improvisation for everyday life

Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

unpolished thoughts 2/10/19

Later today, I will co-teach a workshop called Improvisation for Everyday Life in collaboration with choreographer Nancy Havlik.

It’s our second time offering this workshop and I’m excited to build on the success of our first experience late last year. The participants  in the first workshop resoundingly confirmed that exploring themselves through Feldenkrais movement lessons made them more available for creative expression.

I’ve thought a lot since that time about what it takes to act creatively in the world. Creativity is more of a buzz word than it used to be, but it has always been absolutely essential to the human experience.

Given that we have become inarguably the most domesticated species on the planet, it’s truly our creativity that sustains us. Falling prey to the idea that modern life has taken care of all concerns and it’s ok to just go along with the flow is the fastest road to soul death.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for us to go lax in our level of engagement with the surrounding environment. But that’s hardly news.

So how do we reconnect with the incredible vitality that we all knew as children?

I just heard about a study that found that the average child laughs 300 times a day, while the average adult laughs just five times.

How often do you laugh?

It’s not a bad question for each of us to ask ourselves.

What would make us suppress laughter or hold ourselves so tightly that it couldn’t arise in the first place? How far away from the surfaces of our skin would we have to hide in order not to be touched by the joys of the world?

Of course, the “joy of the world” is a relative thing. There is no question that the best way to support our playful nature is to create a safe and welcoming environment. Many of us haven’t experienced enough of that support in our lives. In all cases, we could benefit from having more of it.

What could you do to create more warmth in your daily surroundings?

Children who feel safe spontaneously create games out of thin air. They spontaneously create songs out of snippets of conversation. They create dances with their feelings.

So why don’t adults do the same?

We know how to do these things. That’s not the issue.

The problem is knowing how to give ourselves permission, especially if we’ve developed the idea that acting like children takes us away from safety.

It’s not hard to get that message after 12 years of schooling to learn how to pass tests.

It’s not hard to get that message after years of social life with implicit and explicit ranking processes.

It’s not hard to get that message through the ongoing experience of depending for one’s livelihood on the ability to faithfully do what one is told.

Creativity bucks all these trends, but it’s not because creativity is such a radical act. It is, in fact, the act of returning to our humanity, returning to the state of being that was natural to us when we first entered the world, and our mere presence brought joy to everyone around us.

Sadly, many of us didn’t always have that joy reflected back to us by those closest to us.

Here and there, and sometimes everywhere, we have all encountered other humans whose humanity has been wounded to the point where they became afraid of creativity. We’ve all received messages suggesting that the playful pursuit of our curiosity is a danger to ourselves and others.

Healing the wounds that make us ashamed to proudly express what is most unique inside of us to the external world is best accomplished in community where acceptance and positive reflection is abundant and intentional.

When this atmosphere is created, we discover that we don’t have to work hard at creativity. We simply follow our natural curiosities to their logical conclusions – and find ourselves in magical places.

The most natural starting point for any such exploration is the same place we all began as infants. Just as we did then, we can become curious about our bodies, the ways they move and the sensations they produce.

If we also treat our bodies as infants do – not as tools to accomplish tasks, but as vehicles for play and learning – we will very quickly find ourselves in new territories.

Just like newborns, we can have the experience that the world is continuously new.

From this place, our instincts can guide us.

Ideas and impulses come to us without the need to dig for them. If we don’t resist them with socially conditioned concepts of right and wrong, each of these pulses of energy becomes an opportunity to create a vibration that can resonate far beyond ourselves.

If we are mindful of the safety of our playmates, we can create generous vibrations that invite resonance and community, creating an ongoing virtuous cycle where we begin to act the way humans naturally do: reflecting back and forth to each other how joyful it is to be creative, and making it seem like the most natural thing in the world.

After all, for us humans, it is the most natural thing in the world!


If you wish you could have been at today’s workshop, but you didn’t know about it or you don’t live in Washington DC, you might love my 2019 online classes which start on March 25.

Click here to learn more about ¡Reimagine Yourself!, a movement practice to rewrite the story of how you move through the world

Click here to participate in a free preview class on Monday, February 11 at 2pm EST.


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