What are your intentions?

My yoga teacher starts each class the same way each time by instructing us to set our intention for our practice that day. In Yoga one sets one’s intention focus his energy. If, for example, I set my intention to “be at peace” then during yoga and for the rest of that day I will direct my energy towards being at peace. Putting your intention toward something like peace does not guarantee that you will have a peaceful day, but just like an archer aiming an arrow, you are more likely to hit a target at which you aim.

Not an improviser 

This is true of improv as well. If I set an intention each time I go to improv practice, or perform in a show, then I have a way to direct my energy.

This is different from an “acting” intention. As an actor or director I often search for the intention of a character in a scene. Actors are taught to state those intentions as infinitive verbs, “to provoke” or “to seduce” for example.

Not an improviser, but seductive nonetheless 

This “acting” intention is similar in that it can be stated as an infinitive verb, but it is not a character choice, it is the improviser deciding how to direct his energy for the day.

In Robert Moss’s book “Active Dreaming” he suggests stating an intention each night before going to sleep. He explains that this intention can be specific dream intention (“I want to go to Hawaii”) or can be very general (“I want to have fun in my dreams and remember”). It doesn’t matter what the intention is as long as it has power and interest for you. By setting this intention clearly in your conscious mind before sleep, you aim your unconscious in a direction while you sleep. The conscious intention is the bow; the unconscious energy is the arrow.

This same practice is an excellent way to approach improv.

How often in the past have we had completely unfocused practices, classes, or even shows. We are like hot air balloons, blown around by whatever energy is swirling around us. I am not suggesting that we try and control the energy of a scene or practice, but it perhaps we should not just be tempest tossed twigs.

Tempest tossed, but still holds his cool

If I begin a practice or a performance with the conscious intention “to discover,” and I state that intention clearly for myself, then I will direct my energy along that path as it presents itself during my improv. I find when I do this, that I have a much more focused and mindful practice. If you want to try this, make your intention something positive that holds power and interest for you: “tell the truth” or “be open to change” might be interesting choices. Hold that thought in your conscious mind before you begin, and come back to that thought whenever you are feeling stuck or don’t know what to do next.

Kevin intends to kick your ass 

I just hope that someday my intention in yoga practice will be something other than “don’t hurt myself.”

Today’s Improvmantra: State your intention. Don’t make it too grandiose (“I want to be the best improviser ever!”). Just make a simple intention for your day and discover what happens next.


About improvmantra

What is an improv mantra? An improv mantra is a phrase you repeat to yourself just before you go on stage, and continue to keep in your mind while you are in a scene. An effective mantra makes you a better improviser. Todd Erler, like all living creatures, has been doing improv every day since he was born. He has been performing improv on stage for more than 20 years. He is a teacher, writer, musicain, director, actor, and member of The Portable Reality Show.
This entry was posted in Attitude, Fundamentals, Improv Life Lessons and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What are your intentions?

  1. I love when teachers ask students to set an intention. It creates mindfulness at the beginning of class and somehow changes the energy in the room. I really appreciate if teachers ask their students to “dedicate the practice” too. It’s such a nice idea to work, sweat and suffer (a little) for someone else or a cause.

  2. improvmantra says:

    I have “dedicated” performances to people when I have acted in a show, but not when I have performed improv…. might be an interesting idea to try. Everything little thing can change the flavor of an improv show, since so much of what is done is subconscious. I wonder how it would change the way a show went if I dedicated it to a cause. Hmmm. Fun to think on.

  3. I consciously try to tell myself to create something everyday. I guess it works in life as on the stage.

  4. Thank you for this post! This is definitely something important which I have been forgetting to do for a while…
    Funnily enough I was given an angel card for 2012 and it was ‘intention’ ; )

    • improvmantra says:

      Good sex is like good improv. The same “rules” apply.
      “Yes and” your partner, make him/her look good, have fun, give gifts, play with status, and don’t try to control the situation too much!

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