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!

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admitted we were powerless…

June 13, 2011

Ever been in utter overwhelm, down-on-your-knees-I-give-upness? You may have discovered that the first step is to admit it.

I am always glad when I get to that place. Why? Because spaciousness soon follows.

I don’t know about you but I find a lot of life overwhelming. National budgets for instance. The weather. My inherited privileged position. Parenting. Being parented. Cooking dinner. Insidious nonverbal messages which tell me to eat more, do more, buy more and to feel bad when I do. Crazy. Over the last few weeks I admitted it. “I am deeply disturbed.”

Yet, body wisdom has other advice. There is another way. Slow down, touch stillness, rest, and if  lucky get with people with arms wide open to mystery, people who sing or dance with abandon to remember who they really are, or at least readily admit they are not in charge. When this happens answers can arrive without force.

Can we do something like this on a wider collective level, welcome that spaciousness that begins with admitting and opening the body to something greater?

We need to allow room for it. It won’t come with a 5 year plan. Oddly, it comes most quickly when we “hook up” our strangely wonderful dance-song-spiritbody.

Yeah, this still surprises me, too. They get it in India. But, it’s a hard sell in a country founded by super serious guys who tried to talk, write, and decree everybody be free the same as them, with NO DANCE on Sundays.

The body knows best how to get to greater wisdom. That is why Phil and I cooked up the InterPlay Secrets of Effective Groups: “bodies, not machines.” When groups can shake out some rampant expectations, take some deep breaths around the fury of activity, learn what the body wants, and let it communicate– we see something new. Most of the time they don’t even have to dance to see it.

How do I know? I watch and listen to the body. People feel better. They start to like each other. In their powerlessness, space opens. They get some power back.

Phil and I will share the Secrets for Effective Groups in Oakland and also in Berkeley at the Pacific School or Religion this summer. When we are in your area we’d love to share them with your work or community.


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)!


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


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 www.anitabondidesigns.com or www.mandaladesignworks.com

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.


The Wedding of Lives

September 14, 2009

Have you seen that great InterPlayful video with the guys and gals dancing down the aisle? As far as I know Jill and Kevin and their gang are NOT InterPlayers, but I think we should make them honorary ones! Anybody know them?

Cynthia and Stephen Winton-Henry

Thirty years ago, September 8th, 1979, Stephen and I danced right in the middle of an outdoor ceremony to a violin playing a tune from Fiddler on the Roof. Our “I do’s” were spoken under a willow tree. A homemade banner hung over the pool that said, “Together we jumped into a pool that wasn’t there until we jumped.”  Improv, here we come. Sure, sometimes it’s felt like we were in over our heads. Commitment, that never-ending dance of step-step-steppin’, has been hard, easy, rewarding and demanding. It turns out that hanging out with Stephen is one of the best things I do. He is good for me and to me.

Thirty years ago, Phil and I also began dancing together. Members of Body and Soul Dance Company, one of the first dances we shared, choreographed by Judith Rock, was called “Covenant.” Appropriate. Covenant is what you do when you choose to keep faith with a person or group. Covenant requires all of us. With unspoken promises from our hearts, our thirty years accumulated without a marriage. But anyone who has watched us dance remarks on the unique wedding of our lives. Covenanting and choosing to work together is not something we planned. It was gifted to us by each other and by some greater dream that asked us to create, serve, love, and inspire. Either that or we are just insanely obstinate.

This coming weekend InterPlayers Theron Shaw and Elizabeth Mendana start their marital journey. InterPlayers Randall Mullins and Sharon Pavelda will preside. Let’s wish them all the blessed anniversaries they can stand.

P.S. Did you dance during your wedding? Let me know about it. Want to know how InterPlay supports relationships? Share your story and I’ll spread the good news.
P.P.S. Happy Anniversary, Stephen and Phil.


Many Hands, Light Work

August 12, 2009
Cynthia Winton-Henry hand-dancing with young girl

Cynthia Winton-Henry hand-dancing with young girl

Nika Quirk, the president of the national InterPlay Board of Directors, stood before us. She said, “I was raised in Pennsylvania Dutch country. I grew up hearing the saying, ‘Many hands make light work.'” Last weekend regional InterPlay leaders and national board members gathered in North Carolina. A powerful intention was materializing: to celebrate the 20th anniversary of InterPlay this fall, we began dreaming of 20 MORE!

We had just tested a new InterPlay Community Development Tool Kit workshop with overwhelmingly positive response. We also heard how InterPlay was transforming our own lives and the lives of others through dozens of organizations in the US and other parts of the world with folks of many cultures and generations. InterPlay’s simple tools are unlocking body wisdom and increasing connections, two vital needs in a time when innovation and cooperation are urgent.

The entire world is connected. The question is, “How can these connections flourish and be as productive, energized, and joyously sustainable as possible?” InterPlay has many ideas.

The phrase “light work” can be taken a couple of ways. Many hands may also make “lightwork.” The InterPlay logo we adopted last year is a hand with a spiral springing from a heart, an ancient universal symbol for humanity’s power to make things, heal, bless, and greet one another. Hand-to-hand and heart-to-heart actions teach us the power of being light-hearted, how to release and alleviate burdens, and provide collective muscles and bones for common dreams.

In impossible times, the wisdom of “many hands make light work” is even more valuable. InterPlay is a dream whose time has come.

We’ll be sharing the dreams of the InterPlay community and how we can collectively give them wings in the next few weeks. Stay tuned. MORE is to come and as always in InterPlay…MORE will be revealed.


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