Why Improvisation is a Practice for Life

While driving to meet with a client this week, I popped in a CD that I hadn’t listened to in awhile. It opens with an improvised song by my friend and vocal mentor Rhiannon.  She steps out in front of her audience at Tomales Bay, CA, and sings an homage to the Visionary energy pattern. Have a listen:




The song reminds us of how powerful it is to surrender to the moment, to what’s actually happening—regardless of our pretty Organizer plans, our tough Driver goals, or our cherished Collaborator agreements. Through years of studying improvisation with Rhiannon and performing with Alligator Mouth Improv, this is what I’ve learned: being Visionary is about staying present and authentic, so that when it seems you are stepping out into mid-air, you can trust there will be something to stand on.

Improvisation is not about the shackles of ego—am I good enough? Or the dictates of convention—is this stupid? Right and wrong, good and bad, don’t live inside the Visionary skill of improvisation. Only maybe, and what if, and “Huh?! Where’d that come from?”

Cultivating the ability to “not know” is always an adventure. It allows us to open doors fearlessly, ready to welcome whatever greets us. On stage, as in life, you can learn to stay with whatever comes, even if it’s unpleasant, disconcerting, confusing. “Staying with it” is like testing a branch, seeing how much weight it can bear as you go hand-over-hand out to the very end. Maybe it will bend sweetly to the ground. Or maybe it will snap and you’ll fall, hard. But you will have learned something, and you’ll be able to say, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.”

When I coach clients to trust their instincts and intuition, sometimes it’s like an avalanche holding….holding…..and then letting go into an unbelievably powerful cascade of rock and snow and ice—that reveals gold underneath. No amount of rational analysis could have led to their new riches.

For all these reasons, improvisation is practice for life. Things fall, buildings crumble, financial systems collapse, random sparks ignite—and suddenly our lives are on fire! What I’ve learned is that we will not be abandoned. Our savior may not be the one we were expecting, but someone, something, will appear. Wings will grow, gills will open, the silence will soften into a thousand, thousand notes to sing.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Lee Gaylord wrote:
Rhonda--I just read all of your posts... I love the idea that you espouse that we do not have to be constrained by what is, we can choose differently! We can go from 0 to 26.2 and become a marathoner! Too many of us become stuck... in what is. We forget we are the creators of our universe... thanks for the reminder...

Sat, January 29, 2011 @ 6:47 PM

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