This week, students in my Creative Team Dynamics class each had to perform an improv scene with their partner for two minutes. Prompts and the accompanying emotion were generated randomly by this website.
Having run this exercise many times before, I was taken by how well the students performed. The basic rules of improv are to agree with the opening statement and to build on each other’s comments using a “yes, and” framework. In other words, your goal is to keep the scene going and the best way to do that is to be open to what the other person is saying and to not, alternatively, shut down the dialogue. All teams went two minutes without much of a problem, several were down right hilarious.
After all the students were finished, we had a discussion about how they felt going into it (anxious) and whether it was as bad as they thought it would be (it wasn’t).
In talking about why this seemed so natural for them to do, one student talked about the class in general. Saying that over time we had created the space where they trusted each other and could be vulnerable without fearing judgment. They doubted if they could do anything like this in their other classes.
While an improv exercise filled with ridiculous prompts may sound trivial, the fact is that throughout the year, we have had much more serious conversations, including ones about the ongoing conflicts throughout the world, which has directly impacted several of them.
It is not easy or intuitive to create, hold, or give space for anything, let alone what is most difficult in our lives or in our world. Too often we can understandably feel overwhelmed or under siege from the many demands on our time and on our minds.
“Space, the final frontier,” famously opens the title sequence for the Star Trek series. It refers literally to outer space.
But perhaps space is the only frontier when considering what we need to make for ourselves and others.
We need to make this space not only for those things we fear but also those we love. I am writing this on my youngest daughter’s twelfth birthday. It has flown by at warp speed. Earlier, I was collecting photographs from when she was younger to display on a digital frame in our kitchen. Each picture would show for fifteen seconds before moving on to the next.
While I had a hundred other things I wanted or needed to get to, I gave myself the space to just stand there and watch the years of this precious life go by. My appreciation for her smile, her energy, her very being, grew with each picture, each moment. Overflowing with love, I could not wait to hug her when I saw her next.
I hope this week you can create space for what is important, hold space for what is difficult and give space to those we love.
Maybe, to paraphrase Star Trek again, it will allow us to boldly go where we have not gone before.