Friday, February 17, 2017

InterPlaying with Chronos and Kairos Time

ALCHEMY OF THE SOUL, InterPlay at Congregation Bet Haverim
Written by Ruth Schowalter, M.S. Applied Linguistics & ESL, Certified InterPlay Leader

How can we play around TIME? Thank goodness for InterPlay, for it offers a way to embody both time and timelessness. “Dancing can dramatically shift our experience of time and space,” Cynthia Winton-Henry writes in her book, Dance-the Sacred Art. In her chapter, “Dancing into Wholeness,” she offers ways of playing around with  “chronos” and “kairos” time so that we can experience it in our bodies.
STORIES ABOUT TIME. We find that our story teller has a lot to say about time, time restraints, running out of time, lack of leisure time and more!
So it was on a Thursday night in February, that I offered a micro-play session on “fixed time” and “flying time” to my Atlanta community at the Congregation Bet Haverim in a monthly InterPlay session, “Alchemy of the Soul.” Our gathering was small and intimate and we rejoiced in the opportunity to move, tell our stories, use our voices, and find some stillness in the middle of a Georgia winter.
SPEAKING ABOUT TIME IN A MADE UP LANGUAGE. In InterPlay we say that we can have a feeling without articulating it. Speaking in a made up language about time in the form of a big body story allowed everyone a chance to express the verbally inexpressible!
In order to understand “time,” it helps to have body wisdom or to be a “body intellectual.” Body intellectual is an InterPlay term that means “one who pays attention to all forms of physical experience, seeks to be articulate about that information, and uses it as an important basis for understanding the world. (Move: What theBody Wants)

By moving in a conscious way, it is possible for us to acknowledge how are bodies feel differently when experiencing chronos time—limited by clocks and calendars, and kairos time—expanded by boundless time. Even more powerfully, it is possible that by moving our bodies (dancing) we can alter or transform our physical experience of time from being ordinary (time restraints) to being extraordinary (all the time in the world)!

ROTATING GESTURE CHOIR. At the end of our evening "Alchemy for the Soul," we played around with our sense of "flying time," or experiencing an expansiveness of time, by telling our stories in a gesture choir with witnesses. Each of us had a chance to move and speak with support of other "bodies" repeating or imitating our gestures.
What would happen in your life, your family’s life, and the life our communities, if we all started playing around with transforming time? Cynthia Winton-Henry says that most of us spend our time in the middle zone between ordinary (chronos) and extraordinary (kairos) time. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could choose which state of reality to experience and use play and body wisdom to be and live that reality?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many thanks to Congregation Bet Haverim that offers such a warm an inviting space for us to InterPlay in! Thanks to Joyce Kinnard and Audrey Gaylex, both CBH members and who support my InterPlay leadership offerings to the Atlanta community. I acknowledge my husband for his continued support and playfulness while attending the InterPlay sessions I conduct, even when he is busy planning to leave town for a student field trip on the Georgia Coast. I am grateful to Callahan Pope McDonough for her photography and commitment to living an artful life. As always, I am so appreciative of the work that InterPlay co-founders Phil Port and Cynthia Winton-Henry do for the entire wide world! They are amazing!

Join me for my online class, Move and Create, which uses InterPlay as a way to develop a daily creative practice (from now until April 14). First time participants are welcome for free! Here is a link to the course information.
Luminescence of a Buttercup, by Ruth Schowalter

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Seeking the Body Wisdom to Heal from Racism

Written by Christine Gautreaux, LMSW, Certified InterPlay Leader

Dear Friends,

We are exploring and researching our ability to play and stretch through discomfort by using InterPlay forms to tell our stories.  We are uncovering ways to dance with the challenges of racism and privilege. We entered into the practice AND looked at how we use InterPlay to deal with our own socialized systemic racism. This class is based on the book, Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debbie Irving. 

Eight of us gathered.  We babbled, we moved, we sang and we connected.

It was a powerful start to this leg of the journey.

Here is a poem I wrote this past weekend (at Poems of Witness: Speaking the Truth Going to the Heart with John Fox, LPT) that feels relevant to this work:

To Complacency 

There you are...

my old dear friend...

My frayed and washed out sweater

I continue to wrap around my shoulders

when you no longer fit.

You have kept me sheltered

and warm

in my privileged bubble

while others have gone cold and hungry

naked in this unjust world.

It is time to set you down

pass you on

Or better yet,

Unravel you 

back to your truest form

and re-knit a new reality.

One that includes all races,

all genders,

all faiths.

Each of us,


Stitching together



& safety.

by Christine Gautreaux 2/11/17

In Peace & Play,


24Th.  Followed by The Life Practice Program!  If you are interested in learning more about InterPlay and how to use 

it in your daily life check out these offerings!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Georgia Tech College of Sciences Presents “At Ease: Using Improvisation to Speak to Anyone about your Research"

Written by Ruth Schowalter, M.S. Applied Linguistics & ESL, 
Certified InterPlay Leader

What does a 90-minute InterPlay science communication “sample” workshop with professors look like? Journey with me to Georgia Tech, an urban campus located in Midtown Atlanta to find out!

First of all, the February afternoon right before the 3:00 PM start of the workshop was overcast, with the gray skies releasing tiny shards of cold rain. Fortunately for me, I escaped the unfriendly weather by taking a bright yellow trolley to the Marcus Nanotechnology Building, where the Director of Science Communications, Maureen Rouhi, was administering the final touches to name badges, refreshments, and room arrangements. Tables were removed and chairs lined up around the room’s edges, leaving space for improvisational movement.

One-by-one professors arrived as if in a Harry Potter movie, being teleported from their busy labs and offices through the inclement weather. Hailing from different disciplines such as biomedical engineering, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, and atmospheric sciences, these professors had responded to the following invitation written by Maureen Rouhi:
The College of Sciences is hosting a workshop aimed at honing the communication skills of scientists when addressing general audiences. The short interactive workshop will be designed and facilitated by Ruth Schowalter. 

An master English teacher and long-time English instructor at Georgia Tech, Ruth applies movement and improvisational techniques to public speaking, similar to the approach of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, at Stony Brook University. She has been conducting workshops to help students and professionals improve their effectiveness in addressing various audiences. 

Last October, Ruth conducted a highly successful program—“Using Improvisation To Increase Your Skills in Academic and Professional Speaking”—for graduate students in the Schools of Materials Science and Engineering and of Mechanical Engineering.

Ruth has designed “At Ease: Using Improvisation To Speak About Your Research To Anyone” for the College of Sciences. The workshop is ideal for academic faculty who are keen to explore new ways to communicate by expanding physicality and vocal range, especially when speaking to non-scientists.  

Once the eight curious participants had all arrived, we warmed up with breathing exercises, sharing our names, and movement. The energy was high as they willingly experimented with ways of expressing themselves. What a joy it was to see the earnestness of these researchers as they stretched past their comfort zones to learn new skills!

In the short time we had together, my primary goal was to offer them playful ways to expand physicality and vocal range when explaining their research to people, especially non-scientists. Therefore, after the warm up, I engaged pairs in taking turns to do “short tellings” while experimenting with modulating their voices, i.e., paying attention to volume, speed, and pitch.

In small incremental steps, I asked the participants to increase the use of their “nonverbal” communications or body language. Through a series of “following and leading” exercises, everyone had ample opportunity to play around with exaggerated facial expressions, shoulder movements, hand gestures, and moving while explaining or describing something. The desired outcome of these activities was to broaden participants’ overall awareness of how they could increase their physical presence, enhancing meaning and connection with listeners while decreasing words.

During our short time together, I introduced the InterPlay concepts easy focus (a willingness to relax and trust yourself) and noticing (reflecting on what you are experiencing in body, mind, and emotions). We also did the physical InterPlay activity, “Walk, Stop, Run” as a way to increase physical presence or energy. It also served as a transition between “short telling” exercises, in which participants reduced 250-written-word descriptions of their research to oral summaries, then three sentences, and finally three words.

Before the participants left, they were kind enough to fill out a feedback form. Here is what they reported as beneficial:
  • Great activities that opened my body and mind.
  • Learned to control my voice.
  • Distilling research from 250 words to 3 sentences to 3 words.
  • Speech modulations (volume, speed, pitch).
  • Repeated efforts at explaining the same work.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS WITH RUTH SCHOWALTER. Relaxed, motivated, excited, and energized were some of the one-word responses that the science researchers reported at the conclusion of the 90-minute science communication workshop. -Photo by Maureen Rouhi
When asked, “What one word best describes an experience you are having right now?”, these are some of the responses: relaxed, motivation, excitement, fun, and energy.

Just as they had appeared miraculously, these scientists vanished, leaving me with a sense of wonder at what a little bit of improvisation can do!

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Maureen Rouhi for collaborating with me in crafting this workshop. I appreciate her experience with improvisation as a communication tool, sense of fun, and readiness to participate. As always, I am grateful to Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry co-founders of InterPlay for this deeply rewarding improvisational system. And thanks to my husband, Tony Martin, the scientist in my life, who has supported my integration of InterPlay with science communication by inviting me into his Emory classroom and co-creating workshops together.

Other blogposts on how I use InterPlay for Science Communication and Outreach:

November 2016
October 2016

March 2016

November 6, 2014

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Spirit Play and Balance

written by Christine Gautreaux, LMSW, Certified InterPlay Leader

Dear friends,

Friday I was privileged to co-lead InterPlay Atlanta's Spirit Play Class with Deb Heirs at the Shambhala Center in Decatur. (Jennifer Denning who usually co-leads this class was traveling)

On this day we started by centering ourselves with singing bowls leading into silent sitting.  We then played with introductions and what we could talk about...

We babbled about Grace and Grace making.

InterPlay warmed up our bodies and guided us into a walk, stop, run where we played with ease. 

 Deb brought the poem "Balance" by Alice B. Fogel for us to read and respond to.


Related Poem Content Details

Balance is everything, is the only
way to hold on.
I've weighed the alternatives, the hold
as harbor: It isn't safe                                                                             
to let go. But consider the hover,

choices made, the moment
between later and too late.
Hesitation is later, regret
too late. You can't keep turning
and turning, or expecting
to return. This earth

is not a wheel, it is a rock
that erodes, mountain by mountain.
And I have been too soft,
like sandstone, but there is a point
where I stand without a story,
immutable and moved, solid
as a breath in winter air.

I have seen my death and I know
it is my neighbor, my brother,
my keeper. In my life
I am going to keep trying
for the balance,

remembering the risks and the value
of extremes, and that experience
teaches the length of allowable lean;
that it is easier — and wiser —
to balance a stone as if on one toe
though it weigh a hundred pounds

than to push it back against the curve
of its own world.

I thought this was timely considering Jennifer's last blog.
We had time to write our own poetic responses and share. My body was filled with grace and gratitude as I listened to everyone's voice.

Here is Deb's poem that came out of our time together:

Balancing, as if
riding a bicycle
into the rain--
careful, aware.
That same care
could be guidance
for the good days,
the sunny days,
the lazy days--
could be the grace
that grows a garden.

d.hiers, jan 2017, atlanta, ga

We finished our time together with a contact dance since several of our poems responded to the line in the poem, "...and that experience teaches the length of allowable lean."

It was an hour and half that was so soul soothing for me and according to the noticings of the other 7 group members (who I forgot to take pictures of) they concurred.

If you're in need of some of this yumminess meet me in Norcross tomorrow for Suburb Sunday InterPlay.

In Peace & Play,


P.S.  We have a Secrets of InterPlay & Secrets of Leading InterPlay coming in March!  Click on the pictures below to learn more.

Friday, January 27, 2017

InterPlay Gives International Students in the U.S. the Opportunity to “Talk More” in English and to “Notice”

Written by Ruth Schowalter, MS Applied Linguistics, Certified InterPlay Leader, Art & Soul Creativity Coach

I’m excited.
I’m  energized.
I’m sad.
I’m happy, happy, happy.
I’m confused…

…And so the expressions leapt out of the mouths of the 10 international students circled around me. We are on the Georgia Tech campus at the Language Institute, where I’m teaching in an advanced elective class “Talk More 2” using the improvisational system of InterPlay. I had asked each to give a word or phrase along with an action that expressed what they were feeling at the conclusion of our 65-minute class. Then our whole group repeated the words and action.

“Noticing” what we are feeling is something we do in InterPlay. Frequently, between our activities, we stop and “notice”; that is, we reflect on what we are thinking and feeling both emotionally and physically and express these “noticings” to a partner or the entire group. I might add that students have options in articulating these reflections.  They can remain silent; offer any words in English describing their experience of themselves; their partner or entire class; or speak in their native language or a made-up one. Making choices how to participate is part of the InterPlay system—respecting the individual student’s internal authority (the topic of a future blogpost).

Since the “noticings” or reflected expressions listed above were done at the end of the class and students linger as they are wont to do after connecting with each other during InterPlay activities, I was able to catch a moment with the Korean student who had said, “I’m sad.” His response to my question, “Are you okay?” resulted in an InterPlay gesture I taught in our very first class. He took his hand to his forehead in the place between his eyebrows and then flung it out in the air and said, “Wheee…”!

This “wheee…” gesture accompanied with his smile indicated to me that he was okay. In fact, he was more than okay! He had succeeded in contributing something to the group when it was his turn even when no particular thought was in his mind. I teach the students that whatever they say is “enough.”

InterPlay gives us permission to have a feeling or thought without the need to “articulate” it. However, that is not to say that he may have been experiencing some sadness, but he felt comfortable enough to say that to our group and leave it at that.  Words, ideas, feelings, and movements occur when we are doing InterPlay activities and we don’t attach too much to them.

I also caught a moment with the Japanese student who had stated that she was confused and asked her if she had more to say about that. She did. Laughingly she asked, “The brain is different from the heart, right? My thinking is fine. But what I feel is confused.” I nodded. We go over in each class that as human beings we have a lot to check in with—our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits. I understood from what she said is that she now wanted to process the feelings she experienced in class with her “brain.” In Japanese or English? Both? Or Wheee...!

Wow! InterPlay has transformed the way I interact with my students. I am now relating on two dimensions. I am still the educator guiding the “student” through the class agenda with its conversational content and activities. At the same time, I am creating a space for the  “person” to be present to himself or herself, their experience of the class, other participants, and the world at large.

Stay tuned for future discoveries in the ESL college classroom here in Atlanta, Georgia!
In this newly minted English-as-a-Second Language class, “Talk More 2,” the students are phenomenal! They are ready to “play” with English through movement, storytelling, and voice.  It is fascinating to explore ways InterPlay activities and principles can assist these international students in increasing their American English fluency, comfort in American culture and beyond to a global world. 
InterPlay provides a classroom platform for international students to play around with using English to connect with themselves and their classmates. These advanced ESL students elected to take this InterPlay class, making them (in my mind) special adventurous individuals. They willingly agreed to step into a class that was advertised as getting them out of their comfort zone!

Talk More: Speaking English with Confidence
Tuesdays and Thursdays (6 weeks) 1:25-2:30
Instructor: Ruth Schowalter

Do you want to feel more comfortable speaking in English? In this class, you will have fun expressing yourself orally while working in pairs, small and large groups, or alone. Using the improvisational system of InterPlay, you are invited to speak without preparation and to make things up. In addition to expanding your story telling abilities, you will learn other ways to communicate with others using movement, voice, and stillness. Whether you are shy or outgoing, you can learn how to succeed at getting your message across more effectively and enjoy the process!

 Be prepared to be amused, expand your abilities, connect with others, find new ways of expressing yourself, relax, and be re-energized. You will more than likely find yourself challenged to stretch a little out of your comfort zone. It will be well worth it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Easy Focus in Focused Times: Finding Balance

By Jennifer Denning

I've never been more engaged in the world then I have been in the last few years. I've signed more petitions than I can count; called my Senators; marched; donated; spoke out. My call to action comes from two veins- my increased understanding of ungoing racial injustice and the rise of Donald Trump. Cornel West's words, "Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public," have been a beacon for me these days and as I take those words into my heart and being I am fortified.

The more we risk the vulnerability to truly love our fellow humans, the more we are compelled to act. On my path vulnerability is key. Today after my movement and meditation practice I feel inside myself a deep vulnerability a bit hard to describe. There is a sense of saddness and also a sense of surrendering to the fact I have no control over the actions Donald Trump is taking. Letting those feelings be there instead of pushing them away has filled me with a deep sense of compassion and love. I relate this feeling to the InterPlay tool of "Easy Focus."

Easy Focus lets beauty in. (And we need hard focus too- like the rocks taking form.)

In InterPlay we refer to hard focus is that part of us that really needs to figure things out. Physically we might feel that as the place between our eyes that can squinch up when we are focusing really hard. We need hard focus- especially in these times. We need to focus on detail and action and understanding what steps to take in a new political climate AND if we only engage our hard focus we will burn out. Easy focus acknowledges there are some things to big for us to know only on a thinking level and sometimes we just have to do something without knowing exactly how to do it. Easy focus allows a softness into our lives. It reminds us it's ok not to know. Easy focus knows that sometimes the answers reveal themselves to us in their own time.

I'm grateful that this year brings a new InterPlay Life Practice Program to Atlanta. We will explore on a body level the tool of "Easy Focus" and the other Body Wisdom tools of the InterPlay movement. We will support each other in bringing joy and power to our lives and the work we are most meant to do in this world.

Click here for info about our next free intro session:

And find more details about The Life Practice Program  here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Power of InterPlay and Connection - Even as it relates to politics

Dear friends,

Tonight I was scheduled to put up a blog about our upcoming Life Practice Program and the two free information sessions we have coming up but as I sat down to type I wanted to share with you an amazing moment that happened today.

Today, Jennifer Denning and I went into the pre-trial detention center to do InterPlay with the women incarcerated there, as we have been doing every Tuesday for the past two years.  

We were playing with the form - babbling and the word prompt given was "protest."  My partner (a self proclaimed Trump supporter) excitedly told me about her protesting for Second Amendment rights and against Hillary Clinton because if she would have gotten elected she would have taken the guns away.  I held the container and just listened.

When it was my turn the word was "march."  I talked about how excited I was to go to Washington this weekend and march and stand up for women's rights and join my voice with over 150,000 other women doing the same thing.  My partner she listened.

Then it was time for noticings.  My partner shared how excited she felt that I was going to Washington and how she wished she could too, because she believes in women's rights.  I shared I felt a "unk" in my body as I listened  - She said, "Not a 2nd amendment fan?" I replied, "of course I am (I AM fromTX) the "unk" was about the myth that the Democrats/Hillary want to take your guns.  She replied, "Huh, maybe I'm wrong."  We both to a deep breath, smiled and thanked each other for being our partner.

It was a beautiful moment.

As I noticed with Jennifer later about the magic I felt in that moment I realized that InterPlay was the container that made it possible.  We had built relationship as we played together over the past 5 weeks, only for 1 hour a week, and that was the bridge for us to have this exchange.   We need to take this magic to congress!

InterPlay for the win!!

Wrapping you all around with infinite love and wisdom,


p.s.  Here's a link to our next information session about life practice:  Free Info Session at W.H.O.A. office - we'd love for you to join us!