Tag Archives: Interplay

Promises to Tomorrow #4: Play

The more I play today the more silt I am laying down in the river of play for tomorrow … or that is the how the logic goes in the parallel universe of compassionate imagination (thank you Phil Porter co-founder of InterPlay for sowing the seeds of these thoughts and practices with Agnotti Cowie this week). Being playful, and mischievousness break through. In this era of alternative facts, fake news and post truth brings multiple platforms to play.

Being able to laugh (even on the inside) is a way to inoculate yourself from some of the harm of the powers of evil. Satire is a gift to get through hard times – the first all Aboriginal TV show Basically Black in 1973 introduced us to Super Boong, the first Aboriginal Super Hero, it took another couple of generations before Cleverman came to our screens and breathtakingly took us all (not just one person in trouble) to a new place to save the planet (can’t wait for the next series).

Play can reveal, camouflage, inspire, transcend. Without play we don’t learn how to get along with others, build our muscles and find interesting ways to use our bodies and our brains. Play helps us find out what works, form habits and attitudes, beliefs and trust. Play is essential in our human development. Play is sometimes called the “universal language of childhood”. I will often play peek a boo with a child on public transport, even one a few rows away they usually pick it up in a few moments.

Play is too important to be left at the school gate. It gets codified into sport, or the arts as we grow older and improvisation is left to everything other than play! We improvise through the rest of our adult lives, so why not in play too! One of my favourite living poets, David Whyte says with a chuckle directing listeners and fellow poets: “just follow the instructions as if you know what I meant when I gave them to you; isn’t that what you do anyhow all the time?” I have stolen this instruction more than once when working with groups – it is liberating advice.

Playing for play’s sake and noticing the instructions embedded in the experience, allowing the body to be teacher and mind to be taught, allowing the spirit within to be released and captured in a thought not yet fully formed, to be revealed in a contemplative moment – this is the essence of an improvisation practice known as interplay.

Start in small ways …. Instead of for pity (insert your vernacular expletive here) sake – say for play sake. Next time you walk through the security screening at an airport – say Ta Da with outstretched hands or do a pirouette as you exit. Tap dance your way into a lift. Say yes and when you want to disagree and add your own layer to the conversation. Respond to an email with a made up poem. Talk in gibberish when you are lost of words.

I dip into the InterPlay well each year.  To play is a gift and one not to be taken for granted. My promise to tomorrow is to do more playing, to recognise play as a way of exercising and holding power; as a way to unlock possibilities for resistance, resilience, fun and whole-heartedness. I also promise to know and understand the power of play has inherent qualities like following and leading.

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PS:

Here is a John O’Donohue blessing for one who holds power.

And a few thoughts from past blogs

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Start Close In

Dear Sor Juana,

Waiting can bring anxiety, excitement, fear, boredom – the space between the now and what is to come is more likely to inspire me with ideas of the future than to be a student of the end game. Dreams, forecasts and the what is possible usually fill me in the waiting. Being able to imagine what is possible is always the first step.

David Whyte’s poem Start Close In  comes to me – to start with the step you don’t want to take, in the ground you know, the ground beneath your own feet. These first steps take you from the waiting to the next place. In my preamble to this poem I say: be still in the waiting and get to know the ground beneath your feet then you can start as truly close in as possible, and from this place, calibrate, settle, still and come to know what it is about that step you don’t want to take … then take it.

Sor Juana, I haven’t been able to take some steps recently to be excited, yet there is a lot to be excited about: new life, new beginnings and new territories to explore.  All dreams-in-waiting, waiting for me to take the first step. Yet I have been holding back, not wanting to get excited, reserving my self and steeling myself in case potential is not realised, or even worse perhaps is realised! How to let go and be, to stand in the space of waiting and then to take the first step towards the future (known and unknown) is not my usual predisposition.  I am mostly comfortable with not knowing what will unfold, and often eager to ride the waves and see where they take me. But recently I’ve noticed I am holding back and even at times holding on.

Coffee with Sor Juana

Coffee with Sor Juana

The call I have heard this week is to step into excitement. I found my response via midwives who came in the guise of coffee, a sixteen week child, the word “adventure” and returning to a familiar place for food and conversation. Each have invited me to take first steps to get excited and I feel renewed.   I like the idea that you too would combine science and imagination, poetry and cooking to fuel and for you the thought process, and the very definition of the self, always returns to and necessitates a body and its sustenance. To be sustained by some basics like a cup of coffee, a hug, a word and the familiarity of happy times took me this week to stillness and then propelled me to take first steps into excitement (perhaps caffeine fuelled). Each first step firmly planted in what had gone before, deep memory, deep knowledge and connections beyond time, beyond space. Where stories of childbirth became instruction for the next generation, where the brew tickled mu adrenal gland into excitement, where adventure became invitation and little hands forecasted a new role on the horizon.

I agree with you Sor Juana, in the body is where the first signs of wisdom and definition of self return are sustained. The top-up from play in my life made the ground fertile and sowed the seeds of excitement my mid wives were able to harvest this week.

Interplay: Adelaide Summer Untensive, January 2015  Photo: Trish Fairley

Interplay: Adelaide Summer Untensive, January 2015  Photo: Trish Fairley

 

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems

 

Walking, Running and Standing Still

Last week I was fortunate to be amongst some wonderful souls playing and improvising. It was good food for the body and the spirit! One of the exercises was the simple task of walking, running and standing still – surely the best metaphor for what it means to be human and to be in community and to be with yourself! I have been reflecting on this all week and taking time to run, walk and stand still and to notice when it happens naturally – like at the traffic lights or a pedestrian crossing or to get out of the rain or to catch the bus. There is a lot of walking, running and standing still in everyday life. When I am walking alongside people in the street or standing next to them while waiting to cross the road I am noticing our common quest to get to where we want to go.

In politics this week, we’ve seen some running, walking and standing still as well. When I was a candidate for election I asked people not to say I was “standing” for parliament, but rather I was “running” for parliament, because it never felt like standing! I love the fact that “to run” is an irregular verb and means that both legs have to leave the ground. So it isn’t really even related to standing, as to stand means to take an upright position or to come to stop (as well as a whole host of other meanings). And just to be fair; to walk is all about travelling, advancing at a moderate pace. These are all good advices about how to go about the day – walking, running and standing still.

I am impressed that running and walking can be done backwards or forwards (or towards or away) while standing has such a solid and sensible feel to it. In reflecting on the qualities of standing I have come to view that standing is both an act of vulnerability and courage. Ever the activist, prophet, mystic, you Hildegard have mastery over running, walking and standing still. You say: “Resist strongly. Become a tree. Just as the soul is in the body, the sap is in a tree, the soul passes through the body just like a sap through a tree (Fox,M Book of Divine Works, p275). In the stubbornness of standing still, in the flight of running and in the steady steps of walking there is a lot to offer and learn from these simple movements.

Sad, not depressed

After a series of colliding events, both professional and personal and having worn out those around me with my frustrations, and used up several boxes of tissues, I consulted a psychologist for support and advice.  That resulted in  a clinical diagnosis of reactive depression. My scores, the interview, my presentation, the length of time the events had been occurring, all supported the diagnosis.  The only problem was that while it was true, the real pathology was I was sad. Why isn’t sadness valued and honoured for what it is?

Sadness is a totally appropriate response when you are excluded, betrayed, silenced, not respected, told bad news.  The assault on the emotional self and then the corresponding physiological impacts are deep and painful. As well as the psychologist, there has been the physiotherapist, the acupuncturist, the masseuse and now a chiropractor, yoga teacher, meditation, theatre group, the journal, the music …. all engaged and locked in for my mental and physical health … the gym … I have been paying attention to myself and caring for myself well under some trying conditions and getting tired … And sad … Trying to avoid what happens to so many others who get sick and tired …

To be told I am depressed, while it might be correct clinically, is not correct for my human condition.  I am sad.  And why wouldn’t I be?  It is right and  proper to be  sad. My husband has, what the doctors call, a “life limiting” illness and I’m sad it is a one way street. I am sad that the people I was working for didn’t send a card or bunch of flowers to say goodbye. I am sad I am having to get my work act together – again. All reasons worthy of sadness. Why diagnose all sorts of illnesses, instead of wallowing in the emotions?

Hildegard you taught us about groaning loudly and sobbing in these times – not an existentialist angst but a fully human and appropriate response. In my quest to bring more of myself to more of the situations I find myself in, may mean people around me might see more tears for a while than they have been used too. This obsession with pathologising sadness is a dis-ease that doesn’t sit well with me and I am not going to collude. Instead, I will buy another packet of tissues and get on with being sad.

I usually move through sadness by getting angry and then getting creative. I have already started organising the first poetry in the pub and a I concert so can’t be too depressed.  I have  just enjoyed three amazing playtime days with interplay, I saw 50 years of satire embodied in Barry Humphries Farewell Tour this week and will be dancing to Elvis Costello on Sunday.  How lucky  am I to have access to all that creativity, laughter and music. This is my kind of medicine.

Being sad is healthy; and from the muck and mulch and compost the seeds are sown and the green shoots appear.

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