I’m smack in the beginning of reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now.” It was recommended to me when I started navigating an autoimmune response that was causing a significant amount of pain throughout my body. While someone managing a non life-threatening ailment can often feel relief in momentary whining, it was after a considerable amount of “this sucks” that it was was suggested that I “would really benefit from “The Power of Now” and learning how to separate pain from consciousness. Or whatever.
I’ve been on a non-fiction, personal development kick in the past 2 years, 45% because my attention span wanes when it comes to fictional stories. Learning more about myself and adding to my toolbox? That sounds great. Sign me up.
[Part of my work to establish a morning routine has included 15 minutes of reading in the morning. This is not a book best read 15 minutes at a time. Just when I feel like I’m starting to dig in, I need to wrap up and get to work. Picking up this heavier (mentally) read is like cueing up a record every time – it takes a moment and you have to start out at 1/2 speed. ]
At any rate, it is starting to break my brain each time I sit down. Tolle challenges you to separate yourself from your emotions, so that we are not owned by them – to observe outside of ourselves.
Tolle’s biggest challenge to me right now is saying “Yes” to the present moment. Now, if you’re an improviser, the idea of being accused of not saying “Yes” to the reality of something can leave you feeling downright offended.
“What do you mean ‘say Yes!?’ I know how to do that. I’m an improviser, damnit. Don’t teach me the art of ‘Yes.’ Pffffffft.”
But one of the more honest Connect the Dots conversations I have with other improvisers – more veterans than novices, oddly enough – is about how it’s more difficult than they imagined to leverage the work they do on the stage in their personal life. That it never occurred to them.
Sure, we know how to say “Yes/Yes, And” to “Let’s go on a road trip this weekend!” and “I’ve never run across the Golden Gate Bridge Before. A half marathon-sized run is a genius idea!” Adventure-y, caution-to-the-wind stuff? No problem
We know how to do this. We’ve got this on lock.
So maybe the gap between improv skills to life happenings is harder to bridge because when I’m on stage and building scenes and stories, I’m practicing saying “Yes” to more positive or otherwise adventurous and uplifting offers. i.e:
- “Let’s fly this plane – get in!”
- “I threw a party for Wayne, can you blow up the balloons?”
- “I just ate 15 In-n-Out burgers, would you please hold this bucket so I can vomit?”
While even the last one isn’t necessarily a happy situation per se, as improvisers on the stage, we are working on building a satisfying story that people enjoy. We’re in-the-know that all will end with something from nothing that we put together with our own team mind. We’re confident it can lead us somewhere satisfying and good so we at least give it 100% of our “Yes, And.”
We say Yes so we can build because we’re aware we’re building – but what about when we are clearly, in our minds, being broken down? What about when our bodies hurt and we can’t sleep? What about when the medication didn’t work as long as it should’ve? What about when we feel anxiety or jealousy? What about when someone blows us off to pursue a different gathering/dinner plan/person? What about when someone we love is in pain? What about when our own (emphasis on the our own) expectations were not met? What about when it’s a rough day? (or, God help me, your “case of the Mondays”)
I rarely mark up my books, but I marked this text:
“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile than to create inner resistance to something that already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now?”
And then this text:
“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy.”
What if, all the time, I’m practicing my “Yes” and acceptance muscle with the confidence it, too, can lead us somewhere safely, so I always give it 100% of my “Yes, And” regardless of situation?
So here I am – practicing allowing the present moment to be, and stepping outside of resistance patterns. What does that look like on a daily basis?
Last week after not catching the bus I wanted to, it was walking the rest of the length to work, while accepting that this area of the Mission, in San Francisco, smells like pee.
“the present moment is sometimes unacceptable, unpleasant, or awful.”
I am at peace with The Mission district smelling like pee. I don’t need to complain inwardly or out loud about the Mission district smelling like pee because that is what is.
“then see what happens, and take action if necessary or possible”
I will walk faster so I stop smelling pee.