My New Year’s (un)Resolution

At the change of the year we always think of new starts, new habits, and new resolutions. Really, January 1st is just another day like any other. Actually everyday is the first day of the rest of your life. Each moment we are beginning again.

A breaking dawn I actually like 

As an improviser I have trained to be in the moment. When on stage, I am try to be present and not think too much on the past or the future. In Eastern philosophies like Buddhism this is called “mindfulness.” To be mindful means to be open to the moment in a non-judgmental way – to “yes and” whatever the universe offers without getting caught up in whether is it right on wrong. There are no mistake offers – as the improviser in me would put it.

No mistakes – except this game… this game is a mistake 

This moment, this day, I resolve to be more mindful of my life.

A number of years back (when I was in high school), I read the book “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I cannot say I actually understood the book on a very deep level at the time. The idea of mindfulness seemed complicated and challenging to my teenage brain. I followed some of the medication practices in the book for while, feeling like I was cooler than shit doing it, but that was about the extent of my “mindfulness.” I put the book away and forgot about it.

When I was in college I had my first improv experience, fell in love, and have been hooked ever since. Through years of practicing, performing, and later teaching improv, I never made the connection between the Buddhist idea of being mindful and being present or “in the moment” in improv…until just last year.

We all go through tough times, and in 2011, in the middle of some serious soul searching I “discovered” mindfulness yet again. Often this wise old universe gives us what we need just when we need it; we just need to be open to its offers. And even when we aren’t, that’s ok, the universe just keeps throwing them at you, until eventually it just has to hit you over your thick skull.

Yup. Like that. 

In the middle of my mini (and self created) shit-storm of angst, the word “mindful” kept surfacing, first in the book “Improv Wisdom” then in the book “Mystic Cool” (possibly the worst title ever…but I liked the book).

I paid very little attention to it at first, but the universe — great improv partner that it is — just kept lobbing the same strong offer at me.

When I finally clued in, it was like oh, wait, I remember this. This is how you improv with reality. It suddenly made sense.

This is not a New Year’s resolution. This is not like joining a gym or giving up chocolate. I don’t resolve to be mindful to be a better person. I resolve to be mindful because I want to.

I will not always be successful. I will resort to auto-pilot at times. I will give into fear and seek escape. I will get mad and panic and do stupid things at times. I will probably check my email when I should be enjoying food, or having a conversation with people I love. But that is ok. Because being mindful means being mindful of our own failings too, and forgiving ourselves.

Improv says be here now. So does life. Improv challenges you to do exactly that. Life does too. I accept.

Today’s Improvmantra: Be here now. Take three deep breaths and look at where you are. Do not try to escape. Be. Here. Now.

PS: for an excellent book on living mindfully check out “Taking the Leap” by Pema Chodron


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, Improv Life Lessons, Taoism/Zen and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to My New Year’s (un)Resolution

  1. Thanks for mentioning my book, Improv Wisdom, in your blog. It makes me happy that readers find value in the book. I think you are exactly right that the principles of improv are on the same track as those pointing toward mindfulness.
    May 2012 offer you lots of golden opportunities to improvise your life.
    Warm regards,
    Patricia Ryan Madson

  2. Great blog. As much of huckster as I am, I try to be mindful!

  3. I think I had a similar experience with ‘The miracle of mindfulness’
    What really brought me into the moment though was having little ones around…

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