Pause and Play

Pause and Play

To pause is to break the spell, to divert ourselves, if only for a moment, from the relentless back and forth of switching between the pressure of incoming demands and the need to perform and deliver. Breathing steadily can be a balm, creating a moment of calm, gifting us a small liminal space to rest and reflect. Stringing these moments together over time creates a new and different thread of experience, and with it, the possibility of recovering a greater sense of agency, identity and vitality at work.

Sitting around has a deservedly bad reputation: it is not good for the heart. What’s more, it can make us feel guilty, restless, and unproductive. That said, the ability to stop, to sit, or stand still for a moment in our busy lives may help us not only to find much needed respite in our day, but may also be critical for our capacity to cultivate and nurture more creative ways of living. More than ever, we need these fertile oases of space and time. For, as technology steals a march on our lives, it takes increasingly more of our time and attention, intensifying our work, as never before, and shrinking the space we have to pause, to rest, reflect -and to play.

Nearly five decades ago, Winnicott, in his classic text on playing and reality1, made a compelling case for the importance of play in adulthood. Long before the advent of mindfulness and other stress reduction techniques, he argued that relaxation and the ability to let the mind ‘free associate’ were important pre-conditions for play and creativity. Winnicott regarded play as a ‘basic form of living’, a necessary part of our experience of living across time and space- and the cornerstone of creativity.

Nowadays we may no longer feel shackled by the tyrannies of rigid working hours, but flexibility is proving to be more of an unwitting oppressor than a friend for many of us. In our ‘always in, always on’, ways of working, in our frantic, VUCA world-time famine and technostress (the stress that comes from using information and communication technology) have tightened their grip on our days. We are in thrall to the seductions of ‘cyberbeing’-our increasing interaction with, and immersion in, the digital realm- often around the clock. In our worst moments, we may feel anxious and overwhelmed, yet helplessly driven to do more. These conditions are also not good for the heart-nor for our psychic health: fracturing our attention, alienating us from our own minds and eroding the quality of our relationships with others.

To pause is to break the spell, to divert ourselves, if only for a moment, from the relentless back and forth of switching between the pressure of incoming demands and the need to perform and deliver. Breathing steadily can be a balm, creating a moment of calm, gifting us a small liminal space to rest and reflect. Stringing these moments together over time creates a new and different thread of experience, and with it, the possibility of recovering a greater sense of agency, identity and vitality at work.

The ability to turn away from digital distraction, from unceasing demands and relentless doing: to pause for breath, to stop and recover, to marshal our attention deliberately and purposefully on the task at hand and the people around, helps us to build our resilience and at the same time, to cleave to a better version of ourselves and to a more satisfying experience of work. It allows us to move beyond the unspoken fantasy of ourselves as omnipotent, inexhaustible, automatons and to embrace our inherent human capacities for spontaneity, connection and for creative play.

© Tammy Tawadros 5th May 2019. All Rights Reserved.

1 Winnicott, D.W. (1971). Playing and Reality. , 1-156. London: Tavistock Publications