The Body Will Preach

When InterPlayers are invited into a pulpit or onto a platform, the Wisdom of the Body comes into the room in wonderful ways. Dancing, Talking, Chanting, and Breathing! 

Refreshing perspectives.

This happened on the east and west coast the same day when Anna Gilcher in DC at Seekers Church and Phil Porter at First Church Berkeley where Phil serves as a minister of Arts and Community happened to preach on the same story—the man born blind.

Two different takes- both illuminating. 

I thought a few of you would be keen to peek into these Hidden Sanctuaries of Love.

Read Anna’s Sermon here!

One of my favorite parts is where she says,

“The more privilege we carry, the more we profit from the oppression. Recognizing this as a truth is a crucial step, and from there, our work is to take responsibility: (even if) it’s not my fault, it is my responsibility.

This recognition is highly de-centering to those of us at the center, and the more social identifiers we carry that are the “default,” the less practiced we are at being de-centered.

The willingness to be de-centered is a sacred journey.”


Now go to the 28 minute mark  of “Resist With Eyes Wide Open” • First Church Berkeley Worship @ Congregation Beth Elthel at to see Phil Porter’s improvisational genius at work.

Bravo to the Monastery of the Heart, to the diverse wisdom of creation, and to all who share how they see love at play.


Come to The Dying to Live Tour and Cabaret

Come to the Cabaret

What good is sitting, alone in your room?
Come hear the music play!
Life is a cabaret, old chum!
Come to the cabaret!

What good’s permitting some prophet of doom?
To wipe every smile away
Life is a cabaret, old chum!
So come to the cabaret!

Start by admitting from cradle to tomb
It isn’t that long a stay
Life is a cabaret, old chum!
And I love a cabaret!

I was in Scotland on the isle of Lismore the night Mairi Campbell called her neighbors to join a ceilidh in her living room. It was late. There were a couple of fiddlers, some jokesters, a piano, some singing and some spirits. Everyone knew that in sharing folk music, singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling some people would naturally step up. Some would be cajoled. Like their ancestors they improvised an evening that circled around the fires of love, life, hardship and death to find hope, belonging, and sometimes wisdom.

It was a homegrown informal cabaret where musicsongdancerecitation, or drama included food, drink and some content of an adult, underground nature. We could use more homegrown cabarets.

Like the song says, “What good’s permitting some prophet of doom to wipe every smile away? …Start by admitting from cradle to tomb, it isn’t that long a stay…Life is a cabaret old chum, so come to the cabaret.”

With our parents, family members, friends and some of our idealistic dreams dead ir dying, where do we play with the rough edges of life?  It’s hard to tell our real stories in a death-phobic culture. A cabaret could be useful as a form that includes death as a norm of life. Embracing sister death allows us to live with a little less fear and maybe be a little wiser. 

That’s why me, and me, your interplayful cabaret-ista, and Rev. Stephen Winton-Henry, a pretty awesome grief educator who has sat countless hours in the mystery of death and dying, has every book on the subject and some great pointers and frames on life and death do hereby inaugurate the Dying to Live Tour and Cabaret. 

We’re practicing “bad Ukulele” and songs that honor life and death. And Boy, could we use some help! We don’t have folk dances, but we cand improvise a move or two. Stories? Oh yeah! We have em both made up and real.

As Lord Buddha said

Lord Buddha: How many times do you think about death?

Monk Number 1: I think about death every day.

Lord Buddha: Too little. How about you?

Monk Number 2: I think about death with every bite of food.

Lord Buddha: Not enough. And you?

Monk Number 3: I think about death with every breath in and every breath out.

Lord Buddha: Perfect.

You know things. We want to hear. This will require some levity, honesty, and practice if we want to get real and really live!

Interested in a Dying to Live Workshop-Cabaret evening? 

Rev. Stephen Winton-Henry, hospice chaplain and grief educator and Cynthia Winton-Henry, cofounder of InterPlay are dying to live.  With decades of helping people get into and out of their bodies, in the Dying to Live Tour and Cabaret they honor the lessons and questions of community around the biggest dance we do: Live and Die. Through reflection, music, stories, and movement, we’ll toast one another, write our names in the book of life, and touch on

  • Death’s role at the sacred center of life
  • That death is no solo dance
  • Our need for a fear troupe
  • The holy obligation to die well
  • and more…

all with playful, creative reverence.  

If you are invested in conscious living, wondering about conscious dying, seeking peace in the midst of change, someone who doesn’t plan on living forever, invite us to lead a cabaret! We’ll get you started on leading your own cabaret, if you like.

We can also preach, present at conferences or lead entire weekend retreats like the one coming up in Texas at High Hope Ranch,May 5-7, cohosted by Krystyna Jurzykowski, Madeline Udashen, and Hans York. This is perfect for anybody, including grief educators, health care professionals. family and friends who might be ready to lift up life and death when they see it. It includes Friday 6pm Dinner, introductions and orientation
Saturday Sessions on The Dance of Death, The Poetry of Life, a Happy Hour on The Art of Legacy, A Cabaret of Community Stories, Songs, Dances,Tellings, and on Sunday the Song of the Soul.

OK, off to make Dying to Live Tour and Cabaret T-shirts!  YOU KNOW YOU WANT ONE!


Uncertainty: The Improv School

Carolyn North, a close friend and fellow improvisor has astute wisdom and life experience. She sees improv as a remedy for the school of hard knocks and politically tumultuous times. Leave it to mystics and artists!



Growing up, I always went to bed at night with my heart in my mouth, uncertain what the next morning would bring. If my mother and sister woke up fighting, which they did on most days, I knew my mind would go blank in school, my fingers too numb to even hold a pencil. On those rare mornings when they didn’t scream at each other, my whole body would feel weird until I found my own center again, and then I could be present for that day.

Needless to say, I all but flunked out of elementary school.

I’ve been experiencing flashbacks of those feelings these days, often too scared to check the day’s headlines for fear I’ll be reduced again to blanking out. I often wonder how I’ve managed to live a productive life despite those years of trauma, and I suspect the reason is that I learned to compensate by creating an improvisatory alternative life in my imagination.

My school of relatively hard knocks may not be the recommended way to become an improviser, but for me that’s the way it worked. My curriculum was based upon an acceptance of uncertainty and the willingness to always start from scratch, being inventive to the max while kids from stable families were more likely to follow the rules. I see my training as preparation for the school we’re all in now where the first motto is, “Expect the unexpected,” and the second motto is, “We don’t know anything so we’d better be prepared for everything.”

It’s ‘The Improv School,’ and our school colors are black and white and brown and tan with all colors of hair and ornaments you can imagine, and our songs are based on an infinitude of modes and scales, and our languages cover the spectrum of sound. The rules of the mingled tribes are changing every single day, and we’ve got a steep learning curve to pick up one another’s languages, learn each others’ moves, and find our way to loving even when we’re scared out of our wits.

You may not believe this, but you and I in our pink pussy hats are running neck and neck with those in “power” because they are scared too, like little kids out of control who count on the grown-ups to stop them from hurting themselves.

They are the barking dogs who can be fierce as long as they know you’ve got your hand on the leash! It’s actually we who have the innovative ideas and sense of fun who are leading the pack! The others are still hauling out old, worn-out strategies of fear-mongering, threatening everything under the sun to scare us, while we are savvy in new ways, sharp as tacks with chutzpah to burn.

For example, whose idea was a border wall? China did that centuries ago and even then it didn’t work; now it’s a tourist trap with souvenir stalls. Even then, every warrior on a pony knew that if they couldn’t go over it and couldn’t go under it, they could always go around it – and they did!

Of course.

Yesterday, I attended the SONG FOR ALL BEINGS with my friends Arisika and Osha, which was an extravaganza of music and ritual from all over the globe, celebrating life and courage in hard times through song and chant and dance and spoken word, most of it improvisations based upon the sung theme of a Buddhist prayer:

May all beings be happy. May all beings be safe. May all beings everywhere be free.

For several hours that simple chant was background to a brilliant theatrical tapestry by artists of every color from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas who drifted on and off the stage, mixing it up in many languages while improvising upon each culture’s songs. We sang the chant along with them, dreaming of a world in which all our geniuses would be seen and heard, all borders open for cross fertilization and love affairs, all beauty intermingled.

If enough of us could wish for this, and practice it with everything we’ve got, celebrating one another’s gifts and not worrying about competing for the damned Gold Medal, then it’s simply a matter of time and hard work before things shift over into shared celebration of exceptional beauty.


Last night I dreamed I was sitting in the shallow surf making little doo-dads out of white seashells when a rogue wave roared up and broke thunderously over me. I scrambled breathlessly for the beach but then a sea monster rose up from the water like a dinosaur with massive tentacles and a huge funnel nose and came for me. But the monster was so ludicrously over-the-top, like a crazy drawing in a children’s storybook, that I started to laugh and it deflated like a rubber toy and sank unceremoniously back into the waves.

I woke up bemused.

Yesterday, I received a message from my nephew Charles, one of those newbies-with-vision I keep talking about. On it was a quote by Cynthia Occelli:

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

We are learning that, politically and socially, although our elected administration is already making an unholy mess of things, it is actually the destruction of a worn-out phase, and good riddance. We’ve got the very man and his hench-folks to help it happen with everything they’ve got, massive tentacles and huge funnel noses intact.

It’s not pretty, and we’re already getting shaken up, but they will deflate when they are poked hard enough, so it’s time for us to get with the program, expect the unexpected, use the conditions we’re given whether we like them or not, and listen for the new riff coming out of the cacophony of noise.

And then improvise a new and original song from all those voices.

Starting NOW!



THE LIVING EDGE OF DYING is the title of Carolyn’s new book. It comprises the 75 pieces written in the past 2 years, covering the era between her husband Herb’s death and the election of Trump. She’s taking the positive path here, charting the golden thread in the chaos of our times. She is offering the book in the spirit of the gifting economy, asking for donations for the costs of production and printing, and asking people to gift it forward to friends. It’s my contribution to keeping us stalwart as things get harder, helping us laugh and cry, and working together to shift this comedy into a higher gear! You are invited to write and order copies.  Send cash or checks to me at: 2447 Prince St. Berkeley, CA 94705         

2017 Hidden Monastery Retreats and Offerings

New Monthly Wisdom Council 2017

Time to be Determined

What if you had a Wisdom Council, a monthly place to navigate and find guidance during these big currents of change, an online monthly circle attuned to Greater Forces, especially Love, in our personal, communal and planetary life.  Would it help you to tap collective Spiritual Intelligence among amazing artists, thinkers, and spirit people? Would you like to help bring wisdom forward in support, discernment and service?

If body and soul and expressive arts are key to you, if you are sensitive grace maker psychically attuned to heaven, mystic cosmologies, dreams, unseen guides, ancestors, and Mother Earth, if you wonder how to support those around you this year as you build capacity to love, lead, create, and grow………….please consider this your invitation to attend and explore a Wisdom Council.

When Will We Meet? Arranged by the group at a time that suits as many as possible.
Support: A $49.00 monthly contribution supports this practice. Special arrangements provided for all people of color, millennials, and low income to honor limited resources..


Dying to Live Tour and Cabaret Retreat High Hope Ranch,Texas 

Friday May 7, 5:30 pm dinner to May 9, Sunday lunch
High Hope Ranch, Glen Rose Texas
Guided by Cynthia and Stephen Winton-Henry

with hosts Krystyna Jurzykowsi, Madeline Udashen and Hans York

Where we honor death at the sacred center of life in a magical place with beautiful hosts, great food, and good company. 

Come join the “Dying to Live” cabaret, a gathering place both solemn and celebratory where partners, family members, friends old and new, claim and share the biggest dance we do: Live and Die.

Stephen and Cynthia embrace Sister Death as holy companion and teacher to orient to and prepare for the improvisation of a lifetime: Living and Dying.

The rewards are rich: greater honesty, hope, joy, and body wisdom. But, death is hard to bring up, particularly our own or that of someone we love. For this we need dedicated space, time, ritual and companionship. This doesn’t have to be sad. Some of us are dying to live and want more than a class as we move from the misnomer of individual deaths to the truth of dying in community.


The Dying to Live Cabaret invites our arts, spirits, lessons, and questions. Cynthia and Stephen bring resources from Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson, Ira Byock’s Four Things That Matter Most, Tina Cole Kreitz’s amazing resource– The Last Gift Box: A Present to Those Who Follow Me, Cynthia Winton-Henry’s Move: What the Body Wants, resources from Creative Aging and our decades of helping people get into and out of their bodies.

Friday 6pm Dinner, introductions and orientation
9-12      The Dance of Death
2-3:30   The Poetry of Life & Free Time
4-6         Happy Hour The Art of Legacy
7:30       The Cabaret of Community: Stories, Songs, Dances,Tellings

9-12 Song of the Soul
12:30 Lunch

High Hope Ranch is a beautiful oasis of love near Glen Rose Texas cared for by InterPlayer Krystyna Jurzykowski. Spring is one of the best times to visit. Don’t miss your chance to visit adjacent Fossil Rim Wildlife Center to receive blessings from the animal community. There is nothing like having your palm kissed by giraffe lips.

Stephen Winton-Henry, hospice chaplain, spiritual care manager, pastor, and grief educator since the 1990’s, it was losing a parent at a young age that initiated him in the need for spiritual companionship throughout life. A graduate from Foothill Theater Conservatory, an InterPlay leader, avid reader and amateur ukulele and guitar player, hanging out and playing is what he does best.

Cynthia Winton-Henry, cofounder of InterPlay, recovering serious person and host of the Hidden Monastery, a virtual community of playful prayerful mystics and artists. Having taught a generation of seminarians at Pacific School of Religion to dance and producing Unbelievable Beauty of Being Human concerts worldwide she currently teaches Changing the Race Dance Workshops and supports millennials to bring art and body wisdom back online. Her books include Move: What the Body Wants, Dance, the Sacred Art, and Chasing the Dance of Life.

Come to the cabaret, old chum?  Special arrangements provided for all people of color, millennials, and low income to honor limited resources.

Santa Fe Hidden Monastery Retreat
Embrace the Beauty Way

November 8-12,  4 nights, 5 days.
Wed 6pm- Sun lunch

Imagine the beauty of New Mexico desert skies awaiting those who come to listen to and connect with the Divine in powerful ways.

If you embrace a Holy Wild Love, seek belovedness in body and soul, attune to earth, and hunger for a community that embraces the mystic creative path, Cynthia Winton-Henry guides this retreat in honor of spiritual intelligence, joy, and wisdom.

Listening to body wisdom we gather as a hidden monastery for four nights and five days to rest, InterPlay in movement, story, and song, dance on behalf of one another and the Earth, and make desert pilgrimages.  Body Wisdom tools, rituals, and art projects are woven through the

Whatever your art, questions, seen or unseen gifts, here is a place, a people, and a process that will delight in you.

Synergia Retreat Center, outside of Santa Fe, an hour from the Albaquerque Airport welcomes you to this earth sensitive sight, beautiful dance studio, excellent food, playful art, and restful accommodations.

Room for 15-20 people. Single rooms are limited. Reserve a room now with a $100 deposit.

Total cost includes
$350  tuition/ 300 before October 1/ $300 for all Mystic Tech members.
Plus Accommodation, space use, and food packages:
  • Singles with bathroom $600
  • Singles with shared bathroom $500
  • Shared room $400

Special arrangements provided for all people of color, millennials, and low income to honor limited resources.

Mon/Thurs Online Dance Chapels


 Is Movement Your Best Way of Praying?  
Join this intention international online community. 
Monday 5pm pst or Thurs 9:30 am pst. See world clock to find your time.

Cynthia Winton-Henry and Nancy Pfalztgraf welcome you to the rare dance chapel where silence, voice and music are the super highways of peace-making and healing.

The Online Dance Chapel is based on decades of research on body and soul and visionary strategies developed while cofounding InterPlay, teaching in seminaries, transpersonal psychology schools, and at the Sophia Center founded by Matthew Fox. You can expect to

1  Warm up your dancing spirit.

2  Request prayers for family, community, and world

3. Notice your own body wisdom as you move, share and integrate it.

4. Reboot grace and gratitude for your week.

5. Hear and share your own poetry and music.

6. Connect to a Hidden Monastery facebook group to engage and receive additional resources.

Special arrangements provided for all people of color, millennials, and low income to honor limited resources.



Because more and more people are finding community in the Hidden Monastery I want to honor the exchange with Memberships: $110 includes all Hidden Monastery offerings: Dance Chapels, one to one sessions, and Wisdom Circles. (normally $175/month). Special arrangements provided for all people of color, millennials, and low income to honor limited resources.

To register for any events email