By Life Positive
Interplay and its adaptation, movement meditation, use free-flowing movement to facilitate greater intimacy with the body and spirit
• “What I enjoyed most about InterPlay was that it wasn’t about doing anything – not even sitting still or breathing in a particular way or bringing certain images to mind – but simply about letting go or getting out of the way to allow the body-spirit to surrender to the ‘sacred dance’ that is life! As the energy rises and flows with the music it leads the body into divinely choreographed movements. It is not just about relishing one’s own spirit, but also about connecting with the spirit of others, with the divine in nature and with the sacredness of humanity itself.” Janet Pinto,(58), director, Kairos Integral Consulting
• “Unlike other forms of prayer, concentration seemed to come automatically. I felt totally free due to the loss of inhibitions. Praying for the other with the abandon of sacred movement healed self and gave me as much comfort and peace as being prayed over. I could live the rest of my life on a mountain with just movement meditation.” Donna Reen
InterPlay, is a body-spirit practice that consists of interactive, improvised body movement with a playful, childlike quality. Prashant Olalekar, a Jesuit priest based at Pasaydaan Holistic Spirituality Centre, Vasai, improvises on this technique born in California,to emerge with Movement Meditation. Father Prashant learnt this technique while studying Integrated Spirituality at Berkeley, California, in 2004. Subsequently, he did a doctorate in peace studies at GTU, Berkeley, California in May 2006. Besides Vasai, Nashik, Pune and Mumbai, he has conducted Movement Meditation sessions at Toronto, New York, Cincinnati, Kansas, Berkeley, Marin County, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach.
How did you get involved with InterPlay?
While I was doing my studies in Integrated Spirituality at Berkeley, California, in 2004, a Filipina friend insisted that I attend a course called InterPlay, a body-spirit practice that consists of interactive, improvised body movement with a playful, childlike quality. Since I had already registered for other courses, I could not afford one more. She insisted that I attend the first class at least, as it was free.
Cynthia Winton-Henry, a co-founder of InterPlay, began by introducing herself in a dramatic way. Placing her shawl like a wreath around the photo of an Afro-American InterPlayer, who had died a few months earlier, Cynthia began dialoguing with her and introducing herself in the process. Since InterPlay involves expressing the energy of the body, she was laughing, crying, and moving about frenetically. On experiencing the death of her friend, Cynthia started weeping bitterly and rolling on the floor. Finally, she leapt into the air and landed on her feet with head raised high and outstretched hands. She thanked God for the death of her friend, who would be her ancestor in heaven, interceding on her behalf. The spontaneous resurrection dance that followed was truly out of this world.
Then Cynthia asked us to choose a partner. Since I had no partner, she offered to be mine. My body froze at the proposal. She asked us to put one palm to the palm of our partner and move freely to the music. I decided to follow whatever movement she initiated, but she was waiting for me to make the first move. When the music stopped, she graciously bowed and thanked me profusely. On asking her why, she replied, “My problem is to slow down and you really helped me to slow down.” The remainder of the class was amazing. I have never seen such a dynamic and enthusiastic teacher before. At the end, she gave a unique type of homework: “Whenever any opportunity comes your way this week say, “Yes” instead of “Yes, but…” The first thought that crossed my mind was: ‘If only I could attend this course, but…’ For the rest of the evening I faithfully did the homework, dropping the “but…” part. Around 11 pm, I got a phone call from the Filipina. “After class when Cynthia came to know that you were a Jesuit priest from India she was thrilled. When I told her that you would not be attending the course due to lack of funds, she promptly replied, ‘Tell him that he does not need to register. He can come for every class as my personal guest.’” Thus began my eventful encounter with InterPlay.
Why is it called InterPlay?
InterPlay is about “play” – a creative process for personal and communitarian transformation. It awakens the inner child, thus stimulating the natural urge to be playful. “Inter” because it provides a shift from our individualistic tendencies to our desires to be whole people, leading whole lives in connection with each other and the entire universe. Just as “To be is to inter-be” so also “To play is to InterPlay.”
Can you briefly tell us what InterPlay is about?
Through powerful, practical ideas and a system of simple practices rooted in movement, storytelling, song and stillness, we gain access to our own “body wisdom” – what works best for us, what gives our life passion and purpose. Improvised movement is a major part of InterPlay. It begins with simple body movements and proceeds step-by-step to give greater expression to the energy locked up within. It is an art form that fuses body, mind and spirit into one harmonious whole. The emotional, intellectual, psychological, spiritual energies are unified and transformed into a creative force for personal, interpersonal, structural and cosmic peace.
How is InterPlay different from other forms of play?
Sport is usually highly competitive. It inevitably revolves around winning and losing. InterPlay functions in a win-win framework fostering collaboration. Theatre, drama, and dance too are normally highly structured and performance-oriented. Acting and dancing are considered the privilege of a gifted few. No one is excluded from enjoying the spontaneous, free-flowing movements of InterPlay. People of all ages and sizes, and even those with various disabilities can reap its rich benefits. Life can be less like burdensome work and more like refreshing play. It teaches us to play for fun rather than profit, to play for peace rather than indulge in games of war. InterPlayers learn to promote peace in innovative ways that are nonviolent. InterPlay is a countercultural, prophetic movement.
What impact does it have on our lives?
InterPlay’s affirming approach easily enhances our ability to be more spontaneous, expand our awareness and confidence, manage change and uncertainty, trust our body and intuition, make creative choices.
InterPlay transforms communities and society. The ideas and practices of InterPlay can enhance life in our families, circles of friends, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces. We can learn to collaborate with and lead others more gracefully. InterPlay is being used by educators, justice and peace activists, artists, health professionals, organisations, and religious communities all over the world, as an integrated form of personal development and spiritual practice, a creative stimulus for artists and performers, a grounding in wholeness for those in the helping professions, a dynamic tool for organizational development and social transformation, a mentoring process for life discernment.
Why are you so passionate about promoting InterPlay?
During an InterPlay retreat, Phil Porter, the cofounder of InterPlay, was guiding me through a discernment process. He asked me to lie down and let one hand dance in the air. The Jesuit in me wondered how anything would be discerned in this crazy fashion but I eventually surrendered. At the end, I felt a deep peace filling me. God seemed to say, “Trust me, I will show you the way.” When Phil suggested that perhaps God was calling me to be a bridge between the peace activists of the Bay areas of California and Mumbai, it immediately struck me that this was the first sign. In prophetic fashion, I expressed my unworthiness, only to be reassured that if God had chosen me He would see it through. There were quite a few miraculous signs of confirmation later. One of them is the fact that in January 2008, the co-founders of InterPlay will be coming with a team to India to prepare for an “Intercultural Exchange for Global Peace” (IEGP), a project scheduled for January 2009. They have offered to conduct InterPlay workshops as well as train leaders in the skills of InterPlay. At present, I am fully engrossed in conducting Movement Meditation workshops to introduce seekers to some basic ideas and practices of InterPlay which will help to identify participants and leaders for the IEGP 2008.
How is InterPlay related to Movement Meditation?
Based on my studies and experiences in Integrated Spirituality, I have developed a unique model of meditation called Movement Meditation, which integrates InterPlay with Eastern traditions like walking meditation, creative visualization, and deep relaxation. The breathing exercises and movements are spontaneous and simple, yet deeply spiritual. They heighten body-spirit awareness and seem to have a mystical quality of their own. The participants move to the rhythm of the sacred dance of life and experience the truth of “Isa vasyam, idam sarvam” (the Lord infuses all that moves in a moving world – Isha Upanishad) and the concluding verse of the Hebrew psalms: “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.”
Movement Meditation like InterPlay, is not therapy but can be very therapeutic. I have witnessed several amazing healings from diseases like cancer, back pain and depression at sessions conducted in USA and India too. This can also be a powerful tool for the transformation of peace agents who will communicate holistic healing for a wounded world.
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