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.


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.

What is a body intellectual?

June 22, 2015

_DSC2261by Phil Porter
an excerpt from his book The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One

The difference between your run-of-the-mill intellectual and a body intellectual is the difference of perspective. It demands a personal voice, not a disembodied one, a voice that can come from the left hand or the hips or the heart. It makes no claims to objectivity, but wallows instead in the subjective.

In normal discourse we often use the idea of subjectivity dismissively. It’s meaning is something like, “oh, that’s your opinion (and I don’t think it’s true)” or “oh, that’s your opinion (and aren’t you being a bit emotional about all this?).” But in fact, none of us can speak other than subjectively. We are always rooted in our own particular experience, our culture, our beliefs, our values.

“Sucking It Up”

May 24, 2010

Male” and “corporate.” Those two words, used in a relatively narrow and traditional sense, can easily be used to describe many of the expectations we have of how we are supposed to behave in groups/organizations/workplaces even if our groups are neither “male” nor “corporate.”

When we gather, we’ll be all business. We will be prompt, we will get our work done, we will be efficient and then we’ll be on our way. We will remain buttoned up and battened down.

Actor Daniel Craig Crying (Subtly)

Actor Daniel Craig Crying (Subtly)

And if we have any experiences that fall outside the perceived realm of propriety, we will shove them aside and we won’t let on. We will suffer (or rejoice) in silence.

This is called “sucking it up.”

Now, I think it’s sometimes helpful to be able to reign in my emotional life, to control impulses, to appear calm even when I’m  nervous. But I also know that denying those experiences—pretending that they don’t exist for whatever reason—can be both harmful and unnecessary.

I also know that, in many cases, when those sorts of experiences are expressed/acknowledged/included in a group it is usually a good thing. It releases stress, it taps the power of vulnerability, it opens up territories of knowing, it connects us. It is simply honest. For the individual body it is almost always better to move through an experience rather than shunting it aside. I believe that is true for the group body as well.

Take a look at your world, though. Where does the “suck it up” principle predominate? Who sets that tone? Are there places in your life where there is room for a wider range of experience? What is that like? Which sort of situations would you prefer to be in? Which feels more whole?

If we are to have body wise organizations, we simply must acknowledge the full range of human experience—mind, body, heart, spirit. This is a central piece of body wisdom  from the InterPlay philosophy. I truly believe that if we follow this wisdom, our groups will be happier, healthier and more hopeful.

Secret Body Wisdom for Managers

April 6, 2010

It is impossible to be a good manager without a full understanding of the ways that people and groups work. You may be a whiz at banking, the law, programming or widgets, but now, as a manager, you must also know about people. In another day and age, you might have used implicit or explicit threats or intimidation to get what you want out of the folks who work for you. But there are much more effective ways to get what you want from your staff—ways that decrease both your stress and theirs, that make for organizations that hum with good will and effectiveness, that bring out the best in your staff.

If there is one bit of “body wisdom” that a manager should have at their fingertips, it is that you will get the most out of your staff if you acknowledge that each person has a full range of experience—physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. It is better to include or at least acknowledge all parts than to exclude or ignore one or the other of them.

So, for example, it is “body-wise” to recognize that fear and anxiety are probably quite common experiences for the people you are working with. It is also body-wise to recognize that some of your folks may have internal resources for dealing with fear that may have come from spiritual tradition, personal reflection, therapy or other practices. (Might it be “body wise” to provide some training for your staff and how to deal with fear or anxiety? Yes, of course.)

It is also “body wise” to recognize that money may be a motivating factor for someone doing the job you want them to do, but that many if not most people are looking for other things as well—appreciation, satisfaction, a sense of service, pride, commitment, even community. How can you best use this body wisdom to better manage your staff?

What other “hidden resources” might your staff have? What abilities, ways of being, experiences, even body wisdom might you be overlooking by not acknowledging the wholeness of the people you manage? Wouldn’t you want to find the ways to get the best of your staff? Learn more about the many classes and workshops InterPlay offers to support body-wise connectivity.

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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