Lindsey Gregerson, a participant in the InterPlay Next Gen Leaders: Art for Social Change program from the Seattle area wrote this article about her experience this summer in Oakland.
“To stress and seriousness I say WHEEEEEE! As a recovering serious person, I have known and practiced good self-care. You almost have to in order to survive your serious life. I love a good bubble bath, supportive conversations, some yoga and meditation. It’s all good stuff, but for me these things are mostly just antidotes for the underlying problem – too much seriousness and an overactive focuser.
And then I discovered the InterPlay cure – a playful way of life. InterPlay has a way of helping you tap into your creative playful spirit, shed old body grooves (ways of being), and connect with others in new and different ways using movement, storytelling, voice, contact, and stillness. This powerful cure is leading me to less agenda and more freedom to be with the beauty of the moment.
This was all a recent discovery for me while spending two incredible weeks with young artists and activists learning about InterPlay in the context of a larger discussion around using art for social change. This program was called Next Gen Leaders: Art for Social Change, led by InterPlay co-founders Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter, and the vibrant young InterPlay leader Amy Shoemaker.
When you are serious a lot of the time, you tend to take yourself a little too seriously. And don’t get me wrong, there are things in this world worth taking seriously that need our full attention and loads of collective energy; but my chronic seriousness and perpetual abundant work load is not just about transforming the world for good. For me it is also about trying to create a life of certainty and predictability and finding too much of my value in my achievements. With enough planning, careful calculation, and hard work, life will go as planned, right…?
And then I met improvisation. Spontaneous expression is part enthralling, part terrifying. It makes me feel vulnerable, but teaches me to trust and appreciate myself and whatever comes out. InterPlay provides a safe space just to try some stuff with no guarantees of it being any good, but without any value system by which to judge it. It gives me the courage to be imperfect and just to be who I am. To play, dance, sing, talk and create in the presence of a witness or a group of witnesses doesn’t have to be frightening. For it is openness to vulnerability that births the beauty of love, belonging, creativity, joy, and deep relationship. And to feel vulnerable means that I am alive.”
A recent Life Practice Program graduate, Beth Sarver, wrote these comments about her experience of participating in the Life Practice Program in Seattle.
The Interplay Life Practice Program came into my life at the most perfect time. The forms and methods that I learned have expanded my work, my mothering skills and most awesomely I have experienced a cosmic shift in my spiritual life. I have always been a storyteller, performer, dancer, singer and creative person… but now I have experienced the potency of prayers lifted through dance and the power of laughing til I cry and wailing until I sigh and say “Wheeeee!” I have had a lot of dynamic learning experiences in my life, but none would compare with the richness that has come into every facet of my life after completing this program. I am humbled by the life changing power of play. I am transformed by the empowering surge of energy that exforms through movement and stillness, story and song. This training catalyzed my heart, mind, body and spirit. I look forward to the Leadership program and continuing to grow the interplay modalities on behalf of folks with disabilities and youth in crisis.
We come to Friday morning Interplay—a dozen of us in Seattle and soon sixteen or twenty. The leaders rotate and bring themselves and the Interplay forms so we can renew, uplift, and share. We often start with babbling in pairs and the forms begin. Last week it was the topic of mentoring—played with in incremental steps—backing up and into that unique and blessed relationship of teacher/learner and those who show us “the” way. An opening quote (not a usual piece) was from Parker Palmer, so I picked him as my mentor example. Can a mentor be a family member, too? My partner chose her father. In her case, the mentor was her dear father and mentor who led her to “be who she could be” and she knows now even after his passing more how he taught and gave her wisdom and life! Surely her example and choice was enlightened by maturity and awareness of what parents can give and how they lead us to ourselves.
How could mine be Parker, who wouldn’t know me if he walked in the room, but I know him—his writings, his work in education, his work in growth of the spirit. He embodies for me the mentor who “made my worlds of faith and work” meld into one entity during one magic daylong workshop over fifteen years ago. He was just writing his famous book, Courage to Teach, and he asked us to pick an animal that would represent our “teacher presence” in the classroom. He had just worked at Berea College for a time, and he picked a sheepdog. I don’t remember what I “chose” that day during the exercise, but I remember talking to Parker and telling him that I could physically feel a connection—that often did not exist—between my Christian church home and my secular college teaching. He was that mentor link—he had been my teacher in both of those physical places.
If I think about my “animal” mentor today, I would pick a panda bear—that fluffy reminder of gentle curiosity and tree climbing and quiet nudging. I know that now because those are traits I used as a teacher, to see from above and turn my head all around to take in the width and breadth of those student bodies before me and to nudge them into words. They wrote stories of their lives and used their voices in words to evoke the softness, and sacredness of each precious body. The panda that I saw last year in Australia gave me that mentor image as I captured her on video. Now I have two mentors—Parker and Panda. Gratefulness is another Interplay session to go deeper, step-by-step into a fuller more embodied life.
Our Seattle Friday Morning Class has been a time of joyful connections. Players find ways to support each other inside and outside of class. Some class members continue in the fun and creative spirit by gathering for lunch after class. Joy Fry shares her experience in this poem.
out to lunch
after Friday morning InterPlay,
slide into playful Southern drawl.
delighting in one another
*Opal * Ruby * Sapphire * Pearl*
Our waitress *Amber* joins in.
We are nourished!
A fundraising event to honor the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers on Mother’s Day was also born out of connections made in our Friday Morning Class. Elizabeth and Lorraine created a fun and meaningful event that included showing the movie about the grandmothers along with a wing blessing and a water blessing by Lorraine Bayes.
Let the connections made in Friday Morning Class continue to flourish and nourish!
My four “20 something” children suggested that we needed some new holiday traditions that involved more than opening presents on Christmas morning. The gift that they decided to give each other was “ecstatic following”. Each person in our family came up with an idea for a family activity on Christmas weekend. The gift from everyone else was to show up, be present, and participate without complaining.
This was not as easy as it might seem! Ice skating for the first time in 35 years (and I was lousy at it then) was a bit of a challenge for me. Then there was the cookie baking and decorating. Nothing makes me swear faster than a rolling pin with dough stuck to it! And my son had never attempted to decorate anything with frosting in his life. It was also a dangerous activity after taking twenty years olds to the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. Those Picasso inspired Gingerbread men had uniquely placed anatomically correct parts! Laughter ensued…and their father decided that some of the Gingerbread men needed another layer of clothing before delivering them for Christmas gifts.
The weekend turned into a very memorable time. Our whole family found ways to interact and enjoy each other. Occassionally I had to remind them and myself that the gift we were giving each other was “ecstatic following”. It was just the right reminder to support us to show up for activities when they weren’t our first choice. I wish I had known about InterPlay’s ideas of “following and leading” when they were younger. What a miraculous and delightful gift!
I don’t think we quite made a Million Connections this weekend or a million dollars…but my heart feels like an absolute millionaire from the connections I made with new friends and old friends during our various workshops this week with Phil Porter. Many thanks to Phil for teaching us “all that he knows” about Performing, Money Wisdom, and the BodyWisdom of teamwork for organizations. And thanks to all of you who joined us and to those who donated as well! What gifts you are to our community!
Over 40 InterPlayers have visited Malawi with Masankho Banda, a California-based InterPlayer and peacemaker who was born and raised in Malawi. Masanko was given political asylum in the United States in 1987. His father, Aleke K. Banda, was imprisoned from 1980-1992 by the president of Malawi who ruled as a brutal dictator for 30 years, and it was unsafe for Masankho to remain in Malawi. After getting degrees in Theater and Dance Arts and in Creation Spirituality, Masankho chose to devote his life to using dance, music, drumming and storytelling to bring about peace, healing, and cultural understanding. He received the Unsung Hero of Compassion Award from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2001. (See ucandanc.org to learn more about Masankho and his work.)
Three Seattle InterPlayers – Liz Lang, Louise Petrasek, and myself – were members of the first small group that Masankho brought to Malawi to learn about African culture and to stay in the ancestral village where Masankho had learned the arts of African dance and storytelling as a boy. It was grounding, affirming, and deeply spiritual for me to be in Africa where humanity and dance and song were born and where dance and song are still interwoven into the fabric of everyday life. We travelers were deeply moved by the warm-hearted, welcoming people who lived in the village and the surrounding area. We danced and sang with them, toured their homes and fields, and learned firsthand of the challenges these people face on a daily basis. This trip changed our lives. We could no longer sing and dance and live in Seattle without remembering and feeling our connection to these dear people. Liz, Louise, and I committed ourselves to raising awareness and seeking donations to help fund projects that would address issues of poverty and help the villagers we’d met become more self reliant. We were grateful that a small non-profit organization, the Kunyanja Development Organization (KUDO), had been created in 2004 by Aleke Banda. We have been helping raise funds for KUDO ever since 2006 and we also helped bring Emily Chintu, the volunteer director of KUDO, to Seattle in 2007. (See kudomalawi.org for more information about KUDO projects.)
I have returned to Malawi two more times, once with a large group of over 40 InterPlayers (including my daughter, Meghan), and more recently, with my husband. Each visit deepens the connection that was formed in 2006. I continue to share stories about Malawi with individuals and groups who would like to learn more, and I continue with fundraising efforts. If you are interested in having a Malawi presentation with a freewill offering for KUDO, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions of any size make a BIG impact in rural Malawi. No donation is too small. From June 21st – September 21st, 2010, there is a Summer Solstice Matching Campaign that will match (and double!) donations that are made to KUDO. I am really excited about this, but donations are welcome at any time of the year. To make a donation, visit the KUDO website, kudomalawi.org.