"Work and Play"

Small-Group Session (2 of 2)



Before the session starts, the leader should set chairs in a circle, with a chalice and matches on a small table in the middle, or somewhere visible to participants.  Make sure the strips of paper for “Readings from the Common Bowl” are in the bowl.  Welcome people, and allow folks to settle before lighting the chalice.


Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

The group leader lights the chalice (or asks someone else to) and then, with the intent of creating sacred space, reads the following words:

Sing or read together, Hymn #123 Spirit of Life found in the grey hymnal.


Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me...

 Brief Check-In

Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question.  The check-in question is: “What is present for you?”


Readings from the common bowl

The leader passes around the bowl, with strips of paper that have quotes on them.  Invites each person to take one strip/quote out of the bowl. Then, invites each to read the quotes.  They don’t have to read in order, one right next to the last one.  But instead, invite them to allow some silence after every quote, and then to see if the quote they picked out of the bowl should go next or not.  (See additional page for quotes; these are the quotes that will be torn into separate strips, and put in the bowl before the meeting)


Focusing Question

After everyone has read the different statements, the leader asks the central question that will guide the session’s discussion: “How do you understand play?  Do you engage in play?  What does play mean for you in your life?”


First Round

Leader invites attendees to take no more than 2 minutes to share a response to the question.  Find a way to gently hold the group to the no-more-than-2-minute limit.  Also, let people know there’s no cross-talk to the responses: group-members don’t answer the statements people make.  One person speaks for oneself, then the next person does the same.  It’s not a conversation, so much as a series of statements. Again, each with some silence or space between. And, again, voices don’t need to go in order, with people sitting beside each other speaking—just as the spirit moves.



After hearing everyone’s statements, the leader invites the group to sit in silence for 2-3 minutes.  This is not time for them to plan what they’ll say.  It’s time to sit and be present, to let whatever comes up, come up. 


Second round, reflections on what was heard, with additional thoughts

Whereas in the first round, attendees were encouraged to stick to their own thoughts, here in the second round, people can respond to some of what they heard.  Again, encourage brevity—whether a formal 2-minute limit is enforced or not, encourage the conversation to move from one place to another in the circle, not getting dragged down to one or two voices who speak at length.  It’s OK for people to respond to each other’s comments but the responses should not be attempts to fix a dilemma raised, correct someone’s feelings.


Likes and wishes

The leader asks for people to share, as they’re moved, what they liked about the session, and what they wish for next time, that they may or may not have experienced this time.


Closing Words & Extinguishing the Chalice

 We extinguish the light of this chalice,

But not the light within

For that goes with us,


 Quotes for The Common Bowl

Now it's time to play. Nobody says, 

like they used to, but in my bones 

the desire overwhelms me. "Write! 

Make a poem," say the bones. 


The inlet will come first. It always does. 

Water calls urgently, "egret." The waterbird 

that moves elastically over the surface 

making everything focus soon or late. 


Now my hand enters. It always does. 

It gives the bones reason to observe. 

It makes the egret the finest thing in sight 

and the water intelligent north of here. 


Water is genius because it is interconnected. 

Drop south knows drop north. 

But the bones will lose their joy 

if the bird overwhelms the old playground.

-Landis Everson, Time to Play 


Robert Frost called poetry "serious play" and this month's Scientific Americanmakes a claim for its primal importance to childhood development (they don't mention poetry explicitly, but we know what they really mean). The magazine cites new studies that say children need unstructured free play for proper cognitive development. This "free play" is more than just signing up for rule-bound games at recess, but indulging in creative free-for-alls which help children develop strong social as well as communication skills.
To wit:
The child initiates and creates free play. It might involve fantasies—such as pretending to be doctors or princesses or playing house—or it might include mock fighting, as when kids (primarily boys) wrestle and tumble with one another for fun, switching roles periodically so that neither of them always wins. And free play is most similar to play seen in the animal kingdom, suggesting that it has important evolutionary roots.


(Could the same need for serious play apply to the development of poetry itself? Anyone from "Untitled New York" care to respond?).
And on a related note, this kid is just back from dental surgery: 

-Travis Nichols, Serious Play and Dental Surgery 


“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.” 
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women 



“Child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived within him and who he will miss terribly” 
― Pablo Neruda 


“That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost. The word ‘lost’ comes from the old Norse ‘los’ meaning the disbanding of an army…I worry now that people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know.

Advertising, alarmist news, technology, incessant busyness, and the design of public and private life conspire to make it so. A recent article about the return of wildlife to suburbia described snow-covered yards in which the footprints of animals are abundant and those of children are entirely absent. Children seldom roam, even in the safest places… I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest.” 
― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost