Grand Central Station

This post is part of a project to share reflections about all 28 of the Core Elements of InterPlay.  For background information about InterPlay or this project, read What the Heck is InterPlay?!.

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Which is funny, because in some ways it’s the simplest thing we do.

Here’s how it works: In a group everyone walks in any direction they choose. They play with finding the center of the room, and the edges. They walk in unusual patterns on the floor. They run and stop whenever they feel like it. And if they’re inspired, they play with each other. All with a backdrop of instrumental music.

Need to see it? Unfortunately, I don’t have any straightforward videos of Walk Stop Run. However, if you need an image, here are two:

So — why did I find it so challenging?! What could be easier than walking, stopping, and running in a room with other people?

The thing is, experienced InterPlayers don’t just stick to walking, stopping, and running. They also skip, lean, giggle, hug, push, cavort. In fact, not-sticking-to-the-rules is part of the intention of the exercise. The facilitator’s manual says:

In general, we want participants to learn for themselves that they might stretch the boundaries of what is “permissible” movement. … One of the basic elements, though, of Walk Stop Run is this “bumping up against” what we perceive to be the “rules.” This is one of the ways we learn to make choices for ourselves.

Harumph! You mean, Walk Stop Run is designed for me to practice making choices for myself in the midst of community? But this is exactly why the exercise was so painful for me at first!! I’d watch everyone else leaping, bumping into each other, and swirling — and I’d have this painful chatter in my head:

Oh, I feel so lonely. Look at them all, having so much fun.  They know what they’re doing and I don’t. I wish I knew how to fit in. It’s hard enough to figure out what I want, much less do it when I’m surrounded by other people.  I want to walk right up to someone and lean against them. But what if they don’t want me to interfere?! What if…?

Sheesh. That chatter was exhausting! I didn’t know how to simply relax into my experience. What might it feel like to simply play in the company of other people without worrying, second guessing, and questioning — my own intentions and the intentions of others?

Imagine my delight when — about a year ago — I realized I’d stopped thinking (during Walk Stop Run, at least). It’s now one of my favorite moments during InterPlay. It’s a time to move through the space, responding to other people (if I want) or keeping to myself (if I want).  Sometimes what I want changes from moment to moment, and I allow myself to go with the flow of the present moment.

It’s soooo delightful to have a safe, fun place to practice getting out of my mind. I know I’m more easy going, relaxed and flexible in my daily life because of this practice.

What other experiences do IntePlayers out there have with Walk Stop Run? Do tell!