Improvisation is a Divine Love Thing

July 25, 2011

I spent the weekend in New Mexico with Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault learning about soul-stirring, heart opening, divine love in real people. How we find the real deal.

In ancient practice three actions lead to Great Love. 1) Let go. 2) Deeply welcome life. 3) In singular fullness, unite with self, other, all.

It hit me. Improvisation is the discipline of letting go. And, it’s hardest when we’re scared, stressed, or upset. In other words, most of the time.

But an improviser loves to play with life and ride it into the big “YES!”  An improviser will gladly flop if the payoff leads to making love with creation. This is why InterPlay is my playground, discipline, and where I feast on love for life.

Clinging is the opposite of letting go.  I need both dynamics to be human, but to get to Love, InterPlay sets up practices that build confidence in the flow of our own voice, moves, stories, connection, and self understanding. Incrementality!

Adult play gives us a “safe enough” place to follow and go with the materials of experience until we can do it for longer periods with all we encounter, even death. We discover we are alive, powerful, and that we are having fun!

In community we get strong enough to merge with a greater field that helps our social body heal from the bumps of daily life. What does this look like? A dance. A song. Drumming. A community sharing the quiet. When we point toward Something Bigger we touch ecstasy. Peace, joy, hope, laughter, tears return.

What is your discipline for letting go? Do you practice as a mover, a teller, a person with voice, breath and stillness?  Is it fun?

What if peace-making required more lovers and fewer problem solvers? Would you know how to play into love?

Are you ready for the disciplines of this strange age: learning to improvise and love? Come InterPlay! Maybe you are called to come learn lead it!

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)!

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.

Social Capital

January 21, 2010

This week’s post is written by Theron Shaw, Director of Development.

I made an investment yesterday. Actually, I just added some capital to an asset that I’ve been building for some time now. And I’ve noticed a funny thing – I’m often tempted to spend out of that “fund,” and whenever I do, it just ends up being worth more.

“How can I get an investment like that?” you ask…

Well, my investment yesterday was that I took two ginger pumpkin scones and three little bags of gingerbreadman-shaped doggy treats (one for Ace, one for Blanca and one for Mina the German Shepherd) to our neighbors down the street. It was an investment of social capital, and I’ve been working on that investment since we moved here a couple years ago when I began to stop and talk to them and their three dogs anytime I walked past their house. The social capital there is my relationship with these neighbors, whom I love to talk with and whose dogs say enthusiastic (albeit noisy) hello’s to me every time I walk by.

Social capital is defined as the collective value of all “social networks” (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (“norms of reciprocity”). Robert Putnam said it well in his book Bowling Alone Americans are bowling more than ever before, but not in leagues – people are bowling alone.

And social capital is a fascinating kind of capital, because unlike the capital in your bank accounts (aka “dollars” or “Yen” or “pesos”), the more you spend it, the more it’s worth. The less you spend it, the more it loses value. The more I rely on my neighbors to water my plants while I’m gone, the stronger our connection. If I get too busy and don’t stop to talk with them for a year, the connection grows cold. The social capital between us has decreased.

Makes me think of that campfire song I learned as a kid… “Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away…you end up having more.”

Turns out that InterPlay is a sophisticated technology for creating social capital. When we tell our everyday stories to another person, when we do a hand-to-hand dance, when we stand in a circle and create improvised music with our voices, we are creating social capital – connections with people around us that make our world work.

Economists and sociologists in the academic world have spent lots of time studying this phenomenon of social capital, because without social capital it’s very hard to get anything done.

Imagine if you didn’t believe that the bank was going to take care of your money when you gave it to them? That’s also known as a “run on the bank,” and usually makes headlines.

Imagine if you had to stay at the car repair shop all day while they install your new transmission, because you are afraid they might steal your car if you left the premises?

Imagine if you couldn’t ask your friend to water your plants while you’re on vacation because you’re afraid he might steal your computer and stereo system?

Social capital – the same kind of thing that InterPlay creates – turns out to be essential for making our basic day-to-day activities possible.

InterPlay’s Million Connections Campaign is about social capital investing. When Cynthia and I started a year ago dreaming up ideas for celebrating InterPlay’s 20th Birthday, we wanted a game to play that helps point out the intangible contributions that InterPlay makes to the world every time someone raises a hand to a partner’s hand. Imagine InterPlay connections like little drops in the “this-is-a-world-I’d-like-to-live-in” bucket. Will a Million Connections fix all the broken and painful parts of our world? No. Will they make the world a better place? Yes.

That’s why we created a place to count your connections– it’s a fun, easy-focus way to play a game together, as the global InterPlay community. It’s a game called “Let’s See If We Can Measure Just How Much InterPlay is Changing The World.” Join me – it won’t hurt at all, and your investments will be worth more! (And for the Shapers out there who have been asking “What counts as a connection?” – check out Phil’s explanation.) This is an easy-focus game – the goal is more about heightening our awareness, and the awareness of our communities, about how much InterPlay really is creating health and beauty and grace and ease in the world.

What if the Million Connections Campaign gave each of us the courage now and then to have the kinds of Connections that are most juicy, using the kinds of things we know how to do as InterPlayers?

What if you played “I could talk about” with your family members who you only see at holiday gatherings but don’t really know anything about (except that they’re kind of conservative and that’s a little Scary!)

What if you did vocal play in your living room with your friends and family – teaching them how to “start something, mess with it, and find an ending”? What if that was way more fun than playing Cranium after dinner?!?

What if you and your significant other could howl and cuss and swear at each other in a made-up foreign language, feel much better afterwards, and not have to clean up the mess of having actually said all those nasty things in English?!? (Thank you to InterPlayers Sharon Pavelda and Randall Mullins for that brilliant inspiration!)

Personally, the Million Connections Campaign has heightened my own awareness – and courage – to try some of these things.

Of course the Million Connections Campaign is about two goals – Raising $1 Million and Creating 1 Million InterPlay Connections, over the next three years. The $1 million is the fuel for this global social movement, and it is what will get us to the 1 Million Connections goal. We named this the Million Connections Campaign, because neither of these goals is worthwhile without the other. If we raise $1 Million, and haven’t created a single InterPlay connection, we failed. And we won’t be able to create those 1 Million Connections without some additional resources for training new leaders, for doing InterPlay outreach projects with new communities, and for administrative staff and resources across the country to keep everything moving.

So go out and be a Social Capital Investor!

For those of us who actually have lots of social capital in our lives – InterPlay connections, family connections, friendship connections – we are in a position to be social capital investors! Just like a venture capitalist is looking for a place to invest some money in order to create more money, social capital investors can look for a place to invest our social capital where there is the greatest hunger for connection, community, relationship. And by investing your social-capital-building efforts, you’ll end up with more than you started with! And don’t forget to tell us about your connections– it’s more fun that way!

Thanks for all the Connections you create in the world,


P.S. And for all you techno-curmudgeons out there who think that Facebook is the death knell of human connection (and I confess that I have tended to be among this curmudgeonly lot!), science has proven that Facebook is good for you!

P.P.S. I’m sure there’s a connection somewhere between social capital and helping out the folks in Haiti whose homes and cities and lives have been ravaged by the recent earthquake. If you haven’t already, join me in sending them a financial contribution through Partners in Health, an organization that has worked in Haiti for over 20 years, providing health care in some of the most remote parts of that country.


January 11, 2010

This week’s post comes from Phil Porter!

I once taught a week on “fear” using InterPlay as a way of exploring the subject. We described the physical sensations that go along with fear (body data), we noticed the things that created that response in our bodies (body knowledge) and we gathered the learnings we had about how best to deal with fear (body wisdom.)

I noticed that although I don’t consider fear to be a controlling experience in my life, I could sense the large and small fear responses that flashed through my body on a fairly regular basis. It turned out that my biggest fears (after we had eliminated some of the categories like spiders and steeply slanted sports arenas) were the fear of being embarrassed in public and financial fear (from years of being a freelancer.) I realized that I had a number of excellent strategies for dealing with fear. (I’ll have to write about those and then charge ya!)

One of the things I know is that the only way to deal with terrorism is to proceed through life with courage (which means, of course, being afraid but doing it anyway). Terrorism isn’t about harm so much as sowing fear. For one person who might be hurt, a million get scared. We can spend a gazillion bucks on the latest anti-terrorism gadgetry to try to solve the problem but then the terrorists will already have won. All they need to do is disrupt the order. They don’t even need to kill anyone, just make us think that that might be a possibility. Look how much psychic energy we’ve been using since the most recent airline incident! What a lather we’re able to work ourselves into!

Security can’t be bought. It can only be woven through relationship.

So take a deep breath and use the tools you have to quiet your fears. My guess is that you already know what to do! And, if you are still a little afraid and you need a virtual hug, click here.

InterPlayful Gift Giving

December 2, 2009

Gifts love to move. When a gift passes between one person and another a bond happens. That’s why I have notorious gift giving tendencies. Connection is too much fun!

When Anita Bondi gifted InterPlay with 100 sets of the InterPlay Inspiration Deck, a new 21 card deck and 42 page booklet based on the principles and practices of InterPlay, I immediately gifted a set to my sister. She has a great sense of humor and works hard at a corporate job and as a fun-loving mom. She emailed,  “So I brought my fun pack of round cards.  I was drawn to the Loosely and Tightly card…..I am thinking take it loosely….yeah…relax…then take it tightly….yeah….strangle it…till it can’t breathe…..back and forth back and forth…loose and tight. And then I turned the card over……Loosely and Lightly.  Aaaaah.  Ok.  No strangling involved whatsoever….interesting concept.  I am having to rethink this whole thing now….soften my grip and relax.”

InterPlay Inspiration DeckPhil and I used the deck at the Oakland InterPlay Leaders Reunion. After partners did a dance-talk on a project or concern, each person picked a card. Each card has a principle on one side (e.g. side by side), a story with character, color and symbol to bring it to life on the back (see the Virtual Friday Morning InterPlay on Nov. 20th for the story of side by side). A tiny booklet shares what InterPlay says about the tool and gives 3 “try this” exercises to use in day-to-day life. The leaders reflected on projects or concerns from the point of view of the tool they picked: witnessing, easy focus, affirmation, etc. In the group each person shared their tool and how they might apply it. Leaders loved the cards. We sold 33 sets!

Will they work for non-InterPlayers? “Yes.” Anita says, “We have people using them in doctor’s offices, hair salons, with their families.” See examples on FACEBOOK or at or

For InterPlayers or InterPlay wannabes, how ’bout an InterPlay gift certificate? We’ll send the person of your choice a gift certificate in any amount for a Body Wisdom produced event, Untensive, Life Practice Program, Training, class or workshop, and we’ll include a green feather and a “You’re one in a million” button. Call us with their name, address, and your method of payment.

Of course, we have other cool stuff. People are sharing Dance: The Sacred Art: Discovering the Joy of Movement as Spiritual Practice as a companion for anyone looking for a new way to pray, heal, or soulfully connect or to renew their passion.

You can order the Inspiration Deck, Dance: The Sacred Art, and other books and CDs from the InterPlay website.

“It’s Time!” -The Body

November 24, 2009

Think of traffic. The faster we go, the harder to avoid collision. We are many. We are diverse. Our empathy mechanisms are on overdrive.

Result? We pull back, shut down, isolate.

Kids do it. Teens do it. Family members do it. Workers do it.

Teamwork? Community? Family? Too tired, too hard, too much!

Think of the economy. “Do more with less.” Work harder for the same or less pay.

Result? Fatigue. Overwhelm. We strive for resiliency, tools, but self-help won’t fix this.

Think of school, health care, work, religion. Sit side by side. Nose in a computer. Face your teacher/Dr./Boss. Concentrate. Get the message. Individual effort and achievement = success.

Result? When we fail, we think something’s wrong with us. Leave education and religion.

Throw in trouble, mental illness, trauma. Governments, lawmakers, school administrators, insurance, and police step in, our least creative, compassionate solutions.

Result? Humans need connection, fun, inspiration, challenge, compassion and noble causes MORE THAN EVER!


In Teaching Compassion, educator Kimberly Post Rowe for the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development identifies the need to build connection in a classroom to move people from empathy to compassion.

InterPlay is twenty years old. Like a visionary, energetic young adult, its creative methods and simple ideas move people in all kinds of circumstances from overwhelm to ease, isolation to connection, and more importantly than ever, from withdrawal to compassionate engagement! A deep breath and a sigh, a quick round of naming things that we have in common, shaking out whatever we’re sitting on, bringing our fingertips together and lifting up common concerns. It’s the little things that will change the world.

InterPlay hugs Charter for Compassion

November 9, 2009

Dancing Hand to Hand in India

This Thursday a global dream will be unveiled. Karen Armstrong, after years of writing about world religions, dreams of one thing to unite us all – Compassion. Watch the video.

Once upon a time Phil and I shared a ride with Karen after teaching at an event. There is nothing like getting physically close to a person you admire. She was so human, humorous, and tired from her book tour. In the video above I saw another hero of compassion, Joan Campbell, leader in the National Council of Churches. She and I were in a huddle at a Women’s Gathering at the National Catherdral in Washington DC. On one hand she was in a phone conversation about the crises of an important middle eastern representative, on the other she helped sort out our response to an event participant whose reputed purpose was to disrupt and smear our interfaith gathering.

Compassion might be easy if we are bonded, but when we lose our social glue, compassion gets really tough. Helping diverse and even similar people bond, is a gift of InterPlay. The Charter of Compassion website says, “Compassion manifests itself in the world not by thinking but by doing.”  Doing involves more than words and smiles, it is a condition of bodies connecting.

Compassion is an act of empathy. How do we strengthen empathy, that strange merger of a respectful and wild, loving heart? Some people have a gift for this. The rest of us need help. InterPlay is a tool set that can help. Its active and creative forms allow people to use ancient practices in a new way. We bond when we move, attune in voice and body, witness, receive, and share truths in little everyday stories. To strengthen compassion, groups may need some interplay or at least a deep breath and a sigh.

Will you join in embracing the charter of compassion? Some InterPlayers might celebrate the charter in upcoming events. It’s a perfect fit with our dream of creating a million healthy connections over the next few years.

A playful connection is like gold. It registers in our body as timeless and sustaining. Even damaged relations can become golden again with such good ACTS of compassion. At this time in history that is something to get your whole body around.

Charter for Compassion website

Another Charter for Compassion video

Charter for Compassion on Facebook

5 Recommended Daily Requirements

May 18, 2009

Oh, I get it. When I’m free to move, have my voice, tell my story, receive touch and just be (hang out) its like getting the five recommended daily requirements for healthy living. I might have these things anytime with anyone. When I pet my dog, Christopher, and hang out with him on the couch I enjoy two of these health conductors. When I take a deep breath, let it out with sigh, or sing in the shower, voila, my voice fills with presence. When I hear a tune on the radio and move just because it feels good, something unlocks in my soul. When I go to a group where people take a moment to reflect and tell their truth, words become beacons of clarity. When all five of these things are moving and breathing and playing themselves out in community the effect can be… life-saving. I know because this is what happens in InterPlay. As I heard someone recently say, “I feel like I found the other half of myself.”
When I traveled to Malawi to Masankho’s village, happiness exuded from the way these five forms of human expression were intrinsic to village life. In India, too, another dancing, singing, praying, playing, storied land, people constantly transform suffering through ritual and spontaneous uprisings of healthy art. These places are rich, fertile homes of communal bodyspirit.

Our desire in InterPlay is to re-encourage people to enter the warm waters of personal and communal health. We use incremental steps and lots of affirmation to invite real moments of grace and goodness, hilarity and beauty in each other. This is so much fun and we get so much pleasure out of it many InterPlayers get spoiled. For us the artful life IS a healthy life. We don’t need to make a much bigger deal out of it than that. Gratitude results. We have our health, our movement, voice, stories, contact, and stillness, even when we struggle. Somehow when we dance and sing and speak into a welcoming stillness, the answers and reassurance we need await us.

Getting your five recommended daily requirements? Gretchen Wegner reflects on them in her blog.

If you need a booster shot…check out an Untensive Retreat on the InterPlay website.

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