All encounter begins with a benediction, contained in the word ‘hello’; that ‘hello’ that all cogito, all reflection on oneself already presupposes and that would be a first transcendence.” – Emmanuel Levinas

Instant Oracle – An exercise of Experiential Martial Arts

Here’s a fun exercise you can do with your friends on a rainy day. Because the experiential martial arts series asks users to do the exercises in public, this particular exercise is a good one for a coffee house, picnic table, or casual public space. Invite onlookers to join in the play and see what happens.

The Instant Oracle. Gather up some old magazines and mail order catalogues, glue sticks, crayons or markers, and thirty 5 x 7 index cards or fifteen halved sheets of blank paper. You will need one full piece of paper, or, even better, a single sheet of card stock or paper-sized cardboard. Spread them on the table. Fold the single sheet in half and write on one half an announcement for your game: INSTANT ORACLE – CARE TO JOIN IN? Fold it in half and make it into a tent card. This is the set up and is all you will need aside from a playful, exploratory intention to spontaneously learn.

You make up the cards of the Instant oracle by intuitively capturing pictures from the magazines. Tear out pictures you are drawn to and do so for any reason or no reason at all. The only guideline is: you’re drawn to the picture. Glue them to the card, leave some room for a title, and then name the card. For example, if you tear out a picture of a pretty bed set from a catalogue, you might title the card, ‘bed set’.

Once you’ve created the beginning of the Instant Oracle’s deck, you’re ready to play. If an onlooker wonders what the heck you and your pals are up to, invite them to play and have them make up some cards. Of course they will ask you what you’re doing, and the answer is: “We’re making up cards for the Instant Oracle so we can ask it questions.”

After the group has created twenty or more cards, it’s time to discover the wisdom of this newly created Instant Oracle. Put the cards together so you can’t see the pictures. Address the oracle by asking it a question of personal interest. I recommend constructing the question along a ritual and formal design, ‘Oh great Instant Oracle, please tell me…’

For example, you could ask, “Oh great Instant Oracle, please tell me about my prospects for discovering my true calling.”

Reach into the deck and pull out a card. Your selection is obviously random and the oracle’s response is instant!

Say you pull out Bed Set. Bed Set? What does a bed set have to do with your life’s calling? The Instant Oracle has spoken. This experiential exercise is all about playing with the answer creatively and insightfully.

“Hmmm, a bed set is the bed you make and lie down in. It’s the place where one rests and recharges. Associations are a fine way to amplify the oracle’s answer, as is word play, or other elaborations of the raw stuff of the picture and title. ‘Set in bed’ relaxing; the privacy of the bed room, the place of sleep and dreams and, usually, the place ‘all your own’.”

The key to the discovery of insight is the way you explore and interpret whatever comes up. The learning design is quite simple: ask and let the card inspire the answer. The design is effective because it’s the engagement and amplification of the data out of which insight emerges. And, it surely will.

In a group, it’s recommended that the interpretation proceed in three steps. Allow the questioner to interpret the card first. Participants contribute next. A good rule for the collaborative step is: contribute comments about what comes up which are about the card, and not about the personal question. Finally, the questioner plays with the entire data set, first insights, collaborators’ comments, and, hopefully, amazing discoveries in the last step.

In a public space, just laying out the materials and tent card will cause onlookers to be intrigued. Invite them in and learn together. To play with complete strangers is part of the purpose of the exercise. It’s true the unknown factor they bring to the table could limit the sharing of a truly personal question, yet it’s also true that trust of the process and its unknown factors is the best way for the players to deeply engage the wisdom of the Instant Oracle. The purpose of the exercise is to experience playing together with important questions on the table. The goal is to discover through collaborative play helpful, perhaps profound, answers to the questions. Bingo. Instant learning.

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