Posts

Faith over Certainty

Image
 There are those who suggest that faith and spirituality provide answers. I myself used to subscribe to the John Maxwell school of ideology; life can be broken down into manageable steps. One can master the Four Leadership Steps, the Seven Ways to tap into your potential, or the Twenty-One Laws of Leadership. Just follow the rules (usually based on Scripture) and you will have control over your life. Ha! Life is always throwing us curve balls. No matter how much we like to think we are in control, life is unpredictable. That doesn't mean we go through life completely unprepared. There are certain skills and traits one can develop that actually help us live in community. Rather than rules we must adhere to, I see these as truths that enlighten us. The Ten Commandments, for example. Are they laws that demand punishment should we break them? Or are they karmic truths that say if you cheat your neighbor and treat people like property you will end up paying a price? A Rule of Life could

Improvising in the Dark: How to "Yes, And" When it All Falls Apart

Image
  No matter what happens on stage, improvisers are called to keep the scene going.   If there is a flub, we can’t deny what happened. That means we can’t ignore it or explain it away. The flub now becomes part of our reality. The rule is, “deal with it and move on.” It’s the basis of “Yes, and.” Life off the stage is equally fraught with flubs, failures, disappointments, and disasters. It’s part of being human. We all experience failure. We all suffer pain and grief. Whether it’s pain of our own causing or from something out of our control, there is no escaping it. Nietzsche said, “to live is to suffer.” He also said, “to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism proclaim that life always involves suffering. Suffering comes from our desires, but one can put an end to suffering through practiced living. (This is a very inadequate summary of Buddhist thought, but it gives a rough idea.) Christian Scripture proclaims that, “perfect love casts

Everything is Useful

Image
 Recently I drove over three hours to attend a workshop. It involved staying overnight in the host city and eating several meals out. My first thought as I was driving home was, "Well, that was a costly waste of time." That was not a new feeling. I was active in parish ministry for thirty-seven years. In that time I attended a lot of workshops, meetings, and seminars that I thought were a complete waste of time.  As an improviser, I immediately took that thought and turned it around. The workshop, although disappointing, was still an offer. What I did with that offer is my choice. I began to look at the positives of my six hour journey. First on my list was getting to know a new friend a little better. While in the host city I connected with a Facebook friend and we spent an enjoyable evening together over dinner. Second item I counted as a gift was going to a new restaurant and having an amazing meal. As for the workshop itself, instead of looking at the flaws in execution,

How You Can Change Your Brain

Image
Life experiences have a physical affect on our brains. Not just the changing of our minds, but the very brain itself. This science is called Neuroplasticity . Neuroplasticity refers to the idea that the neuronal make-up of our brain can change in structure and connectedness. Coined by the neuroscientist Jerzy Konorski in 1948 and introduced even further back, under the term ‘neuronal plasticity,’ in the early 1900s by the father of modern neuroscience, Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón, neuroplasticity goes against the belief that brains remain the same after a specific age.  Here are what a few have written about neuroplasticity: "Your brain is a relentless shape-shifter, constantly rewriting its own circuitry — and because your experiences are unique, so are the vast detailed patterns in your neural networks. Because they continue to change your whole life, your identity is a moving target; it never reaches an end point." David Eagleman, neuroscientist – The Brain: The

Make Another Choice

Image
 One of my favorite improv games is "Make Another Choice." In this game a team is given suggestions for a scene. As the side coach, at any time during the scene I may ring a bell indicating an improviser needs to make another choice. It could be a verbal choice, or a physical choice. The point being that the line just given was not working. Perhaps the improviser was stuck in her or his head, or perhaps they were trying to move the funny or take over control. Often times the idea wasn't bad, it just wasn't strong enough. I find it great fun to watch an improviser scramble to come up with another idea. The process in itself is funny and the audience laughs along. It usually takes ringing the bell twice to get just the right response. It seems "the third time's the charm." Either the improviser has let go and opened their mind, or the audience anticipation has heightened, but most its likely a combination of both. Through trial and error, a better solution

Time to Invest

Image
Investment is traditionally defined as the "commitment of resources to achieve later benefits.” Another description is to devote (one's time, effort, or energy) to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result. You put something of value in, in order to get something of greater value out. Things of value are worth working for. We invest money into business or stocks. We invest time into practicing, rehearsing, and to getting ahead in business. We can invest hours “making it to the top.” We can become vested in our careers. Priests receive their vestments when ordained. The investiture is a large part of the upcoming Coronation of King Charles III.   Improvisation is excellent at teaching us how to invest in one another. An improv team learns to put the team first and always make their partner/partners look good. A good improviser invests in the team. It’s about giving of yourself, about making the other look good, and about listening to offers. Impro

Improvising with the Buddha

Image
 In my last post I wrote about the Einstellung Effect. This Einstellung Effect is when a person or group is so used to doing something one way, that they can't consider or even acknowledge new ideas or approaches. It's easy to see how churches and organizations get so entrenched in their patterns and beliefs that change becomes almost impossible. Even if the desire is there, the rut is too deep and patterns are too entrenched. As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." Our task then becomes breaking out of the rut by practicing new thought patterns. He continues by saying, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Jumping from Christian scripture to Buddhist thought, we need to embrace beginner's mind. Having a beginner's mind means you approach the world through a beginner's eyes. The term is translated from the original word, Shoshin, whi