What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Stone skipping.

A really useful concept or thoughtful question doesn’t just sit there.

It lands.

And it doesn’t just land. It touches down in your consciousness and ripples out. Circles echoing circles. Reverberating.

It sets off a chain of spiraling cycles that move outward and downward simultaneously.

What started as a stone is not just stone. Skipping out over the water, it has now become a new thing that is stone-meeting-water.

No longer an object but an encounter. Maybe even a relationship. Patterns and circles. Center and periphery.

Center and periphery.

As each question-stone skips its way through the water, the ever-widening circles take me places.

I find the connections, the fractal flowers.

I can feel into the stretch of continuity between past, hurting me and where I am now, and then slightly future me who is waiting, arm stretched out, full of love.

The information accessed through stone-skipping is not the stuff you know from the surface. It has a different tone, a different vibration. It has different elements too. Water and stone.

Water and stone.

Stone skipping is the name I invented for a terrific practice that generally goes by several, equally depressing titles.

It’s sometimes called “journaling questions”. Or “free-writes”. Or “prompts.” Or “writing exercises.” Or “coaching questions.”

It never ceases to astound me that a practice so completely powerful and alive, something whose job it is to elicit a flow of pure, undiluted creativity could have ever received such remarkably uninventive names.

There is magic in the meeting of these questions and our internal worlds, as writers and artists know from experience. But how are we supposed to know from the name?


About a year ago, I called on metaphor mouse to help me re-name the practice, because I’d noticed that I was never in the mood to actually do it.

A “prompt” just prompts my internal-rebel (You think you can prompt me? Prompt this!). And exercise sounds like push-ups. Good-for-me and painful. No, thank you.

I needed a name that described the sensation of the question making its way through me, changing my inner landscape. But not violently.

With a certain organic beauty and form. A call and a response. An action and a reaction, interacting in harmonious, beautiful and sometimes unexpected ways.

Something that captured the essence: accessing possibility through curiosity and play.

And that’s how stone skipping came to be called stone skipping.

In real life.

At the Playground, we use it as a verb. Let’s skip some stones. Time to stone-skip.

At the Rally (Rally!), we stone skip like crazy.

We do it after happily flailing around disastrously during our morning practice of Shiva Nata — breaking our brains and then having them put back together.

You’ve seen me do it here, too. Like this. Or this.

And I also have a special deck of cards that I made. Fifty two cards. Fifty questions or suggestions and two wild cards.

They live at the Playground (though soon to be available in the Playground Toy Shop and possibly-maybe online), and we use them for destuckifying whenever possible. Pick a card, any card.

Like this.

Once at Rally, I was making zero headway on my project. I had hit every possible wall.

Back to the deck of cards. The first couple cards I pulled were not for me. The next one didn’t seem like my card either, but I was fascinated by it:

“What needs to happen backwards?”

This was the very first set of cards, so they were still hand-made. Scribbled in my own handwriting, but I didn’t remember having written the question.

What was that even supposed to mean? What?! Backwards? Why?

But I decided to let the stone skip over the water and find out.

I walked backwards around the main room. Backwards through the corridor, past the pirate monkey and Rallions busy projectizing.


Backwards into the Refueling Station. Into the rainbow hammock.

Asking myself: What needs to happen backwards?

Writing it down: What needs to happen backwards?

Until it occurred to me that everything needed to happen backwards. I’d been working on the wrong part of my project. I had to reverse-engineer instead of trying to move forward step by step.

And I had to celebrate the birth of the tiny, sweet thing before I knew what it was exactly or what it would be like.

Destuckified. A brief Wiktory Dance and back to the writing. The stone had done its job.

The practice.

The important thing is not a specific question or concept.

The important thing is the pause (paws!), and then allowing everything to talk to each other: the stone and the water, your conscious and unconscious minds, you-now and you-then, your body and your brain.

For me, Shiva Nata is also a form of stone skipping. Except what gets dropped into your consciousness is algorithms. And the new pattern.

You introduce a new mathematical formula into the brain by mapping it with your body, and you let the formula ripple out. You steadily raise the challenge and complexity.

The effect: like a sifting out of my consciousness. It stirs me up like a snow globe, and then everything settles into quiet. And out of that quiet… well, that’s where all the good stuff comes out to play.

But it’s not just Shiva Nata. And it’s not just journaling and noticing. And it’s not just my destuckifying cards full of Extremely Useful Questions.

You can use anything as a stone.

A word, a quality, a mantra, a question, a thought, a rhythm, a color, a pattern, a shape.

You can use anything as a stone.

And comment zen for today.

As always, we remember the People Vary principle.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.

We all need different things at different times. So we let people have their own experience, and we don’t give each other advice (unless people ask, of course).

What I’d love:
Your thoughts and experiences related to stone skipping. Cool things that have happened or been discovered while journaling on a question or a similar practice.

Other metaphors that you like. How this Stone Skipping stuff relates to biggification (it does!). Ridiculous theories about why journaling questions go by such incredibly boring names.

I’m pretty sure it has to do with robots.

That’s it. Love all around. And plenty of skipping.

23 Responses to Stone skipping.

  1. sarra
    Twitter: waxworker

    I’ve been wanting to know about this for ages (erm, a couple of weeks). Hee! Dancing a thank-you.
    sarra recently posted… direct courtesy of the unnamed mobile telecoms companyEvery

  2. R says:

    I am always surprised when I plop the stones what comes up. Stuff that I didn’t think I knew. It’s just hard to remember to ask the questions sometimes.

    I want those 52 cards so bad I can taste it!!

  3. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    You can use anything as a stone.


    I remember a stone-skipping kind of experience I had once, when I decided to move through one day as if I were completely whole. Who would I be without my inner tangles? It was enlightening, and empowering, to feel that who and how I chose to be in the world was completely in my hands, and all I had to do was claim it.

    Here’s another thought: the next time that some thought or event triggers unhappiness or anxiety in me, I can pause (paws!), say to myself, “This is a stone. What else is here?” and then watch the ripples. It’s an alternative to resistance, like so many of the things that you teach. If I push against something, or pull away from it, I’m immersed in the struggle. If I can let go of the tension, drop the rock and watch the ripples…yes.

    Biggification? Absolutely — because it places the stones in my hands, which is just where I want them.
    Kathleen Avins recently posted… Friday Fragments IV- late and lightning-quick

  4. Maryann Devine
    Twitter: maryanndevine

    Since the biggification retreat last fall, 99% of my journaling happens in the form of stone-skipping. Because it is ridiculously helpful. Ridiculously!

    I can’t thank you enough.


  5. Hannah says:

    I love it!

    What needs to happen backwards?
    What question needs to happen?
    What is happening in this tiny instant, in-between-moment, pause!?

    The in-between! It boils down to the in-between.
    I mostly find the in-between in trains but I can see from this post and other that the in-between could be found in other locations, such as journals, refueling stations, an afternoon.


  6. Ren
    Twitter: llamaren

    Stone-skipping always makes me think of the line, “How do I know what I know unless I write it down?” That’s what it does. It drops into Wherever You Are at that moment and provokes a response, kinda like sneezing. ^_^ And what comes out is pure genius. Things you didn’t even realize you thought. Dreams you didn’t know you had. I LOVE IT when that happens! It’s like going to Disneyland, except they always have new rides.

    P.S. Please, oh please, oh PLEASE put the cards online. I will buy them THAT DAY. (I’m afraid to travel. Medical crap, fear crap, stuff crap – but I won’t be making the trip to Oregon and the awesome Playground for a while. But it would be so very awesome to have these to paint the way and make the whole trip more colorful.)

  7. kim
    Twitter: avoidingkim

    Yes! Sell them online! Please!

    Reverberates. Perfect, yummy word for what happens when things *land*….

    kim recently posted… The Book of Me- Notes on Hospitals and Horribleness

  8. Tara
    Twitter: taraswiger

    I just like the word Skipping!

    Re: stone-skipping + biggification
    Everything is biggification!

    True story: last night I wrote something about “growing” or “audience” in my Book Of Awesomeness (sorta a journal of business plans, etc) and then I stopped.
    The word didn’t seem right.

    So I let it skip.

    Big. Did I want to be big? What comes with big?

    And bam! Just like that I’m in 2nd grade and reliving some stuff that was the total answer to what has kept from thoroughly biggifying (in the get BIG sense) for so long.

    Pages later and thetiny word-stone rippled way back and now I get it, deeply.
    Tara recently posted… Experiment- stop explaining

  9. Briana
    Twitter: brianaaldrich

    The most amazing and baffling and counter-intuitive part of stone skipping for me is just how powerful it is, just how much it changes everything. It doesn’t seem possible, and so I forget to do it and then all the little gears in my head get stuck.

    This week I’ve been stone skipping because I committed to it in my VPA (note to self! genius commitment!) and now the gears are back to whirring along their magical, merry way.

    Sometimes I use specific questions, sometimes questions just pop into my brain out of nowhere.

    However it happens, however it works — Stone skipping –> Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.
    Briana recently posted… I want to know everything

  10. Emily
    Twitter: emilyroots

    Oh yes! This!

    My body is the stone.


    Mmmmm-hmmm. The question/problem/whatchamacallit. I do some shivanata on it. Then I follow it into my body, using a journal to take notes, and find where it lives in there. Then I start looking around for the clues. I follow the things that live there and find out where they want to take me.
    Emily recently posted… Rainwalker

  11. Emily
    Twitter: emilyroots

    Oh! And a word for it…I call it spelunking.

  12. Sue T says:

    Have also used animal & tarot cards, and making up stories about them. Many many insights!

    Yes, pleeeeeeeeease sell us the cards!

  13. brooklynchick says:

    “Is that really true?”

    That is my best stone-skipping question because usually the things I am 10000% sure are true are 100% made up. Usually by monsters, well-intentioned but misguided. And so cute and fuzzy (the monsters)!

    A stone I forgot until just this minute! Sitting in one of my un-used chairs at home (or someone else’s chair at work) for an hour or so. Love.

    Thanks as ever Havi!!

  14. Waverly says:

    While I was at the Playground, I used the magical stone-skipping cards only once and got a card that asked “what if my project was a house?” and “what rooms are lonely?” I loved that question because I used to draw house plans for fun in my school notebooks when I was 13. So I did a lovely sketch of my whole life as the country estate on which I always wanted to live–and guess what? I already live there.

    I want those cards! To live at my house, not just the Playground.
    Waverly recently posted… Driving Kindness

  15. Kirsty
    Twitter: abitnotgood

    Oh! I would LOVE some of these cards. Will play around this weekend by making my own, but the idea of having official type ones all the way from Havi and the pirate crew is just wonderful.

  16. Andi
    Twitter: annaline_39

    Oh, please please make them available online or else I may have to make desperate promises to my two friends who live in Portland to storm the Playground to procure me some ;)
    Andi recently posted… Today is My Birthday

  17. Cindy Morefield
    Twitter: CindyMorefield

    The power of metaphor, of changing the name! When faced with a practice I know the value of, but am resisting, I tend to ask, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t do this good thing?” (though this habit is changing, I’m happy to report!) But here I see yet again that there are many other, more useful questions that can be asked, including, “How can I think of it or name it differently so it’s fun and inviting?” Thanks for the reminder, Havi, and for modeling it again and again.

    And a deck of cards! I can make reminders for myself. Yes.

  18. Cat
    Twitter: jfeathersmith

    Oh, this is a lovely metaphor. The visuals that go along with it are so peaceful, but it’s the exciting/intriguing sort of peaceful. I’ve always enjoyed writing stream-of-conscious stuff (it seems to be my default unless I make an effort NOT to), which can be very amusing! and often insightful, but it’s not often been started with a carefully chosen stone.

    I, too, would love to see the set of cards! Even if it were just a list of the questions, ’cause, um, I like craft projects.

  19. […] the car, outside the office with my journal and asked (and answered) some questions. Sort of like Havi’s stone-skipping questions, but quick and […]

  20. […] exploratory questions relating to persona, role, communication, and expectations which I may use in stone skipping. I think Robin Hood would be one of my ideal dominant personae (social justice ethic, pack loyalty […]

  21. I have been going through these exact exercises. It all started with “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Of course, never growing up is an issue but.

    Just letting the definition of me flow has been an amazing experience.
    Steven Lichtenberg recently posted… Be Prepared

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