Imaginative Variations

This past fall DePaul’s Center to Advance Education for Adults invited Meg Wheatley to keynote and lead an afternoon workshop at a conference we titled “Thriving in Transition.” (You can download Wheatley’s keynote for free at the CAEA itunesU site in the itunes store. See instructions here.

During the afternoon workshop we had some fun in small groups as we first told one version of our story, and then (after reconvening with new people) told a completely different version of our story. My favorite story was when, in response to the question “how do you respond to aggression?,” a very conservative-looking woman from the Chicago Archdiocese explained that she immediately began rapping when faced with aggression. In great detail she told us how she defused even the most violent aggressors by incorporating their criticisms and threats into her rap songs, and even occasionally broke into the latest street dance moves.

We delighted ourselves and each other with this lived experience of telling playful imaginative variations of our stories. Tales of fear and insecurity transformed into courageous acts; experiences of anger and frustration became filled with compassion and hope; and stories of victimization became doorways to empowered new beginnings.

Ever since that experience and the energy created in it, I have slowed down a bit and—if not in the actual moment of my story-telling, soon after—imagined other versions of the story. Perhaps the person cutting me off in traffic was not consumed in their own self-centeredness, but rushing to the aid of a sick child; perhaps the angry outburst at the board meeting was not an attack, as much as an expression of fear of the uncertain future. Each imaginative variation of the story gives us the power to reposition ourselves, make different choices and have different responses.

This practice seems particularly resonant with playspace which invites us to play new roles and create more play in the system.

What was the best thing about . . . ?

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. Despite the blare of television commercials and media reports from area shopping malls, we are choosing a quiet day of puttering around the house with vague plans for an afternoon movie. I am enjoying this calm and thinking about our dinner last night with friends.

At some point in our feast, between our non-traditional Thanksgiving Ceasar salad and Rita’s amazing stuffing, my partner asked “so what was the best thing about this year for everyone?” As we went around the table, each sharing a bit of gratitude and anticipation for the year ahead, I was reminded of the power of simple appreciation. The things we named—weathering a relationship rough patch and feeling hopeful; happy for abundant client work and interesting projects; excitement about creative energy in a new collaboration, and simply being able to create the space to share a decadent meal in the midst of it all—became a bit brighter in the claiming.

It is so simple, and perhaps a bit new-agey, yet has played out again and again in my experience: what we focus on becomes our reality. As we drove home, completely satiated and a bit over-indulged, I felt the opportunities and generative core each of us tapped guiding us. How nice that we take at least one day a year to slow down enough to notice this. And even nicer that we can choose to do it whenever we feel our vision of possibilities flagging.

The Website and the Blog

Dear reader,

Thank you so much for joining us and taking a peak at our new website. In this blog, Pamela will share more playspace insights, best practices and her experiences on the tour with her new book From Workplace to Playspace, as well as answer questions she hears along the way.

On the website you also will find new updates about playspace event and workshop dates, the book and the philosophy behind it.

We hope you enjoy your visit and come back soon.