Sacred Joy [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 7]


joy, #quest2015


How could you make moments of joy a sacred priority in 2015?
What forms will such moments take?

The seventh prompt for reflection in Quest 2015 comes from Sunni Brown. In addition to the prompt, she encouraged us to doodle, draw, photograph, or write into these questions.

The word sacred tripped me up immediately. One of my current journeys is trying to find secular language for natural human experiences that traditionally inspire religions interpretations. In my lifelong quest for understanding of my so-called spiritual experiences, I have spent many years working with interpretations of religious language that are expansive enough to include my experience as someone who is uncomfortable with any interpretation of these experiences that cannot be verified empirically. And, I am tired of it. I want language that doesn’t require me to translate it internally for my comfort.

That said, one definition of sacred is that which is entitled to reverence and respect. Reverence is a deep form of respect, one that reaches towards devotion and honour.

So, in secular language, the prompt is How could you make moments of joy a priority and show them honour and respect?

And this is a question I know how to answer.

I can make moments of joy a priority by actively looking for them, noticing them, and savouring them. I can follow my body wisdom toward activities that tend to trigger joy.

I can show them honour and respect by not rushing them, by allowing them to take space and time in my life for as long as possible. In some cases, I will be able to honour them by documenting them – taking a photograph or writing a poem. In others, sharing them with others, pointing out a joy trigger to someone nearby, will be appropriate.

I did respond to the invitation to doodle, draw, or photograph into these questions as opposed to my more traditional writing. But, with a slight twist. I used playful digital photo manipulation as my entry point into today’s prompt.

Those who have been following my Quest 2015 posts may have noticed a pattern to the images at the top of my posts in this series. They are all variations on the same image. I knew I wanted to link the posts together visually when I started the series, so I found a background image and started working.

Image from GraphicStock

The background image


I cropped to a square I like, and then generated 18 colour variations using the tools at PicMonkey. I added the hashtag #quest2015 and a border, then waited for the prompts to be revealed. Each time a prompt is revealed, I select a ready to use image, add the prompt title, and put it in my post.

I played with some options that I chose didn't fit with the style I was going for.

I played with some options that didn’t fit with the style I was going for.


When I made the pink and yellow variation, I liked it, but wasn’t sure I would use it because it seemed very different from the others I had chosen. However, it struck me as perfect for this prompt, so I used it.

The Blank Canvas

But, it was missing something. So, I played around in PicMonkey, adding stickers and effects, deleting them, trying new effects, and finally settling on adding stars. After some playing around, I had added 5 star effects to the picture and created an image I liked – the one at the top of this page.

And, in playing with the images, I unlocked my resistance to the prompt and was able to dive in and write.

Sunni Brown is leader of The Doodle Revolution – a global campaign for visual literacy and also the name of her new book. Sunni is also the author of Gamestorming, named one of Amazon’s Top 100 Business Books, which lays out visual thinking techniques for business. Sunni’s common sense, wit, and pragmatic applications of neuroscience have led her to consult with Disney, Sharpie, Zappos, and elsewhere. Her TED Talk “Doolders Unite!” has been viewed over 1 million times, and Fast Company named Sunni one of the Top 100 Most Creative People in Business.

Heart Leaps [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 4]

joy, #quest2015

Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder put together a program to help business artists plan for 2015 in an unusual way. Quest 2015 consists of a community of people and prompts that are sent out for people to respond to 12 times during the month of December. Part of the community building is through sharing blog posts, so I will be posting more frequently between now and the end of my reflections. After the 12 reflection posts, I’ll be back to my regular, irregular posting schedule.

Prompt Four

The fourth prompt for reflection in Quest 2015 comes from Pam Houston.

Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?


This question is the easiest of the prompts so far because it is a specific application of a practice that I have been doing for years, a practice that embraces many of the fundamental principles of InterPlay.

Notice, Notice, Notice: Pay attention to what is, with a particular emphasis on your embodied experience of the good things. 

Inner Authority: Claim that knowing. What you experience in your body IS true for you. You are the only person who can speak to the truth of your experience.

Body Data, Body Knowledge, Body Wisdom: What you notice about your lived experience in a single moment is a unit of body data. When you collect data over time, you can see patterns and build up a catalog of body knowledge. And, with a library of body knowledge at your disposal, you can exercise body wisdom by making choices that serve your greater good.

In InterPlay, we often talk about body wisdom in relationship to making choices that serve our sense of grace, which we define as the physical experience that is the opposite of stress.

When Pam Houston is talking about heart leaps, I think she is suggesting a slightly more ambitious possibility for life design. She is not talking about ease and flow, two concepts closely related to grace. She is talking about that stretch us into awe and wonder. In many cases, these moments call us to grow in love and connection to the world and this growth is not always easy. In many cases, the things that make our hearts leap create a good kind of stress, eustress as opposed to distress.

For me, the things that make my heart leap are creative breakthroughs, deep connections with friends, laughter and smiles with my children, and the beauty of nature. I can cultivate opportunities for all of these. I can choose to take my free time to connect with people I already have deep relationships with. I can return to the page, editing my fiction, over and over again. I can be present with my children when I am in the room with them. And, I can make sure that my week has many walks in natural settings.

And, most importantly, I can keep noticing my experience and shift what I do if things no longer bring me grace or joy.


According to her bio, Pam Houston is the beloved author of four books including novel Contents May Have Shifted and the interconnected short stories Cowboys Are My Weakness. She is Professor of English at UC Davis, directs the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers, and teaches in The Pacific University low residency MFA program.

Pay Attention to What’s Working

Blasts from the Past: While I am busy finishing the current revision of The Red Oak, I am running a few of the most popular posts from this blog that were published at the old site. Enjoy.

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Notice the Good Stuff and Choose More of It

Notice the Good Stuff. It sound so simple, but for many of us it requires a huge shift of focus. Notice the good stuff. Not the peeling wallpaper, the nasty thing someone said in passing, the cleaning that didn’t happen, the new wrinkle around your eyes. Not those.

Pay attention to the beauty of a dew drop on a leaf, the smile from a stranger, getting up from the sofa without the twinge in your back you have come to expect. Pay attention to the part of your writing that works, the warmth of a cosy sweater, the email from your spouse asking if they can pick you up something as they stop at the store after work, the relaxation that follows a deep exhalation.

In almost any moment, you can find something to smile about and something to frown about. Choosing to focus on the smile doesn’t make the frown go away, but it does make the frown easier to take.

Creatives are creative because we notice lack, lack of beauty, lack of meaning, lack of clarity, lack of external things that expresses our lived reality. Our creativity springs from an impulse to improve – even when we create playfully, we are making something from nothing, which means some part of us noticed the nothing.

That part of us will always be there: the critic, the worrywart, the internal editor.

But, we can choose to see also the beauty, the love, the joy, the peace. Even if it is only for a moment.

We need those moments.

Noticing the good stuff gives us the ground from which we can create more good stuff – more stuff to fill the void we cannot help but see.

What is the good stuff you see around you right now?

Me, I hear children at the nearby school laughing as they play at recess and the soft purr of the warm cat curled up next to me. I hear my breath as I exhale through my nose – still somewhat stuffy, but clearer than this morning when I had to breathe through my mouth due to the congestion caused by my fall cold.

It is a rough day in a rough week for me. I have too much to do and I am sick and saddened by bad news in my family. But, even in my illness and my emotional pain, when I look, I can see the good stuff too.

How about you? Can you notice any good things about this moment?

Rise of the Guardians and the Power of Being Seen


I took the kids to see Rise of the Guardians this week. One of our local theatres has been having cheap matinees for the kids during March break, so I took them. We don’t usually spend the money to see movies in the theatre, and it isn’t on Netflix yet, so it was the first viewing for all of us.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it is about Jack Frost teaming up with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy to battle the Boogey Man. The battle is fought through children: to exist powerfully, these figures must convince children to believe in them.

The heart of the story is Jack Frost’s desire to be seen. The children of the world don’t believe in him and can’t see him.


How many of us just want to be seen? As ourselves, in all our glory, without judgment?

One of the greatest gifts InterPlay has to offer is the witness.

Telling a story or dancing with a witness in InterPlay is a profound experience for many people.

Using one of the forms, a player speaks or moves in their own space. Although they are allowed to treat the witness as an audience, this is a choice. It is completely acceptable not to acknowledge the witness during the form.

The witness observes.

The witness observes not only the speaker, but also their own experience. After the piece is complete, there is a moment for both parties to have their experience without speaking about it. When the witness does respond to the piece aloud, he focuses on the good and on his own experience.

Focusing on the good stuff creates a supportive and safe environment. By remaining grounded in his own experience, the witness creates space for the piece and the player to remain separate. The witness is not speaking about the player, so he cannot judge the player and the player’s whole experience is allowed to exist completely without conditions. Ironically, by focusing on his own experience, the witness gives the player an experience of having been seen.

I don’t understand exactly how it works. I only know it does.

And being seen an accepted as a whole, in all your glory, messy and marvelous, is a gift that most human beings need more of.

Not having to hide is rare and beautiful.

But more, there is a lasting magic. After being seen fully many times in InterPlay classes, people find themselves showing up more fully in the rest of their lives, and that is a path to joy.

For those who are local to me and interested, in addition to my regular monthly InterPlay class, I have an InterPlay for writers workshop starting at the end of the month: Words in Motion.