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.


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.


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


If I have to be “Out of Control” it may as well be fun! “InterPlay’s Expressive Arts Approach for Health and Healing”

July 19, 2010
Alice Springs, Australia: InterPlay in muddy waters.

Alice Springs, Australia: InterPlay in muddy waters.

If I have to be “Out of Control” it may as well be fun!

Can I get a nod of recognition on that? It’s from CathyAnn Beaty’s recent blog.

I’m a “Kindly, let me please control the world and make it a perfect place” freak. Why do you think I fell in love with improvisation and gave my life to it? I need a control escape hatch. What a relief to know that things work out and that when they don’t it’s somehow….OK.

CathyAnn, founding InterPlay leader from Minnesota has navigated life’s most demanding currents. How? Staying connected to Creation. She reflects,


Why DO I create?

I can’t help myself
it is fun
it is exciting
it gives me pleasure
it gives me satisfaction
it gives me a sense of being active in my own life
because I can
it gives me insight
it gives me new ideas
it keeps my brain and body active
it keeps me engaged with the world
it aids in time of change
it keeps me positive
it energizes me
it helps me to see the world in new and different ways
it companions me
it teaches me about myself
it teaches me about others
it keeps me in the present
I can give it away
it enhances communication
it gives me a sense of power in my life
it heals
it inspires me to create more

And what is all this stuff that I can’t stop creating. Dances, stories, songs, miniature books with  my littlest girlfriend Taylor( 5), collages, visual art, environments for therapists and spiritual leaders and other healers to create in, a beautiful home… the list goes on.

Having a container to create in seems to be the ticket. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, can find structure and freedom together again at last and create (play) with just about anything in the easy to do forms and principles of InterPlay. InterPlay provides me with a fun and innovative approach to being a creative force in my own life, and it helps me hold lightly the reality that I just can’t help myself when it comes to creating!

InterPlay offers an Expressive Arts Type of Approach for Health and Healing. CathyAnn will lead InterPlay for Therapists in Lafayette, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs, Colorado in September, share InterPlay with mental health specialists and clients in India, teach InterPlay for performance with InterPlay Australia cofounder, Trish Watts, October 15-17, and trains therapists and healers around the US to use InterPlay tools in self care, supervision, and work with clients. Contact Cynthia@interplay.org to learn about how to develop an InterPlay practice group for therapists, spiritual directors, or clergy in your area.


%d bloggers like this: