Interview with Aaron from Inner Realms Journey, a meditative TTRPG experience

After getting to meet Aaron from Inner Realms Journey in person at GenCon last year, I had the opportunity to chat with him about how he’s combining meditation and TTRPGs to help both kids and adults find peace and self empowerment in a way that’s fun and engaging!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Aaron Pyne.  I’ve been a lover of all things fantasy and gaming since about 6th grade when I found out about all those things.  I loved studying history and mythology.  In high school I would go to the bookstore with my friends and geek out about mythology and talk about the gods and goddesses and medieval stories. 

Later, at about 17 or 18, I found out about meditation and ancient sort of mystical practices like that, which synced up with mythology.  It was another level of it, so I got into that. 

I also got into computers and tech, web design, and graphic design; I went to school for that. 

I had these two streams, one going towards tech developer and the other going into magic and mythology and meditation.  Those two have always been there through my 20’s and 30’s doing graphic design and web design while teaching meditation on the side.  Over those years, they kind of merged together, which led me to create Inner Realms Journey.

When did you start playing tabletop RPGs?

Probably around 6th or 7th grade, there was a game called, I think, Hero’s Quest.  It was the first one I played, which was like basic D&D.  I remember a friend had it, and I went to a hobby store in Cincinnati, where I grew up, and they didn’t have it, but they had the D&D introductory kit.  I was like… what is this?!  I got that and Magic the Gathering

That was 2nd edition D&D, then I eventually got into Vampire the Masquerade and Werewolf.  I also played other random rpgs over the years. 

Do you have a favorite part of playing TTRPGs? 

What I remember is that bond of going on fun adventures with each other and being able to be creative and silly.  It didn’t matter what else was going on, we just knew that Sunday was our day, and it was the highlight of my childhood.  It gave a way to live with that fantasy and magical feeling in the environment of the suburbs where there was nothing else magical happening. 

What is Inner Realms Journey

This has been my passion project for the past three years.  It’s a mix of fantasy, RPG-style gaming, and guided meditation.  

A lot of fantasy gaming was inspired by Tolkien and Lord of the Rings.  A lot of his work was inspired by studies of ancient European mythology and different languages.  All those ancient mythologies had some form of meditation in them, connecting people to the gods and goddesses and the land or other mythic themes. 

Inner Realms Journey is trying to bring that all together.

Through our audio guided journeys, it’s like a solo guided D&D game.  There’s beautiful music, soundscapes, narration, and different voice actors.  You create your avatar, your mythical character, and you journey to different realms on the Tree of Life.  Each audio is 30 minutes to an hour, and this whole story unfolds as you quest to restore the Bifrost and bring balance back to the Realms. 

Through the journey, your avatar grows, you create a sanctuary realm, and you find different allies, treasure, and quests.

You gain experience with meditation and working with your different energy systems to calm yourself and open your imagination.  You create a sort of “superhero” version of yourself; mine is the Elven Wizard.

It gives you this persona to empower you and help you overcome your fears, limitations and internal challenges to become the best version of yourself. 

It blends this fun gaming experience, meditation, and personal transformation all in one.

How do you hope that Inner Realms Journey can help kids?

Kids with ADHD or who have trouble focusing on things or some who are just really into the fantasy and magic aspect of it have all been in the program.  Kids who weren’t engaging with any other activities did this and got into the writing and artwork, t really gave them something personal to be excited about while inviting them to bring it to life. 

It was really exciting seeing them open up their creative potential through the meditaitons and our kids activity curriculum that’s full of creative arts and academic oriented projects.. 

We’ve also seen in one journey where you release a hard experience from the past into a fire, and these kids shared the challenging things they’ve gone through in their short lives that they were able to release into the fire.  They found some mastery or completion over it.  They realized it didn’t need to hold them back anymore and that they could move forward from it with a new level of empowerment. 

It really opens up their intuition and understanding to navigate life’s challenges.  Some kids brought up some amazing wisdom and creative ideas for challenges in their lives.  It empowered them to tap into that internal knowing to handle things.  

My hope is that this can really empower kids with the creativity and capacities within themselves and give a framework for bringing that to life in the world while also helping them manage stress and emotions.  I want to give them a fun way to calm themselves and find inner peace or to make use of their sadness or anger in a positive way. 

How do you recommend that people introduce and apply TTRPGs or meditation with kids?

Both with tabletop RPGs and meditation, bringing that play and fun into the areas that they still need, like education is really important. 

At Inner Realms Journey, we created this whole curriculum that integrates creative arts, writing, history, science, and even some math in ways that impliments the use of play and adventure in the classroom to make it more exciting. 

It feels like teachers now have a little more flexibility to try out different modalities for education, so if you can bring that into the classroom, you can see if kids resonate with it.  

It give kids the option to explore other ways to learn in a way that’s much more engaging.

Emma, our Kids Director who helped develop the Kids Program, has been running a writing workshop with kids using  Inner Realms Journey, and these kids are so excited to be writing about their experiences!  For example, in  one of our journeys, you meet an animal ally, a special companion that’ll join you on the adventure.  She then has them a research the animal and do a writing and creative project around their animal ally..  So, if you have a wolf, you’ll research wolves and the environment that they live in.  You send them on an academic quest, and then they do a presentation about it and go see them at the zoo. It becomes a very personal, meaningful and exciting project for the child.

Any closing words? 

I just encourage whoever is reading this, whether you’re a teacher or parent, to explore new ways of approaching development with kids.  They’re facing challenges that are many levels beyond what a lot of us adults went through as kids and have many other opportunities in many ways. They have technology, and old structures are sort of falling apart, so we can create something way more cool.  We’re the teachers and parents now.  We can give them all this fun new material that’s also fun for us, and they can feel that.  If we’re excited about it, they’re going to be able to get more engaged.

Thank you Aaron for chatting about your work and sharing your experiences!

You can find Inner Realms Journey here!

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