Talk on Playful Leadership: The Art & Science of Emotions

Riddle me this: What am I? The more you have of me, the less you can see. It’s darkness of course. One of the biggest taboos we face as individuals and in groups are emotions. When it comes to feelings, we are encouraged to “go dark” or in the words of Elsa, the Snow Queen, “Never let them show”. Yet it is our awareness and ability to listen and respond to our emotions that enable us to lead, live and love authentically.

Want to Play Some More?

Join me in an interactive and playful talk “Playful Leadership: The Art & Science of Emotions” on Wednesday, 21 April 2021 from 6.30 – 8 pm BST, to learn to “let it go” by exploring the role of emotions, how they are made and get the chance to play your way towards authentic leadership through greater emotional intelligence. Thanks to Lean Agile Brighton for hosting this talk!

This Is The Way

Happy International Women’s Day one and all!

Into Silence

Almost exactly a year ago, just before the UK went into lockdown for the first time, I set out on a journey of personal discovery by taking part in my first silence course in the beautiful setting of Gaia House in Newton Abbot, Devon. Given the majority of the course was spent in silence (which could ironically drive many people out of their minds some say), my only hope was to last the distance. That alone would have been enough of a baby step towards Enlightenment for me. I figured that would count as my bit for nudging humanity closer toward world peace, especially in these challenging times.

Going into silence for 5 days re-combobulated my mind. I spent many hours each day sitting in profound silence among 40 adult strangers. It felt daunting yet liberating to be free from electronic devices. Many minutes were spent in mindful walking practice around the tranquil grounds in daylight and at night (which made me chuckle inwardly because of the parallels between a brain-dead zombie-shuffle and a mindful shuffle for onlookers). Then one afternoon, when I least expected it, I saw Mara, my inner critic according to Buddhist tradition, appear as a small girl in my mind’s eye squatting down playing with the stones in the garden. She seemed really sad. When I saw her as she really was, I just wanted to give her a hug. Seeing Mara without feeling afraid of her opened my heart. I eventually completed the course in time to go home as the country went into lockdown.

Living Your Dreams Requires Self-Compassion

Fast forward a year on. To my surprise and delight, I’ve managed to cultivate a regular daily meditation and yoga practice. Two things that I never thought possible. And since I like to think impossible and lucky things come in threes, during COVID, The School of Play has had a extension put in (both virtually and metaphorically) to celebrate life through creativity and yoga called Studio Tara! Studio Tara is dedicated to children and family yoga where children and families can explore play through yoga and creativity, online and in-person (when we’re able to again!).

The training to become a children’s yoga teacher is one of the most challenging, fulfilling, daunting and enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. That’s because for me, it’s one of the true tests in showing up as yourself in service of others by being your whole self. Think proper Jedi training, complete with meditation “Baby Yoda” Grogu style.

In pursuing my life’s purpose to promote happier adulthood through lifelong play, I’ve made friends with 15 of the most compassionate and loving adults I’ve ever come across. Who would have thought children’s yoga teachers make up one of the play tribes I’ve been looking for? All this is thanks to Ayala Homossany, an inspirational and awe-inspiring yoga teacher because of her humanity whose life purpose is to empower children through creativity and yoga. Happy International Women’s Day for life!

From Nay to Yay to Play

Hip! Hip! Hooray! We’re delighted to announce the first ever online play workshop, From Carpe Diem to Carpe Annum 2021, created by The School of Play is full up and ready to rock.

Thank you to those of you who’ve written to me since the launch of Four Seasons of Play, an online play programme designed to mark, explore and celebrate each season of your life’s play adventure in 2021 in these challenging and interesting times.

Never Say Never

Some of you said: “Thanks, not this time… No, thanks. t’s not really for me… No, thanks but I’ll pass it on for sure.” Never say never, so perhaps tomorrow will be the day to play. Or may be next time. Or the time after that. Play works like a muscle so we never really forget so long as we’ve played in our childhood. It’s like riding a bike, or bowling a ball or skating on ice. The most important step is the first one. In any case, it’s never too late to start. And it’s always a good time to learn.

Learn to Look Beyond Optical Illusions

Then out of the blue, one of you wrote to say, “There’s something about this whole play thing that most people seem to have missed – myself included I’m sorry to say. Yet it attracts me as the missing ingredient to just making all of life wonderful – besides I appreciate it’s less serious than other forms of spiritual enlightenment.” This is what makes my heart sing. And may be it will make yours sing, too – if you allow it.

 Calling All Playmakers and Playmaker-Wannabees

Class of Playful Leadership Foundation I: Summer 2019

If you’re wondering what play pioneers (aka playmakers) look like, take a tour around The School of Play website. I’m hoping it’ll give you a sense of the kind of unadulterated joy that comes from having fun with complete strangers who become seasonal friends. Just imagine what you could do with this kind of energy (and it doesn’t come with any nasty side effects as far I’m aware).

With the weekend just around the corner, how will you choose to play?

What a Wonderful World

New-Year-CourageEver since I can remember, I have approached each new year like Indiana Jones the Temple of Doom. For me, a new year is a paradoxical praline, a seductive chocolatey shell of adventure and challenge filled with a soft centre of unease flavoured with dread. And the only way to deal with dodgy chocolate? Run it off of course.

What I think about when I am running

As I set out from my doorstep, one foot pounding in front of the other, I thought about the gratitude I feel for my family. Of the freedom to do what will hopefully enable me to do my life’s work for long enough to make a difference.

And that’s when I remember one of the most useful lessons I learned in 2018: to welcome my Fear whenever, wherever and however it shows up. Then give it a hug.

And then I remember a curious riddle and answer I once saw while splashing about in a hotel swimming pool far away from home, spelt out in mini turquoise and white tiles: “What is the shortest distance between two people? A smile.”

Three Magical Words

And before you know it, instead of my usual greeting of “Good Morning!”, I find myself uttering a heart-felt wish out loud to each and every passerby: “Happy New Year!” First to a young couple out jogging together. Then to an elderly lady walking her cockapoo. And then to a family of father, mother and their grownup son. And then to an elderly man who seemed deep in thought.

In reply to my gift of a wish of “Happy New Year!”, that elderly gentleman said with deep sincerity, “I hope you make lots of money!” To which I reply with a challenge and a smile, “May be happiness!”

And that’s all it took, a simple wish of “Happy New Year!” from one human being to another to light up our faces and keep our hearts warm.

That’s when I remember what is probably the most beautiful song in the world: “What a Wonderful World” performed by Louis Armstrong. And my running adventure this morning was just like he sang, “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do / They’re really saying I love you.”

And I’m reminded, “I hear babies crying, I watch them grow / They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know.”

What a wonderful world indeed. Happy New Year!

Happy 1st Birthday!

Share-PlayThe School of Play turns one today! And as though by magic, it falls on April Fools’ Day.

Dare to Dream Greatly

The School of Play began as one of my most ambitious dreams to date. It goes like this:

One day, when my little girl is all grown up, just before she sets foot on her starship, ready for yet another intergalactic mission to make new friends and facilitate intergalactic peace, she turns around and kisses me on the cheek. “Mama,” she says, “I love doing what I do every day with my friends knowing that we’re creating a better world.”

And that’s when I know we’ve together created a world where everyone can thrive by turning their dreams into a reality. Just imagine what such a world would be like!

The Power of a Wish

Like all powerful wishes, The School of Play came to life in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. Many people would tell me, “Are you sure you want to include the word ‘play’ in the name of your school? People might not take it seriously”. While others would simply roll their eyes with disapproval and disgust at the thought of adults having fun, not just at home but at work, too.

And that’s when I knew I was onto something important. Every time I’ve had a truly weird and wonderful idea, I’d experienced such negative reactions. That was, until I moved out of the naysayers’ sphere of influence and went in search for others who were courageous, nurturing and generous enough to let other people’s ideas live.

Tatoo

Carpe Annum

The first year of running the school has turned me into an entrepreneur, a product manager, a web designer, an accountant and a philanthropist and much more besides. That’s not to say that I’m an expert in all those roles, but rather I now get to practice whole-heartedly things like Lean and Agile principles and practices and put them to the test on my life’s purpose: to promote happier adulthood through lifelong play.

Gratitude and Friendship

And so it is with great gratitude and joy (not to mention relief), that I find myself celebrating The School’s first birthday with global playmakers in a world playground created by play visionary Mathias Poulsen with the purpose of creating a more playful society for greater good for all.

Lovely to have met up with my old friend Carsten Ruseng and many thanks to Flick Hardingham and Ben Ross for showing me the magic doorway to the world of play!

Party

Want to Play?

As part of The School’s birthday treat, we’ve launched the next 1-day play adventure, “From Strangers to Ourselves: Exploring Our Identity and Relationships“. We hope you’ll join us!

We’re also developing a programme on play intelligence – so watch this space!

Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a playful 2017! With much love from the beautiful town of Aarhus, Denmark.

From Carpe Diem to Carpe Annum

hygge-hugs

Each new year warrants at least a glance in the rear view mirror and, for me, what leaps into focus is the Secret Santa present I was given during Christmas dinner hosted by my friend Debs.

I’d been daydreaming about taking The School of Play to Scandinavia for a while now so imagine my delight when I was given “The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the Happiest Country” by Helen Russell. The next thing you know, I’m practicing hygge, pronounced “hooga” loosely translated as “coziness”, by treating myself to a guilt-free Danish pastry on the way to work.

What more liberating way to start one’s day than with a sugary hug on a cold winter morning? A great antidote to the chronic zombiism to which many of my fellow commuters seem to have succumbed given the way they barge their fellow human beings out of the way in order to get a seat on the train or tube so that they can stay asleep for longer.

What’s more, fuelled by the comforting combo of cinammon and sugar, I’ve dared to experiment with living Danishly by trusting those around me more. According to Denmark’s ‘happiness economist’ Christian Bjoernskov what Danes really care about is trust: “In Denmark, we trust not only family and friends, but also the man or woman on the street – and this makes a big difference to our lives and happiness levels.” When asked “Do you think most people can be trusted?” More than 70 percent of Danes say: “Yes.” The average of the rest of Europe is just over a third.

There’s more. Research shows that intelligent people are more likely to trust others (http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/14/intelligent-people-more-likely-to-trust-others/67092.html) – possibly because they are better judges of character, a form of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences according to Dr Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

By setting myself the challenge and chance to be my authentic self, I’m re-discovering firsthand that trust engenders a sense of belonging and with it well-being that I’d only hitherto experienced back in my childhood days. And being congruent is so much more fun than wasting time and effort pretending to be something we’re not.

So where has practicing hygge got me so far? A special invitation to Denmark to present at Counterplay in March, a conference that summons the most playful community from around the world organised by fellow playmaker Mathias Poulsen. I’ll even be flying into Billund where The School of Play will warm up with a day out at Legoland on 29 March 2017 to rediscover many of the things we learned as children but have since forgotten… including trusting that strangers are simply friends you’ve not met yet. I hope you’ll join me and come out to play!

Watch this space for more fun and games… Meanwhile, wishing you a playful 2017! Here’s to happier adulthood through lifelong play!