Writing A New Christmas Story

We all have our stories, our beliefs. This is the season of believing, is it not?

Unfortunately, if you’re like me, this time of the year might reveal some of those not-so-nice beliefs. And that’s not surprising given that many of our entrenched stories began within our family of origin when we were young.

My New Christmas Story begins like most stories, with the status quo. Every Christmas: I have to choose between what I want and connecting with my family.

My coaching colleague, Kristina Turner, and I jumped at the chance to explore this story as an opportunity to play while discovering something new. Continue on to read chapter by chapter as I write a new Christmas story or you can watch the whole transformational play session straight through on YouTube.

Kristina begins by asking me to state the facts, just the facts. Even with years of practice, I am still sometimes challenged by this task.

Chapter 1: The Facts

Then she asks me to bodify what was niggling me. Bodify was made up by Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks and it means to express anything with your whole body using movement, gestures and sounds. Niggling means to cause slight but persistent annoyance, discomfort, or anxiety. We love bodifying our niggles because it allows us to quickly and playfully get to the source of old stories without the struggle of trying to figure it all out with just our brains.

Chapter 2: What’s Niggling?

Here’s where the old stories emerge, beginning with a classic, Why do I have to choose between what I want and connecting with my family?

Chapter 3: Three Ghosts of Christmas Past

You can see in the above clip that I sound very young. How old would you say I sound? About 5 years? It’s no wonder then that 5 year old me launches into a REALLY familiar old story… “I don’t know what I want.”

And I don’t stop there. It seems I’m like Benjamin Button, getting younger and younger. 2 year old me asks, “What about me? Why doesn’t anyone want to come to me?”

Kristina then asks me the money questions: “What’s your new story?” But I answer from my pouting 2 year old’s perspective.

Why don’t I just shift into a new perspective?

Because I haven’t changed anything about my body. And in the words of body intelligence genius, Kathlyn Hendricks:

The quickest way to change your mind, is to change your body.

Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph. D., BC-DMT

Bit by bit, body part by body part, Kristina coaches me into new movement choices. New choices that spark my aliveness and tickle my funny bone.

Chapter 4: Move It

NOW I’m ready to discover my new story…

Chapter 5: Back It Up

As I back up (beep beep), I discover that my new story is waking up on Christmas and dancing my way to what I really want to do. As a final step, Kristina invites me to take one creative action to move toward my new story.

Chapter 6: A Letter to Santa FutureMe

In 10 minutes of transformational play with Kristina, I shifted out of an old story that wasn’t getting me what I wanted and took action toward a new story. We said YES to what I was experiencing in the moment and then added incremental ANDs, like those small movements. This is an example of how Kristina and I improvise and play our way to new choices.

If you desire a playful field where you can come as you are and received focused attention from Kristina and me, we invite you to join our group coaching adventure, New Choice! We’ll meet weekly beginning Wednesday, January 13th 3:30-5:00 pm Pacific. Registration begins January 1st. Be sure to join my mailing list below or Facebook group to get a reminder to sign up!

Prissy: Interview with a Persona

Does it sometimes feel like someone else is acting and speaking for you?

Like you’re sitting backstage and they’re the one in the spotlight whether you want them to be or not?

I know how you feel. I’d like you to meet one of my inner characters: Prissy.

Prissy is very particular about how she’s spoken to and approached. No one will get past her who’s behavior hasn’t passed her “Appropriate Test”. She decided to show up and take the stage a couple of nights ago when she deemed something said by my partner as crass, vulgar and totally inappropriately timed!

Prissy is one of my many personas. Personas are roles that people learn to get positive attention and avoid pain. They are like clothes we learned to put on when we were growing up to get our needs met and they cover up our true self or essence. You can meet some of my other persona characters in this blog post.

Personas also cover up feelings and/or genuine desires. They see the world through an either/or filter, greatly limiting what’s possible. A friend of mine interviewed Prissy for me using a tranformational set of interview questions created by Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks. We found out that what she really wants is to be seen and approached as Holy. But instead of communicating what I really wanted, I criticized, judged and created disconnection. As soon as I let Prissy take over, there was no hope to be received as Holy, because as you can see in the interview below, she is definitely not embodying Holy! She’s uptight and judgmental. What I appreciate about her is that she’s a protector and she’s very clear about what she doesn’t want.

But I can’t get what I want by focusing only on pushing away what I don’t want. At the end of the interview when I started to feel into what I really wanted, I actually had a felt sense of “Holy Sexy”. Which was rather funny, because what my partner said to me was sexual. When I move in this Holy Sexy way, I am in touch with my essence. So if Prissy attracts vulgar comments, I wonder what Holy Sexy attracts?

The first step to discovering when a persona is running your behavior is to MAGNIFY your mannerisms and get curious. Join our private Facebook community to learn more about and practice playful, tranformational moves like magnifying and persona interviews. On Saturday, Dec 5th at 10 AM PST, I’ll be LIVE and diving into The Magnification Move. You can watch through our Facebook group and afterward I’ll share a Zoom link so we can all play together.

And feel free to invite any friends to the group who you think would be interested!

A Play Compass for These Serious Times

Personal transformation thrives in the presence of both STRUCTURE and FLOW, GUIDANCE and IMPROVISATION, INTEGRITY and CREATIVITY.

We created this Conscious Living Play Compass to have fun navigating and practicing play moves inspired by the abundant life work of Drs. Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks. Kathlyn and Gay have been on the leading edge of body-centered consciousness exploration for the last 30 years.

1) Four wonder questions set up the playing field. 

Am I willing to discover something new today?
Hmmm…what kind of attention do I want?
Who do I want to play with to transform my issue?
What agreements support each of us to play?

2) We start playing in the Center of the Compass with presencing skills that create openings within and between us such as breathing, wondering, listening and loop of awareness. The gift of presence welcomes our experience. 

3) As our aliveness gets flowing, we move to the Middle Ring of activities. Whole-body play moves connect us to what’s emerging. We magnify, bodify, do Fear melters™ and match our inner experience. The gift of playful connection befriends our experience. Often this is enough.

4) When we’re ready to move beyond our old stories, create new stories and take inspired action steps, we move to the Outer Ring. We investigate our felt experience and weave it into the bigger picture of what we really want – all while engaging in full-on play. With the Results Transformer, Essence Play, F.A.C.T. and Upper Limits and Willingness, we experience ourselves as players in LIFE. The gift of deep play inspires us to transform the game.

The gift of presence welcomes our experience.

The gift of playful connection befriends our experience.

The gift of deep play inspires us to transform the game.

Dhira Brown & Kristina Turner

If you feel a little lost or like you’re going the wrong way in life, we invite you to explore the next 7 weeks in Circle with our Play Compass. Check out our webpage for more information and to sign up. Last day to sign up is this Monday, September 28th.

Conscious Living Transformation Circle – Fall Session
7 Wednesdays, September 30 – November 11, 2020
3:00 – 4:45 PM Pacific Time on Zoom

By Dhira Brown and Kristina Turner
Co-Facilitators of the Conscious Living Transformation Circle

Creating Space

We need space to improvise. Improvising becomes exponentially more difficult if the space is filled with thinking, planning or talking. Mostly these occur because we are scared of space. Many of us fear silence, the unknown and simply being. It’s challenging for us to believe that our presence is enough for the audience or that we can be in relationship with our scene partner without saying anything.

Like dancing, music or writing, without space, without the pauses, there is no dance, no song, no story. Improv in particular thrives in space because if we fill up the space with thinking and planning, nothing new or original can occur. I would a say that as improvisers, it is our job to cultivate space and then harvest what grows there. What’s so magical about improv is that the more we improvise, the more space we create.

If you’re like me, you probably have a lot going on in your life. I’m very fortunate to have a home, partner, a kid and pets. I homeschool my son, I take improv and acting classes, I perform, I teach classes, I play volleyball and I volunteer at our local park. I’m very grateful that I get to do all these things I enjoy. And I can make myself VERY BUSY. This fall, my schedule was packed. I was running around all over the place to do as many of these things as I could fit into my calendar. One thing to the next. This schedule was of my own making, so it seemed ridiculous to complain and stress about it. Nonetheless, there I was, unsatisfied with my full schedule of amazing things I loved to do.

I began to get curious about my scheduling. I joked that I need to fire my Scheduler and I did, but she quickly snuck back into her job. I wanted to free up space in my schedule, but I kept unconsciously filling it up. I wondered what my unconscious motivation was? First, I want to be good at these things that I do. In particular, I want to master improv and I know that it takes lots practice to master anything. Second, I don’t want to have to choose. Somewhere along the way I decided that to be the best at something, I would have to give up everything else and focus solely on that one thing. When I was 12 I gave up dance to play softball and missed dance terribly. After 10 years of playing both softball and volleyball I finally gave up softball my junior year in college, but not to focus on volleyball, but to pursue a study abroad in marine biology. I always felt behind and second best to those who devoted their time year-round to playing just one sport. Even now, as peers from my improv classes audition for shows and take every opportunity they can to perform, I feel like I’m falling behind. But I HATE having to choose between things that I love and I love doing a variety of things.

I’ve created a mental story that keeps me from getting what I want. Choose to focus on one thing and become a master, but give up the variety and other things I love OR choose the variety and all that I love and fall behind my peers and maybe never become a master at anything. The epitome of between a rock and a hard place. The legendary “either-or” situation. Black or white. I’ve consistently chosen the latter and accepted that bitter taste of slight dissatisfaction. I’ve played this story out many times over the last few decades, so now I’m asking, what else is possible?

I’ve been looking at my time as blocks in my calendar. I see it as rigid and unrelenting. Time is a tool to be used, squeezed, manipulated, controlled and beaten into a schedule that gets me as much of what I want as possible. My schedule is a puzzle and time is an obstacle in my way of solving it. I can’t create a new story with time in this same old mindset.

Getting curious, I asked, hmmm… I wonder how I can improvise with time and my schedule in ways that are deeply satisfying? It seems impossible to create time, but I KNOW I can create space. As I create more space, my perception of time changes and become irrelevant. I do this by being in the moment and improvising. I have no idea what the answer to this questions is… that’s the point of wondering. An excellent wonder question creates a space where something unknown to me can emerge.

Shortly after I began wondering about this lots of spontaneously enjoyable things began to happen. A new friend and I found lots of time to hang out after months of trying to plan a get together. After months of trying to find a date to perform together, an improv peer and I spontaneously got to go on stage together. Things that I hadn’t even known I wanted started presenting themselves along with all the means and support to do them. You probably know what it’s like to have things spontaneously work out. Deeply satisfying.

My old story still lingers though. Stories tend to repeat – especially either-or, black or white stories – when I’m scared. Am I scared of space? I didn’t think so, but if I look at the result – my calendar – I see that I’m fleeing opportunities to create space. I tell myself that nothing happens in space, that I don’t get closer to what I want, to mastering improv. Interesting. I started this blog saying that we need space to improvise. This is a reminder that I can know something intellectually, but until I disrupt my old story and make space inside me for something new, I won’t actually embody it.

My new possibility is that part of my journey to mastering improv includes practicing creating space – anywhere in my life. I wonder how space catalyzes the mastery of anything we’re practicing?

What is your relationship with space and time? What stories do you tell yourself about them? I invite you to wonder and question any story that has a flavor of either-or, black or white, or “rock and a hard place”. Find what makes you feel spacious and practice that.

If you want to experience how improv can cultivate space in your life, check out my upcoming events on my homepage. We gather monthly to practice presence and connect through play in our free drop in class. Beginning in February we’ll use spacious wonder questions as inspiration for our Improvising With Life Lab monthly series. In the Lab, we ask big life questions and then play with them through improv exercises and mind-body centering practices. Register for all four Improvising With Life Labs by February 9th, 2020 and receive a discount, or drop into each individually.