Author: cynthia winton-henry

Cofounder of InterPlay, executive director of Body Wisdom, Inc, author and coach for body and soul at Mystic Tech, helping others to listen as deeply as possible for solutions and directions by unlocking the wisdom of the body for peace, community, fun, and health. Art, writings, keynotes, online teaching, and retreat and conference leadership.

Riotous Spiritual Rigor: For All Who Are Far From Dead

“You may have heard of “rigor mortis”––which is a medical term describing the stiffness of a body after death. Rigor used to mean stiffness outside of the corpse context, i.e., sternness. The word changes meaning along with our changing standards for what we want teachers to be.”

Synonyms:  cogencyrigour, validity
Type of believabilitycredibilitycredibleness: the quality of being believable or trustworthy.


While talking to Spiritual Leaders in InterPlay’s Life Practice Program on Body Wisdom and Hard Challenges or what InterPlayers call body deals I said, “This is not an easy time. Creativity, Art, and Spiritual Practice demand rigor.”  I call big times of learning and growth– our initiations.  I think the whole world is currently in a difficult initiation rite.

This is a rigorous time for me. If I engage a sense of rigor without spirit or creativity I descend toward rigor mortis.  I need all three– creativity, spirituality, and rigor in order to rise to the moment. And that is just to stay upright some days! It’s rigorous for this body to remain patient, kind, loving, truthful, embodied, to dance, to sing, to be true in a hard personal, political, global time.

How do we engage in the face of whatever-the-hell-it is?  It is crucial to aim toward our own grace, energy, identity, community, and creative path and to dignify this in others. Yet, as every human and artist knows even God won’t stop a storm from coming.

Artist and monk: apply thy rigor and find those who do. Make sure to include riotous humor.

I keep thinking about the Olympians and dancers who flip and soar and crash. They train. They exemplify rigor. I am glad for my undergrad training in dance. I had to use all parts of me in order to graduate. I’d like to see some real grace training in all my leaders– to see the grace and love that our leaders are capable of today.

I bought new hot glue guns. Stick with me if this seems a little off topic. The ones from Beverly’s Crafts died. They were pretty middle of the road. As a hot glue, E6000 artist  I’ve got big things to attach. It’s a time to go beyond Beverly’s. I need a hotter gluegun with higher wattage. Plus I recently burned the skin off of a finger! I want to be able to change the temperature or turn it off on the handle. I must admit though the burn came when the little shell I was holding flipped glue right into my hand. Nothing could have stopped that. Today, as I meditate on my finger the wound is covered by a tough scab. In a few days it will be gone. My body is resiliently, rigorously working its healing magic.

Rigor upgrades our tools and practices. It’s the result of willingness to face life as it is, to speak up, and do so in a seemingly abnormal, riotous way.  See Youth Against Gun Violence. Back Lives Matter. See Coke Tani’s one hand dance in the midst of her cancer journey on facebook. See anyone who survives the death of someone they love and learns to rise again.

All you who are inciting or taking part in a riot, 
given to or marked by unrestrained revelry; boisterous, uproarious: 
hilariously funny.
O’ Riotous, Rigourous, Spiritual Livers!
You know it isn’t easy to be a place of grace and ease.
Thank you.
Sign me up again today for that holy job.

I’m excited about spaces to keep creativity and spiritual ingenuity alive and engaged.

Mondays, 5pm PST and Thursdays 9:30 am PST Online Dance Chapel: Cynthia Winton-Henry & Nancy Pfaltzgraf

Fridays 10:30-12 Weekly InterPlayce Meditation in Oakland

April 4, Wed 9-12,  May 19, Sat 9-12 New! Online Contemplative Writers Retreats
Move Write Share Come if you do best writing with others,if you need help getting going, or if you wonder if writing could be a spiritual path for you. Receive gently structured support to move your wisdom. questions, and inspiration from body to page.  We begin with a body warm up and brief check in about life and our writing process. There are movement breaks, gentle coaching, and a period to share writing at the end..

May 5th 10-4, Workshop: Wanted! Creative, Spiritual Intelligence To Meet Our Historic Time. InterPlayce in Oakland. Embodied practices doors open rather than close.

Cynthia Winton-Henry, InterPlay cofounder, believes that spiritual intelligence is the sum of all our our Intelligences: kinesthetic, emotional, spatial, cognitive etc.” and that it’s time to put them all together and link to the Greater Intelligence of the planet and Universe. When we access and combine our birthright intelligences of movement, voice, words, stillness, and reflection we create pathways of resilience instead of roadblocks.Come delight in a way to name and explore an evolutionary path.
Cost: $20-$80 sliding fe

June 22-24 Hidden Monastery Retreat Bay Area Enshrined!

Where body and soul need no explanation, artfulness is natural and diversity and mystery are holy ground.  With the founder of InterPlay.

Friday 10:30-12
  Body Meditation at InterPlayce
Catered Lunch
Friday 2-6 Shrine Workshop: Jingletown Art Studio
Optional Dinner Out
Saturday 10-12:30 at InterPlayce Body Wisdom for Our Time: Sharing Practice
Lunch Out 12:30-2
2- 4:30 SpiritMarkings: Contemplative Art, Writing, Relfection.
5-6 Prayer Circle
Sunday 1230-3:30 Optional Excursion to Sausalito Labyrinth

Costs: $225  includes Friday Lunch. Or select a Single Time below. No one turned away.
Friday Morning ($10-15) Fri Workshop $65 (includes materials) /Saturday only $95/Sunday only $35








July 9-20 Oakland Art and Social Change Training for Millennials

August 9-13 InterPlay Leaders Gathering at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania

September 16-20 Alice Springs Campfire of the Heart, Australia

October 8-11 InterPlay for Spiritual Leaders Life Practice Program Oakland Retreat 

Nov 1-7 InterPlay at the Toronto Parliament of World Religions



Please ignore this if your idealism is keeping you in good stead….

Carl Jung said, “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”

For me? Ideals can turn on me, turn on others. They can be like crack, a kind of upper where I turn everything and everyone into a project. Visionary highs.

As a mystic with a “calling” I can even put God’s name on my ideals. This can turn me into a zealot, “a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.”

If you are suffering as your ideals are assaulted, consider joining me in the first step of recovery from addiction to Idealism: Admitted I am powerless over my ideals and that my life has become unmanageable. Click here for further reflection.

Once we peer into how we contribute to our own and others suffering through our attachment to outcomes and pictures, it is possible to find another way. We don’t have to give up our values, just our view of what is possible.  Body Wisdom is trying to tell us so.

Here’s a poem I wrote about my own situation.


Ideals are like Crack


My Tarot astrologer warned

“Your stars all say Bravo

but your martyr taunts you.”

Truly, this hyper-extended heart

is strung between a yawn

and a scream.


How to crack the old martyr code,

the demonic “I tried so hard

showed up for everything,

but where were you?” code?


The Body knows the sequence.

How DNA gets padlocked,

circles the current age

underscores the 11

carved between your eyes

and arrives back at nothing.

This is a code born of teachings

that say, “Your ideal is a compass.

has God’s name on it.

How can you go wrong?”




The “M” Code (see also Mother,

Minister, Manager, Mystic) has us

  1. a) Grip the ideal.
  2. b) Work hard.
  3. c) Be near saints of art and love

while spirit slowly gain weight and day by day a shadow world arises that resents all impediments, all inadequacies such as

         friends barely there

         structures, economies,

         industries, institutions

         family, lover, pets.

  1. d) Do drug deals with all that disappoints.

in a life dis-appointed by one’s self.



Admit Idealism is like crack

Addiction to ideals can foster

hate for a hateful world.

Hate for the real.

While life, uncaring,

resists all dictators.


How to recover?

Relax your grip.

Slyly free friends to walk away

Free hearts to grieve

Find a gentler purpose

Free home to be less than model

Free shame and fear as truth.

Free life from being ideal.

Then, continue to make shrines,

Make love, and if possible let go

long enough to wonder,

“What is ideal?”



Thank Heaven we can take a deep breath, shake, and find support.














Five Quotes on the Meaning of Life


“Let no one think that the birth of humanity is to be felt without terror. The transformations that await us cost everything in the way of courage and sacrifice. Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other.” Mary Caroline Richards


“There is no refuge from suffering.  But suffering has no refuge from love.  When love permeates suffering, day in and day out, suffering dissolves in love until only love remains.”  James Finley


“The only thing I know is this – I am full of wounds and still standing on my feet.  God is not cool water to be drunk for refreshment.  God is fire.  You must not only walk on this fire, you must dance.  And when you have learned to dance on this fire, it becomes cool water, but until you learn to dance — my Lord, what struggle, what agony.”  Nikos Kazantzaks



“The one journey that ultimately matters is the journey into the place of stillness deep within one’s self. To reach that place is to be at home; to fail to reach it is to be forever restless. In contemplation we catch a vision of not only what is, but what can be. Contrary to what we have thought, contemplatives are the great doers.”   Gordon Cosby




“Both artists and children play life like a beautiful instrument for which there are no lessons save the playing itself. Play is an indigenous, primary form of being in the world, even of inventing the world.” Pat B. Allen “Art as a Spiritual Path” 


Thanks to Penny Hackett-Evans, Spiritual Director for this California Goddess.



Do you need a Spiritual Director?

Spiritual Intelligence is your total intelligence. It incorporates your mental health, physical health, and relational health and is rooted in how you engage with all beings, understand your story over time and see your purpose as connected to the highest good.  It can be seen in the spontaneity of your dance, your heart, and your word.

A Spiritual Director supports you in your entirety. Adept at paying attention to soul and seeing good woven through your life, they will pray with you and recognize your life as sacred. This brings a reassurance like nothing else.

I’ve had short and long term spiritual directors. For the last nine years I’ve been in monthly spiritual direction. These soul check-ins start with a minute of silence. As I navigate my life by soul I know that here I can share from that perspective. I don’t have to hide the weird stuff or the ordinary stuff. The subject matter includes family, work, creative practices and the body politic. This witness and prayer is gold. My spiritual director is studied in grief, somatic psychology, InterPlay, and brings honesty, humor, and support for my body wisdom. Sessions often end with a blessing.

As a member of Spiritual Directors International, I am grateful to be part of a network of directors. Through it I came into contact with Spiritual Directors of Color organized by Therese Taylor-Stinson. A powerful resource. 

In their latest blog  Jennifer Olin-Hitt recently wrote Spiritual Direction: A Movement Toward Soul Wholeness. It starts by saying, “The human condition is filled with moments and seasons of struggle that are not categorized neatly in a mental health textbook. Loss can lead to deep grief.  Ethical dilemmas in the workplace can open up great turmoil of conscience. We become angry at our loved ones. We can act in ways that we regret. Mid-life can bring questions of meaning. Children challenge our values. Some of us wake up in the night with questions of existence: what is my purpose? Is there life beyond this life?  For questions and moments such as these, the struggling person may turn to a spiritual director.” Jennifer then gives a brief overview of spiritual direction and ways that spiritual direction intersects with mental health therapy.

I am privileged to train and support spiritual directors and leaders who integrate body wisdom and creative practice in their offerings. My 2018 offerings include two longer programs on Body Wisdom Tools for Spiritual Formation and Support for Spiritual Leaders. This Program will be repeated in October.

I also have space for monthly spiritual direction or a consultation if you need it.  I equally recommend Donna Mazzola, Nancy Pfaltzgraf, Soyinka Rahim, Ellen Solot, and Stephen Winton-Henry for spiritual healing and support. See more about them here.

Check out The Braided Way, a website and magazine  which aims “to support an individual’s spiritual development, while influencing our larger culture toward inter-spiritual (and inter-religious) understanding, acceptance and engagement.”

Body Wisdom On Prayer–

Honoring what Our Bodies Need & Offer in Prayer



To restart from the wisdom of the body, almost every subject requires a reorientation of our “mind-set.” I wonder what some of you think about these pointers. Please comment.


  • Physicality is basic to all of life. Physicality extends beyond our immediate body to include our greater sense of spirit, mind, and heart, areas that are only apprehended from the point of view of being bodies.
  • All bodies are connected in a greater whole. Our presence and absence affects one another. We uphold and wish the best for each other at all times, for we are part of each other. To disregard anyone is to shun our own soul.
  • Each body is a universe unto itself, a unique universe that cannot be fully known. Therefore we are not expected to “know ourselves” only to “be increasingly present to ourselves.”
  • We are not required to articulate vast or complex experiences, only to “experience” them. Dance, wordless song, music or poetry is often the most effective prayer in life’s layered circumstances.
  • Since prayer is an opportunity to be with all that we know and don’t know, it is good to learn to improvise, to build a practice that helps us to lean into the unforeseen in a trusting way.
  • Though we are not required to grow or change, change is constant. Prayer allows a way of collaborating with the greater guidance systems, listening in on the many different levels, from the voices within, to the whisperings of earth or of angels.
  • Prayer includes our need to witness, rest, and resist. Each person is entrusted to know what they need and to adapt a form or belief in search of the highest good.

I am teaching InterPlay’s Life Practice Program for Spiritual Formation this coming Spring. SO much fun to ground the InterPlay system in the relationship of body and soul.