InterPlay, Meditation, and Mindful Leaders

May 15, 2016


C5817C0E98DC408FBB951D954C0F01D8.ashx“Stillness is our friend.”

Phil Porter was the first to say it in InterPlay. He saw stillness create clarity in the process of performing movement. Meanwhile, most of us other movers and shakers let him have his way as we worked on it.

As time went on many of us realized that stillness is more than a skill. It’s a gateway for deep witnessing. It offers us an unconditional creative home in oneself where nothing is required, yet many things can happen.  It is a route to peace in community practice.

This is why stillness is one of the five freedoms we teach: freedom of movement, voice, speech, stillness, and connection. In InterPlay today you are likely to enter stillness and silence through movement, voice, and telling stories. In cases where a meditation teacher is leading, you may find yourself moving from sitting practices into new areas of embodied play, joy, and freedom through InterPlay practices.

Cynthia Winton-Henry, one of the founders of InterPlay has offered a weekly InterPlay meditative movement practice at InterPlayce in Oakland, California since 2004. This practice includes a gentle warm up accompanied by music that guides people to move and listen to the wisdom of their body in their movement, stillness, breath and voice. This may last from 10-20 minutes. After this other forms are introduced that focus on and encourage us to claim our body wisdom in life. The session concludes with a brief time for noticing and reflection.

A favorite form in InterPlay is Shape and Stillness. This practice invites people to move from shape to shape with as much as 80 percent stillness. This allows movers to listen their own body and be attentive to those around us. Inevitably, the awareness of interconnection and beauty arise. This is one of InterPlays most successful and inclusive forms because as Eckhardt Tolle writes in the Power of Now, “To meet everything and everyone in stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe. I call it stillness, but it is a jewel with many facets: that stillness is also joy, and it is love.”

susan, jewell barbra

InterPlay’s Mindful/Bodyful Qualities

InterPlay brings a unique focus to personal and group practice by welcoming the wisdom of the body and reintroducing the ability to playfully create in meaningful ways and learn as we go.  Creativity show us that we are more than our suffering. We are alive and resourceful! Nor is artfulness dependant on special ability. It is native to all people. All one needs is willingness. Tap into this creative source and everyone is enriched. The InterPlay forms are so invitingly possible most people cannot resist this invitation once they are in the room.

Another basic InterPlay practice is to notice, usually after an activity. Noticing heightens our ability to pay attention to whatever is present. It could be big or little. Even if we can’t articulate it, that’s just fine. Noticing is different from judging. Noticing builds up an appreciative respect for our body data, the bits and pieces of experience including thoughts, feelings, memories, etc. We also notice our body knowledge, those patterns in us that we experience over time, and gratefully, our ability to choose at any given moment what we want for our own good and the good of others. We call that our body wisdom.

We use easy focus to help us lighten our focus.  Instead of grasping or analyzing things that come to our attention, we invite our vision and body into spaciousness so that we can be present to the whole of experience.

We willingly enter and investigate the improvisatory spirit of whatever is moving in and through us. As we honor experience as temporary yet meaningful we learn to savor life, let go and then open to the next new thing.The more we let go and play with each new thing the less we seem to resist our life experiences.

We honor the speed of the body. With such a great need for stillness and rest in personal and social health, slowing down, being present and finding ourselves in direct contact with the earth, immediacy of breath, thought, energy, imagination, each other, joy, sorrow and life is potent and worth it. In this our body is our greatest teacher!

InterPlay Mindfulness and Meditation Teachers

Wonderful teachers are exploring and teaching at the intersection of InterPlay and meditation. Trained to share InterPlay’s eight body wisdom tools and simple structured practices they support people to find and claim a vital nature that is responsive and true.

Kaira Jewel Lingo, a widely traveled dharma teacher shares her
Kaira-Jewel-Lingo inspiring journey into creative mindfulness and bodyfulness and  says,

I bring InterPlay into my teaching and practice of mindfulness every chance I get. On retreats or days of mindfulness or when I share mindfulness with kids in schools, it always refreshes and inspires and I see a light in people’s eyes and a bounce in their step that wasn’t there before. They are more connected to each other and to themselves and they can see life in a new and more hopeful way. There is always laughter and a sense of discovery and curiosity. It is healing in the best of ways, because it is subtle, unassuming and has no agenda except to create fun and joy. I am so grateful for the many precious moments of meaning and transformation it has brought to my life and that of so many others with whom I have shared it!

Read her honest and compelling tale here. 

KristaDancerAtBeach008(2)In the Seattle Insight Meditation Society Quarterly Newsletter Anne Trench writes about teacher Krista Harris, “Krista wants us to “come out and play” in SanghaPlay… What is that all about? we might ask. Krista, a trained facilitator in the InterPlay movement, has adapted concepts from InterPlay to help us explore Buddhist principles.”

In 2000, an incredibly vital InterPlay friend of Krista’s was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Krista pledged to create a space with fellow InterPlayers where Peggy “could dance and sing, and tell big stories about her journey with cancer.” Seeking to better understand all that was happening, Krista stumbled on a course entitled “A Year to Live,” given by Rodney Smith. During that hard year and in the years that followed, Krista discovered many similarities and complementary connections between InterPlay and meditation. The basic, well-known forms of InterPlay helped Peggy embrace death, just as the basic, known practices of meditation – being still, focusing on the breath, being with what is – were helping Krista more fully embrace life. For over ten years, Krista has been working to deepen the embodied knowledge of stillness in the InterPlay community, and she wants to bring more embodied knowledge of “play” to the SIMS sangha.   Read more here. 

AJ Johnston introduced InterPlay to her sangha in Missoula, as well as on the Eastern


Shore of Virginia, and in Berkeley. Read what people discovered here including Ria de Neeve who said,”I have touched places in my Mindfulness Practice, like Joy and Freedom, that I couldn’t access on the cushion.”

awaken agnotti susan joshSusan Pudelek is an ambassador of the Parliament World Religions and part of an ongoing Catholic Buddhist dialogue. At Awaken Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Shambala community she and Agnotti Cowie, InterPlay Millennial Liaison, led InterPlay and Deep Listening with outstanding response. The purpose was to address Chicago’s “deep roots of isolation, inequality and violence that touch every one of our lives. The power is within all of us, individually and collectively, to transform these roots with open-hearted bravery and challenge a new paradigm to emerge, grow, and flourish. That is what Awaken Chicago is all about – a weekend to be together, listen and search within ourselves for the bravery, acceptance, and compassion desired to make this historic shift.” In storytelling these leaders supported a kind of joyful witnessing where people connect story to story. 71 people did small practices like “I could talk about,” 30 seconds of telling, and much more.

Awaken InterPlay Babble for Deep Listening


InterPlayers have much to learn from these and leaders like Chinh Nyugen, Connors McConville, therapist and spiritual director, Wakoh Shannon Hickey, Professor of Religious Studies and Zen Buddhist Priest, and  Kelsey Blackwell at Shamhala Meditation Community in Oakland. They exemplify what Spirit Rock teacher Wes Nisker says,  

“In order to hear crazy wisdom, we need to somehow shut off or turn down the grinding noise of the rational, analytic gears. Crazy wisdom requires that we get at least a little bit out of our minds.”

What better way than to dance, sing, take a deep breath, and hear a good story?  Yours, mine or ours!

InterPlay plays well with other practices, mindsets, and disciplines to help to bring the whole body into play with best practices.


Radiate from the center of your universe

August 24, 2015

Excerpted from: Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual, By Phil Porter  

world-revolves-around-meI am the center for the universe!

Of course, so are you.

The universe has many centers, and from each center circles of concern radiate outward as far you can go. Our orbits intersect, overlap, and even sometimes collide.

Although it may sound self absorbed, I think we should spend more time circling around ourselves. My body is right here, I should be in it. Occasionally, I may spin out and around someone or someplace else, but if I stay there too long, I will probably get into one form of trouble or another.

Many of us live lives that are not spinning around ourselves. We may be focused on a relationship, children, a partner, a job, or even a world event that we find concerning. There will be times in our lives when we either choose or are forced to circle elsewhere—a sick child, an aging parent, a crisis of some proportion. There will be times when we send ourselves quite far out—to distant loved ones or even the divine. But if we are gone for long from our centers we will suffer, and we shouldn’t be surprised.

Difficult work that requires us to be spinning elsewhere should be shared. Even if we feel called to do difficult work, we probably shouldn’t do it for long unless we also find significant ways to come back to ourselves.

Many of us have been taught to take care of others, that giving must come before receiving. We must give even if it is costly to us. We feel undeserving or self-indulgent when we receive.

In fact, there is no split between giving and receiving. Both are crucial to us as individuals and as members of community. To take care of ourselves leads us to abundance and generosity. Giving flows out of those states like a clear, cool, effortless stream.

Go boldly where few have gone before: to the center of your own universe!

Body + Spirit = Having it all

July 13, 2015

by Phil Porter
an excerpt from his book The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One

Someone in the past, long since dead, or maybe a committee of the faithful, also long since dead, decided that body and spirit were mortal enemies that could never get along.
That crowd may have just been having a bad hair day, but years of culture and language have propped up this point of view. We have even been led to believe that one mind-body-spirit-festivalis good and the other is suspect. (And you and I know which one is which.)
Where did this all go wrong?

Somewhere back there, human experience began to be divided up into neat little categories. I’m sure it was a good idea at the time. But we have mastered separation and categorization. What we need right now is to pull it all back together, to see how richly intertwined all of our experience is, to have it all together

The term “bodyspirit” reunites body and spirit—back where they belong. It helps us name the basic reality that all of our experience is physical— that we can’t have spirit without body. How would we recognize a spiritual experience unless it were a something-or-other going on in our bodies? For that matter, how would we know we were having feelings or thoughts if there weren’t some sort of experience—body stuff that we can recognize and notice (even if it is difficult to articulate)?

Thoughts, feelings, and those glimpses of a bigger reality that we call “spirit” are all physical experiences, much like any other physical sensation we experience in our bodies.

What’s your 90/10 body relationship?

July 6, 2015

by Phil Porter
an excerpt from his book The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One


My crackpot theory is that when thinking of our bodies we spend 90% of the time plotting ways to fix ourselves. We’ll go to the gym, stop eating cake, apply exotic creams, dye our hair, get new clothes, meditate more, get a tan. Unfortunately, much of it never passes the planning stage. We may never do the things we intend. Is that a good way to spend our time and energy? The other ten percent of the time we work with our limitations, even celebrate them, we build on our strengths, we seize the moment, we revel in our ability to live and love. We learn from our mistakes and turn them into triumphs, we see opportunity in chaos, we sing in the shower, we reach out and zap others with compassion and concern. Sounds like more fun doesn’t it? So here is what I suggest: reverse the percentages.

Let’s spend 90% of our time having the glorious wonder of our bodyspirits and 10% of the time trying to fix ourselves up. You don’t have to give up your self-improvement schemes entirely. There is little harm in those desires and sometimes they even pay off. But meanwhile, you can have so much more than you can imagine. Within any of our perceived limitation resides and infinite range of possibilities. They may not be the same set of options that you had 10 years ago, but they are still endless. Even if you are seriously limited by some sort of big body deal there is so much potential waiting to burst forth. How do you do it?

  • Look for the good. Celebrate your gifts, your accomplishments, your relationships, your small and large triumphs. Notice them in others if you find it difficult to name them for yourself.
  • Notice what creates energy and grace in your life. Have more of it. Put yourself in the settings that give you a sense of liveliness, peace, ecstasy or whatever it is you desire.
  • Open your circle of concern. Look past your own body spirit. Pay attention to the wonderful gifts around you. So much of the joy of living has to do with relationship. And when we can include others in our circle it immediately widens our own possibilities.

This would be a good beginning in the process of percentage reversal.

Is it time to bathe in grace?

June 29, 2015

Excerpted from: Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual, By Phil Porter  

If you knew what stress felt like in your body, you could probably name the physical experiences that signal this charming, here-it-comes-again-all-too-soon experience. But you don’t experience stress, now do you?

Shimmering-shores-of-Vaadhoo-Maldives-768x512What if we imagined another state that was the opposite of stress–a shimmering-water, skin-tingling, open-hearted, melted-chocolate-on-figs sort of experience. What would that feel like in your body? What if we were to snatch a word that is as happy in the world of dance as it is in the world of spirit and call that experience “grace.” A bit presumptuous, yes indeedy, to pull this oft-used, sometimes misunderstood noun and slather it on the body of our physical experience.

Presumptuous yes, but surprisingly easy.

You have it already in your life, I’m sure. You may have slightly different words to describe it—peaceful, calm, centered, energized, easy, amused—but you have it. What would happen if you were to pay more attention to that experience, to notice where you were, what you were up to, who else was nearby. What if you were to do those things, be with those people, go to those places more often?

I’ll tell you what—you would be happier, healthier, more whole.

Stress can do some interesting things to us. It can rev us up, get us going, spark new ideas. But it is hard on our bodies
and fails as a long-term strategy unless you want to be exhausted, shaky, and frazzled. IT’S A BEAR! That’s when stress is really helpful. Run like crazy! But our lives today are more like this: IT’S A BEAR! IT’S A BEAR! IT’S A BEAR! IT’S A BEAR! Way too much stress. It can really wear you down.

Grace builds up the body. Not to mention making us easier to live with.

Signs that you may need some InterPlay

February 9, 2010

by Phil Porter

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you might could use some InterPlay!

Would you like to be around people who will look for the best in you?

Could you use some support in getting the things you want in your life?

Do you want to have more fun in healthy ways?

Is the stress of your life wearing you down?

mister stress-o-matic person could use some InterPlay

mister stress-o-matic person could use some InterPlay

Do you find yourself consumed with fulfilling the needs of others?

Are you looking for connections with others?

Would you like to get some attention for yourself?

Do you want to be less “in your head”?

Would you like to be around people who are willing to both laugh and be deeply moved?

Is your creative side yearning for some expression?

Do you wish you had more confidence in yourself?

Would you like more contact with others that feels safe?

Would you like to get to know some new people?

Are you dealing with a change in your physicality that you are having trouble adjusting to?

Are you tired of words, words, words?

Do you need to relax for a bit?

Does your spirit need to be refreshed or renewed?

Do you feel like you want the benefits of meditation, but you can’t or don’t want to sit still?

Do you learn best through movement or other activity?

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