Many years ago, I joined an improvisational theatre group in San Francisco. Joined on a whim, the only way to do improv. We met in a small upstairs theatre, near where the cable cars turn, at the corner of Powell and Market, a happening part of town.
I loved improv right from the start. It woke me up. I felt alive and alert, in ways that I often didn’t. I noticed new sensations, both within and without. Fresh and alive, less anxious. A lot happens on an improv stage. There isn’t time for anxiety. There is time only to respond, to pick up on the energy and the story, to let go and see where it takes you. For some, this is scary. No time to plan, yikes! For others, it is an enormously liberating experience. No time to plan, no time to worry, whoopee, here we go!
Improv appealed to the child in me. I loved it right from the start. Years later, I found myself still saying it was the best training for life I ever had. Because life is improv.
My daughter Caitlin has now joined an improv group in Portland, OR. Wendy and I went to see her first performance this past weekend. She did so well, present, out there, flowing with the scene, letting funny lines, serious lines, whacky lines create themselves and take their place on stage, such a delight. It brought back so many memories for me. Brought them forward too, because improv–like memoir writing–is about the past as it lives in the present. Nothing is ever repeated. Nothing is rehearsed. Its all right here, right now, me, you and life, together.
In the bathroom at Caitlin’s improv theatre, there was a sign that said, “Discovery, not Invention.” I love that sign. It’s 100% true for both improv and mindful writing. All about being there, following your curiosity, being alive to the moment, in the flow, without judgment, listening to the voice that lives inside. The voice that doesn’t lie. The skill is in learning how to hear and trust it. Once you clear through the muck, the layers of conditioning and fear and pretense, the voice is there. So why wait any longer.
Go Improv. Go Mindful Writing. Try them out, both of them. See if they don’t wake you up a bit. Go for the fun, stay for the joy.