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!  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January InterPlay Atlanta Newsletter: Many Opportunities to Play Deep in the New Year!

The outer message we often get about a New Year is that it's time for a fresh start, action and "to do's." I know that for many people this is enlivening and true, but I often experience winter as a germinating time. Quiet and dark, I turn within. Sometimes a clear action arises; sometimes, it doesn't. I breathe and practice embracing the waiting. 
Joyful planning: InterPlay Atlanta envisioning meeting 2016
Stillness is one of our InterPlay practices that feels meaningful to me at this time. In the InterPlay form of "walk, stop and run," visiting InterPlay leader, Masankho Banda recently spoke of stopping as a way of letting our bodies catch up with us. I like this image. When I get going in my world (or my mind) too fast I can pause and let my essential self be felt again. I return to my body- this breathing, moving, creating miracle that I call me. I'm grateful for InterPlay practice that supports me in my doing as well as my undoing. 

Wishing you creative stillness and embodied action in 2017!

Peace & Play,

Soulprint Players perform at Atlanta Shambhala Center's celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15th

Atlanta Shambhala Center's Community Relations Presents:

Poetry readings, musical performances and contemplative discussions in honor of
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 15th, 2017
1 PM - 4 PM
Suggested Donation of $15
Atlanta Shambhala Meditation Center 
1447 Church St, Decatur, GA 30030

In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we invite the
community to share their creative poetry and artistic musings
that highlight reflections of social justice, race relations and
peace efforts in today's society.

Feature Poets/Artists:
Felton Eaddy, Debra Hiers, Waqas Khwaja, BMichelle Tilman,, A'nji Sarumi,
Atlanta InterPlay's Soulprint Performers, Luis Stefanal

This event will include an open mic and reflective conversation segment Atlanta Shambhala facilitates conversations about issues that are important to people of our city and our world. These might include income disparity, a sustainable relationship with our environment and improving our many broken systems (ie. criminal justice,healthcare, education, etc.)

For more information contact A'nji at

The Secrets of InterPlay & InterPlay Life Practice Program 
coming this spring!

Unlock the wisdom of your body! Immerse yourself in the joy and wisdom of the InterPlay philosophy and practice. CEs available for both Secrets and The Life Practice Program.

The Secrets of InterPlay (March 24th-26th) is a comprehensive weekend where we will playfully deepen understanding of the tools and ideas of InterPlay. Get your body, mind, heart, and spirit all on the same page with joy and ease.

Starting in April, The InterPlay Life Practice Program provides deep community support for unearthing and honoring the wisdom of your body. Give yourself the gift of play, community, rest and whole bodied knowing in 2017!

Find out more at one of the following Life Practice Program intro sessions:

Saturday, January 14th
Go Vinda's Cafe, 1146 Euclid Ave., 30307
1-2 P.M.

Tuesday, January 31st
W.H.O.A office, L5P Community Center
12-1 P.M.

Saturday, February 11th
The Mask Center, L5P Community Center
12-1 P.M.

An InterPlay exploration of Waking Up White
six class series begins February 14th

Do you want to contribute to community with more clarity and love as we address and heal from racism?
Do you seek more embodied practices, wisdom and support for yourself and as an ally to people of color?
If so, you are invited to join InterPlay leaders, Jennifer Denning and Christine Gautreaux, LMSW for Waking Up White. We will explore and research our ability to play and stretch through discomfort by using InterPlay forms to tell our stories as we uncover ways to dance with the challenges of racism and privilege. You will be able to both enter into the practice AND see 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. 

6 Tuesdays, 2/14, 2/28, 3/14, 3/28, 4/11 & 4/25th
12:30-2:00 P.M.
Sliding Scale $50-100 proceeds to benefit InterPlay Atlanta POC scholarship fund
Class held at private Decatur residence
For questions and to register email

 Move: Creating Daily What the Body Wants
An Online exploration with Ruth Schowalter

Get support for your creativity in visual, written, and embodied practices with InterPlay's Body Wisdom!

Jan 27-April 14, 2017; Fridays 3-5pm EST

Put creativity on your calendar for 2017 with one measurable creative action of 15 minutes each day. In this amazing 12-week course, creativity coach Ruth Schowalter guides you through an "artist's way" type of experience based around the popular InterPlay book Move: What the Body Wants by Cynthia Winton-Henry with Phil Porter.

More info here.