How Would You Describe “Divine Play”?


What makes you smile inside and out?

  • Making sweet cooing noises and having a baby smile back at you?
  • Watching baby goats do their little jumping thing?
  • Seeing a dog on the beach throw a ball at her owner and prancing around insistently until he throws it?
  • Buying a gift for a dear friend that you KNOW she will love and then giving it to her?

These moments of joy are sacred, don’t you think?  Somehow we feel safe, trusting, and loved in them. I wonder if we are tapping into the divinity of the human spirit.  Something that is always there, but may be elusive at times.  It sure feels good!  We need to play and have an innate ability to.

Play, or Divine Play as we like to call it, is part of PILL improv.

Watch the facial expressions of Jody and Glenna as they play this very easy activity called ‘Same-Time-Story” And also watch the people watching them.  The delight is almost palpable.  

At PILL we make it a priority to create a safe environment for divine play and the community is incredibly supportive.  You don’t need to be an actor to play! Check out our classes or email your questions:

Improv as Sacred Space for Seeking Growth & Freedom!

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  

-Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist,  Holocaust survivor, and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

This quote speaks to the sacred space for divine play that emerges when improv activities are taught with an emphasis on the process. (Unlike improv comedy, where the emphasis is on the performance.)

In the simple, yet often profound activity called, “The Gift”  one person gives an invisible present to another and it is the other person who defines what the gift is.  For example, let’s say my partner in this activity is Liz Korabek-Emerson, (we co-teach unique classes in mindfulness and improv called Stronger Together and you might see us around town putting up posters for PILL classes).

In this activity Liz would reach out to me with a knowing smile and say something like, “Beth, I have something for you”.  And I would have a knowing smile back to her as I await the gift. We don’t know what the gift is, but we do know that I will think of something and she will support me. It is a rich moment of trust, creativity, and divine play. For me, this IS growth and freedom!

And truth be told, IN that moment, I might feel anxious and uncertain. Okay, I would feel a little anxious, I’m pretty sure.  Because  in my mind or the ego part of my mind, there lies the possibility of rejection or failure.  Yet those worries are fleeting because no matter what I say,

Oh Liz, thank you for this spoonful of dirt

Oh Liz, thank you for this diamond necklace

Oh Liz, thank you for this cup of delicious coffee

…no matter what I say, Liz is going to support me. A sacred space for divine play emerges when improv activities are taught with an emphasis on the process! Click To Tweet

You are so welcome, Beth.  I thought this spoonful of dirt from my garden would help you start your indoor herbs.

You are so welcome, Beth. When I saw the necklace I thought how beautiful it would look on you.

You are so welcome, Beth. I thought a nice fresh cup of coffee would taste good to you right now.

I am supported, safe and even loved.  WOW, right?

And if you were in this PILL improv class watching, you might feel the beauty of this moment and take joy in whatever we say, because somehow you are with us in this sacred space.  It is indeed, divine play!

If this sounds like fun and you want to get a taste of improv taught this way, check out the Improv for Everyone (single sessions), Discover PILL, and Stronger Together classes coming up soon.  Or if you are interested in the world of Medical Improv check out latest Who, What & Where!

MORE Fantastic Raffle Prizes from Mostly Seacoast Businesses for this FUNdraising Party 2/24 in Portsmouth


2/24/18 from 5:30-8p at Jubilation Dance Studio

Suggested donation $10!

Last week we published a list of SOME of the fantastic raffle prizes you can win ifyou come to the fundraising party that local Social Worker, Lori Austin is hosting.  She is working to raise money for Back on My Feet (a cool project that helps people who struggle with homelessness.)

She’ll be there and ready to answer any questions, like;

Who is Lightening Larry?

In the meantime, here’s a link to the party flyer and scroll down for MORE

fabulous prizes you can win.

Art piece donated by Amy Kelly, lobsterwoman/artist, Tailspinstudio

Beauty Basket donated by Kristen Moisen from Ciccolini Salon

Music Hall tickets

Serendipity jewelry item

Tuscan Kitchen 2 $50 gift certificates

Runners Alley gift card

Life is Good $76 worth of merchandise

Kazimierz European Market gift basket

Union Bluff $50 gift card

Vdogg Airport shuttle service- free ride to and from airport

My Thirty-one Bag donation by AnnMarie Plante

And coffee to be provided by New Moon Coffee Roasters of New Hampshire!

Doesn’t  the Seacoast ROCK?

PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab will be doing some improv and I am seriously considering dressing as Tracey Turnblad (Hairspray Heroine) who, IMHO, is definitely a Super Hero!

Now do you want to check out the party?

Hope to see you there and as soon as I get updated list of donations, I’ll post Part II.

If you have questions about the party, contact Lori Austin!

P.S. If you can’t make the party and want to donate.

Loved Krista Tippett’s Interview w/ Brene Brown

Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. . –Brene Brown

If you liked Brene Brown’s well-known TED Talk on vulnerability you will probably like her new book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”.  It is a great book and speaks to the sometimes daunting, yet very worth it pursuit of authenticity.

I enjoy many of the guests on Tippett’s On Being Podcast series and this one with Brene Brown is exceptionally good.  I listen to the unedited version and loved hearing these two very smart women discuss personal growth, human behavior, and spirituality.

Here’s a quick excerpt to tempt you.

Ms. Tippett: You make this — just the way you make this observation — I think the way you make it is so helpful. You said, “It’s partly because we are neuro-biologically hardwired for belonging and connection. We’re hardwired to want it, and need it so much, that the first thing we do is sacrifice ourselves and who we are to achieve it.

Ms. Brown: The irony, right? Yeah, we’re desperate for it. I think if you look at — if you look from the lens of neuro-biology or even evolutionary biology: as a social species, to not be wanted and to not belong to the tribe or the clan or the group meant death. We are wired for this. It is — John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, who does this incredible work on loneliness, says that the only real biological advantage we have over most other species is our connection, our belonging; our ability to collaborate, plan, be in relationship with in special ways. And so that desperate need to belong is not a neurosis; or it’s not an ego-driven thing. That need to belong and be a part of something greater than us is who we are in our DNA.

Ms. Tippett: I love that also, in fact, the genius — the source of the genius of our species — that’s the implication of it.

Ms. Brown: That’s it. It is. Yet what we do to ensure that we’re accepted and fit in ensures that we have no sense of belonging.

Ms. Tippett: So you use this language of “true belonging.” So talk about what are the qualities of true belonging, as opposed to those many things we do that feel like belonging but, as you say, are a hollow substitute for true belonging. What is that?

Let me know if you listen and what you think!

PILL Open House Was Wonderfull & Early Bird Rates Extended!

Is there a PILL for making friends, playing, & learning interpersonal skills? Click To Tweet

Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab isn’t a PILL you swallow, it is a PILL class you take! And there are a few spots left in upcoming classes:  Stronger Together (combines mindfulness and improv) and Take Another PILL.  To encourage you to try PILL or come back, we are extending the Early Bird Rates!

This past Saturday,  Liz Korabek-Emerson, MFA  and I offered the first PILL open house with Korabek Training.  We were so happy to share our philosophy and teach a few activities. Watching people play, hearing the laughter, and witnessing the support that people give each other is all affirming of our beliefs in the transformative power of this work.   People ask us; “What makes PILL improv spiritual”?  Part of the answer lies in this unfolding of humanity. WOW, right?

Oh and 2 people said their faces hurt from smiling and laughing so much.They are doing the Danish Clap! You’d never suspect they practically just met, would you?Please consider joining us for an upcoming class! And don’t miss Liz’s blog series about mindfulness and improv!

“…a story about how we begin to remember…”- Paul Simon

Listening to Under African Skies while driving under them with my son was an incredible privilege that moved me to tears.  And he too, felt something profound in the words and music from Paul Simon’s Graceland Album as we drove along our 2+ week journey from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein

What were we remembering?  Our connection? Joy in discovering together? Gratitude for our time?  Something deeply profound about humanity?

These are the roots of rhythm

And the roots of rhythm remain

I have learned so much on this journey and am so grateful.  I arrive home quite tired, yet with renewed commitment to teaching improv in a way that helps people tap into divine play with others. This too, is profound!

As we experience playing together in a safe and honoring environment we remember and celebrate our humanity!

Please consider signing up for a PILL class and dipping your toe into this safe, fun, joyful art! Visit us during our open house or check out upcoming classes!  And shoot me an email if you have questions!

And it is a different song on the same LP, but hey…

We all will be received in Graceland!

Presenting the PILL Poster People of Portsmouth!

Beth Boynton, RN, MS & Liz Korabek-Emerson, MFA

Beth and Liz love teaching PILL classes! Sometimes serious, oft times silly, and always kind; it is no surprise that they have fun putting up PILL posters promoting classes and events.  Even on cold icy New England days! (We were very careful not to curtsey on icy areas! 🙂 )

This poster is going up at the RiverRun BookstoreThanks to all businesses in downtown Portsmouth, NH who have a community bulletin board! Click To Tweet If you see one without a PILL Poster please let us know! 🙂


Applied Improv & Trust! Glorious, Glorious Trust!

One of the differences between applied improv and improv comedy is that we take the focus off of performing and put it on the process of play.  One of the most fundamental and powerful parts of that process involves trust!

What does trust mean to you?

For me, it means feeling safe, respected, even loved,  along with a sense of ease in my body, mind, and soul.  Trusting someone means I can count on them to do what they say, give me a break for my imperfections, own their own part in a conflict, accept me, even celebrate me as I am…things like that. I’ve had some betrayals in life and don’t take these things for granted.  Insecurities and sensitivities are part of who I am.  Join the club, right?

Taking improv classes has been really helpful to me in exploring trust and having fun doing it.  The very principles of play support trusting relationships.  They do vary from teacher to teacher a little bit.  At Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab, fondly referred to as PILL, we follow these principles and in parenthesis, (their relevance to trust).

PILL Principles of Improv 

  • “Yes and…” (This golden rule of improv ensures that players share responsibility for co-creating scenes and stories.  I learn that I can count on i.e. trust my partner!) 
  • Support your partner (I help others devlop trust as I am trustworthy.  I gain insight and experience into what trust looks and feels like.)
  • You have everything you need (Here I learn to trust myself to offer something of value while trusting my partner will make it work.)
  • Celebrate “mistakes” (It’s ok to be human!  YAY! I’m OK, you’re OK, we’re OK!)
  • Avoid questions (This one is a little harder to explain, but deep inside, there are times that I and others will ask questions to avoid fully participating in a relationship.  Avoiding them, for some people, means trusting themselves and others.)
  • Feel free to make things up (Actors already know this, but some people who are new to improv need permission to get out of their heads.  The pressure of being right or knowing something can be set aside.  I make something up trusting my partner will run with it giving me feedback that trusting is safe).
  • Observers play an important role (This gives people new to improv the freedom to not take a risk if they don’t feel safe. I learn to trust the teacher here and have control where I may need it. AND I can be helpful by watching and sharing insights.)

Despite difficulties broken trust situations have caused for me, these experiences have taught me to place a high value on trust and helped me to be sensitive to what others are experiencing.  It is part of how I continue to grow as a person.  And as a teacher to be more effective in creating a safe environment for students to take risks, play, and grow together.

You don’t have to have trust issues to enjoy or learn from PILL.  I don’t always feel trusting, but when I do it is indeed a glorious feeling.  Do you have experiences with trust in taking or teaching applied improv? What would you add?

Check upcoming PILL classes and open house.

Do You Nurture Your Playful Spirit?

I remember my father’s playful side.  Not often, but once in a while it came out! One example that comes to mind is when I was 12 or so and there was a hail storm going on outside.  He called to me exclaiming there were huge hailstones I should see!  So, I ran to the front door he was holding open and peeked onto the front lawn.  I immediately knew what he was talking about.  There were two big clumps of ice    sitting there….easily 10 times bigger than what I could see falling from the sky.

“WOW”, I said, excited to share this wondrous event with him.

A second later I noticed their shape and an instant after that I knew he had fooled me! Click To Tweet

There sat two ice cubes in the grass and behind me my father was trying not to laugh.  I love this memory of him.  Even thinking of it, I smile. In that moment of playfulness we were connected in a special way.  It felt safe, loving, and trusting,…even though I was being tricked.

And while sitting here working on this post at Profile Coffee Shop in Portsmouth, NH where they have all sorts of albums on display, another funny memory is triggered.  When my son was 10 or so, we often had music going on and we both enjoyed a wide variety; from Broadway hits, to Folk music, to Disco.  BUT, I had a Patsy Cline CD that he could not stand.  He would groan, beg for me to turn it off, or even do so himself. Then there was a spell of not listening to it. I couldn’t find it and forgot about it until reaching into the bookcase where he had carefully hidden it!  It was funny then and it is now thinking of it.  (So I just emailed him a photo of the album.  I bet he’ll smile too).

Play is integral in PILL classes and the more I teach and get feedback, the more obvious it is that people are grateful for opportunities to laugh and play together.  My friend and colleague, Liz Korabek-Emerson and I were talking about our class that combines mindfulness and improv.  We have come to realize that our success in this venture, (in addition to being commited and caring teachers), is that we are playful together.

What Sparks Your Playful Spirit?

Play is an important human experience and contributes to our health and wellbeing. Even neuroscience tells us that it is important for our brain!

Don’t miss the beautiful pics of dog and fawn in Neuroscientist, Jaak Panksepp’s TED Tx about the science of emotions and play!

So what can we do to nurture our playful spirit? Why not take a minute and reflect on our own human experience.  Do you enjoy playing with your children?  What about watching horses frolicking, a silly dog, a funny movie?  Take a moment to think of something that makes you smile.  How does it feel in this space of divine play when you experience, watch it, remember it happening? Connection? Presence? Safety? Joy?  Love?

For me, it is all of these in these moments with my dad and son and at PILL.  And the memories are powerful too! Seeking out experiences that make us laugh and smile is like eating healthy, exercising, and meditating.  Good for the body, mind, and soul, don’t you think?