The following is an outline of my Power of Presence workshop. It is followed with descriptions of all the exercises.
What I need to say to be fully present….
Participants pair up. Each then has the opportunity to state what they need to say to be fully present. They express this sentiment to their partner. They should start their sentence with “what I need to say to be fully present is….”The partner then mirrors the other persons words exactly by starting their sentence with “I hear that what you need to say to be fully present is…” It is important that the person mirroring does not give an interpretation of what they have heard, but tries to use the exact same words as far as possible. After the person mirroring has given a satisfactory account of what was said, the roles are reversed. The exercise is not so much about saying what you need to say to be present, more so it’s about being listened to fully without judgment. When we listen to people like this we help them to become fully present and be in the moment. In essence what we are doing is accepting them and showing them that they are welcome and worth being listened to.
Everyone stands in a circle. One person starts a category pattern by calling out anything, such as a color, vegetable variety, animal or car brand, and then points to another player. That player then points to another calling out something else that falls in the same category. This continues until the last person points back to the first person. The same pattern is then repeated without pointing. When the pattern is established a new pattern with a new category is created. When the second category is also established both patterns are passed around the circle at the same time. When the group has mastered two patterns a third is added. Listening and being aware of the other participants are essential to ensure that not one of the patterns are dropped. For a fourth round tell the participants to move around and not stay in a circle. Interestingly this exercise fails when energy is absorbed and not passed on …ie the pattern is lost and therefore focus is lost. Key elements to keep in mind are listening and awareness.
All participants are given a opening to make a large curtsy(bow) and say anything to the effect of “I failed” or “I made a mistake”. The other participants respond by giving them an enthusiastic round of applause. This exercise is also called “Circus bow”, named after the bow that a trapeze artist makes after he/she missed his/her partners awaiting grasp resulting in a fantastic improvised summersault into the net. The performer leaps out of the net and makes a beautiful bow, like it was exactly what was supposed to happen. A learning from this exercise is a feeling of release for taking an authenticated risk and not feeling punished for a mistake.
This is not a…
An every day object such as a rope or a frying pan is placed in the middle of the circle. Each participant must enter the circle, pick up the object and say “this is not a rope. This is a snake.” Or “this is a necklace” or anything else that the object could resemble. Each participant should come up with at least 3 different things that the object could be. People are always surprised with how many ideas they come up with. Our minds are far more capable of creative thought than we ever imagined possible.
Everyone pairs up with another person and stand facing each other. Each pair decide who will be A and who will be B. A is a person looking into a mirror and B is the mirror. B should therefore copy A’s exact movement. The idea is not that A should try and outwit B by making sudden movements. The idea is that they work together and move like they are one so that an observer wouldn’t be able to see who is leading and who is following. After a few minutes they switch. A is therefore now the mirror and B the person looking into the mirror. For the third round both lead and follow at the same time. They are therefore both looking into the mirror and being the mirror simultaneously. Now it gets really interesting. For it to work both need to take the lead and give up the lead, give and taking control the whole time. When you get to that point you go into a state of flow in which you no longer know who is leading and who is following. It is in this state of flow that creativity and relationship can thrive. .
Participants pair up again. This time instead of mirroring each others’ movement they mirror each other’s speech. One starts with a question while the other is speaking with them in unison. The other then answers the question while the one who asked the question follows his speech. In order to help your partner keep up with your speech it helps to talk a little bit slower. It doesn’t help to anticipate what the other is going to say. All you can do is stay in the moment.
For this exercise you need enough space for everyone to move around. The game starts with anyone in the group making a suggestion for an action such as “Let’s climb a tree!” or “Lets bake a cake!” Everyone then replies with the words, “Yes lets!”, and mimes the action with enthusiasm. At any point someone else can make a new suggestion and everyone replies again with “Yes lets!”
The best way to make your team members look good is by accepting their suggestions and doing the action with enthusiasm. If someone said something like “Let’s roar like lions” and just did it by himself, he would look like a fool and most likely feel like one as well. What I love about this game is that you don’t just say yes I like your idea; you actually have to accept the idea by doing something with commitment.
Make your partner look good story
Last night my wife told me a beautiful story about how a family made their mother look good by accepting an offer and doing something with it. In this story the offer the mother made wasn’t an idea; it was a reality that was imposed on her without her choice. She was diagnosed with throat cancer. In her final week her last wish was to have a meal with her family, since she loved cooking and sharing dinner with her loved ones. She couldn’t swallow the food because of the cancer and therefore had to spit it out after chewing it. Seeing this, her family also spat out their food after chewing. They made her look good by accepting her reality and doing it with her. Accepting each other’s reality, whether it is their creativity, personality or hardship and doing something with it is how you show real acceptance and that is how you build trust in your relationships with others.
Yes and vs. Yes but
The “yes and” practice in improvisation is one of the most important. It means you accept your partner’s idea and build on it. This exercise illustrates the difference between when you accept an idea and when you block it. Participants work in pairs and are instructed to plan a vacation together. One must start by sharing an idea. The other replies with the words “Yes but”, a reason why it is not a good idea, and then shares another contrasting idea. The first then replies with “yes but” and so they go back and forth blocking each other’s ideas. After a while stop them and ask them to plan the same vacation but this time instead of saying “ yes but” they must start their sentences with “yes and”, accepting the other’s idea and building on it.
Personal Yes and
Write down on a piece of paper something that you really want to do and the reason why you can’t do it. For example “I want to read more but I don’t have enough time, so I don’t read more.” The excuse of not having enough time is how you block yourself from not doing what you actually want to do. So you never read more. Take out the “but” and replace it with an “and”. The sentence now reads as “I want to read more and I don’t have enough time so…” Now you are unblocked. Not having enough time is not an excuse anymore it’s just a reality that you have to accept and your mind opens up for new possibilities. So your sentence could read something like, “I want to read more and I don’t have enough time so I’ll get audio books to listen to in the car when I travel or exercise.” By changing the “but” to an “and” you turn the reality of not having enough time from a block into opportunity for new possibilities.