Saturday, September 26, 2015

PLAYING WITH CHANGE: Fall Equinox InterPlay Twice in One Day

written by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader and Art & Soul Creativity
PLAYING WITH BALANCE. I invited participants to play with balancing the light and dark in their lives by connecting with one another, leaning, counter-balancing, and intersecting. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
InterPlay offers ways to celebrate occasions and mark time! On Friday, September 25th, I was so happy to facilitate InterPlay twice--"Spirit Play" at the Shambhala Meditation Center and then "InterPlay Lift" at the Decatur First Christian Church! For both of these InterPlay sessions, I decided to "play" with the theme of the FALL EQUINOX.

Taking place on September 21st, we left summer behind and began fall, signaled by the shortening amounts of light each day and growing proportions of darkness. At the beginning of of both equinoxes (spring and fall), we get the experience of living with "equal" parts of day and least until the hours of darkness increase (fall) or decrease (spring).

Marking this seasonal change gives us all the opportunity to dive deeper into our lives. Facilitating "Spirit Play" with poet Debra Hiers in Jennifer Denning's absence, I had the pleasure of meditating about the theme "change."
CHANGE. These fading purple petunias greeted me as I walked up to the Shambhala Meditation Center here in Decatur, Georgia, on September 25, 2015. Their leggy abundant growth was a reminder that the end of summer was here. (photo by Ruth Schowalter) 

You will change
says the stars to the sun,
Says the night to the stars.
-excerpt from "Change," by Kathleen Jessie Raine
We began "Spirit Play" with meditation seated on supportive blue cushions in the spacious gathering room at the meditation center. We could hear the light rain tapping on the roof above us. Soft light filtered in around us through the trees outside the windows.  

Following our meditation, we did some "tellings" or "babblings" about pumpkins, apples, falling leaves and more. We stretched our bodies in our InterPlay warm up mirroring the trees and reaching branches outside our meditation room. Playing with the form, "Walk, Stop, Run," we experienced "change" in our bodies and our choices to move in community with one another.

After reading the poem, "Change" by Kathleen Jessie Raine, we reflected on "change" by making shapes and holding them until we found we wanted to "change" our shape into another different shape. Movement and stillness is such a relaxing meditative InterPlay form. Participants were then invited to write their own poems on "change" and share them with the group.
REFLECTING ON CHANGE. On the right, poet Debra Hiers reflects on the poem written and read by Joyce Kinnard (left)about her reflections on change after playing around with movement and stillness. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Before "Spirit Play" came to an end, we gathered for a "selfie." Even though we had few participants, the quality of play and reflection was very rich. I hope you readers will join us for a future "Spirit Play" session.
SPIRIT PLAY SELFIE. Relaxed after playing with change. (photo by Ruth Schowalter
In the evening, I arrived early at the Decatur First Christian Church for my "InterPlay Lift" class. The rain was light--almost a mist--but enough to discourage people living in the metro Atlanta area from going out into interstate traffic. Right after arriving at the church, I received a text from someone stuck in traffic because of a roadway accident. Earlier, I had received another text from a regular participant who was coming down with the sniffles. FALL was definitely in the air!
POWERFUL FUN. Changing seasons...light fall rain, fall sniffles, fall travels and new arrival. Attendance was low for this "InterPlay Lift." (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
For this evening InterPlay class, "InterPlay Lift," I wanted to play with the BALANCE between "light" and "dark" and how we experience those two qualities in our lives. Lighting candles at the beginning of our play time together, we told stories, moved, experimented with our voices and found stillness. 
PLAYING WITH STORY. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

We witnessed one another's stoires. We whispered to one another the kind of balance we desired to manifest in our lives and danced on each others behalf. We relaxed. We rested. We got the big view of the Fall Equinox from "play."

That's InterPlay Atlanta with Ruth Schowalter! What will PLAY will you find in your life today?  How are you marking the change in our life as the fall season begins? What balance do you want in your life?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Small & Big Stories

By Jennifer Denning
(a version of this post appeared in InterPlay Atlanta's September newsletter)

“We are often given contradictory messages about having our own story,” said InterPlay co-founder, Phil Porter at the beginning of the InterPlay Leader’s Gathering last week. Spiritual ideals or activist messages may teach us that the stories of our own universe don’t matter. But the fact is we are born into individual bodies and it is only through these individual bodies that we connect with a larger story at all.

My small story matters. So does yours.

I need to tell my small story. I can have that. I can share my idiosyncrasies, my little joys and my hang-ups. And I really want to hear about yours. Perhaps paradoxically, the small stories invite me into the larger story. To begin to know another human being through the details of his or her life invites me into connection.
In InterPlay (and life!) we have the freedom to play with the small and large. If I only dance my small story I miss out on the expansive experience of feeling myself as a part of a larger story. I miss the chance to rise up and speak out and be a part of the change I wish to see in the world. I miss the moments of connection that are larger than anything my small mind could conceive.

As a founder of InterPlay Atlanta (along with original Wing It member, Debra Weir) I have held the title of “Director.” As our community grows and deepens the title of “director” no longer feels appropriate. I want to make space for the larger group body of leadership in Atlanta to collaborate and grow. So I’m no longer using this title. My small story of finding and growing InterPlay in Atlanta matters, but there is a larger story happening  now- one that includes new leaders Christine Gautreaux and Ruth Schowalter and other leaders who will emerge  in the years to come. It is exciting and expansive to envision and create together. The first InterPlay Atlanta untensive, Atlanta Dreaming, could not happen on my own!

I honor the wisdom of my individual body, and I honor the wisdom of the “group body” as well. Both are vital and necessary. Both play a part in health and wholeness. Both are the reality of who I am.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


COMMUNICYCLE and INTERPLAY ATLANTA. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
written by Ruth Schowalter, Certified InterPlay Leader and InterPlay Art & Soul Creativity Coach

InterPlay Atlanta certified leaders, Ruth Schowalter and Jennifer Denning, are dedicated to bringing a free "taste" of InterPlay to the Clarkston Community Center (CCC) the first Saturday of every month from June to November, when the Clarkston Community Market vendors gather bringing organic and nutritiously prepared foods and artisan wares. 

One of the most diverse neighborhoods in the United States, the Clarkston community is comprised of long-time Americans and newly arrived refugees. What a surprise Jennifer and I had on Saturday, September 5th, when we arrived and discovered the market had been cancelled because of expected inclement weather!

Yet! There was a lot of activity going on one side of the space where market tents and tables are usually set up. What was it? Who was there?
COMMUNICYCLE WORKSHOP. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

Communicycle is a CCC program that welcomes community members to use tools and supplies in their bicycle repair shop. People who need bikes can make small donations and also earn a bike through work in the shop.

Instead of leaving, I asked Justin Okello, one of the Clarkston Community Center employees working at the Communicycle shop if the children there would like to InterPlay with Jennifer, her daughter Elise, and me. Justin, who was familiar with me from previous months of bringing InterPlay to the market, smiled and said that the children would be receiving their bikes and safety tips and then might play with us after that!
KEEP CALM AND BIKE IN. The sign on the bike expresses an aspect of safety. I was soon to discover, however, the Communicycle program did not have funds at this time to issue the children bike helmets with their bikes. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
For close to 30 minutes, we had so much fun engaging with youths from Congo and Rwanda and other African countries, who had just received their bikes. Jennifer facilitated a fun imaginative InterPlay warmup after which I led an energetic following-leading session.
WARMUP WITH JENNIFER DENNING. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

The Georgia sun and humid air caused us to burst out in beaded sweat, so we finished in the shade at the picnic tables with this photo.
POST INTERPLAY AT THE CCC. (photo by Communicycle participant)

 Who knows what the future holds for InterPlay Atlanta at the Clarkston Community Market? Who will we play withus next month in October? Stay tuned!

For now, it would be awesome to get bicycle helmets for these boys who just got their bikes. Helmets and money can be brought to the Clarkston Community Center at 3701 College Avenue, Clarkston, Gerogia, 30021. Write checks to Clarkston Community Center. Please make a note that it is for "Communicycle." On your envelopes, please address it to:
Clarkston Community Center 
Attn: Justin Okello/Communicycle 
3701 College Avenue Clarkston, GA 30021

Thursday, September 3, 2015

MORE TO LIFE: Inviting InterPlay into a group as a way to team build

ONE HAND DANCE. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader and InterPlay Art & Soul Creativity Coach

On the last Sunday in August, I had the privilege of facilitating two hours of InterPlay for a group of people from the organization, "More to Life," who are developing team building skills for a weekend they will be offering to the public in Atlanta this October. 

Contacted by Kerri Shannon, a More to Life training supervisor, I met with her one morning before the InterPlay Sunday session to discuss her goals for "play" with her group. She had experienced a Second Saturday in Atlanta recently and felt that the InterPlay activities would add a fun element to what they were doing in their preparations for being on a team and providing service.

Kerri offered me her intentions in rich words and phrases such as:
  • connection
  • team purpose/individual purpose
  • playing while being in our own intention
  • authenticity
  • playing and taking it into our own lives
  • out of the head
Wow! These were really enticing goals for me to develop a lesson plan for our Sunday afternoon! We decided together that we would have the team do a "DT3" (an InterPlay form during which participants first move and then talk three times) and speak in a made up language (an activity that allows exformation and discovery without "verbalizing" one's thoughts). 

How inspiring it was to consult with a person like Kerri who felt excited about the possibilities that InterPlay held for her group! And playing with a group of people ready to experience whatever activities were offered them was rewarding beyond words. The photos speak of their engaged and celebratory experience!
WALK, STOP, RUN.  After warming up, we took "Walk, Stop, Run" outside. Notice that online team members were participating too, as one of their teammates carried their presence on the computer. Adding the lean was received with joy, including online teammates! (photo by Kerri Shannon)
BABBLING. After returning indoors from "Walk, Run, Stop," everyone delighted in "Babbling" with one another without worry of developing a logical developed story. Easy focus--wheee--went over very well. Make note that the online participant is being engaged in babbling (left of the photo). (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

LEADING AND FOLLOWING.  Since the principles of leading and following are pretty important in team practices, I thought these More to Life folks would enjoy playing around with the InterPlay concept of ecstatic following and discovering "blending." We then expanded the following and leading form with variations of fast and slow, close and far, and large and small. (top photo by Kerri Shannon, bottom photo by Ruth Schowalter)
ONE BIG ONE HAND DANCE TO CONCLUDE. As our two hours of play came to an end, I thought the perfect way to bring the team together was a group one hand dance. When I asked if they would be more comfortable in two groups of five, they expressed their desire to be all together! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Today, just before I posted this blog, I had a follow up conversation with Kerri because we both wanted to process what the InterPlay experience meant for her group and how the forms I facilitated helped her achieve the goals she had set. Using the word "phenomenal," Kerri was more than pleased with the sneaky deep ways that InterPlay allows people to connect and integrate meaningfully with one another and within themselves. Hurray!