"In a tense situation at work or in a social setting when you don't know others well, it can be hard to tell when Play is appropriate or to know how to engage it. I suggest that if you sense your muscles tightening up, you at least consider introducing an element of Play in order to lift the mood. In so doing, focus on yourself as opposed to anyone else; you might take a deep breath and make light of yourself, for example. Never poke fun at or tell a story about others, as you cannot be sure they will be in the mood to receive your words in the spirit they were intended. But if you keep the emphasis on yourself, you will invite humor without risking offense.

"Though it seems counterintuitive, Play can and should he practiced. Phyllis Diller once came to speak during the adult education hour at All Saints. She kept us all in stitches for 30 minutes and then answered questions. 'I've never been funny. I've never been able to tell a joke successfully,' said one of the more earnest members of my church. 'What would you recommend?' Miss Diller could have made fun of the question and the questioner, but she did not. I was amazed. She knew how important this issue was. 'Buy a book of jokes. Find a few that make you smile, if not laugh,' she advised. 'Learn one or two jokes and practice them the next time you're in a social situation. Feel how good it feels to laugh and to make others laugh. This is very important.' The great comics know that practicing up on the Habit of Play is essential.

"Spend time with children during which you observe and learn from them rather than the other way around. If the children do not draw you into their play life, ask simple questions that could be your passport to visiting their world of imagination. You might ask: 'What do you imagine that horse is thinking about right now? If they could speak, what would those clouds be saying to us? What are those stars and the moon talking about right now?' Any question that invites imagination is game. Isn't that one of the things we do with Play, after all? Play a game? . . .

"Consider ways to invite Play into your work life. Could you suggest a dart board in the cafeteria? A night out for your team members? A game of bowling for the support staff? An all-staff night at a karaoke bar? If you can find a way to embrace your Community by laughing together, your daily interactions will be filled with greater joy and more creativity.

"If you tend to be a serious type, call to mind those in your life or imagination who have achieved more of a balance between purposeful and functional action on the one hand, and the ability to have restorative fun on the other. Who of your playful friends can call you out to play — both literally and emotionally — when you're being too tight? Intentionally spend more time with those playful friends."