Play is a mode of being. Play is spiritual. It does not avert pain or crave pleasure. Yet, it is not detached. Play embodies divine joy. However, this doesn’t mean that play is always happy and bright. It means that even in pain and darkness play retains some kind of buoyancy.
Curiosity If play is a mode of being, then curiosity is one of its moods. Curiosity is open, never too certain, and able to see possibility. It runs its fingers through the untethered, fluid unknowns of existence. It delights in unanswerable questions.
Thinking-Feeling The material that we play with are thoughts and feelings (or the combination of them: thought-feelings). This doesn’t mean that other things cannot be integrated or incorporated into this: bodies, sounds, images, plants, machines. It just means that this is center of our focus.
Meta Play We don’t just play with thoughts and feelings, we play with how to structure thoughts and feelings. We step inside of play and we are immersed. We step outside, look around, reflect, and see how we can adjust. We design play-structures, we try them out, we redesign them. The essence of meta play is experimentation.
Edges We don’t play “easy” games. We play with our edges. This means playing with what is somewhat emotionally hard, or uncomfortable, or dangerous. Why? Because often we hide parts of ourselves, and prevent these parts from thinking, feeling, and playing. This prevents a fuller play, a play between parts, a play with more modes of reality or connection – an expanding. The essence of truth is unconcealing. To play with our edges is to unconceal – it is to bring to light that which has been hidden.
TransformationThis expanding and revealing can lead to transformation. Transformation of self, but also one's relations to others and the world. What is one transformed into? One who can play more deeply, who has a richer access to curiosity, who is more open and aware.
Non-PurposivenessWe do not play to transform. In our work there is no goal except to be within an emergent process. The only goal is to play curiously with thoughts and feelings. The only goal is to keep open and deepen the play process.
Connection The kind of play we engage in creates connection. Connection is an openness and availability to others. It usually entails feelings of vulnerability, intimacy and authenticity. Connection comes about by being present, by noticing parts of us that want to speak but are unable, by sharing in vital expressions of our imaginations.
Creativity The way that we play, connect and are curious is creatively designed by us. Creativity runs through all levels of our work – from the precise sound of our timers, to our chair arrangements, from roleplaying with facilitator personas, to deciding which virtual platform to implement. Creativity is a love of the aesthetic, the pleasure in design, the delight in juxtapositions.
We, the leadership and facilitators of The Deep Play Institute, want to speak to what it means for us to hold authority in our programs. We want to acknowledge the lineages of what we are offering, as well as our ignorance of many of the branches of those influences. In this acknowledgement we borrow heavily from the language of Hana Van Der Kolk in their facilitation of somatic practices. The methods we offer are only in small part influenced by our own creativity - they derive from a complex interweaving of teachings and teachers, who themselves are complex interweavings of teachings and teachers. We will name these teachers, lineages, and influences wherever we are aware of them. However, as Hana writes: “We recognize that colonization, white supremacy, and globalization have erased some of the clarity of influence. We will do our best to unforget in the context of a culture that actively produces ignorance.”
At DPI we see it as our responsibility to explore barriers to play – to explore the question of: “What makes play hard?” We work this question into the structure of our play so that we don’t miss out on the wisdom that’s offered by participants of various social identities, legacies, and landscapes of ability. People of different races, classes, ethnicities, ages, neurodivergences, sexual orientations, abilities, and genders may find particular play with particular people and leaders challenging in ways that reflect the impacts of their intersecting identities. Rather than orient towards these hardnesses as obstructions, we work to see them as opportunities to play more deeply and reverentially with one another’s perceptual gifts. The play becomes magical, political, and deeply experimental as it continually welcomes friction as an impetus for creativity. When friction arises during our workshops, we improvise to understand the unfolding group process, and learn from the experience as much as possible rather than rigidly follow our original plans.
This is much easier said than done, however, and we recognize that as facilitators, our various privileges and limitations can impair our skillfulness in navigating how to responsibly and reverentially hold authority. As facilitators, we hope we are able to see the frictions and hardnesses that emerge in our play spaces. Sometimes, our own shame, resistance, and avoidance prevents us from seeing, let alone playfully encountering, these frictions. We see these moments as some of our most profound opportunities for growth, and seek feedback throughout our programs to that end. We hope for your grace and patience as we learn alongside you.