I suggest taking improv classes as a form of personal development and life skills learning to just about everyone. It teaches the most important aspect of life, which is the ability to become present and sustain presence.
Rarely, however, do people take me up on it. Why? Is it because they have some sort of preconceived notion about what improv entails? It doesn’t matter—I’ll just bring the improv lessons to you!
Here are just some of the subtle, yet profound distinctions that are exercised continually in theatrical improvisation…
Life Lesson #1: No Judgement
Twenty-two years ago, one of my high-schools friends asked me to go to a drop-in improv class. I had no idea what it would be like. I was reserved, timid, and I didn’t want to try anything unknown. My friend insisted, and because I didn’t have any preconceived judgements about what improv might look like, I went.
I continued to go off and on for years, not because I was particularly good nor did I want to become a professional stand-up comedian. I still continue to go because it is fun, and in every improv game I play, the foundation is about having no judgements.
Judging creates filters through which we see and understand the world. Improv opens up new doors of relatedness and understanding by removing those filters. Judging happens through thinking, and improv has taught me to think less and feel more.
Life Lesson #2: Accept What Is
Even with the absence of thought and no judgement, we can be resisting what is through our energy, physiology, or psychology. Lack of judgement may bring us to neutral, but acceptance is taking it further into the positive realm. It’s the attitude that everything that happens is awesome!
For the longest time, I felt like I accepted my disabilities and would use my personal power to breakthrough all of the limitations of those disabilities. But was that really acceptance? I recently uncovered an underlining layer of resentment. The first step of acceptance is awareness.
Improvisation teaches us to listen to everything, with everything; pause, and just take it all in. Whatever happens in the scene, is not only OK, it is perfect! Every mistake on stage (as in life) is not a mistake… It is part of the scene.
Life Lesson #3: Yes, AND…
Accepting things as they are is good, but it’s not enough. Where would the scene go if everybody just accepted what was? The scene would go nowhere and the audience would get bored. In life, some people think they are accepting and helping, when they respond with “Yes, but…” That’s totally different than a “Yes, AND…”
For example, when people used to ask me if I was an albino, I felt uncomfortable with the subject. I would respond with “Yes” and then suddenly change the subject or ask them a question about them. In improv, and in life, this is not building the scene nor is it giving people real and authentic answers to their genuine questions.
I’ve learned to give more details about albinism/blindness, or to even crack a joke and make the other person feel more comfortable. They already took a big risk with their question (as many people don’t have the courage or maturity to ask), and I want to reward them.
Where Do You Stand?
Do you intellectualize everything and create judgments? Do you accept things in your life the way they are at a deep and spiritual level? Do you “Yes, AND…” to the people and opportunities in your life by consciously adding value?
All of this is easier said than done, of course. Experiential learning (learning through doing) is what works best. So go and take a drop-in improv class. They’re inexpensive, non-committal, and extremely playful. Not to mention, potentially life transformational. 🙂
Let’s love the world together…
[)anish /|hmed, blind visionary
Find a Game in the Scene