April 14, 2009

convergence of story, Buddhism, and Improv

I am, right now, deep in thought developing a framework of persuasive messages for a large national non profit; preparing a presentation on the use of narrative intelligence and anecdote for sharing knowledge; reviewing notes from a lecture series I recently attended on Buddhism, therapy, and the ordinary; and in the middle of a difficult course of Improv. At last night's Improv class, all three paths of thoughts converged upon and reinforced each other. The lessons and their applications:

* The importance of sharing knowledge. We were taught that when your scene partner offers you the information required to frame a story - who, what, where, and emotional context - your partner "is giving you the gift of who you are."
What a delightful analogy to the importance of sharing a personal reflection early in conversation! This is especially important to presenters: when you tell the audience why you are there and why you care about your issue, they can truly reflect on why they are present and listening.

* "It's not about creativity; it's about connectivity."
This is my new mantra for overcoming resistance to the important idea of sharing anecdote and story for enabling trust and personal connection. Don't hesitate to share your story because you don't think it meets Disney or HBO standards. You don't have to be a creative genius; you can enjoy being authentic and sharing your passion.

* "You make it easy on someone by giving them clear information."
Meaning, well, everything, but especially: if you want to help someone take the next step, be clear and benevolently strategic in the information you share.

* "Embrace the ordinariness of your plight in each scene." And, "You don't want to solve your problems, you want to have your problems."
Mark Epstein, a psychotherapist who integrates Buddhism into his practice (and has written several books), spoke about rejecting the notion of the ordinary as nothing is happening. Only then can one fully live in the present. Mark talked about "The adventure of enduring possibility: if you are in the moment, you do not know what the next moment will be." The idea of giving up control is what I am finding so appealing (and frankly, so difficult) about Improv. My Improv teacher also instructed us to:

* "Give up control and play!"

Mark defined anxiety as "attempting to make the future known." He stressed, "Become that in the moment," and summarized the basic teaching of the Buddha as, "we take ourselves too seriously."

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