Mindful Play Sessions Backstory

Jan 19 2018

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Buddha and Daffodils

I’m going to be running a series of Mindful Play sessions in Bristol in February and March. To start my preparations, I’ve been pondering where the sessions first came from. Here’s the story that wants to be told today (ask me on another day and I'll tell you something else!).

I originally created The Mindful Play sessions in December 2014, as a way of reconnecting with my Masters dissertation research. I also wanted to find a way of integrating all the new stuff I’d been living and learning since finishing my dramatherapy masters in summer 2013. 

I’d built up so much momentum, passion and dedication to learning and growing through my 3 intense years of studying, I was finding it tricky to adjust to life outside the melting pot of therapeutic education. So in January 2014, I spent 6 weeks in the freezing Canadian winter, meeting myself in increasingly ridiculous ways, studying Clown Through Mask with clown-shaman, Sue Morrison. Blown apart by the powerful process, fragments of my former Self somehow boarded a plane and wafted back to the UK, where I chose to make The Big Yellow Storage Company my new home. 

For the next 9 months, I lived out of a suitcase, exploring the notion of “home being inside me” whilst teaching, directing and facilitating about 9 million projects all over the UK and France. I stayed on sofas, in spare rooms, in caravans and in my little red tent, reading all the Buddhist teachings and self-help books I could get my hands on by the light of my trusty head torch.

After 9 months on the road, I took my little red tent to my regular meditation retreat centre in the quiet Devonshire countryside. In the silence of the spacious meditation hall, I hovered above my cushion, celebrating my incredible experience of chucking all my stability away in search for the anchor within. Gradually, through the week, I came down to rest on the ground beneath me and slowly it dawned on me that I was soul tired and desperate and what I needed most was to stop.

Back in Bristol, I found a tiny little flat, just big enough for me and all the tat I’d been paying to store at The Big Yellow Storage Company (about a third of which went straight to the charity shop). The first things to find their place in my new home were my meditation cushions; I dedicated a corner of my bedroom to my sitting practice, placing pretty shells and stones from my travels around my cushions. Here was a place where I was allowed to just be, I could relax and experience the physical support of Home. I was so happy, I kissed the walls of my flat goodnight every night.

As I began to settle down with myself, I noticed my unpublished dissertation glaring at me from the book shelf. Apparently, it hadn’t really enjoyed its time in a dark cardboard box with all the other books. My lecturers had told me I could and should publish it as it was, but I didn’t like the tone of it. It was the first big academic thing I’d ever written, having skipped an undergraduate degree and it read like I’d typed it whilst holding my breath and looking over my shoulder, waiting to be caught as an imposter. It sounded forced, inauthentic and like I was trying too hard. Bless.

So I had the idea to tap back into my research, focusing on play, flow, spontaneity and connection as my 4 main themes. It made sense to me to bring the research back to life by sharing it with others, so I created 4 drop in sessions and threw the doors open to the playful community of Bristol. The 2014 sessions were ridiculously well attended and by the final week, there were too many people for the small space I’d hired. As a first draft, people seemed to like it, I was happy with the content, but frustrated with how my stage fright had effected my delivery of the theory. 

In 2015, back in the writing zone, I used the notes from these sessions as an outline for the first four chapters of my book and was enjoying the process of writing when tragedy struck! My computer crashed, taking 2 chapters with it (I know, I know, I should have backed up- let this be a lesson to all of us!). So I did the sensible thing. I went on writing strike. For two and a half years.

Last year, I decided I’d had enough of being limited by my stage fright, it had been showing up in every area of my life, not only in the obvious places; effecting my confidence as a university lecturer and my compering of the Beyond The Ridiculous shows, but also behind the scenes- I realised I was staying small for fear of being seen. So I decided to look my stage fright in the eyes, making 3 solo shows about it in three months, blogging my head off the whole time. The two big things that came out of this project were 1.) curing myself of stage fright and 2.) finding my voice as a writer! Hallelujah! 

Roll forwards to spring 2018, I’ve moved out of my tiny flat and into a big house with a long man who I love. In the corner of my office room, my meditation cushions sit, inviting me to come and be with myself every morning. I am happier and more grounded than I’ve ever been which is allowing me to share my work with more people than ever. I have finally forgiven my old computer for crashing and I’m ready to write again. 

I’ve decided to reboot the Mindful Play sessions: 1.) to reconnect with my research and investigate how all the new stuff I’ve discovered over the last few years fits with the good old stuff. 2.) to share everything I’ve been exploring about mindfulness and playfulness with the courageous people of Bristol to find out what it does for them 3.) to give myself something to write about. Whatever it becomes, I promise to back up regularly. 

Read more about what will happen in The Mindful Play Sessions here

The fortnightly sessions will run on Tuesday nights from 7.30-10 at the Unitarian Chapel in Bristol. The sessions are individually themed as follows:

  • Play - 13th February
  • Flow - 27th February
  • Spontaneity - 13th March
  • Connection - 27th March

Single sessions are payable through Brown Paper Tickets or on the door in cash: £15 (£10 concessions) per session


Standard rate: £50 for all 4 sessions (£12.50 per session) 

Concession rate: £30 for all 4 sessions (£7.50 per session)

Look forwards to playing with you xxx

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