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By David Shepherd
Are you open to roam?. . . .
. . . .over memories you don’t usually explore,
attitudes you don’t frequently share,
a skill like story-telling you don’t often use,
releases you don’t regularly open,
a poem you’ve never improvised.
Our collection of Life-Play phone games reveals opinions and feelings
you may not even be aware of.
So, welcome! self-discovery.
You are moving under your own state of amazement.
The only other person to see you shape a new you is your game partner:
this morning she’s an old friend in Beijing
or at midnight your carefully chosen next door neighbor.
Long distance is no obstacle today. Go for It!
Declare yourself open to roam every day from 8am to 9 AM;
from 10pm to 10:30 PM
or Sunday afternoon?
Sipping a beer? Nibbling? Make it fun:
Using cordless, barge around the spaces
through which you play:
breathe, pout, smile, curve, stamp.
Learn to play brand new games.
Hello, you’re now in partnership with yourself.
You’re opening yourself to your vision of self–
today or tomorrow. Welcome aboard.
Welcome to your select tomorrow.
Ann Lorda, while running her cleaning agency, said to me this morning, “My life is what’s happening on the other end of the phone.” I think millions of people over the globe would agree with her. Many would be complaining of being sucked under mounting details. Others would find themselves burdened by boring accounts from remote friends. After all, the phone can fill lives up easier than games or parties or travel.
For myself, when I call a fellow Life-Player, I find my life is instantly enriched. I’m about to be asked in detail what I felt about last week or what I imagine can happen tomorrow. I’m about to be plunged into the first words of a story that I’ll carry effortlessly to its end.
And I’m going to have to drag, from my subconscious, characters that suddenly acquire clearly defined voices and behaviors—all unknown to me before I picked up the phone. My moral and political face acquires fresh features. How does this happen?
It doesn’t have to happen if, during a dreary week, nothing occurs, I talk to no one and I go nowhere. Then, when I play I find myself inventing stuff with no correlation to fact. I’m telling my partner a lie.
What to do? I’m beginning to scan my life daily. What DID happen last week? Of the few or many people I met, which ones are important enough to grab? How did they stand, sit, move head (or hand)? What was guiding them to me, and how fast, slow or coherently did they speak? I’m getting my life ready to be played—filling in the chinks where I’m too lazy to call myself into account. I’m demanding more consciousness, more accurate memory, more detail and a clearer opinion of myself by myself. I’m insisting I reach out, touch, explore, discover and confirm more near by and far away.
Soon I’ll be able to say, I hope, “What is on the other end of the phone is Me”—laid out day by day, encounter by encounter, dream by would-be-dream. Look! I am clearly more vibrant and confrontational than the person who reaches for a phone in a fog.
By Scot Coar
It seems that to play the games honestly and in order for both players to reap its benefits fully, active listening is an imperative. It is natural in dyadic conversation to formulate thoughts while the other person is speaking so that a response can be constructed and expressed. The speaker might trigger series of thoughts in the listener which might take his/her mind on a tangent, even if just peripherally. In these games, it seems, that it is important, particularly because there can be anticipation/trepidation regarding one’s own impending turn, to avoid those tangents and to listen closely, singularly to what the person is saying.
When, active listening is used in the context of these games the listener allows the speaker to construct, through words, inflections, pauses, breathing, a complete landscape and in doing so communicate more fully his/her emotional experience. The active listener is almost meditatively focused on the speaker allowing for a more genuine emotional experience. Blocking out external stimuli as well as internal thoughts to focus on the speaker (as one would in meditation) builds a sense of trust and allows the listener to have a much more immediate and at times profound listening experience.
In my own experience playing the games I have found that, when active listening, I am sometimes surprised by an emotion; A sudden belly laugh, a pang in the chest, a sense of joy, of pain. I find that the experience is not unlike when one approaches a work of art openly, without expectation and is moved in a profound, sometimes life changing way. This, I feel, is potential that active listening holds within the context of Life-Play. Afterwards, when the speaker is finished or at the end of the session there will be time for reflection and more to reflect upon than if one were half listening, thinking about one’s own turn, doodling or multi-tasking.
Some of the games require a back and forth between the players. Although this may seem a more difficult occasion to be an Active Listener, I think it actually helps the flow of the game, its purity of expression and the happy surprises that often occur. An example is the poem construction game where players construct a poem alternating turns line by line and beginning each line with the same phrase (i.e. Wouldn’t you know…). If one were thinking of a clever line while the other person speaks the poem would have no real continuity but if both players are listening actively and responding instinctively to what they hear then something striking can occur, some truth can be discovered and a real connection between players can develop.