Playful University Club #5 – May Monthly Meeting with Ted DesMaisons

For our May Monthly Meeting, we were joined by Ted DesMaisons, the author of Playful Mindfulness. He hosted a session based on his book, titled “Playful Mindfulness for Confidence, Calm, and Connection”, where we played loads of fun games which explored the intersection between play and mindfulness.

Ted DesMaisons

Ted began the session with a chat about his home in California, and his experiences of particularly strange weather patterns there. It started out as a chilled, relaxed session but it wouldn’t remain that way for long! He then asked us about our previous exposure to mindfulness; most had some knowledge of it but most weren’t experts (except Anouska Cekalovic of course!).

Ted spoke about mindfulness in the following terms: “Mindfulness means paying attention on purpose to the present moment and things as they are with curiosity and kindness.” With that in mind, we used the following mindfulness exercises:

1-2-3

This was a team task (in breakout rooms) of counting to 3, alternating between two people. It started off easy, but we found that it quickly got confusing – we had to think about counting for the first time in our lives! Each round, Ted replaced the numbers with introduced. Instead of saying 1, we had to clap, then instead of 2, we snapped our fingers, and 3 was replaced with a wiggle. As the actions were introduced, we found that:

  • We struggled not to mimic our partner; after all, we clap with others – it’s a group activity!
  • Our brains tried to find a pattern to ensure we didn’t mess up, but they couldn’t – this is why it was so difficult!
  • Some people celebrated their failure by laughing, while others approached it competitively, with a “failure flinch”
  • For some, when we were only doing actions (instead of a combination of numbers and actions), it was a lot easier because it only used one part of our brains

We were then instructed to celebrate our mistakes by raising our arms above our heads and shouting “woo-hoo!”. When, in the final round, we reverted to counting again, we found that we were more present in the game, and went faster because we were more comfortable with the possibility of failure.

.b

This was a mindfulness activity with four main steps:

  1. Pause
  2. Feel the feet
  3. Feel the breath
  4. Take a moment to just be. Notice how we feel and our surroundings, notice things we haven’t seen before

This practice can be used to put ourselves back into a space of patience, presence, and resilience, and it can be done subtly wherever we are.

Sound ball

This exercise involved “throwing” an imaginary ball to one another over Zoom, making a different sound each time. We were encouraged not to plan our sounds, but to trust ourselves to think up something when we needed to. We tried different types of balls, and had fun pretending to throw a really heavy ball! The fast pace of the activity created spontaneity, which made us lower our guards and create a connection with other attendees.

Here’s how some attendees found Sound ball helped them be more mindful:

“It forces you to focus on the moment itself”

“Having to do it quickly prevents overthinking”

“It created a feeling of being in the present”

It was also an important lesson in kindness, and working with the sounds our teammates “threw” at us. We found that we began repeating sounds we hear out in the world, which was a particularly liberating experience.

Meerkat

In the final exercise, everyone tries to strike the same pose, then whenever one person changes position, we all had to follow. How did we navigate those moments when two people changed position at the same time? We found we were constantly looking for patterns and following what grabbed our attention the most. It was definitely an exercise which encouraged us to put our overthinking aside and go with the flow!

There was an element of risk-taking, when we worried about doing something which people wouldn’t copy, especially when everyone felt comfortable doing the same movement. However, after we’d played it for a while, everyone was more comfortable with starting something new – we’d overcome our fear!

Ted’s exercises allowed us to understand how play and mindfulness can be used together to improve our mental health and wellbeing, boost our confidence and change our relationship to failure.

When asked to describe the event, here’s what people said:

Thanks for bringing us such an enjoyable session, Ted!

Ted is running future courses you can attend here: https://playfulmindfulness.info/intro-to-playful-mindfulness-online-version/  

Education Higher Education Incubator Online Learning Project Student Success for All

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The University of Exeter’s Education Incubator scheme. Promoting pedagogic innovation and collaboration with an aim to enhance learning across the University and beyond.

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