Why It’s OK That I Don’t Finish My Homework


As an academic coach, I end the school year by meeting with parents to reflect on the ways their children have grown  — and to identify goals for the next year.

Recently at the end of one of those meetings, a mom sighed and said, “My daughter is simply developing at her own pace. Not necessarily the pace that I want her to be developing. But her own pace nonetheless.” Mixed into this comment was lots of love, some resignation, a little frustration, and a bunch of pride.

Parenthood sure comes with a complex set of feelings. And so does solopreneurship.

My sweet little academic coaching business is sure developing at it’s own pace. Sometimes it bursts forward! Sometimes it crawls. Just like a parent can’t control every aspect of their child’s development, neither can I do the same for my own business.

I’m extra conscious of this slow pace right now, as I take the Right Brain Business Plan e-course with Jennifer Lee.  I’m so behind on all my homework!! Every week I do a little something…but certainly not everything.

For example, this week we’re supposed to be making a balance sheet for our business. Instead, I’ve been working on the marketing assignments from last week. And even then, I’ve only did HALF the assignments.

The pictures (above) are the collages of my perfect customers that Jenn asked us to make. As I cut and pasted images that seemed to represent my ideal client, I learned a lot! For example, it seems that that my target clients are women and girls. That doesn’t mean that I don’t work with guys. Actually, I’m quite successful with a number of  teenage boys. But my ideal clients — the ones with whom I feel like I’m “in the flow” when we’re working together — are usually women! So why not claim that!?

Speaking of flow: finishing up those “perfect customer” collages was inspiring, although perhaps not in the way that Jenn intended. Her next assignment was for us to create a marketing plan, (two weeks later and I haven’ done it yet). Instead, I feverishly created a flier for a girls-only time management workshop I’m offering in August. Click on the picture to see the flier and read more about this never-been-tried-before workshop!

After creating the flier, I couldn’t wait to send it out. Thus ensued emails, photocopies, conversations. In fact, because I’d pushed to make the flier, two parents have registered their daughters already! Yay!!

Turns out that I didn’t end up making the marketing plan, but I sure did a whole lot of marketing!! Which is a new experience for me. And now that I’ve had real world experience getting the word out about my workshops, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to make the actual marketing plan

At a different time in my life, I might have been more stressed about not doing all my homework for a course. However, my participation in InterPlay has helped me understand the importance of ease and incrementality. InterPlay is a community arts practice that unlocks the wisdom of the body.  There’s so much about life that’s not easy! So when I’m feeling some ease around a specific task that I know is important to me, I give myself full permission to go for it, one small step at a time. Even if it means not doing my homework.

Uh oh. My Devil’s Advocate voice just jumped in:

Gretchen, I’m impressed on the positive spin you’ve just given your irresponsibility. Did it ever occur to you that you are just procrastinating?!  Is it possible that your push to send out the flier was actually a sneaky move to justify ignoring the balance sheet that is this week’s homework?

Maybe. However, check this out: last night when I was driving home from the coaching office, I started daydreaming about the balance sheet. “How cool is it that I just got two checks?” I thought to myself. “I wonder how much the workshop is actually gonna cost me? I guess it’s time to start that balance sheet!”

Aha! Never before in my life have I day dreamed about balance sheets! Maybe this means I’m ready for that next, small step! Whereas before working with numbers seemed like a chore, now I’m entering the task propelled by curiosity, ready to take on a challenge that before now felt big and annoying.

Luckily, Jenn is not grading us on our homework. If she did, I’d totally fail the class. At the pace I’m going right now, my Right Brain Business Plan won’t be done when the course ends.

But every week I make some good progress. I won’t be done when the course ends in a few weeks. But I will have all the information I need in order to finish. Which is one reason I’m blogging about my Right Brain Business Plan process:

I’d love you — my big bold blogging community — to hold me accountable. My goal is to be completely done with the entire plan by the end of July. If you don’t see any blog entries about it between now and then, will you bug me? I’d sure appreciate it.

Now, I’m off on vacation for a week, which means yet another week of not completing my homework. But when I get back on June 21st, I’ll get RIGHT ON that balance sheet!

Bon Voyage!

 

5 Key Ingredients to Building Community

ConstructionTonight we had another delicious Tuesday night InterPlay class.

On my drive home, I couldn’t help reflecting about how grateful I am for this community.

And I wondered — what has caused the Tuesday night community to grow and thrive over the last 2 1/2 years?

By the time I pulled into my parking space, I’d figured out the 5 key ingredients to building community (based on my own experiences, of course).

Here they are!

1. Show Up.

Sounds simple enough. Showing up, and holding the space, is one of the most important tasks in building community. The Tuesday night InterPlay class has continued for 2 1/2 years. Except for the winter holidays, we’ve showed up every single Tuesday. Just as people expect the earth to revolve around the sun, so do folks expect there will be a class on Tuesday nights in Oakland  (and other days of the week, too. I shouldn’t be Tuesday-ist). Point being: the community has been built brick by brick. We continued to show up even when students didn’t. And that patience has paid off!

2. Share Leadership.

Ever get that sinking feeling? You know, when you show up to your favorite yoga class and there is a substitute teacher? At the Tuesday night class we got around that by sharing the leadership between two people. Elizabeth Mendana or I would teach every other week. When one of us was absent, our students barely felt it because they were used to us taking turns!

Since Elizabeth has left the class, I’ve taken on full leadership. But I’ve also made it a point to invite a “guest teacher” at least once a month. In January, for example, we enjoyed the generous, gentle, playful leadership of Wing It’s Jonathan Leavy (a self-described recovering musical theatre performer).  I still attended class that day, but as a student rather than as a teacher. It’s so fun for the whole class to learn alongside another experienced InterPlayer. I also think there’s a benefit to having my students to see me learning and growing (and feeling shy, sometimes too).

3. Use Multiple Modalities.

In InterPlay we tell stories, move and sing, and we do it all playfully. There are so many different ways to connect with each other and be intimate. Tonight we spoke in “fake foreign languages” and made “sounds that sound like singing,” all while telling little stories about our week. Oh, and we moved a little, too. There are so many different layers and levels to the way we connect in a single InterPlay class; there is a space for everyone, every feeling, every thing. The variety of modalities makes it possible to express a wide range of experiences, which fosters connection among the participants.

4. Eat Food.

Haven’t communities been breaking bread together since time began!? During the first days of the Tuesday night class, we often went out to eat after class. Although we don’t do that regularly anymore, I recently introduced the once-a-month post-class potluck. Tonight was the first one, and it was sooooo lovely to share food and companionship. I’m certain that the food-sharing ritual was one that kept people coming back time and time again.

5. Play with People of Mixed Experience.

Newcomers get folded into the class culture so quickly during InterPlay classes. This is largely because there are always some very experienced InterPlayers in the room along with the newbies. So much of what is learned in an InterPlay class is taught, NOT by the teacher, but rather in a body-to-body communication from the other folks in the room. A new person in the room watches how everyone else is playing with each other, and joins on in! When he taught last week’s class, Jonathan was impressed with the high degree of willingness in the room. I believe that willingness is nurtured by the diversity of experience that is always in the room.

Hug Thyself (Musings About Inner Authority)

Tender middle aged woman hugging self

I recently went on a first date with a man who’d been cleaning out his bookshelves. He gave me Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen.

Tonight, I stumbled across this sage advice:

Everyone’s wholeness is unique and even such common role models as Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Schweitzer can distance us from ourselves. Our wholeness will look different than theirs. Our wholeness fits us better than theirs. Our wholeness is much more attainable for us than theirs ever could be. We usually look outside of ourselves for heroes and teachers. It has not occurred to most people that they may already be the role model they seek. (p. 106)

The truth of this line enveloped me like a warm fog, settling around…and even into…me. Straight to the heart.

You mean…I don’t have to try to be like others who I think are better than me? I can be my own role model?!

In the past I’ve known this to be truth. In fact, this idea —  we can trust ourselves, and we have much inner wisdom to teach ourselves — is the crux of my academic/life coaching with teenagers. It is also the basis of what we InterPlayers call “inner authority.”

But knowing something  is vastly different than internalizing truth.

This New Years I made the shift from knowing to internalizing by making a simple commitment: to meditate for 5 minutes a day for 365 days. (Read here for more info about how I came up with this resolution in the first place). I *had thought* that this commitment meant traditional meditation, as in: follow my breath. Or recite a mantra.

But on January 1st as I sat down to do my first 5 minutes, a different kind of meditation emerged: I imagined myself hugging myself. I didn’t plan in advance to do it; it just…uhhh…kinda happened. Lo and behold, I’ve now imagined hugging myself for 5 minutes a day for almost 19 days.

Sometimes I imagine I’m hugging myself as a baby. Other times, I’ve become giant-sized, and I’m enveloping my grown-up self with my oversized arms. Each day it’s different. And fun!!! For the first time in my life, I actually look FORWARD to my meditation time. It’s no longer a *should*; it’s now a delight.

I’m noticing that this self-designed meditation is changing me. For example:

Tonight as I sat to do my 5 minutes, I was also aware of some critical voices in my head. “You wasted your day! You had all those important business tasks on your ‘to do’ list, and you didn’t do a single one! What kind of entrepreneur are you? You’re never going to amount to anything!”
Ouch. In the olden days of meditating, I would have tried to let go of these ugly thoughts. Notice I am thinking…Return to my breath… Let go… breathe…

But today I imagined myself hugging that Mean Inner Critic. “It’s OK. I’m here. Let me hold you. Relax into my arms…” The self flaggelating thoughts stopped. Just like that. Zzzt.

Because I’m somewhat of a brain geek, I understand that this is not a magial occurrence. My daily 5 minute meditation is helping me create new, self-soothing neuropathways in my brain. The more I do it, the more easily I will be able to summon up the image of a “hug” to counter any destructive self talk.

But it still feels magical.

I’m in awe that I’ve found a way to handle my Mean Voices (what elsewhere I have termed the “gremlins”; see Confession #4 in this blog post) . I’m stunned that the idea to imagine myself hugging myself came — not from self help book or therapist — but rather just bubbled up from my own consciousness.

Amazingly, I know how to heal myself. I am my own best role model. I have a wholeness that is all my own! Amen.

InterPlay Performance Technique…as taught by the Red Dance Pants

reddancepantsI had so much fun teaching my first InterPlay Performance Technique class — totally solo!!

For the last two and a half years I’ve been Elizabeth Mendana‘s teaching sidekick. But then she decided to move away.

So, I took a deep breath… and a gulp…. and decided, “Yeeeeehaaaaaa! I can do this!!!” (And promptly bought fancy red dance pants for the occasion).

Last night I was totally prepared to teach a small, intimate class to a few Tuesday night regulars. But at 6pm on the dot, two gals bounded in to the room. InterPlay newbies! “Oh, no!” I thought. “What will I teach?! Can I gracefully cater to the entire range of experience in this room?”

As more folks streamed in (what a surprise, this close to the New Year!), I took another gulp…and made a crucial decision: I will not hold back just because there are new folks in the room.

Phil and Cynthia are always telling us to “trust the forms.” I’m gonna trust that InterPlay Performance Technique will hold us all in its warm, playful, artful embrace.

Lo and behold — it did! The new folks blended right in (in fact, an outsider wouldn’t have been able to tell who was whom), and the experienced InterPlayers seemed satisfied, too.

We got our silly groove on with following and leading; practiced side-by-side solo dances; and finally created gorgeous ensemble movement with 3-sentence stories.  We sure were making F-ing great art!).

I’m so grateful to this improvisational art form that allows a broad range of experience to play alongside each other (and allows me to improvise as a teacher, too).

P.S. A disclaimer: my new red dance pants are not nearly as cool as the ones pictured here. But I needed a picture for this blog post. And these are pretty hot, aren’t they!? Maybe they’ll be my next pair.

Wanna Make F-ing Great Improvisational Art?!

InterPlayPErformanceWordle

For the past two-and-a-half years I’ve been blessed to teach InterPlay with dancer extraordinaire Elizabeth Mendana. Tonight Elizabeth taught her last Tuesday night class (sniff!) and soon I’ll be leading it alone (holy cow!).

For those of you new to the blog, InterPlay is an uncommon, artful global social movement. It incorporates storytelling, movement, and vocal expression with an emphasis on community and play.

So often InterPlay is taught as a personal development tool, but it is also an improvisational performance technique. Four months ago we added a performance emphasis to the Tuesday night class.   Tonight after class, Elizabeth and I went out for dinner and reflection. In the course of our conversation, I asked how InterPlay has made her a better performer.

Eyes shining, she answered that InterPlay has:

  1. Given her access to the full spectrum of expression, especially the fullness of her voice (not an area that usually gets much of a workout for a modern dancer)
  2. Awakened her passion for (and skill with) infusing story into choreography
  3. Helped her embrace silliness on stage, and
  4. Through its affirming community, validated her as a professional artist.

Whew. Talk about gifts…!

And then there’s InterPlay’s uncanny ability to build ensemble. It’s no easy feat to make beautiful art on the spot…but to do it with others, with little-to-no rehearsal as a company…is amazing! And yet the InterPlay company Wing It! (of which Elizabeth and I are members) consistently creates amazing knock-your-socks-off-they’re-so-powerful performances with casts of (gulp!) 15 or more. As an ensemble we’ve learned to listen to each other with a depth, generosity and artfulness that astounds me.

The more Elizabeth and I talked, the more jazzed I got about sharing the InterPlay Performance Technique with other artists! It’s time to be intentional about sharing this hidden gem of a technique with other performers who want to broaden their range.

So get ready, Oakland, California! On Tuesday nights from 6-7:30pm starting January 5th, 2010 we’re gonna bust out some of the meanest, coolest, deepest improv you’ve seen. With an emphasis on storytelling, movement, vocal expression, and ensemble, it’ll be…

Subversive. Surprising. Silly. Sacred. Sexy. Sneaky.

Come make F-ing* good art with us! (And if you can’t join us in person, rest assured: you’ll be able to read all about it — maybe even see some of it — on my blog).

We’ll miss Elizabeth for sure, but we’re in for quite a ride in 2010. I hope you’ll join us.

*A note about the swear word: Tonight at class Elizabeth had us dancing side-by-side solos. At the end of performing for each other, someone explained, “This is F-ing good art!” And so it was. And so it is. Can’t wait to share.

The Joy Diet ~ Fake Truth, Real Truth

Gretchen Grimmacing

Sorry about the gross picture.

But it can’t be helped. This week I’ve been telling the truth.

And the truth is not pretty. In fact, she can be pretty darn grotesque sometimes.

All this truth telling is related to the book The Joy Diet, which I’m reading with about 100 other bloggers. One chapter a week, we do the assignments that author Martha Beck suggests. Last time we had to do Nothing for 15 minutes a day. This week…

The Assignment

…we had to tell ourselves the Truth. She recommended the following series of questions as our primary Truth Excavation Tools (adapted from the powerful work of Byron Katie):

  • What am I feeling?
  • What hurts?
  • What is the painful story I am telling?
  • Can I be sure my painful story is true?
  • Is my painful story working?
  • Can I think of another story that might work better?

Writing Down My Truth

I discovered that I was much more able to tell the truth when I wrote it down; if I just thought about the truth, I easily got distracted.  Here’s what I wrote in my journal one night this week:

I am feeling sad, grateful, and anxious. My back hurts where my bed is digging in. My throat is itchy. My chest vibrates the way it does when I’m being honest.

The painful story I am telling is that I will not have community, friendship, or love when I move to a new apartment.  I am also telling myself that the stress of the move will keep me from focusing on MuseCubes the way I need in order to prepare for the holiday shopping season.

I cannot be sure these painful stories are true. They certainly do not work to bring ease and joy into my life.

Another story I could tell myself is this: I will have community, love and friendship in my new space; those are always available to me, no matter where I live.   I will find the perfect space to accommodate my MuseCubes and I will have exactly enough energy to nurture the business.

The Truth Made Physical

This approach to truth telling is pretty brilliant, if you ask me. The questions cut straight to the core of my hurt, and help me embrace a new, more joyful story.

But there’s a serious flaw to the process — my inner toddler is stubborn!!!  Most of the time when I’m stuck in my hurt, I don’t WANT to embrace the new, happy, glass-is-full story. In fact, I just want to kick all that positivity out the frickin’ window, screaming “Lies! Lies!!  I will NOT find a perfect new apartment and I will NOT have enough time for my business, and you can’t MAKE me!!!”

That’s where exformation comes in.  Exformation is the practice of doing something physical to release all the information — the too muchness! — that we collect throughout our days.

Once a month my friend Beandrea and I meet in her living room to witness each other’s exformation.  Exformation can look like a lot of different things, but for Beandrea and me, it’s a mini-performance. One of us sits and watches; the other stands in the middle of her living room and then spends the next ten minutes (or so) doing whatever we need to do to process our Too Muchness.

Yesterday I yelled, kicked, howled and flung my limbs in a chaotic, crazy dance. Yaaaaaaaaaaa! Bam!! Boom! Awooooooo!!!

Oh that felt good. And I felt soooooo calm at the end of it all.

It occurred to me that exformation is like the truth-telling process from The Joy Diet — only made physical.

What am I feeling? Kick! Growl! Blech!!

What is the story I’m telling myself that causes pain? Life is hard! Life is too much!!

What is a different story I could tell myself? Life is full, and I have all the resources I need to thrive in the fullness!! Growl! Zoom!!! Pfffffft.

Once I’ve released all my Pent Upness, I’m calm enough to actually hear, accept and integrate the reframed story.

Fake Truth versus Real Truth

My big aha! from this week is this: that we need to tell all our truths — the Fake ones and the Real ones.

The Fake Truth is my phrase for what Martha Beck calls “the painful story.” The Fake Truth in my journal entry (above) is that when I move next month, I am going to lose all the community, friendship and love that I experience in my current fabulous housing arrangement. Technically, that’s not true. But it feels true.

Until I let myself feel the truth of my pain about moving, I won’t be willing to accept the Real Truth: that community, friendship, and love are omnipresent in my life and are available no matter where I live.

Offer Compassion to Your Inner Lying Scumbag

Thank goodness that the road to joy is to love ourselves through both the Fake and the Real Truths.

I’m so appreciative of the final step in Martha Beck’s truth telling practice: “Offer compassion to your inner lying scumbag…to the parts of yourself that seem to deserve it least.”

Ahhhhhh. Yes. Thank you.

Walk Stop Run

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?!.

For the longest time, Walk Stop Run was the most challenging activity I experienced in InterPlay.

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!

Babbling: The Best Icebreaker Ever

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?!.

The Best Icebreaker Ever

Recently, my mom forwarded me the following email:

Could I get instructions for the ice breaker Gretchen used at the retreat? It was the best I’ve ever experienced, and I’d like to use it at work.  She was so great!

Awwwww. Nice of this man (I’ll call him Matt) to compliment me and my workshop facilitation. But even nicer that he recognized the power of the InterPlay form of “babbling”.

He’d experienced this unique “icebreaker” during a church retreat (for the ultra cool Covenant Baptist in Houston, Texas), where I’d been invited to teach some sessions on embodied worship.

How to Lead Folks in a Babbling Sequence

Here are the instructions I emailed back to Matt:

  1. Put people in partners
  2. Have them decide who will go first.
  3. Tell them you’re going to give them a topic and they will talk about it for 30 seconds. Tell them you will ding a bell when it is time to switch.
  4. Announce the first topic. Simple ones are best. (For example, have folks describe their car. Or a friend. Maybe their favorite view from a window).
  5. After they have both spoken about the topic, have them thank their partner and find a new one.
  6. Repeat the process two more times.
  7. With the final partner, give them an extra minute to reflect on what it was like for them to talk in these quick bursts about different topics.

If you want to see an example of babbling, watch the video at the top of this post. It’s surprisingly simple!

Babbling Creates Instant Community

I’ll never forget when Phil Porter, one of the cofounders of InterPlay, revealed a discovery of his: community is created when each person in the group hears a personal story from 3 different members of the group.

This advice was a revelation to me, one I have tested out hundreds of times since. And it’s true. So often we think we need fun, unique games to serve as icebreakers. But really, people just want to feel connected to each other. And connection happens through personal stories.

Plus, as I mentioned in the video (above), we can reveal a great deal of information about ourselves in 30 seconds. Just the other day in an InterPlay class, my partner described the view from a window. From this seemingly innocuous topic, I learned:

she used to live in Minnesota, she lives in the second floor apartment, she really likes cats, she knows a lot about trees, she lives with a male significant other, she and her partner enjoy being silly together.

Wow! That’s a lot of stuff crammed into 30 seconds.We’re bound to find something we have in common there. (I like to be silly and I have lived in Minnesota!). The more we find in common with the people in our groups, the more connected we’ll be.

The Mundane Details Contain the Juiciest Nuggets

Another piece of InterPlay wisdom: Profound truths are embedded in mundane, daily details.

So often group facilitators try to get their students to “go deep” by having them share big deal reflections with the rest of the group. What are you most afraid of? What brings you the most joy?

In InterPlay we ease into the deep stuff. Why force people to share their intimate details so overtly? Instead, just have them, for example: describe their kitchen! A gay man might quickly have to choose whether he’ll reveal that his male partner does all the cooking. Or I’ll reveal that I’m still single at the age of 36, living with roommates. And we sometimes share meals.

These seemingly mundane details contain the nuggets of some of our deepest human experiences: loss, love, pain, surrender, courage. All that comes out?! But all I did was ask them to describe their kitchen!

What Should We Babble About?

Babbling is so quick and easy. Anyone can talk for 30 seconds. I’ll end by leaving you with a list of possible topics you can have folks babble about. Enjoy all the stories!

  • Describe the view out a window
  • Describe your desk at work
  • Describe the place you feel most relaxed
  • Describe one of your friends and what you like about them
  • Describe your car
  • Talk about things you did for fun as a child
  • Talk about things you do for fun now
  • Describe in excrutiating detail how you got here today
  • Describe what you ate for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) today
  • Describe two objects in your living room and how they got there
  • Describe the contents of your refridgerator
  • Etc, etc. Add your own ideas by commenting! (The comment link is, strangely, up at the top of the post).

Hand to Hand Contact

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBIaOEsabZk&hl=en&fs=1&]

How often do you giggle these days?

I’m guaranteed a good giggle whenever I stand palm-to-palm with another person in an InterPlay context. There’s something about a partnered hand dance that gets me every time!! Just watch the video, above, and you’ll see what I mean.

The hand dance is one of the most basic InterPlay forms. It builds on the idea of the one hand dance, which I blogged about recently. However, unlike a one-hand dance (which you do by yourself), a hand-to-hand dance is done with another person. As a result, it can be unpredictable. I never know exactly what the other person will do, or how I will  respond.  Talk about being in the moment!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of my life hyper focused on myself (“Am I being a good person?”) or on other people (“How are they responding? Do they like me?”). During a hand dance, these two perspectives soften a bit. Instead, I’m focused on our hands, on the adventure that is unfolding  between the two of us.  And so often, what unfolds is hilarious! And surprising! It makes me laugh out loud! Laughter is such a precious resource; I treasure when it erupts.

I also treasure the opportunity to have safe, affectionate touch with other human bodies. Physical contact is, after all, a minimum requirement for health and happiness. Too often in American culture our needs for physical contact get met only in the context of sexuality. Those of us without a regular romantic partners often get little physical affection, other than an occasional hug or hand shake.  Before InterPlay this used to be true for me, too. But now I have a weekly space where I  am guaranteed  some fun, playful physical connection with others.  It rocks!

Plus, there is something about hand to hand contact that is, quite simply, profound. Amidst my giggles, there are moments of awe, connection, affection, hope. For this reason, I try to build a hand dance into every InterPlay class I teach.  I hope you’ll come play sometime on Mondays in San Francisco or Tuesdays in Oakland. I look forward to the mini adventure that will ensue when our hands meet palm to palm.

Danger! InterPlay Now in San Francisco

Gretchen Wegner and Randy Newsanger
Gretchen Wegner and Randy Newsanger

Next month my new InterPlay class with Randy debuts in San Francisco. Heed this warning:

InterPlay is designed to unlock the wisdom of the body.

But unlocking the wisdom of the body is DANGEROUS!

Why? Because if you uncover what you really know, if you trust it, and then if you act on it: it will CHANGE your life.

Of course, life transformation doesn’t happen all at once. Thank goodness. Change sneaks up over time. That’s why we call the processes “sneaky deep.”

What we really do in InterPlay is have a lot of fun together. We tell stories, move our bodies, free our voices, play with physical contact, and share stillness.

And somehow all that fun, connection, and reflection turns into — gasp! drum roll please!! — personal transformation. At whatever level is perfect for you. For example, I found more boldness and freedom to be myself.  Others discovered:

  • More comfort in public speaking and self expression.
  • A recovered sense of play in daily life.
  • Greater ability to embrace spontaneity
  • More ease connecting with others
  • Permission to relax & reflect
  • Practical tools to deal with overwhelm and stress

InterPlay is hard to describe, but easy to do. It’s not for everybody. But it might just be for you. Try it and see! For more information about the new San Francisco class starting Monday, August 10th, go to www.interplaysanfrancisco.org

To read others’ perspectives on how this subversive practice changes lives, here are a few additional resources:

P.S. Big thanks to Dorothy for the tweet that inspired this blog entry.

P.P.S. The delightful-and-dangerous Randy Newswanger is my partner-in-crime. Come to InterPlay in SanFrancisco and you’ll get to play with the two of us.

Go Ahead and Fake It!

Children doing tae kwon do.

I stopped short when I stumbled upon the following quote yesterday:

“To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend.” ~Derrida

My friend and mentor Meri Walker had posted it on her blog. She proceeded to ruminate about how she and her partner John are both artists, and imagine the craziest things into being:

John imagines something and then commits to fabricating it, come hell or highwater. That’s how he put skylights in the top of the TransAmerica tower, for instance. The union asked him if he could do that, he looked inside his imagination to see if he could “see” that scene, said “Yes,” and then set about discovering how to make what he had seen show up in the 3-D world.

When you are imagining something, you’re pretending that thing already exists. John and Meri have proved in their own lives that once you fake it, you can make it! I highly recommend reading the rest of her post.

When I read Meri’s words, though, I couldn’t help but think about the InterPlay classes I teach. InterPlay is an active, creative approach to unlocking the wisdom of the body. Classes include improvisational storytelling, movement, and singing.

During the InterPlay warm up, I’ll invite people to try on different movements by faking them. “Try some fake karate!” I’ll suggest. “Now, how about fake tap dancing!?” And finally, “Get into those hips with a little fake hula, why don’t you!?”

New Interplayers always giggle when we start faking it. Perhaps out of nervousness. But mostly, I think, because it’s fun and freeing.

In fact, some recent personal “aha!”s have emerged from the fake forms.

See, I’m a perfectionist. Big time. Which doesn’t always allow me to relax and have fun because I’m often worried about doing things right. That’s why the fake forms are so good for me. They let me off the hook for being perfect.

Now that I’ve gotten good at doing fake karate, I’m finding other ways to trick my inner perfectionist into letting go. For example, when I started my blog, I gave myself permission to be a “fake blogger.” Somehow, that allowed me to just start DOING it.

And before I knew it, my posts weren’t fake anymore. Somewhere along the way they turned real.

Of course, Derrida would disagree with me slightly. He’d say that pretending to do something is, ummmmmm, actually doing it. So my blog posts never turned real. They were real all along.

Yay for faking it! Because once you fake it, you’ve already started imagining that new thing into being.

This all just begs the question: What are you going to fake today?

(If you’d like to be a fake InterPlayer, come on down to one of my classes in San Francisco or Oakland. I’d love to play with you!)

Exformation

Sieve

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?!.

What creates information overload for you?

Too much time browsing the internet does it for me. And juggling multiple creative projects at once.  Not to mention the emotional ups and downs of navigating the world as a (hopefully) clear and honest communicator. Phew!

Information overload can sometimes be too much of a good thing — like excitement about falling in love or finally accomplishing a personal goal.

When I’m in a State of Too Muchness, I crave balance. And that’s where exformation comes in.

Exformation is InterPlay‘s word for the process of moving unnecessary information out of one’s body.

Imagine for a moment that information is physical, and it accumulates inside our bodies. It’s almost like our bodies are sieves that process our daily experiences.

Most of the time our experiences flow easily through us, like the flour in the picture above. But sometimes that sieve gets clogged. What can we do to loosen up that gunky, yucky clogged feeling that comes with stress and overwhelm?

We can exform! And if information has a physical component, then so does exformation.

The simplest kind of exformation is breathing, sighing, and shaking your body out.

But exformation can include just about any activity that allows you to be truly in your body. The InterPlay facilitator’s manual suggests activities like

exercise, art-making, journalling, making love, taking long showers, meditating, doing housework, cooking, walking in nature, singing, etc.

I invented MuseCubes as a simple exformational tool. After a roll of the dice, folks can howl, twist, and sigh their way to feeling more refreshed and balanced. I’ve been collecting stories about all the ways people use MuseCubes to exform; you can read those stories here.

The regular practice of InterPlay is another way many people choose to get exformation in their lives. By telling our stories, playing with our voices, and moving our bodies, exformation becomes a multi-sensory experience!

The beauty of exformation is that we don’t have to wait for a State of Too Muchness in order to do it.  Instead, we can build exformational activities into the daily rhythm of our lives. Preventative exformation! I try and incorporate movement, creativity, and play throughout my day.

What do you do to keep your sieve clumpless and flowing freely?



Juggling and Expressive Arts — for Veterans!

dorothy-scarves

Welcome to my first guest post ever! Occasionally I will use this blog to highlight how facilitators use InterPlay to change the world. This post is written by Dorothy Finnigan.


This Work Could Save Lives

I stared at the email.  “This work could save lives,” it said.  Had I really just been invited to teach InterPlay and juggling to a group of Iraq and Vietnam War Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?!


A day later, I was granted clearance to the Veterans Affairs (VA) facility. My host drove me through the rain, warning me to expect a tough reception from the vets. Some had just returned from Iraq; others were still healing from Vietnam. Once a week, they all took mandatory art therapy and wellness classes. On this day, I would be given the entire “wellness” hour to share whatever I wished.


Accessible, Playful, Unpretentious

InterPlay had been a personal practice of mine for under a year. I found it when I was craving the embodied wisdom of elders and the space to share my stories. With its practical forms and accessible, playful, unpretentious philosophy, InterPlay had helped me transition through harrowing circumstances and enjoy life more than ever.  Now, I wanted to share simple tools for relaxation, healing, and enjoyment with these vets.


A dozen people took their seats around the perimeter of the small, naturally-lit room. I stood before them and took a deep breath, letting it out with a loud sigh. “The best way I know to help myself relax is to take a deep breath. I invite you to take a deep breath with me.” This invitation seemed simple enough, and everyone obliged.

Optimal Health and Happiness

“I’m of the belief,” I explained as I drew five bullet-points on the whiteboard, “that to have optimal health and happiness in our lives, there are five things we need on a daily basis. The first one is to have our voice. Sighing is one of the simplest ways we can let ourselves have our voice throughout the day. So let’s take a deep breath, and let it out with a sigh. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.” The sighing got louder as people relaxed into the permission to have their voice.


“Another thing I need on a daily basis is movement. Right where you’re sitting, shake out a hand. Shake out another hand. Shake out a foot. Shake out another foot. Shake out what you’re sitting on.” Everyone participated. A few chuckled. One veteran got really into moving her rear around her chair. Within myself and around the room, I could feel the anticipation of fun growing.

It’s Not An Order; It’s An Offering

“Anything I say to you today,” I reassured them, “is just an invitation. An offering. It’s not an order. Feel free to alter or abstain from any activity.” I invited them to stand up. Everyone complied. I didn’t yet sense the major resistance I’d been warned about. “Shake yourself down into your spot…”

And with that, I took them through the InterPlay warm-up, welcoming and awakening parts of our body from head to toe. At one point a couple of veterans chose to sit down; true to my word and in keeping with InterPlay’s commitment to honoring individual choice, I simply continued leading. Soon both veterans were on their feet again, perhaps because they realized that my “do what is good for you” rhetoric was for real.


Juggling Is Good For You

After warming up, it was juggling time! I had spent 15 years teaching tens of thousands of people to juggle using slow-moving nylon scarves; yet, only recently (thanks to InterPlay) could I articulate why juggling helps heal the supposed “split” between mind and body. Neurological research increasingly confirms the integrative health benefits of juggling. Moving cross-laterally and tracing infinity sign pathways (which are the “secrets” to juggling) are movements that activate communication between left and right brains. This may help to inhibit Alzheimer’s, deal with dyslexia, and develop reading skills and higher order problem solving abilities. Turns out that juggling is not only fun, it’s really, really good for you!


Sharing Stories

Earlier, I had been cautioned by my host to expect the veterans to be self-conscious in the group because of certain judgmental personalities. However, as each individual’s nylon scarves kept falling to the floor, they just laughed at themselves and continued to enjoy learning. When I casually asked half the room to stop juggling in order to witness the other half, the vets enthusiastically applauded for one another! By slipping in this opportunity to witness and affirm their peers, we had avoided setting up a stressful paradigm of “audience” versus “performer” that might have activated judgment of self and others.


InterPlay is essentially a practice of doing stuff (with our bodies, voices, etc.) and then noticing our experience. With that in mind, I invited each veteran to take 30 seconds to share with a partner about learning to juggle. The vets were proud they had learned a new skill; they were also surprised how much of a workout they got out of three floaty scarves. With the group relaxed and confident, I then led them through a storytelling series. They got to talk about things like their favorite place in nature and a person on their mind. There were nods of agreement all around when I said, “I believe that sharing our stories — both the monumental AND the mundane — is another requirement for health and happiness.


The One Hand Dance

To close the hour, I taught the quintessential InterPlay form: the one hand dance. The beauty of the one hand dance is that anyone can do it. Raise your hand in the air and move it through space. Play with both smooth and jagged movements; make different shapes; vary the speed. For the veterans, I put on a piece of music and invited them to do a hand dance on behalf of the person who was on their mind. As partners witnessed each other, some pairs fell into deep laughter and others had tears in their eyes. One vet ended his piece with his hand over his heart. He and his partner sat in stillness for a silent minute.


And our hour was up. I invited them to take an idea or activity into their lives beyond this room. If nothing else, I hope they feel a greater sense of permission to take a deep breath and let it out with a loud sigh whenever they need a moment of grace.


A New Way to Express

Earnest “thank-you”s filled the air as the vets filed out of the room. As I packed up my scarves and sound system, I overheard Archie (one of the “resistant” vets I’d been warned about) telling his friend who hadn’t been able to attend, “You really missed something. Too bad for you, man. It was fun.” My host, who’d also overheard the comment, shook her head in disbelief.  “You won them over,” she marveled. “Even Archie.”


The other staff were impressed, too. “Not only did you give them an opportunity to relax and have fun, but there was a sense of peaceful group cohesion we desperately needed. Thank you!”


As I was leaving the facility, a veteran who had done a hand dance on behalf of his daughter, thanked me again for allowing him to have “a way to express.” Over the course of the class I had shared the belief that for optimal health, we need to be able to have our voice, our movement, our stories, our stillness, and our contact with others (otherwise known as InterPlay’s Five Recommended Daily Requirements). The invitation and opportunity to have these things, had given this vet a way to connect with his own truth.

Creating a Space of ProFUNdity

Who could have guessed that my old skill — juggling! — would integrate so seamlessly with InterPlay’s tools for holistic community development, creating an environment of ease, affirmation, and grace. The strength of these men and women, and particularly their willingness to open up when given the choice, touched and inspired me. I see now that this work has the power to be sneaky deep: to be both playful and transformational for individuals and communities. I’m looking forward to new opportunities to create a space of proFUNdity for groups, from intergenerational gatherings to corporate cultures.


Until then, I continue to work on having InterPlay’s five recommended daily requirements in my own life. Even now, sitting in this coffee shop writing, I take a deep breath, let it out with a sigh, and am grateful for this moment of grace.


Who is This Dorothy, Anyway?

Dorothy Finnigan grew up on the road, living in a motor home with her family as they taught juggling in elementary schools across the United States. She was world-schooled (her version of being home-schooled) until age 18, after which she traveled solo internationally, paying her way by juggling on the street.  After a brief stint of formal education at Yale University, Dorothy “walked out” to pursue intergenerational embodied learning. Now a graduate of InterPlay’s Life Practice Program, Dorothy is developing several workshops that integrate her skills as a juggler and a body wisdom practitioner.

Affirmation

polar-bear-funny-dog-death-hug

The following post is 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?!.

What if…we lived life consistently looking for the good in our own experiences?  What if!?

As a classroom teacher, looking for the good was not part of the culture at my school.  Critique was, though. What are kids doing wrong? Point it out so that they can grow and learn!

When I was grading papers, it was so much easier to notice what kids did wrong (poor use of a semi-colon, again!) than what they did right (creative imagery!).  After marking up a paper, I had to force myself to re-read it in order to find some compliments.  How messed up is that — that I had to force myself to affirm my students?!

Now I work as an academic coach at a private school.  Although I’m technically there to support kids with learning disabilities, it’s become apparent that teachers crave support too.  Especially affirming support.

At a meeting last week, I had been pushing the school to create systems that help students be accountable for their work.  Over lunch, a teacher approached me and asked, “Gretchen, I really think that the system I use for communicating grades to parents and kids is the best possible system for what you’re talking about.  Am I deluding myself? What do you think?!”

I was so struck by how much this teacher needed feedback and acknowledgment.  The subtext I heard was: I’m trying. I care. I’m doing my best.  Do you see me?

In fact,  all year I’ve admired his system for using Google Spreadsheets to communicate grades and missing assignments to families.  I’d been thinking it but I never said it.

And yet, I know full well that we “can create much more change in another by pointing out their strengths than by criticizing their weaknesses” (from the InterPlay leader training handbook).

In the InterPlay context, affirmation refers to naming the good in ourselves and others.  But it also has to do with practicing noticing the best parts of our own experience (as opposed to fixating on other people’s experiences).

I coach a student who loves to write. Although she doesn’t care an iota about academic writing, she hungers for feedback about her creative short stories. However, she hates it when I give general compliments like “This story is great! You’re such a good writer.”  Rather, she wants specifics; she wants to know what I’m experiencing as I read her words:

Wow, the way you describe your characters in the opening sentences makes me really curious about what’s going to happen. But in the second paragraph the curiosity went away because I got a little confused about who was talking.  I had to reread several sentences to figure it out.”

Certainly, there is a place for general praise and encouragement.  In InterPlay classes, we’re trained to say “good!” or “yes!” frequently so that people feel supported.  Creating an atmosphere of affirmation, after all, is crucial to opening up people’s creativity.

But I’m also fascinated that, in the story above, my student continued to feel affirmed even when the feedback I was giving was technically “negative.” Maybe it really is true what Marshall Rosenberg says, that the most basic human desire is to contribute to others.  I like feeling curious, and my student wants that for me.  Because she cares about me, she’s motivated to fix anything in her writing that gets in the way of my curiosity.

And as the InterPlay facilitator’s handbook says, “To be headed toward our desires is always a good direction in which to go.” Yuh – huh! What would formal learning look like if both teachers and students had the freedom to move towards their desires?

More and more, I’m committed to creating a culture of affirmation.  It’s one of the reasons I love twitter so much — affirmation is such a huge part of the culture (at least in my circle of followers; follow me, and you’ll see what I mean).

Developing a habit of affirmation, though, doesn’t come naturally to me; I have to practice looking for the good. Here are some basic tips that are helping me develop the habit.

Tips for Creating a Culture of Affirmation:

  • Notice when I’m thinking an affirmation or appreciation. Say it out loud.
  • Pepper my language with affirmation blurts: “Nice!” “Yay!” “Wow!”  “Cool!”
  • Make sure, though, that all the affirmations are genuine. (Folks can smell fake a mile away).
  • When possible, be really specific about what I appreciate.
  • Speak from my own experience.
  • Name feelings rather than opinions.

What else?!  I’m sure there are tons of other tips!!  Please comment if you’ve got one.

Incrementality

Inchworm

The following 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?!.

Last week I spied a teeny inch worm gracefully maneuvering across the top of my laptop screen.  Its miniscule body curved up and then flattened itself, advancing a millimeter each time.

Curve up. Flatten down. Curve up.  Flatten down.

I was entranced by it’s slow, steady — even artful — progress.

The idea for my MuseCubes business came to me last August.  Since then I‘ve received a lot of advice from well meaning friends:

It’s cheaper to manufacture them in China.  Sell the idea to a game company. Distribute them to Barnes and Noble.

These suggestions used to stress me out.  I heard them, and felt pressured to grow my business Bigger! Faster! Richer! Now!

Lately, however, I’ve decided to learn from the inch worm. One graceful little step at a time. I don’t want to grow this business faster than I’m able to nurture it…and myself.

I’ve also been learning from InterPlay’s philosophy of incrementality.

Incrementality is the process of breaking a task down into small, manageable steps.

We have learned many of the important things we know incrementally — how to walk, talk, read, use a computer, play an instrument, learn a language.  We accept that these skills are learned in many small steps, over a long period of time.” (Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, Self Study Handbook)

The philosophy of incrementality gives me permission to apply this same wisdom to the big things I want to do — like start a product manufacturing business.

In a culture that pushes me to work harder, faster, and better than the competition, InterPlay recommends the opposite. It’s perfectly acceptable — even downright healthy! — to build my business at the speed of my own body.

Now I ask myself, “What’s the next easiest step I can take?” And I take it.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t set big goals. Or push myself. But I do so with balance. I give myself permission to pursue the lofty goals one little, slow, easy, fun step at a time.

Interestingly  — (Huh! I’m just putting this together right now! I love how much I learn when I write) –the MuseCubes are a practical tool to help people remember incrementality.

So often when we feel stuck, the real problem is that we’re trying to do too much.

For example: (1) Why can’t I just finish writing this paper!? (2) Arrrrgggggh! Reconciling this whole spreadsheet is driving me crazy!

The MuseCubes remind us to — quite literally — shake ourselves free from the tyranny of Too Much.  Once we’ve moved our bodies and voices around a bit, we’re better able to see the whole picture. We can then recognize the next, easiest action to take in service to that larger goal.

For example: (1) How about I write for 5 minutes without a single edit, and just see what I produce? (2) Maybe I’ll plug in 10 more numbers into the spreadsheet and then see where I stand.

So  now I’m curious.  What about you? What’s the next easiest step you can take to get you where you want to go?!

Intergenerational Healing


The following post is written by Cynthia Winton-Henry, co-founder of InterPlay.  Every Monday she sends out a morning email, and this week it was so sweet, I just had to share.  There are so many applications for the InterPlay philosophies and practices.  Soyinka Rahim’s intergenerational work is yet another crucial example of how InterPlay bridges the divide of difference (in this case age) — and gives people a common way to play.  Here are Cynthia’s words:

In an intergenerational, multicultural InterPlay session, Soyinka Rahim led five adults and five children in a warm up.

We squirmed and delighted in moving each body part. There was a mom who had lost her hair due to chemo for breast cancer, her two creative, home-schooled kids, a grandma in her seventies who loves to dance and her two shy grandkids – a boy two years old carrying a toy truck and his sister. There was a single mom whose first grade daughter was wrapped around her mom seventy percent of the time, and there was me. Everyone enjoyed moving. The two year old wanted to watch.

Following Soyinka, we reached out our arms then wrapped them around ourselves. As we hugged ourselves Soyinka said, “Just say to yourself ‘I love you. I love you. I love you. Like a chant.” As I did it myself, I watched the moms and grandma with eyes closed, sway, and say those words. They weren’t trying to say them. They knew that this was important work for them, too.

We moved and played as a group for an hour and half. By the end the littlest and shyest child, the one who was allowed to watch, was dancing and asking people to talk in funny voices as we passed a dragon puppet and used weird voices as we said, “Thank you very much for coming!” As we blew bubbles and thanked Soyinka for leading this class, I thought, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Is the golden rule. In this session we got to do both, and all ages became more than neighbors. We became friends.

(More information: Multigenerational Play with Soyinka in Oakland – 1st Saturdays of the Month at InterPlayce, 10am-noon)

Easy Focus

Binoculars

The following 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?! Subscribe by email to receive updates.

Easy focus. Eeeeeeeezy focus! Easy, now.  Easy!

I love things that are easy. So when I learned that the most fundamental InterPlay tool is called “easy focus,” I knew I was onto a good thing.

Easy focus is the process of widening our focus, relaxing our bodies, and using all of our senses to percieve the world around us.

A Personal Story

Just last week I was at a wine bar on a first date. Now, I don’t know anything about wine.  Nada. Zilch. So I got a little stressed when my date playfully suggested I do a blind taste test.  Always the good student, I prepared by studying a sip of each wine in our flight, willing myself to find words to describe their subtle differences.  I was concentrating so hard, my forehead wrinkled and my eyes squinted. Focusing too hard can be uncomfortable!

Luckily, I caught myself mid-squint and realized I was taking this taste test far too seriously. “Gretchen dear,” I told myself.  “How about just relaxing, and trusting that your taste buds know the difference?  You’ve tasted the wines once.  You’ll be fine!”

In other words — have an easy focus about the whole thing!

Immediately I relaxed. Smiled. Took a deep breath. Closed my eyes. Tasted…and voila! I passed the test with flying colors! Not a single wine misidentified.  Proud was I. Impressed was my date. Well played, Gretchen, well played.

Both a Physical Experience and a State of Mind.

Easy focus is a physical experience in that it involves relaxing the face muscles, loosening the eyes’ hold on any one object, and widening one’s peripheral vision.

Easy focus is also a state of mind in that it involves a loosening of our need to control situations.  It is an accepting state, a surrender of sorts.  Easy focus acknowledges that our bodies are capable of holding multiple feelings and ideas at one time.

Sheesh! The weekend after the wine bar date I had a bajillion feelings swirling inside of me — sorrow over a recent break up, thrill about this new connection, fear about all of life’s uncertainties, and more.  All these feelings, all at once! I’m grateful for the InterPlay practice of easy focus because it allows me to hold two or more seemingly conflicting realities at one time. As the facilitator’s handbook says so reassuringly,

We can go crazy trying to focus on one thing or another, or we can relax and have the fullness of all the elements that make up our lives.

How to Create Easy Focus

Tip 1: Take a deep breath and let it out with a loud sigh. Try it now (you’ll see; it’s really satisfying!): Deep breath. Loud side. We do that all the time during InterPlay.  In fact, there’s nothing sweeter than the sound of 10 people sighing together.

Tip 2: Roll the MuseCubes. They’re a set of dice that help people shake themselves into new mindstates.  Roll the dice, and then do what they say: Shake and howl! Twist and whoop! Most people report feeling more relaxed, more vibrant, and more open.

Tip 3. Take a walk outside. Recently, I blogged about the role that nature plays in calming our attention, which results in more brain power when we go back to trying to focus later.  This is exactly the effect Phil and Cynthia talk about when they say, “it can be quite wondrful to be in an easy focus state and then let the focus come out and do its wonderful work.

Tip 4.  What do you think? What creates a sense of easy focus for you? Please comment!

What the Heck Is InterPlay?!

So, I do this thing called InterPlay. And it’s kinda hard to explain exactly what it is.  People still scratch their heads and say “huh?” when I try to describe it.

Officially speaking, it’s an active, creative approach to unlocking the wisdom of the body.  Sounds great to me! But there are tons of people out there who have no idea what this means.

So, I’m devoting the summer to this problem: How do I describe InterPlay so that people get it!?

Why Do I Care About InterPlay?

But hold the phone — why does it matter if people “get it”?  Why do I care?

Partially because I want people to get ME. And InterPlay and its philosophy of body wisdom is a big part of who I am.

But I also care for this reason — I’ve found a great deal of freedom in my life thanks to the InterPlay philosophy and practices.  I think it’d be most excellent if other people got to experience this freedom too.

New Agey Blah Blah Blah?

I’m a pretty open person, and I’ve gone to a lot of new agey workshops on personal development and body/mind/spirit integration.  So much of it is really good stuff, and I’m a better person for it.

But this stuff also inaccessible to a great number of people. The language used by gurus and their followers is often so insular. Not to mention “airy-fairy” or “hoity-toity”. Their practices — for example, gazing into another person’s eyes for minutes at a time, or sharing deeply personal pain stories in public — feel threatening and uncomfortable. Most people (myself included) don’t like to dive head first into transformation.

Good for Average, Regular People

InterPlay is one of the first workshoppy things I’ve done that made me think — Wow! These folks have figured out how to bring body wisdom to your average, regular person.  There’s no need to be ultra spiritual or liberal to benefit from InterPlay.

Those of us who love it share bits and pieces everywhere we go.

Bobbie just called me yesterday to share how she used the babbling activity in a recent church meeting (Result: a group of people who’ve been friendly-but-distant for years starting feeling more connected).

Dorothy even got Iraq veterans doing — and loving! — a hand dance. (Result:  “It’s a new way to express myself,” one of them reflected gratefully. Yes!! More about that in a guest post soon.)

Uh oh. Look what I just did! I’d intended to try to explain what InterPlay is briefly and clearly. Instead, I used a bunch of wierd terms like “babbling” and “hand dance.” Does it put you off, because you have no idea what these things mean?

Come On, Already, Gretchen — What the Heck is InterPlay!?

I really do have a commitment to talking simply, directly, and clearly about InterPlay.  I just don’t know how! So, before I end, let me take a stab at some more statements:

  • People often practice InterPlay by gathering in groups in dance studios. But it can actually take place anywhere.
  • In any InterPlay experience, folks get together (community), do stuff (play), and then notice about it (reflection).
  • The “stuff” that they do includes improvisational storytelling, movement, and playing with the voice. I’ll be describing these forms in more detail in future blog posts. The “noticing” includes anything a person is comfortable saying about their experience. Often people don’t say anything at all.  Luckily, in InterPlay you don’t have to articulate your experience in order to have it.
  • In any InterPlay class, you’ll experience the 5 daily requirements — tell a story, use your voice, move around the room, have some stillness, and have easy, playful physical contact with others.
  • All activities in InterPlay are broken down into small, bite-sized pieces that are easy and comfortable for participants to do. (For example, “Take 30 seconds to tell your partner what you had for breakfast this morning”).

Please Give Me Feedback:

To those of you hearing about InterPlay for the first time, I’m curious: what have I said here that resonates? What confuses you?  What questions do you have?  Your feedback will really help me get better talking about this thing that I love so much.

Stay Tuned…

Starting this weekend and every Monday throughout the summer,  I’ll be blogging about the InterPlay core elements.  My goal is to provide clear, non-jargony descriptions of the core elements of InterPlay, including:

Body Wisdom Tools: Easy Focus, Body Data/Knowledge/Wisdom, Internal Authority, Physicality of Grace, Exformation, Spiritual Practices, Incremenality, and Affirmation

Body Wisdom Practices: Warm-Up, Babbling, Big Body Stories, Circle Stories, Contact, DT3s, Following and Leading, Group Toning/Singing, Hand-to-Hand Contact, “On Behalf of” forms, One-Breath songs, One-Hand dances, Shape & Stillness, Side-by-Side Stories, Solo Movement, Walking/Stopping/Running, Warm-Up, Witnessing, Noticing

Or Just Come Play

The truth, though, is this: no matter how much I say about InterPlay, you really need to experience it to get it.  Here is a quick brainstorm of ways to try it live and in person:

Goodness, this has been a long post.  Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. Please DO leave your feedback! Here are those questions again:

What have I said here that resonates? What confuses you?  What questions do you have?

Your comments will really help me get better talking about this thing that I love so much!

As always, playfully yours!