Oregon Somatic Therapy

Life as Improv

Saying “Yes!” to Life.

One of my favorite TV shows is “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Four comedians take cues from the audience and an irreverent moderator and make just about anything funny. Their slogan is “where anything can happen and usually does.”

Sound a lot like life?

We could learn a lot from Improv, as we face the daily challenges and opportunities in every day life. Here’s how.

1. Yes . . . And.

Most of us approach life with “Yes . . but” rather than “Yes . . . and.” When we meet life with “Yes . . and” a flat tire can become a comedy of errors. We wake up the morning with a vague feeling of anxiety. “Yes . . . and how will I not get caught in the same old script. letting anxiety push me around and tell me what to do.” A friend says, “Wow that red color looks good on you.” If you tend to brush off validation, try “Yes and it’s a little daring to wear it today.”

“Yes . . . and” says that we accept what ever is happening, rather than blocking, denying or trying to re-negotiate “what is.” You commit fully to living life as it comes, and making comedy . . . or at least not taking yourself so seriously.

“Yes . . . and” can be a mindful practice to get creative with what is, rather than trying to fight the things with which we disagree. Like water off a ducks back, we swim freely through life, detouring if we need to, trying a new road . . . because we can.

For a little video adventure into the land of “Yes . . . and,” watch “Yes Man” where Carl (Jim Carrey) reluctantly promises to stop being a “No Man” and vows to answer “Yes!” to every opportunity, request or invitation that presents itself thereafter

Try it for 5 minutes, or an hour. Or be daring and try it for a day.

2. Take action and respond.

This can be scary. This is where you stop playing it safe, where you are contributing to the “scene” by stepping up and engaging with the “players” in your life. Take risks, make choices, let go of waiting and engage. When we listen deeply instead of thinking, we can respond from the deep and creative reserves of the right brain, where the unexpected and the profound make life more colorful.

If you’re familiar with Byron Katie, the Four Questions will help you get out of the script playing over and over in your life and, into a new story. Who would you be without the story that you should be more productive? More kind? More organized? More Healthy? Ask and find out. Meet your story with “Yes . . . and” Perhaps if you stop “shoulding” on yourself, you might take action and respond to people, events, even your body differently.

3. Tell the Truth. Be Authentic.

If you’ve ever tried improv, you know that trying to be funny, isn’t. But when you are present and can report on what’s happening in your thinking, your emotional self, even your body, it’s easy to be truthful and sometimes funny. If you are present enough to be aware of another’s point of view, emotional state and body language, guess what. You are experiencing empathy — that heart melting connection between too people where life feels vital and alive.

Debbie came in with a powerful self defeating story that she was so damaged from her chronic work stress, she was going to have to give in to burn out and just quit. Then something interesting happened. She started telling the truth. Not confronting and attacking, but the simple truth. “I’m getting burnt out. I’m gaining weight. I yell at my kids when I get home. I hate living like this.” She stopped “shoulding” on herself and thinking, “I should be able to get my work done. I shouldn’t be so cranky with the kids.”

She used the Four Questions,

  1. Is it true I shouldn’t be so discouraged and irritable? Yes
  2. Can I really be sure? No, I really am discouraged
  3. Who do I become and how do I act when I tell myself I have got to do this for 15 more years until I can retire.” Cranky, exhausted, unproductive . . .
  4. Who would I be without the story that I should be able to do this job and be a great mom, and lose weight and volunteer at my kids school?

This last question gave her a bit of trouble. In fact she burst into tears. She had never even thought outside the script of her discouraging life. Through her tears she said “I’d be someone who was happy, and creative. I’d look for another job. I’d have adventures with my kids on the weekend instead of beating myself up every waking minute.”

After a few weeks of working with Question Four, the dark cloud that had been surrounding her started to life. She started being a worker, a mother, who did Improv with life. She starting thinking outside the box. She looked at her work differently. She started applying for new jobs . . . She started to feel alive again. Life was starting to feel like an adventure, just a little, enough to give her a feeling of possibility.

Bonus Improv Technique:

There are No Mistakes. Watch Whoopi Goldberg and Colin Mocherie on Whose Line Is It Anyway. Notice how they go with anything. They evolve, they make loose associations, they interact intimately and they take themselves lightly. They are so present, so connected that we can’t help but be right there with them, laughing. No Mistakes.

Like Byron Katie says, “It sounds a lot like Namaste.” No Mistakes.

Get help saying “Yes to Life”