me. The Bible reminds us that God, in Jesus, came down to us so we could rise with him. I find this a truly wonderful thought! "Possibility thinking" to the Christian is not just "wishful"--it is truly "hopeful" because Jesus promised that he will always be with us wherever we are in the journey of life.

As you think about a challenge that faces you today or this week, where are you on this stair-case? And: do you find it easy or hard to imagine another Person on that staircase with you? I invite you to play with that thought this week.


*Note: I did not create the above graphic but I'm not sure where it came from, so that is why there is no credit given here. If you know who created this, would you please let me know so I can be sure to give proper attribution to it? Thanks! -Troy

21 July 2013

Sabbath-keeping and Play

In her book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn connects the essence of Sabbath with the concept of play.

“…Sabbath keeping is also truly delightful especially because the very process of ceasing from work uncorks our spontaneity and frees our childlike ability to play. Certainly we have observed that in our society individuals have tremendously deep needs for play. Worries about the stock market and our economic security, fears about climbing the corporate ladder, anxieties about our children or parents or siblings, griefs about our failures and disappointments, frustrations about our limitations, irritations about the state of local or national politics, and despair because of loneliness, bitterness, or communications breakdowns—these things frequently rob us of the delight of play. There is something tremendously freeing about knowing that we don’t have any work to do on the Sabbath because we have deliberately set it all aside. This affects every aspect of our existence. In our whole being, we find ourselves free to play.”

Dawn, Marva.  Keeping the Sabbath Wholly (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), pp.15-16.

20 July 2013

Play--It's Good For You

Yes, this is a commercial for some dog food, but it is too fun not to re-post and it's always good to be reminded of the message at the end. Enjoy!

With thanks to friend and PlayFull board member Doreen Olson for drawing my attention to this...


18 July 2013

What I Love About Coaching

I just got off the phone with a person I started coaching today. He lives in Los Angeles, is in his late twenties and has a wife and a baby.

After talking with him, I found myself energized. I wondered: “What makes me so happy about interactions like that?”

Here’s what I love about coaching:

1. The diversity. I consider myself privileged to have the chance to interact with folks in different career fields, of different life-stages, with different personality types, from different ethnic backgrounds. Taken together, the people I coach possess an incredible array of talents.

2. The learning environment. People who welcome coaching are teachable! They want to learn and grow, otherwise they would not agree to be coached. I love how each and every one of them welcomes the kind of interaction that calls them out of their comfort zone.

3. The creativity. I like to think of coaching as a playful process. In my experience, good coaching involves improvisation.  It’s amazing how a single question can spark out-of-the-box thinking. Coaching encourages people to take a step outside a situation to look at it from a different angle. The process of slowing down to entertain questions we might not otherwise consider can serve as a powerful resource for breaking through barriers.

4. The safety. Coaching provides a context where people can be completely honest. Many people think of coaching as merely “performance driven”, but I do not share that sentiment. Whether we like it or not, our actions are most often driven by our thoughts and feelings. So…no matter what someone is thinking or feeling, I want those I coach to know I will not judge them or think less of them. If they are feeling doubtful, they can express it. If they are jealous, they can own it. As a coach I love helping people get in touch with the source of their thoughts and feelings. By encouraging authenticity, the way can be cleared for real progress.

5. The intentionality.  Coaching takes a dream the size of Mount Everest and breaks it down to one-step-at-a-time segments. Too often people feel a situation is totally beyond the realm of their influence. That’s when I like to ask, “What can be done?” By thinking “possibility”, people are able to see a path in the woods. You can take that one step, you can make that one call, you can face that particular challenge. By the end of each coaching session, each person has a clear idea of what they can do next. Their action steps are realistic, yet stretching. People discover the difference they can make as they become deliberate about what to do next.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you are patient and willing to commit to tangible action.

6. The companionship. The word “companion” comes from two Latin words meaning “with bread.” We like to think of non-judgmental friends as those who are “there” for us, bringing the simple “bread” of solidarity. Well, I like to think of coaching that way, too. In my coaching sessions, I hope people will be nourished by the gift of a listening, understanding ear. No one likes to feel alone. I love coaching because I get to come alongside all kinds of people to champion them—their gifts, their dreams, their passions. In my own experience, I've found those kind of people invaluable—the ones who say, “We see what you are doing, we see what you are about, and we celebrate it. We believe in you!” That’s what coaching is to me and that is the biggest reason I love coaching.   

-Troy Cady  


If you’d like to know more about PlayFull coaching, write us!

17 July 2013

Instagram and Impressionism

I have never “Instagrammed” anything and I probably never will.

Wait. Strike that.

Now that I think about it: I Instagram all the time—I can’t stop myself from doing it—but, as long as I can do it with good motives, I will gladly keep on doing it—hopefully—until I die.

Some weeks ago I read an article in Relevant magazine entitled “Instagram’s Envy Effect”. The author (Shauna Niequist) observes: “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.”

This is why the article’s url states that you should “stop instagramming your perfect life”. If Instagram is simply a way of hiding the truth, I agree with this bit of advice. And if Instagram produces primarily “the envy effect” in us, I also agree.

But envy is not something that’s produced by Instagram. It is our own making.  This is something only I can know in my own heart. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be used with good motives or ill.  And they can be accessed by envious people or selfless souls. These underlying realities cannot be controlled by the programs themselves.

The fact is: with or without the official Instagram interface, we all Instagram our lives. Here’s why I think this happens…

I believe that, for most people, Instagram is connected to a basic human impulse: We crave beauty. We want to make our lives beautiful and to make the world a more beautiful place. We do this because we believe that beauty can draw us towards one another; it can entice us towards truth, and (yes) towards God, who is beauty’s source.

We beautify our houses in attempts to create a space where people will feel at home, connected and integrated. We beautify our bodies because beauty catches our eye and attracts one person to another. We beautify places of worship in hopes of creating spaces for spiritual communion.

Of course, this is why the editors of Relevant did not choose a repulsive photograph to accompany the article in question. Ms. Niequist is a beautiful woman and this photograph does true justice to her beauty which lies both within and beyond eyeshot. Whether or not the photo was processed through Instagram we can be sure it was instagrammed in the broader sense—for the photo conveys something of her spirit, the image of God in her.  Without denying there may be heartache in her life, the photo nevertheless affirms there is, indeed, joy.

This is also why Relevant takes care to “Instagram” its own image. Are the icons and graphic designs in each issue “true to life”? Yes and no. They are designed to give us a feel for something “different” and “relevant”—and this attempt to create beautiful print-space is authentically communal for it is designed to “draw us in.” And it does. So, it is true—designed or not.

Does this picture on the cover of a recent issue reflect something of the essence of the person? Yes. Does it accurately portray how this man always looks? No. But that does not mean it is false.

Our attempts to “Instagram” can be destructive (as Ms. Niequist wisely points out) but such acts can also be constructive. It all depends on the heart.

So…we crave ways to be art-makers, to create and share our creations with others. And…this art has the potential to unite or divide.  

Much of this potential rests with the choices of the artist, but much of it also lies in what the audience does with the art. Even the best-intended art can be corrupted by a shriveled spirit and even the worst-intended art can be sanctified with eyes of grace. “Beauty,” as the expression says, really is “in the eye of the beholder.”

A story: Our friends Dick Robinson and Joyce Robinson paid us a visit in Madrid some years ago. Both of them were artistically inclined. Joyce was the director of an arts foundation and Dick was an accomplished photographer. Because of their passion for art, they wanted to see some of Madrid’s great museums.

Both of them were Christians. This is a relevant detail because modern Christians have developed the nasty habit of mistrusting many aspects of art. If we Christians are honest with ourselves, we feel there is much in the artistic enterprise that tempts us to betray our faith.

Dick commented on this: he stated how he used to simply look away from certain paintings because he felt they were too “worldly”. He cited nude paintings as an example of this and he stated that most Christians would not look at a nude painting properly because they were too afraid of lusting. In Dick’s estimation, this fear robs people of beauty. We make the art-piece “ugly” because we approach it that way. If we bring a beautiful spirit to something, it takes on a beauty that may, in fact, surprise us with joy.

Art-making is our way of making beautiful things out of the mess of our lives, the world and history. Art is our way of expressing how we see things with our heart, even if our eyes tell us something different. This kind of art (even if it is created with mixed motives) has the potential to “draw us near”.

Think Impressionism. It is a way for the artist to communicate to his or her audience “the way this makes me feel.” Good art awakens emotion; Christians should not fear this because we are, after all, beings with pathos.

Is Impressionism “accurate, true to life”? In one sense, no. In another sense, yes: for it is an attempt to convey how another person experiences an event, place, object, action, idea, or other persons.

Even before Impressionism existed as a defined artistic movement, it permeated the spirit of the arts. Classic sculptures like Michelangelo’s David have a supra-real quality to them. Because Michelangelo sculpted with excellence, the audience is more readily able to see David as Michelangelo sees him.

If we take time and open our hearts to listen to what the artist may be saying to us through their work, we may find our spirit quickened with re-cognition. This is the heart of impressionism. The artistic expressions make us feel something, they give us some sense of an object’s essential nature which transcends what we can see with our eyes.

Impressionism is a valid way of expressing ourselves because it is akin to something God does: “People look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.” When we learn to look at the heart like this, we participate in God-inspired art-making.

This principle transcends art-marking and bleeds into relationship. For example, when normal people like me look at someone like Simon, all we see is a cantankerous fisherman, uneducated—probably dirty and smelly—lower or middle class with an uncool windblown look to his hair.

When Jesus looks at him what does he see? All this and more: Peter, the patriarch on which a family spanning the centuries will be built. He saw this as present while Peter was still just a fisherman. That is an artist’s eye.

And this is the rub. How to see things as they are and see the potential in them at the same time. It doesn’t have to be an either-or. This is a point of disconnect for us but it never is for God—for He never sees us as fallen apart from the beautiful image we possess.

How do we reconcile the two, then? How do we “see things as they are” and “see the potential” at the same time? The same way God does. By creating.

In her book The Mind of the Maker Dorothy Sayers writes: “We must not…try to behave as though the Fall had never occurred nor yet say that the Fall was a Good Thing in itself. But we may redeem the Fall by a creative act. That, according to Christian doctrine, is the way that God behaved and the only way in which we can behave if we want to be ‘as gods.’” 

Creation is our way of reconciling truth and beauty since we find both enjoined in The Maker. Creating is our way of seeing beauty as truth.

All good art does this, whether we realize it or not. It is why our heart leaps to our throat when we hear a certain symphony. It is why we feel not-so-alone when we look at a photograph portraying loneliness. It is why film and theater, through their interpretive filters, will be ever-new for us.

This is also what gives poetry its power. Poets are linguistic impressionists. They use words to convey the spirit of a thing, the emotion that’s aroused from a real-life encounter. When the words are put together a certain way, they measure more than the sum of their parts. This is partly what the writer strives to communicate; it is why the poet labors four weeks for just four lines of verse. “How to express what I’m feeling, how this strikes me…” And the reader participates in the meaning-making, too. Poems I read when I was twenty mean something different today.

We are Makers. Portraying the beauty in the midst of the mundane is our way of laying hold of the Image of God in the midst of the Fall. It naturally proceeds from our impulse to recreate paradise. So, there is nothing wrong with it, of course. And Instagram represents one small (if over-popular) part of this impulse.

That said, if Instagram provokes envy in you or deepens loneliness, stop using it. But, understand: we cannot escape filtering life. It is our way of making beauty, attempting to express how we feel, how someone or something strikes us. The key is to see it all as beautiful so there is no need to envy—because you make beauty in your way while another makes beauty in their way. Yes, it is all beautiful: from the garden planted out back to the sidewalk paved out front—from the cloudy sky above to the rich soil beneath—from the vegetables arranged symmetrically on a dish to the broken bodies they nourish.


To find out more about PlayFull, write to troy@playfull.org or download our mission statement.