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