I specialize in storytelling. My clients tell me stories about who they are and the life they are leading; stories about health, life, courage, confusion and so much more. They cast themselves in a specific role that reflects and shapes their psyche and their story about themselves.
Listening to a person’s story tells me about their hopes, their fears, their insecurities and their strengths. And hidden in amongst the folds of every story told are little whispers of wisdom that grow wings with which to fly when they are unearthed from our depths and the light of positive attention is shone upon them. The same light can make fears and insecurities dissolve as though they were merely the remnants of a bad dream shaken off with the dawning of new realisations and insight.
In clinic, I use many different story-telling techniques to bring my clients face to face with their own stories. The telling of past live stories and fairy-tales for example, can re-present our stories to us in exaggerated,metaphor-rich glory; stage-dressed in ribbons and tatters, delivered dramatically or humourously, with a classic plot line and characters who mirror us back to ourselves. Why do we tell the stories we tell, in the way that we tell them, and why do we keep repeating the same experience over and over again, attracting, or being attracted to, the same catalysts, characters and plot lines?
I love helping people find new ways to tell old stories: flipping through alternative possibilities and choices in perspective can make us feel as though we discovering and having the courage to wander down half hidden side-streets that lead to new delights and new life…. instead of walking the same tired old paths over and over again.
Who could you become? What do you aspire to? What kind of person would you like to be? These are the questions we are exploring when fleshing out the character of a spirit guide, another form of story-telling I love to use in clinic. You could think of your spirit guides as being your higher self playing dress-up, because in the broader scheme and things, we are all connected as one anyway; connected by universal story-lines (plot lines) and archetypal lessons.
My father died when I was 15 years old and the upside to the funeral was discovering uncles and aunties I didn’t know I had. We lost contact for a while afterwards, but in the last few years they have been popping back up in my life again and we are about to have our first family reunion since the funeral. I’ve been having visions of medicine wheels a lot in the past week and this visit seems like a medicine wheel in and of itself, with my father’s four siblings each coming from a different direction: one from southern Australia, one from Western Australia, one from eastern Australia and one from Hong Kong.
It’s been amazing to discover the parallels in our lives; the mutual interests and skills in particular. I’m sure I’ll discover more about them and myself during the reunion but in the meantime I would like to introduce you to my Aunty Kay who lives in Hong Kong. Aunty Kay loves words and writing just like me, and she is passionate about using creativity and storytelling in healing, just like me!
Kay is a marketing consultant, editor, copywriter, healer and performer with over 30 years experience in these fields. She is also the Head Tour Guide in The Playground of Possibilities. The common thread that links all three of her passions (marketing, performing and healing) is: Storytelling – the stories that people tell themselves and the world, about themselves and the world. So Kay helps people to find, craft and tell juicier, more resourceful stories about their past, present and future.
So Kay! Tell me a story! I would love to hear how the idea of the “Life is a Playground of Possibilities” workshop came into being. Have you run this workshop before, or is the session on April 23rd in Hong Kong the first one?
I’ve run it three times. Before I went to the conference of the International Applied Improvisation Network in Montreal last September, I did a beta-test version of the workshop with 12 friends here in Hong Kong. I asked them to volunteer as guinea pigs and I did it for them for free. Most of them were life coaches or people who were interested in personal development and healing. None of them were improvisers. They absolutely loved it!
Then I went and presented it at the conference in Montreal, twice, because there was a demand for me to do it a second time. Now I’m going to be offering it here in Hong Kong as a public workshop, on April 23rd, and then in Darwin on May 9th.
Exciting! So are there stories you can tell me from one of the workshops you’ve done so far? Did any beautifully touching moments or magic unfold?
Yes! One of the participants at the Montreal conference had a lovely experience. One of the improvisation games we played in that workshop is my version of a very famous improvisation exercise called The Story Spine. It’s also a very good writing exercise too. It’s an 8-sentence story structure devised by an improvisor named Kenn Adams. Each sentence starts with a very particular phrase and each one is different. It’s the classic, mythological, archetypal story structure that starts with “once upon a time”. (See Appendix 1 below)
I adapted the exercise to fit more with the philosophy of The Playground of Possibilities, where we transform people’s stories from an old, limiting belief or story to a more more resourceful, useful one. We did that exercise a couple of times as a group, with people standing in a circle. One person would stand in the middle of the circle and would share a true limiting, unresourceful thought or belief or story that they have about themselves. Let’s say the person in the middle was called John, and his limiting belief was “I’m not good enough”. The person in the circle who starts the story would say “Once upon a time, John believed that he wasn’t good enough.” Then the next person in the circle would improvise the next sentence, and so on around the circle until all eight sentences have been spoken. Along the way we’d see the transformation of John’s belief and John’s life, from the limiting belief into something more useful. The people in the circle don’t even have to know John very well, they just make up the story as they go around the circle.
The final time we did this exercise was amazing. I don’t remember what the person’s old belief was, but by the time we got to the last sentence in the story, everybody in the circle was almost in tears. It was so beautiful! The way the last person finished the story was so magical that everybody was touched. And to see how that landed with the person in the middle of the circle was so moving. His story was being told in a new way and he could suddenly see what was possible for him.
That was the highlight of the conference for me.
Thank you! That really does bring it to life!
Well to make it even better, we were standing outside on the grass on a beautiful warm sunny day, right next to a playground. It was perfect!
One of the coaches who came along to my test run in Hong Kong said at the end of the workshop that she thought she had been coming along just to do me a favour, and she was so grateful because she got a huge amount out of it for herself that she wasn’t expecting.
So tell me, how did your concept The Playground of Possibilities come about?
It was a long time in gestation. I’ve been studying personal development and healing and reading about quantum physics and the nature of reality for many years. I’m fascinated by these topics and over the years I kept hearing about concepts such as “the quantum field”. Different people give it different names like “the field”. And then I heard a podcast by Pam Grout, who referred to it as “the field of possibilities” (see Appendix 5). I thought this phrase described it better, but it still didn’t seem quite right to me.
What is this field?
It’s a field of energy, the energy that we are all part of. Sometimes I can feel it in my cells and I can feel that I’m connected via this field to the entire Universe. Being connected with it, my thoughts and words are sending out vibrations that are connecting with, affecting and being affected by the vibrations of the Universe. And when I do this consciously, my life flows better.
I sometimes say to people that I can’t absolutely prove that there’s a God or a higher intelligence or a higher power. All I know is that when I behave as if there is, my life flows with more ease and grace and joy.
Beautiful! I get the sense as you speak that this is raw creative energy and you are describing the process of shaping this raw creative energy into building blocks, grounding the energy into physical reality with your words and beliefs and stories.
Yes! Out there in this field of energy, the Universe is offering us infinite possibilities to choose from and it’s up to us to choose. The universe wants give to us. But it’s not just about dreaming and imagining or even saying affirmations. We have to make choices and take action. In this physical world we have to physically take action and take responsibility for our choices.
Another factor was a workshop I did several years ago in Tucson, Arizona. It was a marketing/branding workshop with a focus on personal and spiritual development, bringing heart and soul into your marketing. In one of the exercises we did we were asked to draw a picture. I don’t remember the exact instructions we were given but I drew what felt like the entrance way into a fairground. It was a very basic childlike drawing because I’m no artist. In the picture the entrance was an archway made out of a rainbow, and I wrote on it “Welcome to the Adventure Playground”.
I kept the picture. It stayed in the back of my mind and then about 3 years ago now, it all came together and the phrase “Playground of Possibilities” popped into my mind. I like the alliteration. Almost immediately I thought “Oh! I want to make a deck of cards.” This was the first manifestation of my idea that I thought would be perfect and not too difficult to do. So I sat down on my living-room couch and started writing questions that began “What would be possible for me if I…..” for people to ask themselves.
I wanted it to be a deck of 52 cards. In what felt like a download from the Universe I frantically jotted down 52 questions and every day since then I keep thinking of more questions.
I’ve noticed that! Every day something inspires a new question in you.
Yes! Those questions that I post up every day on Facebook and Twitter are questions that have been inspired by something in my life, something I’ve read, something I’ve heard…sometimes I repeat questions from the past but that’s okay because they’re still relevant.
After I wrote the original 52 questions I drew the picture of me on the swing with the rainbow, to use on the cards. I printed the sketch onto the cards and then coloured them in by hand. Then I typed up the text for the questions. I handmade the prototype card deck and had the cards laminated so that I could start showing people the concept. And everyone who has seen the deck and picked a question loves it. Now I’m planning to do a crowdfunding campaign to get the cards designed and printed.
And why is the word “playground” so meaningful for you?
Because life is meant to be fun! And playful! And bringing that childlike innocence and joy into your life and having playmates around you to play with. And being physical. So it’s not just a mental thing; it’s very much about being very aware of what’s going on in your body physically and emotionally. It’s about not just living in your head; its also listening to the messages from your body and breathing and moving and dancing and singing or whatever you need to do to build up your vibration. Because that is the vibration that’s going out into the Universe. And other people sense that.
And improvisation? Can you tell me more about this as a therapeutic tool?
Improvisation helps us to step boldly into the unknown, to embrace that uncertainty, and to trust that everything will work out. The improvisation journey will take you somewhere you didn’t expect and it will probably be better than anything you could have planned and scripted yourself. The number-one principle of improv is “Yes, and”, which is about saying yes to the possibilities being offered to you by the Universe or your fellow players, and building on them.
Another key principle is “Make your teammates look good”. It’s all about playing as a team-member.
When we go through life with an improvisational mindset, we make bold choices, take action, make our teammates look good, say yes to the offers, step into the unknown even in the absence of complete information and trust that it’s all going to be okay. These are the principles I apply to my daily life, and I find that they make my life and business work better.
Thank you so much! I love looking at the connection between what you might learn from a creative skill or sacred play, and how this can be applied in a practical way to improving your actual life.
I’ve been performing with my current improv team here in Hong Kong for about eight years now and I very quickly realised that the improv principles absolutely apply in my everyday life and my business. It’s helped me to be more open to opportunities and trust that everything is going to be okay. It also makes me a better team-member because it’s never about one person being the star of the show and being in the spotlight. What I love about the “Make your team-mates look good” principle is that when I do that for them, I’m also trusting that they’re doing the same for me. If we all lived and worked like that then life would work so much better.
And when I go through life with the “Yes, and” philosophy my life works better. “Yes, and” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to like or agree with everything that’s happening, what it means is that you accept that it is happening.
Yes, because once you accept reality you can get on with working constructively with what you’ve got. Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview before we wrap up?
Yes I’d like to reassure people who might be thinking about coming along to the workshop that it’s not about teaching them to get up on stage and be improv performers. We will use some improv games and processes that help us transform our stories about ourselves and the world, but you don’t need any improv or acting experience at all to attend the workshop.
Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to it!
Note from Om: Here are some extra resources:
Appendix 1 : The Story Spine exercise
Kay has a short video (2m 36s) in which she explains the “Story Spine” exercise. The 8-sentence Story Spine structure (devised by improviser Kenn Adams) goes like this:
Once upon a time, … [You set the scene.]
And every day, … [You establish the current “normal”.]
Until one day, … [Drama/conflict – an inciting incident that breaks the usual routine.]
And because of that, … [The consequences.]
And because of that, … [Further consequences.]
And because of that, … [Further consequences.]
Until finally, … [The climax.]
And ever since then, … [Resolution. The new normal.]
Kay did a 27-minute radio interview in Hong Kong on April 15 about her “Life is a Playground of Possibilities” concept, her card deck and the upcoming workshop. Here’s the recording.
Appendix 4 : Kay talking about feedback from workshop attendees (Montreal)
One woman at the conference whose husband did my workshop came up to me later and said “You’re a legend!” And one participant at the conference who didn’t even do my workshop commented on my “litupness” (she said that meant charisma). Wow!
Over the following few months, one woman who did the workshop wrote to me with several comments:
“Collective magic, under your careful guidance, at work! What a lovely thing to participate in!” (She posted that on Facebook.)
“The work you do and the person that you are exemplifies the thriving life and future I imagine and aspire to.”
“This was my top workshop from the AIN conference.”
“This was a *great* workshop! And a lovely story spine experience. It really helped us see how shifts in our beliefs can shift our lives.”
One man wrote: “I very much liked your workshop.”
Another woman wrote: “Working with you at the Circus School and also taking your workshop gave me my most gratifying conference experiences.” The day before the conference officially started, some of us participated in a half-day “Learning Journey” where we visited several circus-related organisations in Montreal, including Cirque du Soleil and the national circus school of Canada – a teacher and some students at that school led us in a basic skills workshop. I did a lovely pairs exercise with the woman who wrote that comment.
Appendix 5 : More about the Field of Possibilities
Excerpt: “It all starts with intent, the force that lies behind everything. It’s the energy, the fuel, the electric charge that sets up a resonant field and sends out probability waves into the FP (field of possibility). Esther Hicks, who facilitates the Abraham-Hicks material, calls it “launching a rocket of desire.” “Giving it attention adds mass.”
And it’s Deepak Chopra who uses the phrase “the field of potential”.
Appendix 6 : The philosophy behind The Playground of Possibilities, by Kay Ross
The True Spirit of the Playground of Possibilities work is
to invite people into the ease, grace, joy, curiosity and freedom
that come from
Knowing that life is a playground of possibilities,
Tapping into the energy and vibrations of the Universe,
Transforming the stories they tell about themselves and the world,
Improvising new, more resourceful ways of being,
Being grateful for the abundance of choices that are open to them,
Acting boldly on their choices,
Taking responsibility for their choices,
Surrendering to the safety of the loving embrace of a Universe
that is conspiring on their behalf,
full of people and forces that want the best for them,
Feeling blessed by the support of their playmates, and
Trusting that even if they don’t know exactly how,
things will unfold even better than they could have imagined.