Finishing the Doodle

My latest message, sent to the email list last week. If you'd like to receive these directly in your inbox, click here to subscribe Our kids still have two weeks of school left, but it seems like summer is already in full swing here. That means book-writing is in full swing too. (The September deadline approaches!) I just finished my last two major speaking events until August--it was great to explore improvisation as a spiritual and life practice with groups in Arkansas and North Carolina.

In my retreats, we often talk about what it looks like to receive what life offers us (even if we wouldn't have chosen it) and build on it in a way that promotes grace and wholeness. I spoke about my experience dealing with a leg injury that completely derailed my running plans last fall, as one small example. (You can read about that at the end of this blog post.) How do we say "Yes-and" when our hopes, expectations, or plans get derailed? That's the essence of good life improvisation.

To illustrate this point, I often have groups do an exercise in which each person draws a simple doodle on a piece of paper--a squiggle, a zigzag, whatever strikes their fancy. Then people pass these doodles to the person on their left, so everyone ends up with a different sheet of paper. The task is to create something with it--to build on the gift that's been given to us and to make it our own--to make it something new.

I was enamored of this drawing, completed by a woman who received her doodle from a ten-year-old girl:

I like that she took the message of Yes-and and put it "in the mouth" of two figures that looked like they were talking to one another. They were separate entities, yet connected.

This woman touched me even further when I asked if I could take the drawing with me: "Well, let me ask my drawing partner." She then turned to the ten-year-old and asked if she was OK with my having it. That was exactly the right impulse. The drawing didn't belong just to the woman; it was a collaboration between the two of them.

I'm writing a lot right now about the importance of community in improv. You can't do improv by yourself; you've got to have people in the mix with you. Similarly, we don't live our lives in isolation. Some people are a part of our lives no matter what; we're stuck with them, for better or worse. But we can also choose to have people in our lives who will help us create the best Yes possible. And what gets created--whether it's a doodle on the page, or a scene on stage, or a day in the life--is a partnership between pilgrims on a journey together.

Speaking of partnership, I hope you'll check out a recent blog post, written after our improv level 2 class's final performance:

One of the profound moments from Wednesday night’s showcase was an opening exercise before we went on stage. After a few warmup games, our TA asked, “So tell me what you appreciated about your performance in the showcase.” The group paused for a moment... I wondered briefly if we’d heard him wrong. 

But no, he was asking us to talk about the showcase as if it had already happened. So we did.

Read the blog to find out why that was such a profound experience!

Happy summer. I wish you lots of peace, joy and Yes.

MaryAnn