Sunday, May 14, 2017

Playfulness in Creativity and Problem-Solving

by Rachel Kobin 

Playfulness is a crucial part of what I do to help people tap into their creativity in the Philadelphia Writers Workshop. As children, we learn by playing. We aren't as focused on the results as we are on enjoying the process. As adults, we lose touch with this spirit of play, and this can make it harder to spark unbridled creativity. When we were four years old, did we sit down with our Play-Doh and think, "Now, let's make a sculpture so striking it will soon sit in a museum?" No, when we were kids, we enjoyed the feeling of having that dough in our hands, the color and the smell of it. We pushed it through a garlic press and to our delight it came out looking like miniature purple spaghetti (pasketti!). We showed our blobs of clay to our parents and told the stories behind them. We didn't compare ourselves to famous sculptors because we didn't know or care about who they were. We were too busy enjoying every moment of interacting with our clay to think about how our miraculous blobs might not compare to “Great Works of Art.”

Some writers come to my workshop with one purpose or a fixed idea of what kind of writer they are: One might want to write a personal essay and have it published in a prestigious magazine, while another might have family members who have said, "You should write a children's book in rhyme!" Focusing too much on a goal, especially if it didn't come from our own desires, can be paralyzing.

Throwing all expectations out the window helps us avoid this kind of trap, but it’s not easy to do on our own. Using exercises that seem silly like beginning our writing by pairing veggies with random verbs, help reacquaint us with the playfulness we knew and were often untaught throughout our formal education. Just last week in the Tuesday Night Workshop, we wrote stories about childhood without using the letter a. Activities like these trick our brains into liberating our creativity. By allowing ourselves to be silly, and not expecting our first efforts to even make any sense, we free ourselves to keep going, to get to the rough draft. Once we have our jumbled ideas down on paper in a rough draft, we can begin refining the writing to make it say what we originally intended.

I believe re-learning how to let go and have fun is a skill that can be applied to many situations, not only those in the arts. How often might we be missing a possible solution to a problem at work when we bypass the fun — the brainstorming, the drawing, the imagining? Stopping to play isn't a waste of time; it's a way of giving our brains time to juggle ideas around. Sometimes a masterpiece does emerge, and other times we just feel better, which, of all the worst case scenarios, is one we can simply enjoy. 

Rachel Kobin has been the Director of the Philadelphia Writers Workshop since 2010. Rachel uses the Amherst Artist & Writers Method to help writers of all levels claim or re-claim their unique voice. Through experimentation and play, writers of all genres and forms practice the elements of their craft in a supportive environment. Writers looking to develop new material and writers in the process of writing full-length manuscripts find the support they need to complete their projects. Learn more about workshops and private editing services at Contact Rachel at 610-449-3773 or

The vital importance of recreation and play

by Tracey A. Smith

When was the last time you participated in a leisure activity for the pure fun and enjoyment of it? When was the last time you felt the free spirit of creativity and play while engaging in a recreational activity?

Fun and enjoyment are very important aspects of recreation that increase a sense of wellbeing. Recreation is an activity of leisure, and leisure is defined as free, discretionary time away from work and obligations. In this fast-paced society, we may forego time for recreation and play. However, increasingly challenged by society's high levels of stress, we need the safe spaces and places found in an atmosphere of recreation.

Quite often we have perceived barriers to participation in leisure activities, such as unhealthy habits, lack of motivation, cost, and procrastination. At times, we may experience an attitude of guilt when having fun or doing a pleasurable activity. We may feel like we are being selfish taking time away from family and work responsibilities to enjoy ourselves. Or we may feel that leisure is a waste of time. However, research has consistently found that a balance of work and rest and play ultimately makes us more productive — not to mention happier.

It takes planning to overcome the internal barriers that prevent us from prioritizing play. We may need to pencil or type in time for fun on our schedules and calendars. The quote “All work and no play makes a very dull Jill or John,” also comes to mind when we consider our high investment in work and low investment in fun. When we have hobbies and interests outside our work lives, we can bring more energy, interest, and vitality to our lives and all of our relationships.

The options for how to spend our leisure time will be as diverse as we are. Some people may derive satisfaction from doing something meaningful such as volunteering with an environmental or political group, coaching little league, tutoring, or taking their dog to visit nursing homes. Others may make use of their skills for laughter and amusement, taking a comedy improv class or acting in community theater. Some people will enjoy solo leisure activities, such as writing, photography, Sudoku, or knitting; whereas others will want to seek opportunities for connection with others, whether by participating in sports and social clubs, singing in a chorus, or by organizing a team for trivia nights at local bars.

Individual values like beauty, truth, and equality impact our selection of enjoyable activities. There are many recreational activities from A to Z to fit each person’s needs, temperament and lifestyle. Recreational activities can include creative expression, relaxation, and physical movement. While it may be easy to keep with our “go to” activities, reluctant to take the risk of trying something new, often it is when we venture even a little bit outside our comfort zone that we make new connections, learn new things, and experience pleasant surprises that may even delight us.

“Get to Know Your Social/Leisure Self” Questionnaire

__ I enjoy engaging in activities individually.
__ I enjoy engaging in activities in a large group.
__ I enjoy engaging in activities in a small group.
__ I enjoy competitive activities.
__ I enjoy outdoor activities.
__ I enjoy extreme outdoor sports.
__ I have one or more hobbies I enjoy.
__ I enjoy artistic and/or cultural activities.
__ I enjoy crafting, creating, and/or building things.
__ I enjoy being part of a team.
__ I enjoy meeting new people.
__ I enjoy initiating a conversation.
__ I will spend money on cultural events or entertainment.
__ I enjoy individual or group computer games.

Here are two websites that can help you explore a variety of recreational activities, some discounted or free: List of Recreational Activities [Insert link to: and Philly Fun Guide [Insert link to:]
Treat yourself today to a playful activity, be it for therapeutic purposes or just For the Fun of It!

Tracey A. Smith, M,Ed., CTRS, owner of Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC, is a Certified Recreational Therapist, Wellness Lifestyle Management Educator, and Trainer, who provides educational programs, workshops, trainings, conferences & retreats to companies, schools and community organizations to promote self-care and wellness. She specializes in Workplace Wellness and team building for remote employees. To learn more about Tracey and how you can bring her creative, experiential workshops and consultation to your agency or business, contact her at or 215-605-3221 or visit her website at

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Power of Authentic Presence: Why Community Matters

by Elizabeth Venart

How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its Beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its Being;
Otherwise, we all remain too frightened.
- It Felt Love – from The Gift: Translations of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinksy

Authentic connection – to ourselves and each other – is at the heart of resilience. From the first moment I imagined creating The Resiliency Center, community was always at the forefront of my mind. We are stronger together than any of us could be alone, and we crave opportunities to connect and feel understood, soft landing places during life’s difficult times and strong foundations for our risk-taking and growth.

Isolation can breed loneliness and depression, and wearing a mask in the company of others can be as isolating as sitting home alone. When we do not have places where we can show the myriad colors and sounds of our true self, we may fail to see the universality in our struggles. When we do not have places where we can show up authentically – and be accepted for who we are – then we can feel alone, isolated, and unhappy. We long to be seen and to connect. The growing addiction to social media actually reflects this need, yet it often fails to meet the need it highlights.

In a world increasingly oriented around virtual connection, some people feel more courageous in sharing their thoughts, ideas, experiences, and beliefs – and others feel shut out of the conversation or shut down in the midst of trying to engage. Behind a keyboard, we may feel brave to express some facet of our identities, but how fully are we able to share the vast range of our experiences as human beings?  And, if we are only sharing a small piece of our full experience through social media and yet social media has become a primary way in which people do connect with each other these days, how connected do we really feel?

There is a power in connecting with others face-to-face, in seeing and being seen, in sharing and listening and learning together. The Resiliency Center offers many opportunities to do just that - from meditation twice weekly to movement classes, spiritual poetry gatherings, groups for teens and new moms, and a monthly mindful knitting circle.  We look forward to seeing you - and connecting - soon.  

Importance of Face-to-Face Connection in the Digital Age

by Brittiney George

I have spent a number of years “soul-searching”. Searching for the things that resonated with my soul to let me know that I was in the right place or doing the right thing. I was lucky to find my way into my life’s work as a Somatic Therapist.  As I have embraced soul-filled living, I find that connecting face to face, heart to heart, and soul to soul with others is a crucial part of my self-care.  It's a connection that social media does not provide for me. I hear this same sentiment often from my clients. They share the loneliness, and pain of comparison that happens when the largest part of their support comes from online connections, often feeling like they just don’t measure up to others…..and so I got curious.  What exactly is present, and what is missing, when we connect online vs. in person.  Here’s some interesting research on just that topic:

“Researchers from Beijing Normal University pointed out that face-to-face communication differs from other forms of communication in two key ways:
1.     Face-to-face communication involves the integration of “multimodal sensory information,” such as nonverbal cues (facial expressions, gestures, postures, etc.)
2.     Face-to-face communication involves more continuous turn-taking behaviors between partners, which has been shown to play a pivotal role in social interactions and reflects the level of involvement of a person in the communication”- The Journal of Neuroscience, 7 November 2012, 32(45): 16064-16069

Below is a summary of what Dr. Mercola discovered when he looked at connection:

·      In-Person Meetings Allow Your Brain to Synchronize with Others: 
Research shows a significant increase in the neural synchronization between the brains of two partners during face-to-face interactions that are not present in during other types of, conversation.- The Journal of Neuroscience, 7 November 2012, 32(45): 16064-16069
·      The Unconscious Elements of Face-to-Face Meetings May Trump Even Language:
Researchers from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory revealed that face-to-face meetings allow members to come up with more ideas and become more capable as a group compared to even virtual meetings. “Who’s talking, how much, in what tone, interrupting or not, facing toward whom and away from whom, and gesturing turns out to matter.”- Newsweek September 24, 2015
·      Face-to-Face Meetings Are Best for Creativity:
Research published in the International Journal of Organizational Design and Engineering found:  The more team members directly interact with each other face-to-face, and the more they trust other team members, the more creative and of higher quality the result of their teamwork is.” Int. J. of Organizational Design and Engineering 01/2012; 2(4):380 - 401.
·      In-Person Interactions Are Important in Your Personal Life, Too:
Loneliness, a feeling of being disconnected from those around you and wishing you had that connection, is on the rise and can put your health – both physical and emotional – at risk. “It is often difficult, if not impossible, on social media to reveal the qualities that define deep, intimate relationships. While our social media friends offer us a great deal, it is not a true substitute or even supplement for real-life interactions with others. But unlike online friendships, real-life relationships take time and effort. They help us learn about others and ultimately ourselves. Online friendships, while valuable in many ways, lack the ability to provide us with opportunities for deep and lasting emotional closeness. So accept and seek out your online friends, rekindle lost connections, and revisit childhood friendships, as long as it is not at the expense of nurturing and deepening your real-life relationships.”

What kind of connection do you crave right now?  Not all connections are equal.  Where in your life do you need to make a REALconnection…..face to face, heart to heart, soul to soul?  Take a moment and ask yourself that question and trust the gut response that says “this is the one I most need right now”.  Maybe we have something already in place that can help you on the journey to making the connection you are searching for: 

Connecting Soul to Soul:

  • Rumi and Hafiz Poetry Evenings
  • Morning and Evening Meditation 
Connecting Through Nature: 
·      For the Fun of It! Weekend exploration. (See Details in Featured Programs Below)
·      Explore with the natural world and take a walk in nature on the Fort Washington State Park path easily accessible from our parking lot.

Connecting Through Creativity:
·      Knitting Circle 
·      Philadelphia Writers Workshop 
·      Paint, Sip, and Savor (See Details in Featured Programs Below)

Connecting With Other Parents:
·      Holistic Parents Meetup 
·      Supporting Moms Through Motherhood: Contact Catherine McLaughlin for details at
·      Infant Massage and Baby Sign Language Classes: Contact Brittiney George for details at

Connecting With Other Holistic Professionals:
·      Monthly Networking Breakfast [Link to:]
·      Clinical Supervision Opportunities 
·      EMDR Consultation Group for Therapists: Contact Elizabeth Venart for details at 
·       Mindful Therapist Peer Group: contact Jen Perry for Details at
·      EMDR International Association Regional Meeting:  contact Elizabeth Venart for details at
·      Looking for a Heart Centered Community To Build Your Practice? Consider joining the team of practitioners with their practices at The Resiliency Center. Contact Elizabeth at to learn more. 

Connecting Through Mind, Body, and Movement:
·      Qi Gong Classes
·      Rest, Restore, and Move Class
·      CEM (Connection, Expression, and Movement) Workshops 
·      Interstitial Cystitis/Pelvic Pain Support Group: Contact Kathy Krol for details at
·       Beginner’s Mindfulness Class: Contact Jen Perry for
·       Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Group for Women:  Contact Jen Perry for

Connecting with Other Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s):
Highly Sensitive Leadership: Community Circle: Contact Elizabeth at to learn more. 

Connecting One on One:
Looking for one on one support?  Visit our Practitioner Profile page at  We’d love to connect with you!

Brittiney George, BS, CRS, CST-L3, ICI, CEIM, is a Movement Practitioner and Somatic Therapist specializing in Transformative Touch.  She offers gentle, exploratory movement classes at The Resiliency Center and co-leads Connection, Expression and Movement (CEM), a monthly workshop series focusing on body-mind integration.  For a complimentary 55 min. Somatic Therapy session contact Brittiney at 610-389-7866 or

Connecting to Spirit

by Elizabeth Venart

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. – Rumi

In a time when the answers to so many questions are only a few keyboard clicks or a Siri search away, deeper questions about meaning and spirituality may go unasked or, when asked, feel even more elusive. Since the beginning of recorded history – and certainly through oral traditions for a long time before that – people have sought a way to make sense out of the inexplicable and extraordinary. Spiritual mystics from every faith tradition have shared their transcendental experiences of Divine Connection as a way to support others on the path to enlightenment. In our monthly spiritual poetry gatherings at the center, we explore their writings – from 12th century Rumi and 13th century Hafiz through Rilke and modern-day Mary Oliver. Sufi poets Rumi and Hafiz are often at the center of our evenings, as they speak eloquently of experiences of connection with the Divine – and the experiences of longing when the connection to God feels distant. These spiritual teachers grapple with the big questions about love, life, death, beauty, joy, and suffering. In a world where hard questions and concrete answers abound, Sacred Poetry has the power to help us open more deeply to Mystery.

Over the past five years of monthly poetry evenings, we have embraced the time together as its own act of surrendering to Mystery – moving away from a more solid plan with specific poems copied to share and moving toward spontaneous selection of poems from a pile of books in the center of the room. We take turns choosing poems at random and those who wish to read aloud do, so we can all listen with humor and curiosity to see to see what wisdom and themes emerge. We don’t always understand the poems read, but we gain something regardless – a phrase or image that jumps out at us, laughter, tears, a new question, or the peace or cacophony stirred by the poem’s language and rhythm. Our poetry evenings are sometimes whimsical, sometimes profoundly deep, and always connecting. Join us – if you feel curious or called. Learn more at

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Embracing Impermanence

by Jen Perry

I remember a time in my late twenties when I caught myself saying for the upteenth time to someone, "Well, I'm in a transition period ..." and it occurred to me that I had been saying that for almost the past decade of my life! The energy with which I was using the phrase implied that I was in a state of suspension - that my life hadn't settled yet, hadn't really started yet. This underlying stance stood in basic denial of the fact that life is basically one continuous transition. Nothing that is alive is unchanging. Some transitions are relatively small and occur regularly ~ night into day, day into night ~ noise into silence, one breath into the next. Some transitions are very big and only occur once or maybe twice in a lifetime: graduations, marriages, births, deaths. There are a million transitions in-between. Daily, monthly, seasonally, yearly.

Where do you land in relationship to all of life's transitions? What are your underlying beliefs about them?

If you're like my younger self, there may be an underlying assumption that life should, at some point, stop being so transitional: that it should steady out, become a bit more unchanging.

It's natural that if that is your underlying assumption, the evidence in life it isn't true may be ... frustrating, overwhelming, scary, some sign that you are doing this life thing WRONG.

Many, many people struggle with change: don't like it, don't want it, and are frankly terrified of most of it. And yet, if we look around us, in our own lives, the lives of those around us, and to nature, change is indeed the only constant. In mindfulness, we call this impermanence.

Cultivating an accepting and appreciating attitude towards change or impermanence has been one of the most powerful and life-enhancing endeavors I have undertaken. It isn't easy, but we as humans are known for being able to do hard things once we set ourselves to it. There is an aspect of refusing to accept change that is entirely at odds with reality. As the saying not so gently goes: Let go or be dragged!

There is an old parable told in many cultures about a king who challenged his sage to find a magical ring in six months time. This ring, he said, had the power to make him happy when he was sad and sad when he was happy. The sage couldn't find the magical ring anywhere and as his deadline approached he went to one last jeweler to ask about the ring. This jeweler was quite wise and while he admitted that he had never heard of such a ring he took a plain gold band and inscribed on it This Too Shall Pass. The sage immediately felt the truth in the saying and took the ring confidently back to his king.

This knowledge and acceptance of change, of transitions, of impermanence can have a mercifully gentle quality to it. It urges us to fully savor and be present to the ordinary joys of every day while comforting us through difficult seasons of life.  It is a reminder to pay attention to joy, and that hard times and difficult moods, no matter how sharp and painful, do pass. We need this ring, this reminder, because it is part of our biology that memories are mood-congruent. When we are angry, or sad it is very difficult, if not impossible, to recall memories or times that were not so.  To be able to loosen our grip on how we think life "should" be it makes it easier to appreciate small joys even in the midst of great difficulty. This realization and acceptance of impermanence is what truly turns transitions into transformations, challenges into opportunities for growth,  and life experience into wisdom.

To implement this work into your life, I'd like to offer you this - when you realize you are in this space of a transition into the unknown, accept that nothing is permanent. You can then gracefully move into the conscious awareness that in this very space, there is room for a deeper soul transformation. A chance for personal growth, turning your life experiences into sage wisdom.

To learn more about Jen Perry, MA, MSEd, LPC [insert link to], please call 215-292-5056, email, or visit

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Other Side Of This Life

by Dean Solon

clarity.  clarity coming to and through me.  a clarity that includes the allowing of another sentient being's clarity, a clarity that may arise and unfold and reveal different energy and information than mine.  this is a part, an aspect, of the weaving and the tapestry of the encountering, experiencing, and exchanging of information and energy among the embodied forms of life in the universe/multiverse.

what is real and true, is clarity, for me, is...real and true, and clarity, for me.  what is real and true, and clarity, for you, is real and true, and clarity, for you.  what is real and true for each of us may be shared, may be nearly the same;  it may be distinctly and differently experienced and expressed, and may be felt to be separate and singular understandings...and in no way does it diminish the authenticity and integrity of the clarity each of us is feeling/thinking/seeing.

the clarity that is moving to and through me rings and sings true.  the clarity that is moving to and through me is changing always, is evolving always, is new always.

the clarity that is moving to and through you rings and sings true.  the clarity that is moving to and through you is changing always, is evolving always, is new always.

each and every moment may be a ringing and singing true.

this possibility is an astonishing---and simple---Benevolence given to each and all of us who are born in human form.