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.


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.

“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.


January 9, 2010

by Phil Porter

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

a hug

…this goes better with a hug

I’m needy, needy, needy. Now that I’ve got that all out in the open, maybe I can accept that at a basic body level, at a basic skin-to-warm-skin level, I need to be calmed and collected.

And I’m not the only one.

Touch is the best way to get it, but we are in a touch-suspicious time. We are starved for touch, the kind that lets us know that we are here and we are OK, or just that someone else notices us.

Too bad we don’t have the cat’s practice of licking itself all over. I’ve heard that that is more of a reassuring action than it is for grooming. In all my cat-having years, I never figured out how he kept track of which spots he had done and which needed doing and how he could reach EVERYWHERE. My cat rarely had cowlicks (if that isn’t too interspecies an expression) until he got old and couldn’t quite bend in all the weird ways he could before.

Anyway, I’m getting off the subject.

It is going to be alright.
It is going to be alright
It is going to be alright.
(This goes better with a hug, but…)
It is going to be alright.

Webs of Connections

January 6, 2010

by Phil Porter

We simply do better—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually—when we are connected to each other. We are healthier, happier and feel more secure. Work and play go better, relationships are smoother, and creativity flows more easily.

relationships as spokes in a wheel with us in the center.

We could see our relationships as spokes in a wheel.

And it is best if the connections work more like a web, rather than like the spokes of a wheel. I am connected to others, but those in my circle are also connected to each other. In a village, proximity would allow the slow buildup of the web of connections. But we don’t necessarily have those opportunities in our fast-paced, spread-out lives. We may work with others for years and never really get to know them very well on any other level. We are connected but the ties are wimpy and slack, too weak to really hold us up.

A web of relationships

A web of connections provides more support and security (and we still get to be the center of our own universe!)

InterPlay creates connections quickly and deeply, because it uses “sneaky deep” physical practices—simple things really, but done in a way that allows us to know each other in different ways. Each InterPlay event is a web-builder. I am always delightfully surprised when InterPlayers from different cities or even different countries know each other. I certainly can’t keep track of how and when they met! Additionally, I know that the fact that I am part of a circle that includes their connection is good for me as well.

Look around your life. What is the web of connections that will catch you when you fall? What connections could you strengthen with a little attention or intention? How might those connections make your life richer? Use the “comment” function below to share a connection that is particular powerful or important for you. That action in and of itself can help build the web.

Jumping Into the Pool

December 21, 2009

by Phil Porter

InterPlay can change your life in large ways or small, it just depends on which end of the pool you choose to jump into.

Because it affects all parts of our experience—body, mind, heart and spirit—InterPlay gently reorients us, gives us a new way of looking at things, provides a place where we get to know ourselves and each other. It may seem strange that the simple practices of telling stories, of moving, of using our voices can have such an effect. But these are the activities that for millenia have given people the place to explore and understand their own experiences and even more importantly to do that in community.

Pair these completely doable activities (which also, it turns out, are a lot of fun!) with some simple InterPlay tools and practices—like exformation, affirmation and incrementality—and you have a framework for exploration, revelation and transformation.

But back to the pool.

Portrait on an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), a painting by David Hockney

You can step into the shallow end—come to a class, hear from a friend, just do a little bit. It is quite possible—even from a brief foray into InterPlay—to have an experience or glean helpful information. An easy way to stick your toe in is to come to an InterPlay Free Sample at InterPlayce in Oakland, CA. They happen every first Sunday of the month from 2:00 to 3:15 pm.

You can jump into the middle of the pool—come to more classes, attend an “Untensive” retreat for a few days of InterPlaying, hang out in the community on at least a semi-regular basis. From this you will probably get more of the effects of the way that InterPlay can be life-altering. You will begin to integrate some of the practices and ideas. You will have a greater sense of connection to community which is a huge source of support and such an important element in over-all well being. Check out classes and events all over the country.

You can jump into the deep end. As you come into contact with the InterPlay community, you may notice that there seem to be some folks who are “hard core” InterPlayers. You, too, may discover that InterPlay is just the right practice for you. You may reap the benefits of being connected to InterPlayers in other parts of the country and the world. At this end of the pool, there is almost no question that InterPlay will change your life in some powerful, incremental, surprising and delightful ways. The Life Practice Program can give you the whole InterPlay picture and can help you shape the life you want to have. It is offered in several locations around the country. A program starts in January in Oakland.

So welcome into the pool, regardless of where you jump in! It’s your choice!