Witness the Next Gen Arise!

May 27, 2011

Arts and Social Change 2010 Grads

I am taking every bit of juicy InterPlay as a birthday present to me! Yes, I am another year older. And no I am not in my twenties, thirties or forties! But the next amazing group of artist-activist-life enthusiasts who have applied is! Prepare for the 2011 July Arts and Social Change Training

This year 15 dancers, media artists, theater artists, musicians, activists, writers, chaplains, expressive artists, and community organizers have applied. Two from India. Two from Australia. Others connecting with InterPlay in Seattle, Indiana, Kansas City, Pennsylvania, Raleigh North Carolina, and California.

I can’t wait to meet people like Rehana who said,

My interest in community education grew and took me to work as a cocreator/facilitator of youth lead community learning spaces in the informal settlements of Nairobi and in social neighbourhoods in Toronto. Regardless of the issue at hand – be it sexual and reproductive health with adolescent girls in Nairobi, or water conservation and quality with youth in Toronto, I always managed to incorporate theatre and dance as forms of expression, to apply theory to practice, to observe ourselves, to co-vision, build community, transform conflict and to re- imagine our realities. And although I managed to incorporate these elements of art into my work, I was often left yearning for more theatre, more dance, more movement needs which my positions within structures could not always satisfy.

Or Stephanie from Sydney who wrote with typical Aussie humor

I was 5 years old and the school implemented a program called “electives” which was a few hours one afternoon a week where we could choose a class and participate in an all age ‘interest group’… I chose percussion, and I was quite excited. During the first session I was no doubt thumping some maraccas with great gusto when the group was interrupted by a teacher who told me as we left the room that I would now be in the singing group. I was disappointed, until I learned that I’d been selected to star in the school musical as the baby elephant who asks too many questions… “stop asking questions, you ask to many questions, you’re always asking questions all day long” is the chorus that the other animals in the cast sang to me. I loved it! I still love to perform and, do I ask too many questions? Well, that’s a matter of opinion I guess!

How thrilling this last year to follow through with 2010 Next Genners Agnotti (now organizing Masankho’s Chicago Cultures of Peace in November), Sally (interning with us at InterPlayce next year supported by Mennonite Voluntary Service) Joy Anna (organizer for Masankho’s May trip to Asheville) and Olivia with whom I’m scheming to put art on the front of InterPlayce! (Talk to me if you think this is the coolest idea!) The others are up to much magic, too!

When wonderful people connect to wonderful people in wondrous ways, what in the future is possible? Help us find out!

What if you won the InterPlay Lottery?

May 16, 2011

OK, so maybe it’s not quite as exciting as winning millions, but we thought you’d like to know that a bunch of InterPlay communities around the country just got big fat checks to use for growing InterPlay in their home towns.


If you live in Seattle or Minneapolis or Raleigh or Boston or Pittsburgh, Washington DC or Oakland, you probably heard something last year about an InterPlay Million Connections fundraiser happening in your town. Part of the funds went to support the international spread of InterPlay. And part of those funds are coming directly back to the communities that organized them – to help create more InterPlay.

You might be wondering, “What is this money for?”

This money represents the collective statement by InterPlayers in those regions that, “We believe InterPlay makes a difference in the world, and we’d like to see more of it!” So the easiest answer to how these funds can be spent is, “Anything that creates more InterPlay in your region!” Possibilities might include:

¨      Pay a stipend to a regional organizer to coordinate publicity and plan InterPlay events

¨      Provide scholarship support to up-and-coming leaders to lead new classes and build bridges between cultures, groups, and generations.

¨      Pay an organizer who is inspired to start an InterPlay project in a homeless shelter or at-risk youth program or prison.

¨      Organize InterPlay performances-on-behalf-of, offering the gifts of stories, dances and songs at a benefit event or outreach performance.

If you don’t happen to live in one of these cities, but you share the passion for InterPlayful ways of changing the world, let us know! We would be happy to hear about your specific interests and support ways to friend and fund raise the InterPlay way in your community.

Want to see what’s happening in some InterPlay communities across the country? Read great connection stories by clicking here. Check out websites for Seattle, Raleigh, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Asheville, Australia, Brazil and On Facebook:  India on Facebook, The UK. The Midwest. If I missed your page or site let me know!

Thanks for creating artful and life changing connections that weave the world we like to live in –


P.S. – Remember to Count Your InterPlay Connections here. It only takes a few seconds. It’s “international group noticing” – noticing together how many creative connections we’re making, and how that’s affecting our lives and our communities.

Don’t tell Mom I’m just playing?

May 8, 2011

Don’t tell Mom that I’ve gone public with my testimony about her brave, beautiful journey of dancing with Alzheimer’s on my other blog, Mystic Tech. Here’s the link. I’m proud that InterPlay offers ways to uplift our community members who suffer with dementia, depression, and other d words. We’re more than a disease, we’re dancers.

Don’t tell Mom that little by little I’ve learned that I don’t have to work so hard. Mom works hard even with Alzheimer’s. Nap? Naaaaaa. Fortunately, she always told me to do what I love. Thanks Mom! I am working on it!

Don’t tell Mom that I broke the secret pact that gives her dibs on being the only good cook in our family. Turns out that I wrote a cookbook for the heart, What the Body Wants: InterPlay. It’s full of recipes for the secret sauce, chewy morsels, and creamy centers of life. O.K., it’s not an actual cookbook. I’ll never cook a meal like you, Mom.

Don’t tell Mom about the other Mother’s: Mother Earth, the Great Mother of us all, Mother Death, and the Mom in me. Tell her, though, that She Alone is mother of my dancing heart. I love you Mom.

I wish I could tell Mom

• that InterPlay got a $25,000 county grant for innovations in mental health to work with Homeless Seniors and how Phil is leading the team that is offering that program through 2012.

•  that I am off to England to lead the first Arts and Social Change: Secrets of InterPlay and that my sister and I get to visit her ancestor’s villages.

• about meeting and mentoring young artists from the US, Australia, India, South America, and Rwanda who are signing up for InterPlay’s Arts and Social Change Next Gen program

or that granddaughter #1 got her first paid gig as a makeup and hair artist, and that granddaughters #2 and #3 are equally gorgeous, smart and about to graduate from 9th and 12th grade.

Mom would probably nonchalantly say, “As long as you’re all happy,” cuz a good mom knows she did her job if her offspring find happiness.

I AM HAPPY with a plus sign. I AM AWAKE, ALIVE, LOVED and AN ARTIST, teaching others how to play, find ease, and create a good life. Thanks, Mom(s)!

Inner Peace

April 25, 2011

The magic of the soul is spontaneous. Inner peace arises from this source. We may only need to rest in silence, plant a flower, let breath give way to song, or give our heart flight in dance.

Mystics and sages have said all along– “If you let this presence settle in your bones, and allow the soul freedom, to love, to dance, to sing, to praise, there will be inner peace today.” Teresa of Avila

I am grateful to Amanda and LAVA for bringing Teresa of Avila’s words to us. We stood in a circle with them at InterPlayce holding light and drinking in this song. Find out more about LAVA touring from New Zealand and their new CD “Dream Love Dare” at MySpace.

Peace to you. Know that if you dance, sing, praise, love, you do it for more than yourself. You are a pulse in the Great Heart felt by everyone.

How to Dodge Suffering When It’s Toooo Much!

April 11, 2011

When Penny Mann had breast cancer she got tired of noticing everything. She was known as the queen of savoring but chemotherapy ruined it. Pain sucks. She needed to leave pain alone. Noticing and exformation didn’t help.  She needed new practices. Reflecting with her, I saw her move her center to a spot above her body.

Dissociation has a place! Personally, I believe it’s a wonderful part of body wisdom. When is it the right time to distance yourself? Detach? Distract? Die to the moment to get back your life? We humans have amazing tricks up our unconscious sleeves for dealing with hard stuff.

Recently, my athletic seventy nine-year-old dad was clearing a mountain trail when he took a bad fall downhill. When he “came to” he had a banged up face and NO memory of the fall. How cool is that? His body’s grace program eclipsed the trauma saying, “No need to remember that!” When friends found him they fed him a piece of homemade pie and drove him home “just to be safe.” Home safe! Hallelujah!

In InterPlay we spend time remembering the great things about being in a body. We reintegrate body, mind, heart, and spirit, and attach velcro to grace experiences. We remember how to sing, dance, speak freely, be still, and intimately connect to the real world. Joy awakens and thrives as we relax our fixer-upper mentalities and, like children, delight in creativity.

Many of us suffering from depression, disease, physical or interpersonal pain, get relief and learn the secrets of what our body wants, simple hungers too easily overridden in this mechanistic era. Communal creativity boosts energy, leavens suffering, and then gives us pie and a ride home, too.

But sometimes suffering is still too much. What then? How sensitive are you? What are your limits for dealing with suffering?

To somatically embrace the world is not the only choice for consciously embodied people. You might need to know when to dim your somatic lights, pull back from political and social banquet tables and “drop connection” as an act of faith in something greater at work. You might need to focus on beauty even during the horrors. It might even be your great service.

Eastern religions address suffering with practice-able tools. Recognizing that “suffering exists,” the Buddha found meditation to be a prime way to alleviate rather than resist suffering. Yogi’s, Tibetans, ascetic monks and indigenous shamans give lifetimes to the body’s hidden wisdom using it to intervene on behalf of the suffering of others.

In InterPlay we use moment-to-moment practice-able ways that allow us to play with breath, moving or voice to activate kinesthetic imagination. With conscious intention we can

shift beyond our immediate body and grow big as spirit,

momentarily pull or shake pain out of our body,

shift attention  onto something other than our suffering,

get all the way in our body using breath and grace-makers,

cultivate enjoyable trances other than pain trances.

As a sensitive body with low-grade depression, I use numerous tricks to function well: service to others, laughter, celebration, dimming and relaxing my sensations, telling my village the truth about how I’m doing, getting sleep, seeing a doctor, massage, taking medications, eating well, getting absorbed in art-making, asking or help and feedback.

And, in the long run, I honor, and dance with many unavoidable sources of suffering, the d words: death and dying, disaster, depression, decay, disease, disability, dread, despair, disorder, diagnoses, drugs, drunks, danger, downers, and darkness to name a few.  I’ve learned it doesn’t work for me to disguise my underlying malaise. Talking about this with my husband, a hospice chaplain, we created this limerick.

“The feeling you don’t want to feel

feels like falling into an abyss.

You don’t want to feel it

because YOU can’t heal it.

And that’s the way it is…”

To this end, I am powerlessness. Accepting that I can’t play with it all and survive, I am grateful to belong to something bigger, wherever two or more are gathered and serve pie. I am glad for my grounding in a sense of a higher power that holds me in the Great Web even when disaster strikes.

Do you suffer? Step one is to learn to suffer just enough that you don’t make it worse. Step Two: Learning that you are not asked to suffer to your own detriment. You are not asked to revisit past sufferings to get better, or to forcefully revisit past suffering on others. You are not even asked NOT to suffer.

You are not required to walk on rocks or bear unnatural burdens. You may do all of this. but it is not required. You and I are only asked to be wise, to care for each other and ourselves, and as we can create life.

Life wants to play us, even after earthquakes, in prison, and when we lose everything. While we are still here, we can find ways to alleviate suffering, starting with our own. Sometimes we use the great tools of detachment and dissociation. It’s the wisdom of the body.

Come InterPlay, even if you feel lousy, especially if you feel lousy. And if that’s too much, let us know and we’ll dance on your behalf!  Leave me your thoughts about how you dance with suffering.

For more thoughts on the soft side of body wisdom visit me at Mystic Tech: Things that They Didn’t Teach in Sunday School, Temple, or PE.

Improvising at the Gate of Disenchantment

March 28, 2011

Spirit must be shaking a great rattle over us.  Each day I see us all as a little more naked. If we get lucky and practice, our shakes, falls, losses, and groans are still accompanied by laughter.  Creativity won’t fail us.

On the other hand, it is a time of great disillusionment. While some institutions and dreams lose their appeal, those who improvise ride each wave as it rises, breaks and disappears. Going, going, gone.

You can only play with what is right there. And how will you play? Can you?

Disenchanted with Life? Yourself? Your People?

Welcome to the Gate of Disenchantment.

The Gate is open

Do you knock?

What did you seek?

Payment of debt?

A wind of mercy?

A happy life?

A friend?

A noble purpose?

A badge?

A faithful following?

A kiss from God?

And no one listened?

No answer came?

All recommended paths

led nowhere wonderful?

Disenchantment is your gate

Giving up turns on a long exhale

after all the bad news you can take.

At breath’s end

a new unknown faces you

where enchantment waits

with its three conditions

empty heart

clear mind

courageous love

Take a deep breath in….

Help for Shaky Days

March 21, 2011

InterPlayers know how to create connection. We also know how to drop connection. We know how to stop. We know how to take a deep breath, shake things out, and connect way beyond words. We know how to come back to own body, create health and by doing so create health in the world.

It’s not an easy time to be embodied. These are shaky times in New Zealand, Japan, the East, the Midwest, the Middle East, perhaps in our own homes, or towns.

Having lived through great quakes, I know that it will take many, many days of stories, dances, songs, and connections to regain ease.

We “are” the times we live in.

I have a crazy belief. I believe that I have been prepared for this time. I am not saying I am ready. But I am grateful to be equipped, to be open, and to join with people around the world who recognize that great shifts require that we get close to the ground, take care, find strength, and respond as we are able.

Toward this end, the Hopi send us their inspiring far-sighted encouragement.

Encouragement also come via Rita Nakashima Brock, Japanese American Protestant theologian who, in this weeks sermon, shares the strange comfort she received from Tyler Boudreau who served 12 years in the U.S. Marine corps and commanded a rifle battalion in Iraq. She says, “He is someone well acquainted with death, moral ambiguity, and the agonies of grief. He sent me the song called “Requiem,” by Eliza Gilkyson.”

Mother Mary, full of grace, awaken

–all our homes are gone, our loved ones taken,

taken by the sea.

Mother Mary, calm our fears, have mercy

–drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy.

hear our mournful plea.

our world has been shaken,

we wander our homelands forsaken

–in the dark night of the soul

bring some comfort to us all.

O Mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace

that our sorrows may be faced

–Mary, fill the glass to overflowing.

illuminate the path where we are going

have mercy on us all

in fun’ral fires burning

each flame to your myst’ry returning

in the dark night of the soul

your shattered dreamers, make them whole,

O Mother Mary find us where we’ve fallen out of grace,

lead us to a higher place

in the dark night of the soul

our broken hearts you can make whole,

O Mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace,

let us see your gentle face, Mary

The Mother. For the last two years in India, of all places, I opened my heart directly to the Great Mary, asking her to pray for all of us, to pray when we cannot pray.

We need all of our practices, current and ancestral in shaky times. Many are scared. Many rise, responding with”tsunami’s of grace.”

Oliver Chricton, North Carolina InterPlayer admires Yoshiaki Kato, his teacher in the spiritual practice of Johrei. He says, “Yoshi was in Arizona meeting with Dr. Andrew Weil when the earthquake struck. He returned home shortly after. He’s now leaving his wife and children in Tokyo where there are blackouts, shortages and daily “shakes” to go into the north (to Sendai) with other Johrei practitioners to bring much-needed food and supplies, hope and healing”

Oliver says, “I am inspired by his perspective, compassion and pull to help even as he risks his own health and life. “Johrei” means to purify with Light. As Yoshi reminds, the people in the devastated areas in fear and worry are already full. We can acknowledge their fear and worry, but do not want to create more fear to add to theirs. We have the important role, spiritually, to generate and return to the place of gladness and joy.”

When the body shakes, it is good to create stability. It is also OK to shake with it. Shake and shake it out.

It is wise to stay simple in chaotic circumstances. Never underestimate the body’s need for reassurance. Your play, creativity, inventiveness, ritual, prayer, and community are needed. If you are learning to improvise, to do the unforeseen, it is a good time to know that resources can be found, nothing stays the same, grace remains.

Blessings for InterPlayers in the US, for Nadia traveling home to Brazil, in Vietnam, India, Australia, the UK, Europe, Malawi, all of us scattered far and wide, shaking or still.

Heard About Sheila?

March 14, 2011
I would never ever call Sheila Collins a senior, except that her wisdom, clarity, and courage in InterPlay and life reveal unsurpassed wisdom. She’s one of the world’s grandmothers whose purpose is “to dance with everything.”

It’s true, Sheila has InterPlayed almost as long as Phil and me. When we met her and Rich Citrin, her equally playful, smart husband, they ran a counseling center in Texas. She’d left academia and written a book, Stillpoint: The Dance of Selfcaring, Self Healing having already performed in film, onstage, and with a Jewish Dance Community.  She’d played along side famous and ordinary teachers, served on boards, won grants, amassed expertise, and never stopped dancing even when two children died from AIDS and breast cancer. (Read more in What the Body Wants.)

Sheila could have done anything. Her vitae is intimidating, although she never once intimidated me. Why did she look at my picture on a bulletin board on that flyer about Body Wisdom and call me up.

Her belief in InterPlay flies beyond love of creativity or call to offer healing.  Sheila knows that our arts are the best way to promote “noble causes.” The arts move us into action. We become the thing we desire and can no longer suppress our desire for it. Her life and role are visionary.

In Texas, Sheila helped bring InterPlay to women in prison and prison to women on the outside. Now in Pittsburgh, she leads an intergenerational performance group, Wing and a Prayer, that takes InterPlay to after school programs, seniors, hospitals, multicultural gatherings, therapist groups, universities, stages, and intergenerational community centers. With her, InterPlay Pittsburgh has fostered a vibrant community of colleagues, male and female leaders of organizations, non-profits,  classes and religious communities, who now share an artistic language that bridges cultures and religions. Just play?

Last week journalist Margaret Smykla wrote a fantastic story in the Post-Gazette about ways that the Pittsburgh InterPlay group is teaching adults to play again using music and storytelling to promote healing, self-discovery, and change. Link to it here.

Sheila serves on the Body Wisdom board and supports InterPlayce. She remodeled and shepherds the InterPlayce five star condo that functions both as vacation rental and InterPlayer landing spot.

She blogs, shares a newsletter, plans to publish a new book, and has begun her next InterPlay Life Practice Group because it is the most powerful thing you can do or teach. I am pretty sure she stays up some nights thinking of how to support InterPlayers and has a couple of great ideas moving though her.

Sheila is dancing everywhere with EVERYTHING! That is why I am dedicating next Friday’s participation in global Dance Anywhere Day to Sheila!

Thanks for inspiring us and showing us the way to InterPlay every day!

To participate in Dance Everywhere Day March 18th see http://www.danceanywhere.org/event/140

8 secret powers useful when change is afoot (no pun intended)

February 28, 2011

Phil Porter, Cynthia Winton-Henry photo: Carly Rosin

Somewhere in the midst of improvising with body and soul, listening to life, and honing 26 core InterPlay practices Phil Porter performed 8 of our key tools as a set. We were in North Carolina at the beach. He got up in front of thirty folks and the 8 tools flew out in a fun, powerful, body intellectual lecture in Phil’s inimitable style! Today, wherever people lead the life practice program these 8 tools form the foundation, the bones of InterPlay. When change is afoot they help us navigate.

Noticing any changes in the world?

The 8 tools are part of a larger set of 26 core elements. When people think of InterPlay they often reference forms like sighing, shaking, Babbling, Hand-to-Hand Contact, the Warm-up, Walking, Stopping & Running, One-Hand Dances, Toning, and one breath songs. Yet, it’s the 8 tools that are the backbone organizing our beautiful, brainy beings to be able to amplify and enjoy embodied thought, movement, breath, voice, speech and connection. What are they?


1) Easy Focus or… how to lighten a stifling, serious look on life.

2) Body Data, Body Knowledge, Body Wisdom or how to catch  on to what’s right under your nose.

3) Internal/External Authority or how to honor your knowing even when you can’t articulate it.

4) The Physicality of Grace, or how to become a grace operative, amplifying what brings healthy energy in a crazy world.

5) Exformation, or how to find and let loose the wisdom inside you in creative, easy, and mind-blowing ways.

6) Incrementality or how to be an overnight success by being in your body, taking a step at a time, and celebrating more.

7) Body Wisdom Practices (aka Spiritual Disciplines), or how to use fun, ingenious practices to have more of what you want.

8) Affirmation. Affirmation. Affirmation or, how affirming others makes a world of difference.

On the printed page these 8 tools are just words. It’s when you actually play with them on a body level that they make sense. Would you be shocked that this is the stuff that 1000 graduates have found encouraging, helpful, and life changing?! Nothing replaces doing InterPlay and joining the real web for which your body was designed.

If you are curious to know more about the 8 tools, leave a comment and we’ll send you a free pdf of Phil’s book, Having It All: Body Mind Heart and Spirit Together Again At Last.

Readers say: “Master-teachers Porter and Winton-Henry have discovered a new way of “being” in the world. This book is foundational in an understanding of the philosophy which they both teach and live. I recommend it to anyone seeking greater integration and wholeness in their lives.”

“Phil outlines exactly what it takes to “heal the split” between body, mind and spirit. I have followed these suggestions, and they really work. For those of you who are looking for ways to improve and/or heal your connection with yourself and others, this is truly a winning way to go.”

Or, better yet, get thee to a Life Practice Program, now in its 17th year. If you did it ages ago, come again. Long time InterPlayers revel in the new developments and the price break. In the next few months the Secrets of InterPlay and the Life Practice Program will come to MN, Kansas, the UK in May, and to Oakland for Next Gen Leaders 18-30. The secrets are out! Come play. Change is afoot.


February 14, 2011

Valentine Image from Janie Oakes




I can’t help it! It’s Valentines Day. I am raising hand and heart to all of you.
Treat yourself to this inspiring Valentine from Wing It! musician Suzanne Cimone. Love is Everywhere! (See Theron and Elizabeth Wedding Dance!)

InterPlay is being offered in new communities and agencies thanks to you. We just received a 25,000 Alameda County Innovations in Mental Health grant to share InterPlay with Oakland’s Homeless Seniors. Woo hoo!

All it takes is ONE HAND, ONE BREATH, ONE WORD, ONE BODYSPIRIT AT A TIME who is willing to play from the heart.
ONE HAND! today means more. It seems our logo connects to A Greater Hand.

Anne Alexander, University of Cambridge reported, “During the big “Day of Departure” protest in Tahrir Square last Friday, Coptic Christian protesters made a human chain around their Muslim brothers and sisters as they performed the noon prayers.

Two days later, “Martyrs’ Sunday” was celebrated by Egyptians of both religions as an affirmation of national unity in struggle. On that day, a crowd had gathered in front of a sound system by the Mogamma government building on the eastern side of the square.

A man in a jacket began to speak as chanting died away. “He was someone from the church, a priest,” someone in the crowd told me.

I was told: “We are all in this together. Muslims and Christians.” Other people were listening and nodding. “One hand, one hand,” the crowd roared. This time they were not talking about the people and the army, as they had a few days earlier, but about Egyptian unity. Muslims and Christians: One hand.”
One Hand!

Please check the website for the upcoming Leaders Gathering, InterPlay in the UK, the Next Gen Arts and Social Change July Intensive, and events near you!

%d bloggers like this: