The central tenant of improv is the phrase, “Yes, and…”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this powerful phrase can change our lives, and how well it ties to Tarot.
I’m taking my second level of improv classes right now in Portland, at The Brody Theater. (If you don’t know what improv is, it’s a theatrical technique in which people basically make things up as they go, often with hilarious results.) If you’ve ever seen improv theater (think “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” for example), it may look relatively simple at first glance, but the underpinnings are very deep, and it is a challenging art form to master.
But, I’m not trying to master it, not right now. I’m just falling deeply in love with what the practice of this art form has to teach me.
Improv is a Performance Art; It’s Also About How We “Do” Life.
If you are doing improv with a partner, the first rule is to say “Yes” to everything they offer. If they enter the scene and say, “Hi, Linda, it’s so great that we are finally meeting up for coffee!” and you say, “What do you mean meet up for coffee? I thought we were shopping for a new Stairmaster at Super Sports World,” the scene grinds to a halt. You just said, “No” to the creative offer your partner made, which makes it very difficult to proceed. In other words, you overrode their creative offering with your own agenda.
Boo, that’s no fun for anyone.
How often do we do try to reorder things to the way we think they should be? Tell people their perspective is wrong, before we really get a chance to play in the space they’ve created?
In improv, a better way to handle that scene would be to say, “YES, it is so nice that we met up, AND I really need to talk to you about our friend Joe’s Lego addiction. It’s really getting out of hand, I think he needs an intervention.” Or wherever else you are inspired to offer up to add to the scene.
Brick by brick (ha!), moment by moment a situation and story evolves—and it takes the absolute deepest presence to truly participate in this act. You can’t get caught up too far in the future, you must stay in the moment to create the scene. I don’t know about you, but I need all the practice I can get to learn to better stay in the moment.
What could life be like if we said “Yes” to more? How would the Universe show up to support us if we showed up in a co-creative way by not only saying “Yes” to whatever was offered us, but we also chose to show up and add to that offered experience in a proactive and collaborative way?How would the Universe show up to support us if we chose to say, “Yes, and…” to more in life? Click To Tweet
Improv is an art form that is about so much more than what happens on stage. It’s about being truly in the NOW, putting aside our agenda to enjoy participating in a truly collaborative experience, and playing with life in a microcosmic sense.
You know what? So is Tarot.
The Spiritual Journey of Improv and Tarot
Maybe that’s why I like improv so much. The core elements are very familiar to me.
Though I will say, improv is really helping me exercise my spiritual learnings in a whole new way. Improv takes the things I’ve learned in my Tarot world into a physical experience that helps my body integrate the information, too.Like Improv, Tarot is an art form that demands presence in the moment and a co-creative spirit. Click To Tweet
In all things, we must train the mind, spirit, and body in growth. Often the body is the one that gets left behind on the journey and that’s where spiritual development gets halted. Improv is a beautiful way to teach the body that it’s safe to incorporate these spiritual concepts in physical reality.Spiritual learning needs to be integrated in both mind and body to reap the gifts on our plane. Click To Tweet
In improv, you really learn that life is a beautiful experiment—not much different than a series of improv sketches. It can be as serious or as ridiculous as we allow, and it depends on our willingness to interact and co-create with others.
Learning to Have Fun with It
Back when my husband and I were still dating, he would take me to improv shows that two of his friends were performing in at The Brody Theater. At the end of a riotous performance, the actors would put out a call for students for improv classes at the theater.
I immediately felt a pull to take them, but I talked myself out of it—for monetary reasons as well as my concern that I already had too many hobbies. (I’ve long since given up on the goal of simplifying my time expenditure, it’s a mission doomed to fail.)
Years later, I am now in a place where I am deliberately trying to improve my comfort level on stage. I was brainstorming ways to do that, and joining speech-centric groups like Toastmasters just didn’t appeal. I wanted to do something fun.
Improv to the rescue!
After the first class, I was hooked. Not only am I learning new life skills, I am also finding that improv is a great entry point into matters of spirit. And, to top it off, each class feels like going to recess.
Remember how it felt in first grade when it was time to go outside and run and play? As a grown up, capturing that pure essence of joy and freedom is a rare thing.
It took me awhile to really get into that playful spirit. I definitely had to undo some internal seriousness and learn to enjoy myself.
In my first few classes, I would spend much of the time feeling anxious about my potential to make mistakes. One day I realized that I was frequently looking at the clock—as if I was just hoping to be set free again—and I reminded myself, “Hey, this is supposed to be fun! And you’re PAYING for it. For goodness sake, cherish every second.”
After that, I found myself becoming more deeply immersed in the experience and feeling less afraid of making mistakes. In fact, I welcome mistakes more and more, and learned to allow myself to take more risks, both in class and in life.Mistakes make life interesting. Be deliberate in your decision to make more of them. Click To Tweet
Improv has helped me remember my inner kindergartener. I work a lot (to be fair, usually doing things I love), and I hadn’t had something that really felt like pure play in so long. When I go to class, we play improv games, make goofy faces, shout, jump around, and get to remember the joy of really being in our bodies. It’s the absolute best.
Improvising in Life and Tarot Reading
As I continue on this path, I am finding more and more ways to apply improv to my life. Things that used to throw me off or upset me are losing their power to mess with my flow. Every moment feels like an opportunity to play with the boundaries of life… Try on another version of my own personality, pretend to be someone else I don’t normally think of myself as being. (Half the time the ideas we have about ourselves are based in false premises, anyway.)
What if I walked into a room and held the energy of a millionaire? How would people treat me differently?
What if I interacted with every person I encountered that day as if every moment was a blank slate, and I didn’t have any assumptions about who they were when we met? That even they got this opportunity to play in a space of possibility as we engaged with one another?
What if I let arguments dissipate quickly, and didn’t decide I needed to be right, but just treated the moment like a scene we were acting out? What if, when it was done, I just released any anger or discomfort and simply stepped into the next moment, with new possibilities?
What if we could live every moment as if life is the story it really is? And remember that any story can change, if we can allow ourselves to be truly present in the moment?
All things to remember when you’re doing your next Tarot reading.Use Tarot to treat your life like a story, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Click To Tweet
Play with the cards. Let the reading show you something about your life. Instead of deciding you need to be right or control things, decide to play with it. Treat it like an experiment. A conversation. Give yourself permission to say “Yes, and…”
And don’t forget to remember that it can all be recess, if we let it.