Happy MAY, it’s time to PLAY!!
Speaking of bad poetry, I performed an original poem about fashion entirely in gibberish last Monday night, while my scene partner translated it into English.
No, there were no cocktails involved, but there were some fairly decent homemade cookies on hand, so perhaps sugar played a role.
As I told you in last month’s post about falling flat on my face in yoga class, I am participating in an Improv class on Monday evenings at our local community theater. Apparently, I enjoy paying money for opportunities to appear foolish in front of strangers.
For those not familiar with Improv, here is a brief description: “Improvisation, or improv, is a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment. Often improvisers will take a suggestion from the audience, or draw on some other source of inspiration to get started.”
So what is the report after 4 weeks of classes?
- I will not be giving up my coaching practice to go on the road with an Improv troupe anytime soon.
- This process is much more difficult than it looks.
- I am average to mediocre in terms of natural talent for Improv. However, what I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm (perhaps the epitaph on my tombstone?) I am a FABULOUS, enthusiastic audience.
- I am EXHAUSTED when I get home after two and a half hours of laughing my bloody head off at our collective shenanigans.
- I am having an absolute BLAST and look forward to class every single week.
So why in the world did I decide to take an Improv class since I have no plans to become a comedic actor? Thank you for asking! My goal for taking the class is the opportunity to train “muscles” I want to build to be the best coach I can be for my coaching clients, a more skilled speaker and trainer for the groups I work with, and a more thoughtful, generous human being for my people.
Although you might not be working on your skills as a coach or retreat leader, I know we all want to show up well for our people, so what are these important “muscles” I am talking about? And how do they relate to my favorite C words you hear me talk about all the time?
Dance in this Moment
Improv is all about responding to and building on what is currently present. There is no preparation or planning, no scripts to memorize. You can’t control anything your scene partner might decide to throw into the mix or the prompt offered by the audience. Your only job is to respond to what is being offered right here, right now. No agendas, no manipulating the scene, no control.
In real life, the invitation to dance in this moment, regardless of what this moment holds, take COURAGE. We are all addicted to planning and control to one degree or another, and letting those go feels like walking a tightrope without a net. When the pandemic started, we all struggled to find our footing, appropriately grieving all the losses, and trying to make something beautiful and life giving out of this new, unexpected, uninvited reality. As we go through all the “normal” life changes, transitions and challenges, the invitation is the same: how then do we live? What is present in THIS moment and:
- how do we have feelings about it,
- BE with it,
- struggle well with it,
- show up in it,
- celebrate the good in it, and maybe even DANCE with it?
Life happens in THIS moment, so I better practice letting go of my expectations and need to control. As we say in the 12 Step program, expectations are the seeds of resentment.
You are in trouble in an Improv game or scene if you start planning what you are going to say or do next, instead of listening to what is happening now. AND it is the most natural thing in the world to get lost in planning what you are going to say or do next instead of listening to what is happening now. We all do it ALL THE TIME. Listening closely takes practice, a muscle to develop and build.
If you are like me, you spend a lot of time in judgement that might get in the way of listening. We make lightening fast judgements about everything around us:
- Our self,
- the situation we are in,
- what I think about the person in front of me,
- what the person in front of me thinks about me,
- how I can change or control any or all of the above.
Judgement isn’t all bad. Obviously, we need to evaluate our surroundings and discern where we focus our attention. However, I would argue that paying attention with a lighter touch might allow for more possibilities. My name for this lighter touch way of paying attention is CURIOSITY. What if the opposite of judgement is CURIOSITY? While really, truly, honestly, fully paying attention is hard, I would suggest CURIOSITY is the key to deeper listening.
Pause here for a minute and meditate on those two words, Judgement and Curiosity. (I know that sounds a little woo-woo, but work with me here.)
- Ask your body, your heart, and your mind to weigh in on each of these words, one at a time. What wisdom do they have to share?
- When is judgement the right choice and when might curiosity be a better option? Can you think of an example in your life right now where curiosity might be a new perspective to try?
- How are these two words different and what do they each create?
I would love to hear what you discover as you play with these two juicy words!
Make Your Partner Look Good
I love this Improv rule because it is a beautiful example of Us AND Them. Improv is all about teamwork. When we dance in this moment and pay curious attention, we are in just the right head space to be generous and trusting with our scene partner(s.) We don’t go for the easy laugh if it will leave our partner with no place to go. We don’t hijack the scene with our own personal vision. We build something delightful by building it TOGETHER. And when we do that well, we get plenty of opportunities to shine in our own way right along with everyone else.
Again, if you are like me, you may sometimes find yourself spending too much time focused on your own process of growth and development.
- Am I doing a good job?
- Am I living in alignment with my values?
- What is my calling? Am I making a contribution?
- How should I be spending my minutes, hours and days?
These are all GREAT questions we need to ask regularly, but I love this reminder that there is more. We aren’t meant to be doing this journey alone. In my faith tradition, scripture tells us repeatedly that we are designed to live in COMMUNITY. We are wired for CONNECTION with our fellow human beings. It is a huge relief when I get over myself long enough to look up and out at the humans I am traveling this path with every day and realize I am just one tiny piece of the gigantic puzzle. For me, COMPASSION is the key. When I soften my focus on my own process, I can ask even better questions:
- How can I bring light to a dark space?
- How can I love more? WHO can I love better?
- How can I be more generous?
- What do I have to give that will brighten up this situation?
For example, I am learning that I’m a much more effective coach, when I quit worrying about being a good coach and just fiercely LOVE the person in front of me. I’m a much better group leader at the Lamb Center when I quit worrying about being a good teacher and just fiercely LOVE the people at the table. Yes, there are techniques, skills, tools that I use in coaching and teaching, but fierce love and COMPASSION is the secret sauce. I have a sign in my office that says. Love God. Love People. Period. Could it be that simple?
Here is the invitation:
COURAGE: Dance in THIS moment
CURIOSITY: Pay attention
COMMUNITY, CONNECTION, and COMPASSION: Make your partner look good
Lessons from Improv Class! And you didn’t even have to make a fool of yourself or pay tuition 🙂
This month’s FREE webinar takes us back to my neuroscience tool kit for a really fun discussion of the hemispheres of the brain. Join us on May 25th at 7:30 pm EST to discuss “Right Brain, Left Brain:Why We Need BOTH” Register HERE, if you would like to join us. The more, the merrier!
I currently have room in my schedule for a few new coaching clients. If you have been curious about the coaching process, want to take a deep dive into the Enneagram, or simply need a partner to cheer you on in your next brave steps, I would love to talk more. Feel free to set up a time HERE for a free discovery call.
I am starting to book IN PERSON retreats for Fall!! I’m so excited to get back into my favorite format for learning and connection. If you or your organization is interested in booking a retreat, a keynote, a luncheon, or any kind of inspirational speaker, I would love to talk more! Email me HERE to set up a time to talk!