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The posture of Yes, and . . .

March 9, 2012

A friend of mine introduced me to Improv last fall. I had been listening to her go on and on and on about it and since I respect her opinion about so many things, I decided that I should really take a look. Not should, as in have to, but should as in your-life-might-be-altered-by-this-in-ways-you-would-like. Thus, when she invited me to be her guest at an introductory improvisation class, I jumped at it.

The evening felt playful and supportive, exciting and cautious, willing and vulnerable. Eleven strangers entered, eleven humans exited.

I went home pondering the evening and how it felt to be uncensored and what it meant to unravel and uncheck my thinking of what could, should, would, might, and can be. Time went by and more pondering. And, I’ll never forget the game of tag. You were safe if you were touching someone, but if three people were touching they were not safe. You could only touch that one person for 3 seconds and then you had to change. You’d run from person to person hugging whoever was not already hugging someone else, as if joining together against the evil “it.” There was laughter and some of the most reserved people were unabashedly and abruptly hugging strangers. I could barely speak or move, riveted as I was with watching the game unfold.

The holidays came crashing in not long after that workshop and for some odd reason, there was less of the angst and anxiety that accompanied them. My husband and I, in our remarriage with children, remained solid and together and resilient and compassionate in our relationship with one another and in the interactions we had with his children. A new occurrence, this newfound elasticity and renewal of our solidarity, most of our prior holidays had devolved into a chaotic mass of emotion that left us needing a vacation to recuperate.

Mini-crises came and went, a big crisis came, but we stayed in our new formation together and strong. And, I wondered why.

One day when planning a staff retreat for the Vital Human: Community Feldenkrais Clinic, I decided our non-habitual activity would be an improvisation class. That’s when it occurred to me that the reason I felt so confident the experience would be exactly what the clinic staff needed to work through some of the re-organizational activities we were going through was because I had felt a profound shift in my experience.

The shift boiled down to a posture. The difference between the posture of interactions when one person is saying, “Yes, but . . .” and when they say, “Yes, and . . .”

Yes, but is backward, on-the-heels leaning. Yes, but is stiff and rigid and unyielding. Yes, but is getting ready for a fight, maybe even a fist fight. Yes, but is dismissive and hard. Yes, and is softer and languid. It holds tenderness and acceptance. There is nothing about a fight in yes, and. It is inclusive and inspiring. It sees everyone and the contribution they bring to the interaction. Yes, and can play and dance and do so with anyone who comes along. Yes, and holds the honorable intention of seeing each person for what she or he can be in that very moment, withholding judgment and comparisons from the past or future or even from person to person.

In our retreat, we’re definitely going to play with this taller, more comfortable, less forced posture. It’s belongs with freedom, the freedom to live along an entire spectrum of behavior rather than in one little corner worrying about what it will feel like on the other side.

Looking forward to the play time with my people . . .

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One Comment
  1. Wally Walsh permalink

    Wow! I am so very touched by your post, Kim. And virtually speechless. I am sitting here now with my jaw dropped open in awe. When our mutual friend told me about Improv and how very powerful it has been in her life, my insides both softened and lit up with a sense of optimism. In relating Improv to the practice of Feldenkrais, it occurred to me that the principles of both have a number of common threads. In addition to ‘Yes, and’, I think of the ‘build, don’t block’ principle.

    Both methods create openings. Both methods refrain from having a finite status. Both methods create room for an unfolding and an invitation to larger possibilities. Both methods encourage connections (with self and with others). Both methods refrain from judgment and the ideas of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Neither method is trying to correct…which is immensely beautiful to me.

    Thank you for sharing your practical experience with how both of these methods have influenced your life. And thank you for your willingness to share these opportunities with others.

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