Mindful Play Reflections and Poems

Mar 01 2021

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Poem by anonymous participant, written during the Mindful Play Lab, Feb 2021. Graphics by Holly Stoppit

For the last four weeks, I've been running The Mindful Play Sessions on Zoom, for a carefully selected group of wonder-beings as part of my process of writing a Handbook of Mindful Play for group leaders. This blog offers some of my reflections on the past 4 weeks and a collection of poems capturing the essence of Mindful Play written by the group during the sessions.

For a little context: In January, I received a Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England to spend time wrangling my book into a shape that publishers might be interested in. I began with an unscheduled yet inevitable bare fisted battle with my Inner Critic. Then after a few weeks of getting friendly with the floor, I called in my Inner Compassion and Inner Project Manager to help me work out what support I needed. We created a writing schedule and recruited a lot of help from my writer friends, my supervisor and an American Zen Clown teacher.

Throughout February, for two and a half hours each week, I took a group of 8 highly experienced playful practitioners who have already attended many of my workshops, on a journey into the realms of Mindful Play, in a specially adapted Zoom version of my 4-week course.

The Mindful Play Sessions are designed to help people explore their relationship with play, flow, spontaneity and connection through meditation, play, writing and discussion. The book explores some of the theory underpinning this work as well as offering guidance to group leaders who wish to bring elements of Mindful Play into their own practice. I have been working on the book in between all my marvellous multitudes of teaching, facilitating, directing and performance projects, since 2014. 

Running The Mindful Play Sessions on Zoom was a lot more successful than I'd imagined it would be, as so much of the course is about connection. In the real life version, there are a lot of explorations of eye contact and consensual touch and there are weekly group vocal compositions. None of that is possible on Zoom, so I had to create alternative exercises.

As we are now a year into a pandemic and everyone is affected in many ways, I wanted the exercises to be very flexible so that each individual could connect in a way that felt healthy for them. This felt like a really worthwhile exploration, opening up my thinking about inclusive practice even wider. The feedback from the participants let me know that there is enormous multilayered discovery to be found through being invited to connect with others on your own terms. The participants weekly feedback helped me to gradually find a workable format for the online version of the course, which I'm keen to share with a new batch of participants soon.

The feedback also addressed what the participants hoped I might cover in the book, in relation to each session. I've spent the last month responding to their list of requests without editing. It has felt energising and exciting to free flow on the page about my facilitation practice, I'm really grateful to the group for their sparks of inspiration. There are loads of chunks of gold in amongst that mega ramble that will find their place in the book, later on in the process.

At the end of each session, I invited the group to share some of their reflections in the Zoom chat box. Their sharing's were so juicy, that I asked whether they'd be happy for me to include them here on my blog. They all agreed, so here follows a collection of poetry inspired by The Mindful Play Sessions, February 2021.

Session One: Play 

This is a collective poem, written by the group in the Zoom chat box at the end of Session One and arranged by Holly Stoppit.

How To Play

Don’t rush,
Create an atmosphere of calm,
Ground yourself.
Start with the present
And follow your curiosity.
Give yourself permission,
Take space to play alone.
Warm up your body,
Touch surfaces,
Follow what feels good.
Where is the pleasure?
Open to arising joy.

Be compassionate
To where you are at.
Indulge your curiosity
About other people.
Allow a slow uncurling,
Don't force anything.
Offer gentleness
And respond spaciously.
Relax your face.
Absorb the enthusiasm
Of others.

You have a choice,
To play or not to play.
See what each situation brings,
Rather than imposing an agenda.
Let it unfurl,
Without having a direction.
BREATHE and make
Whatever sounds you like.
Laugh at yourself!
Don't give up!
We are not experts,
or trying to be impressive
or ‘appropriate.’
We play where and how we are.
And through this,
We intuitively stretch the boundaries
between ourselves
and each other.

Session two: Flow

These short poems are written by individual participants, taking fragments of their free writing from throughout the session, exploring the themes of flow and vulnerability.

On Flow and Vulnerability

follow pleasure for freedom in flow,
where intensity can come from the familiar,
when hiding from capture in the land of the lame.
-Aisha Ali

in a beautiful animal body,
Seen: a joy
Seeing: delight
It's enough
-Ed Rapley

The little gatekeeper can be charmed,
With enough space and buzzing bones
and a snaking dance around the lounge.
Their hiding places can be warmed and loosened,
til they emerge- stretched out, glowing.
- Naomi Smyth

Flow dances in and out like seaweed on the tide
Vulnerability lurks in murky water
What if... what if... what if.... is the death of both

big bold small trickle,
enormous feet, miniature giggle,
another to another as, washed by the tide,
rocked and soothed
calm in the arms of the ocean.
I climb inside.
Up and down and down and deeper.
-Chez Dunford

Elusive and unusual, safe familiar place.
In the depths from different parts, I draw a well of song!
To carry me when I'm tired and badly behaved, just as I am.
Washed-up in my limbs...

washed up stiff old star fish,
rumbling boom from deep in the womb,
oh don’t be crazy now, gentle, they’re tired

Session three: Spontaneity

Participants wrote in the Zoom chat box in response to questions throughout Session three. Holly Stoppit arranged their words into 3 poems. 

What Stops You Following Your Spontaneous Impulses?

Fear, doubt and deadlines,
Rules and boundaries,
To-do lists and perfectionism,
Too much structure,
Not enough resources,
Stuck in non-responsive mode,
I forget that I can do it.
Frozen, danger, shyness,
Fear of being psychotic,
Worried abut being weird,
What will people think?

What is Your Inner Critic Trying To Protect You From?

My Inner Critic has collected evidence,
Of things that have happened as proof!
I would crumple if I failed,
I couldn’t cope with failure.
I'd look like an idiot,
and people would treat me like shit,
They'd talk about me behind my back.
Excluded, rejected, shunned and abandoned,
By everyone I love.
I'd be forgotten, I'd die alone,
Or live ALONE a long time.
Hated, useless, unloved, shamed.
Being seen as the NOTHING I am.
My soul rendered into a boiling sludge,
in the heat of a global firestorm of hatred.

What Would You Do If Your Inner Critic Couldn’t Stop You?

I'd be so brilliant!
I'd sing in public,
Have more fun,
Dance more, play more,
Love more.
I'd find myself so SEXY!
I'd run up a hill naked!

I'd trust my skills!
I'd make a bunch of shows,
Publish my poetry,
Make my art,
Go with my impulses, without doubt.
I'd say ALL the things,
I'd ask for ALL the money,
I'd apply for funding.
I'd do it all,
and I'd be a massive success!

I'd be so so clever!
I'd get over things quicker,
Learn from my mistakes ,
Instead of repeating stupid patterns.
I'd give up on things I don’t like.
I'd tell those collywobbles where to get off,
Compassionately (of course)!
I'd be utterly happy.

Session four: Connection

The following poems were written by the individuals in the group, using their free writing from throughout the session as a starting point.

The Keys To Connection

On a breath and inside it,
See the sound, no rush,
When enjoy is here, connect is here
When the brain fucks off!
-Chez Dunford

Trust this softening gaze
Laugh your heart open
Not thinking, not trying, just humans being

Giving gifts generously,
Attend. Listen. Act.
Throw your phone into the fucking sea.
-Ed Rapley

Brilliant, sparkling idea, at the same time!
Who’s it coming from?
We jump like stones into a ripple.

Would you like to come in for a bit?
Bit of a mess I’m afraid,
and there are places I haven’t explored,
dark places that rustle and creak.
I imagine your gaff is pristine.
Maybe you could show me round some time.
I’d like to know you.
-Naomi Smyth

We shared stories of wobbly hearts
and life sized Elvis Presley cakes
on beaches that were wind swept
and moaning teenagers
who were only satiated
with greasy chips
wrapped in paper for tea.
These people with nice faces
smiling, laughing, breathing it all in.
-Jules Allan

Hardwired for love,
milk of kindness flooding through us,
the truth of the rhythm is,
I am you.
-Angela Hill

Bare feet on
rough rug
pleases me.
Opens me up
to my senses
here and now.
Held. Met. Curious.
I follow your voice
to the wilds of our
shared imagination
splashing in it
til our arses
are laughed off
-Aisha Ali

For the next 6 weeks, I'll be working with an editor / writing mentor to bosh all my ramblings into something that resembles a book. I will also be attending an online course in somatic meditation to see if I can integrate body-based practice into my writing. Tune back in next month to find out how that went.

If you'd like to read more about the whole project check out:

Click here to read about how I overcame my first bout of writer's block

Click here for top tips for curating the conditions for creativity.

Click here to read about what I discovered about the role of surrender in creativity, grief and opening to beauty. 

Click here to find out what nature taught me about how to surrender. 

Click here for a round up of the whole project

Holly Stoppit menu