Improvisation class 3. Present in every moment

The third class was all about listening, awareness and being in the moment. We started the class with a relaxation exercise to help us become aware of our bodies. Becoming aware of your body is a great way to get out of your head and become present.

Next we played Mirror Mirror. In this game participants partner up and mirror each other’s moves. In the first 2 rounds only one person is in control while the other just follows. In the last round the two participants must give and take the control. This forces you to be present in the moment. Sometimes when there is a high level of trust between participants control totally dissolves and the two players just flow together.

After that we played a series of group awareness exercises. First one person had to go in the middle and make a move and a sound, give the focus to another player, who had to copy the move and sound and then go to the middle and morph into a new move and sound. We played two other variations of this game. In the first everyone copied the person in the middle and at any point anyone could take the lead and change the move and sound into something else. In the second variation we didn’t stay in a circle and anyone could take the lead. These exercises feel awkward and odd when you do them the first time, but if you can let go and really pay attention to what others are doing and once again make them look good (in this case accepting whatever they are doing and do it with them) it is a wonderful experience of connecting with others and being in the moment. Check out this Ted Talks Video about how a crazy nut is turned into the leader of a movement by someone else who made him look good by mirroring his moves.

A good improviser is aware of everyone in the group and can pick up subtle offers. A good improviser is also aware in every moment, knowing when he/she needs to take control and take initiative and when he/she needs to give over control and allow someone else to take the focus.

After the awareness exercises we played Monster talk (Speaking in unison) which is also a great exercise in active listening and the “give and take” principal. We ended the class with Monstertalk scenes.

Key concepts:

Give and take – It’s all about giving up and taking control, and sharing and taking the focus. To do this well, you have to be aware and present so that you know whether the situation requires of you to take or give up control/focus.

Listening and awareness: In Improvisation this is referred to as “being in the moment” .It requires you to be present, pay attention to what is happening around you and to focus. To do this you need to let go, get out of your head and into your body.

Why do we lose our creativity when we grow up?

Have you ever watched small children play? I’m always astounded by their imaginations and creative ideas. We’ve all been creative as children, but why or how do we lose this creativity?

Recently I listened to a talk by Eckhard Tolle called “The Journey within”. In his talk he says that creativity doesn’t come from thought but from a place of stillness. I tested this theory by asking my wife, who is the most creative person I know ,what happens just before she gets a creative idea. After a brief moment of silence she said in her metaphoric way of speaking, “There is stillness. It’s like the wind dies down and there is this moment of utter quiet and then the creative ideas come like a cloud burst. First just one large drop falls into the dry sand then it is followed by this shower of creativity.” “What is the wind?” I asked. “Its thoughts” she replies. I concluded that Eckhard is right. A creative idea isn’t a thought that you manufacture in your mind by trying really hard. The term “creative thinking” is therefore an oxymoron. Isn’t it unfortunate that school only taught us to think and not to be creative by not thinking?

It is also crutial that you trust your own creativity. All people are creative; we just lose it over time. The good news is we can reclaim it. The first step is to be still, and trust. Improv helps one to do this. A great improv game that helps to develop this trust in one’s own creativity is called Freeze Tag. In this game 2 people start a scene. At any moment anyone else can say freeze and tap out one of the players. He/she then takes that player’s position and starts a new scene in a completely new context justifying the position. A variation of this game is called Pimp Freeze Tag. In the variation an outside person calls freeze and tell the participants who should go in and replace another player. This way you don’t have time to think about what you want to do. You just have to trust yourself and see what arises. Participants in my improv class often comment that it is easier to come up with something good if they didn’t have time to think about it.

The next step is to trust the other player that they will take your creativity and do something with it – accept it and build on it (“yes and” it). I believe that the reason why we are afraid to trust our own creativity is because we are so use to other people rejecting our creativity and not accepting it. We all know how much rejection hurts. For most people it is not worth taking that risk anymore, so they label themselves as uncreative to protect themselves from rejection.

Now it’s your turn. Become still. Focus on the sounds around you. Become aware of your breathing. Write down in a comment below what arises.