Improvising with the Buddha

 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, which is a word that comes from Zen Buddhism. It means you look at every situation you're placed in as if it's the first time you are seeing it. One approaches a situation with mindfulness, curiosity, acceptance, and openness. All of these traits are the foundation of improvisation.

The "yes, and" of improv asks that we see our situations as offers. Each offer is a gift that we embrace, examine, and play with. We can not always change our situation, but we can change how we react to it. Improvisation encourages teamwork, playfulness, and fearlessness. Those who say "yes" are rewarded by the adventures they have.  We recognize that it is often hard to say yes. Entrepreneur and best selling author Seth Godine writes, "Almost without exception, organizations are run by people who want to protect the Old Business, not develop a new one." Dancer Twyla Tharp said, "Unless their survival is at stake, institutions resist change and defend the status quo." Statistics and trends show us, the church's survival is at stake. In order for the church to not only survive, but to thrive, it's leaders must learn to develop a beginner's mindset. A mindset of openness and curiosity. A mindset of improvisation. 

Another teaching from improv is "Follow the Fear." It is by running toward that which frightens us rather than away from it, that we learn, grow, and change. God consistently called people out of their comfort zones and sent them on a journey. What looked like the wilderness, became a place of healing and growth. Do not be afraid, open your eyes, see new ways of looking at each situation. Embrace the ambiguity, dare to risk and realize that all of life really is just improvisation. 


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