Stressed Bodies Don’t Learn: InterPlay in Education

March 8, 2010

I’m enjoying a yahoo discussion group on mindfulness in education. Professors are asking each other, “WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO IN THE CLASSROOM?” It seems that teachers literally use meditation and mindflness to work with students to be present, renew focus, reduce stress, learn through a more spacious physicality, and apply their learnings to their fields of study. Simply put, “Stressed bodies don’t learn.” And stress is quite a problem for students, educators, employers and employees these days.

In InterPlay, we’ve found that by emphasizing the play factor we see greater access to conection, ease, and energy. Over-efforting often fails us. Many of us are “recovering serious people” who no longer choose to sustain the out of reach expectations we had for ourselves or others. Shifting to simple practices like easy focus, noticing, taking deep breaths and letting them out with a sigh, and focusing on the physicality of grace (people places and activities that create energy), we gain easier, balanced, more joyful paths for study, life, and work. Wonder of wonders, it turns out that embodying these qualities are optimal for success. We became easier to be around. We attract learning.

Beyond the ease factor, when we widen out the behavioral path to learning, new insights spring forth! Book learning and lectures, while crucial, are slower, more mono-focused forms with limited access to diverse kinds of data. By adding other “forms” of activity we discover information inside and around us that can’t be reached or known in ANY OTHER FORM. For instance, you can only activate knowledge received in dance through movement (Susanne Langer calls movement a ” virtual realm of power.”) You can only draw on the learning implicit in story telling (history for instance) through stories. Dance can’t do that. Forms like dance and story can overlap, but they don’t replace each other’s data base. (Thank you Susanne Langer- Feeling and Form.)

A complete education would give students practical ways (ways that don’t require extraordinary talent)  to learn from diverse systems in their own body (their own body of knowledge). Different than learning to perform dance, or sing, or paint, or do drama, InterPlay grants access to five data bases of learning: MOVEMENT, VOICE/BREATH, WORDS, CONNECTIONS, and STILLNESS/BEING. Playing with InterPlay’s building blocks in each area, people around the world are harnassing and changing their energy, embracing creative exploration, releasing old patterns, coalescing new insights, building learning communities, and applying these learnings to their fields of endeavor.

If a computer program could be programmed to increase our knowledge by dancing don’t you think that we’d equip computers to dance? If we could develop computer programs that could move ideas, emotions, blockages, and even wider patterns of energy in the world, wouldn’t we?  So far only humans can activate the organic neurological, chemical fields of knowledge. Movement, voice, words, stillness, and connection are more than sensors. They are keys that unlock information to a wider web, the wisdom of the matter and energy (the body) in which we participate. Our ancestors had an intimate connection to this web. Similarly, InterPlay is helping people reconnect to embodied avenues of inquiry by staying simple and opening the door to diverse experiences.

Embodiment is not mindless or difficult. A human body is like a needle. Cognition is the eye of the needle and our ever changing experience is the thread. Cognitively aware and choiceful in mindbodyheartspirt thought and reflection is a vital aspect of embodiment as we sew the next pattern and create our life.

The simple tools of InterPlay are opening doors to learn about self, others, and the world. Students at all lifestages discover that they know things and want to share their knowledge in fresh, exciting ways that stimulate the curiousity of peers. Even more remarkable? This can happen in a matter of hours or days. Professor Diana Trotter marveled at athletes and other students when she used InterPlay in her January session public speaking class. InterPlay made a lot more than public speaking possible! Watch this video of Diana speaking about her class.

Stressed bodies don’t learn. But neither do bored bodies. Give students an interactive role and learning just happens. Would it surprise you to know that the majority of people are not stuck in their head? Most of us already learn through experiences. I am looking forward to InterPlay leaders who will open doors for other educators to learn the best practices of this approach.

PS. I love Gretchen Wegner’s blog about InterPlay, Education etc. Lots of cool links there.

I am also celebrating Courtney Goto’s successful Emory University doctoral dissertation defense using InterPlay as a practice for formation and spiritual development. Go team!

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