“Eat Pray Love” & Maybe Play a Little Improv?

Choosing Curiosity Over Fear” is a wonderful interview from Krista Tippett’s Onbeing program with the author of “Eat Pray Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert.  As you will see, if you follow the link, you can read or listen to it.  They are not talking about improv per se, yet their discussion had some wonderful parallels about the process of play and our human experience.

Highlights that might entice you to put this @Onbeing interview w/ 'Eat Pray Love' author on your radar! Click To Tweet
  • A discussion about practical magic which affirms the divine play of improv.

…it’s the mystical things that we need to demystify the most, in order to lay claim to them and to not keep thinking of them as something that only belongs to a very special class of people. The more mystical and precious, in a way, that we make creativity and spirituality both, the more people get left out of it. And I think that’s a pity and a loss, and sometimes, even a tragedy. So it should be that all are invited, or else what are we even doing here?  –Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Exchanges about human creativity which sometimes gets lost in our growing up and life.  

…every human child is born doing this stuff innately. It’s an instinct. There’s no child that you put crayons and paper in front of who doesn’t get it, what you’re supposed to do. No four-year-old boy was ever sat in front of a pile of Legos and said, “I don’t know, I’m just — I’m not feeling it.” [laughs]–Elizabeth Gilbert

When improv experiences are safe and fun, people can reconnect with their own creativity!  It is a delight to see!

  • A really cool story the author shares about an idea she had and lost around the same time her friend and author, Ann Patchett seemed to have found it!

 …ideas are conscious and living, and they have will, and they have great desire to be made, and they spin through the cosmos, looking for human collaborators. –Elizabeth Gilbert

I am convinced that one way to develop trust in and explore the ideas spinning around in the cosmos is with the playful interactions of improv. I found Gilbert’s interview quite inspiring.  Let me know what you think!

A Profound & Simple Story of Improv Healing!

Susan, a new student in Discover Pill: The Improv Way to Have Fun, Meet New People, & Grow shared this story  after teaching a closing activity we do to women she works with who are in recovery.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the improv class, but my sister was so excited after taking one of Beth’s trainings years ago that I decided to join her. I have been having so much fun that I decided to bring some of what I learned back to my workplace.

During one of the sessions of our intensive outpatient programs, I taught the Danish Clap to the all women clients in our drug court program. I wanted to see if they would enjoy it as much as I did(do), and they did!

I reminded them how having fun is an essential ingredient of Recovery. I tied in the activity to information about dopamine and brain chemistry. They laughed and had fun. I hadn’t seen them laugh so hard until then. And these women said they were going home to share this improv activity with their children. Click To Tweet

I notice that they are friendlier now and make a point to stop by my office and say hello. I am so impressed with this and look forward to learning and sharing more.  — Susan

What a beautiful testimonial this is to the divine play that improv can be!

Portsmouth PILL Peeps Help Improve Healthcare from Coast to Coast!

This Spring I’ve traveled to San Francisco and Chicago to present a new Medical Improv workshop called, “Risk Management by Design:  Building a Practice of Trust“!  It is a 9 hr training that will bring me to PA in may.  It is extremely exciting b/c the audience is made up of Health Risk Management professionals who work for non-profit aging service providers from all over the country.  (There were representatives from Riverwoods in Exeter!) These are the people who want to make healthcare safer for all the residents and families they serve.

Like many of us in healthcare, we’ve known for years that emotional intelligence and communication issues are associated with problems with errors, poor customer service, and workforce injuries.   A “soft” skill set that includes self-awareness, self-esteem, assertiveness, listening and empathy.  And they are hard to build!

As a nurse consultant, I am one of the pioneers of a teaching strategy called, Medical Improv and have a local business called PILL which stands for Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab! Over the last 18 months over 60 people have taken classes taught by me and colleague Liz Korabek-Emerson.  And several students have participated in the PILL filming project which has provided  helpful videos like Same-Time-Story and Gibberish Talk Show Host.

Look at how these Health Risk Managers in San Francisco are leaning in as they watch Mary-Ellen McElroy, Dwyer Vessey, and Anita Remig play the Gibberish activity.  These videos are priceless teaching tools because they:

  • Fully engage participants in the learning.
  • Demonstrate how-to do activities.
  • Prompt discussion about the relevance to essential skill-building.
  • Offer reassurance that you don’t have to have acting experience to play.

So far over 130 professionals have participated in this Spring Training and many will take the activities back to the nurses, administrators, nurse assistants, activity directors, human resource managers and others they work with in an effort to build trusting relationships and effective communication skills.  The potential rippling effect of this work is immeasurable!

And there I am, grateful and proud! It is like bringing my students with me and they become teachers!  In the very honorable work of making healthcare safer and more compassionate! Thank you PILL Peeps! 🙂

What is in Your PSE Bucket? Wait, what IS a PSE Bucket?

It is a bucket of Positive Social Experiences.  PSEs are those that feel trusting, and safe.  They may be playful, loving, or even involve conflict that has led to better understanding and a closer, more respectful relationship.  PSEs are affirming of human goodness and contribute to our wellbeing and joie de vivre.  The more the better, right?

Now, it probably isn’t realistic to have all experiences be like this, right?  For most of us this being human involves some painful experiences like broken trust, unsafe situations or relationships,  unresolved conflict, grief, lost and so forth.

There is the not so positive social experience bucket too, (but I’m not going to give it an acronym!).

I love creating a safe environment for teaching improv and watching people play.  I am sure my endorphins get a boost.   With a few guidelines to follow there are lots of improv activities that are super fun to play.  And you don’t have to have any experience in acting or improv!  At PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab, we take the focus off of performance and put it on the playful experience.  Some students have even called it “Divine Play”!

Next beginner class starts 4/28! Maybe you’ll join us?

Here’s my promise:  Take a PILL and add to your PSE Bucket or your money back!

 

7 Reasons Why I’m Excited about this Medical Improv Gig & Please Wish Me Luck!

Tomorrow morning I’l be on a flight from Boston to San Francisco where I’ll be presenting a day and a half workshop called, “Risk Management by Design:  Building a Practice of Trust”.   The workshop is designed to introduce Medical Improv as a teaching strategy. There will be 60 or so participants who are leaders in non-profit aging organizations such as; long term care and assisted living facilities, Hospice and Home Health.  They are nurses, attorneys, administrators, human resource representatives, insurance specialists, and maybe a few physicians and they are working very hard to keep residents safe.  Later in April I will present this same workshop in Chicago, and in May, Philadelphia.

MEDICAL IMPROV can help us in so many vital ways! The opportunity to bring this work forward in a big way is so very exciting.  Here’s why:

  1. Participants will experience 15 or more experiential activities designed to build skills associated with emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork and leadership.   Many people, when they have a chance to try this kind of improv discover that it is safe, fun, and effective.
  2. Many of them will be empowered to integrate activities into in-services, orientation processes, administrative and clinical meetings at their organizations.  This means that staff, management, and senior leaders will have fun opportunities to practice listening and speaking up etc. in an affordable way and on a regular basis. The rippling effect could be profound.
  3. Setting Realistic Expectations is a primary focus for my client and this alone suggests a desire to be honest, transparent, and respectful of all stake-holders. Improv, when facilitated to create a safe environment and framed with these learning objectives, is a powerful tool for developing self-awareness, building trust, and practicing the interpersonal skills necessary for these ideals.
  4. Being a pioneer in this emerging field is sometimes challenging because there are few signposts. This will put me on the map!
  5. All participants will get a copy of my book, “Medical Improv:  A New Way to Teach Communication”.  This means that when all is said and done over 200 professionals involved in patient safety will have copies.  I believe it is my best work and in addition to reenforcing activities, I make a strong case for why we need experiential learning and there is a great list of other resources.
  6. I will be able to invest some of my fee in the PILL(Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) filming project with PPMTV and PILL students which is intended to provide an online resource for lesson plans and video bites of improv activities to help others teach activities.
  7. Last but not least, I get to have coffee with Dr. Candy Campbell after the workshop.  She is a nurse instructor at the University of San Francisco and improv teacher.  In fact she did her doctoral thesis on improv and communication skills for nurses.  She too is a pioneer and wrote the forward to my book.  We are going to have one dynamic cup of coffee!

I am grateful to all the students in PILL who teach me so much.

I know you are rooting for me and the work!

Oh and next PILL classes start 4/28!

A Lifetime of Learning in 60 second Improv Game: Death in One Minute!

Sadly, my improv teacher, David LaGraffe, passed away suddenly a few months ago.  David was a gifted facilitator in creating a safe environment for taking risk, playing, and reflecting.

david lagraf

 I teach improv as an opening to the possibilities of one’s own genius.

–David LaGraffe 

I miss his teaching and am grateful for many fun and profound experiences over the years.  One of my fondest memories is from a few years ago when we did an activity called Death in One Minute.  Basically there are two participants who have 60 seconds to start and end a scene with one participant dying.

We were husband and wife on a boat.  We started the scene and within the first 10 seconds he fell to the floor and was dead. (Not really but for the scene!).  I raced to his rescue screaming and trying to revive him.  And I continued to try frantically for the remaining 50 seconds. (It felt like forever!)

In the debriefing that followed, he gently nudged me to think about other possibilities.

What else might I have done besides screaming?

  • “Free at last, the poison worked!’ I take out my cell phone ‘Jim, he’s gone.  Meet me in 20 minutes at the dock.  I’ll cover him with the tarp and you jump on.  I’ll need help with the body….”119px-(Woman_in_Hat_Rowing_a_Boat)_-_Google_Art_Project
  • “Poor David, he should have remembered his medications, but you know I was tired of reminding him.  All those years of cooking and cleaning for him….I’m sure I can make it to Greece and start the fine chocolate shoppe I’ve dreamed of…”
  • “Oh my, I’ve never tried driving this boat.”  I take the steering wheel and shifts sharply to the left and screams and falls while David rolls.  I over correct to the right….(for all I knew this may have revived him!)…
This place of opportunity and hesitancy is a very rich growing edge where I learn what holds me back Click To Tweet

In that 50 seconds, anything was possible.  But I had stayed in this mode of reaction rather than bring my own ideas forward. OMG!  I so get it now. And this place of opportunity and hesitancy is a very rich growing edge where I have and continue to learn what holds me back, to safely take more risk, and appreciate how hard it can be.  At the time, we laughed about the memory and this shared understanding about how deeply powerful this work can be.

Click To Tweet

How Would You Describe “Divine Play”?

 

What makes you smile inside and out?

  • Making sweet cooing noises and having a baby smile back at you?
  • Watching baby goats do their little jumping thing?
  • Seeing a dog on the beach throw a ball at her owner and prancing around insistently until he throws it?
  • Buying a gift for a dear friend that you KNOW she will love and then giving it to her?

These moments of joy are sacred, don’t you think?  Somehow we feel safe, trusting, and loved in them. I wonder if we are tapping into the divinity of the human spirit.  Something that is always there, but may be elusive at times.  It sure feels good!  We need to play and have an innate ability to.

Play, or Divine Play as we like to call it, is part of PILL improv.

Watch the facial expressions of Jody and Glenna as they play this very easy activity called ‘Same-Time-Story” And also watch the people watching them.  The delight is almost palpable.  

At PILL we make it a priority to create a safe environment for divine play and the community is incredibly supportive.  You don’t need to be an actor to play! Check out our classes or email your questions: bbbboynton@gmail.com.

Improv as Sacred Space for Seeking Growth & Freedom!

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  

-Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist,  Holocaust survivor, and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

This quote speaks to the sacred space for divine play that emerges when improv activities are taught with an emphasis on the process. (Unlike improv comedy, where the emphasis is on the performance.)

In the simple, yet often profound activity called, “The Gift”  one person gives an invisible present to another and it is the other person who defines what the gift is.  For example, let’s say my partner in this activity is Liz Korabek-Emerson, (we co-teach unique classes in mindfulness and improv called Stronger Together and you might see us around town putting up posters for PILL classes).

In this activity Liz would reach out to me with a knowing smile and say something like, “Beth, I have something for you”.  And I would have a knowing smile back to her as I await the gift. We don’t know what the gift is, but we do know that I will think of something and she will support me. It is a rich moment of trust, creativity, and divine play. For me, this IS growth and freedom!

And truth be told, IN that moment, I might feel anxious and uncertain. Okay, I would feel a little anxious, I’m pretty sure.  Because  in my mind or the ego part of my mind, there lies the possibility of rejection or failure.  Yet those worries are fleeting because no matter what I say,

Oh Liz, thank you for this spoonful of dirt

Oh Liz, thank you for this diamond necklace

Oh Liz, thank you for this cup of delicious coffee

…no matter what I say, Liz is going to support me. A sacred space for divine play emerges when improv activities are taught with an emphasis on the process! Click To Tweet

You are so welcome, Beth.  I thought this spoonful of dirt from my garden would help you start your indoor herbs.

You are so welcome, Beth. When I saw the necklace I thought how beautiful it would look on you.

You are so welcome, Beth. I thought a nice fresh cup of coffee would taste good to you right now.

I am supported, safe and even loved.  WOW, right?

And if you were in this PILL improv class watching, you might feel the beauty of this moment and take joy in whatever we say, because somehow you are with us in this sacred space.  It is indeed, divine play!

If this sounds like fun and you want to get a taste of improv taught this way, check out the Improv for Everyone (single sessions), Discover PILL, and Stronger Together classes coming up soon.  Or if you are interested in the world of Medical Improv check out latest Who, What & Where!

MORE Fantastic Raffle Prizes from Mostly Seacoast Businesses for this FUNdraising Party 2/24 in Portsmouth

When/Where

2/24/18 from 5:30-8p at Jubilation Dance Studio

Suggested donation $10!

Last week we published a list of SOME of the fantastic raffle prizes you can win ifyou come to the fundraising party that local Social Worker, Lori Austin is hosting.  She is working to raise money for Back on My Feet (a cool project that helps people who struggle with homelessness.)

She’ll be there and ready to answer any questions, like;

Who is Lightening Larry?

In the meantime, here’s a link to the party flyer and scroll down for MORE

fabulous prizes you can win.

Art piece donated by Amy Kelly, lobsterwoman/artist, Tailspinstudio

Beauty Basket donated by Kristen Moisen from Ciccolini Salon

Music Hall tickets

Serendipity jewelry item

Tuscan Kitchen 2 $50 gift certificates

Runners Alley gift card

Life is Good $76 worth of merchandise

Kazimierz European Market gift basket

Union Bluff $50 gift card

Vdogg Airport shuttle service- free ride to and from airport

My Thirty-one Bag donation by AnnMarie Plante

And coffee to be provided by New Moon Coffee Roasters of New Hampshire!

Doesn’t  the Seacoast ROCK?

PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab will be doing some improv and I am seriously considering dressing as Tracey Turnblad (Hairspray Heroine) who, IMHO, is definitely a Super Hero!

Now do you want to check out the party?

Hope to see you there and as soon as I get updated list of donations, I’ll post Part II.

If you have questions about the party, contact Lori Austin!  laustin302@gmail.com

P.S. If you can’t make the party and want to donate.

Loved Krista Tippett’s Interview w/ Brene Brown

Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. . –Brene Brown

If you liked Brene Brown’s well-known TED Talk on vulnerability you will probably like her new book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”.  It is a great book and speaks to the sometimes daunting, yet very worth it pursuit of authenticity.

I enjoy many of the guests on Tippett’s On Being Podcast series and this one with Brene Brown is exceptionally good.  I listen to the unedited version and loved hearing these two very smart women discuss personal growth, human behavior, and spirituality.

Here’s a quick excerpt to tempt you.

Ms. Tippett: You make this — just the way you make this observation — I think the way you make it is so helpful. You said, “It’s partly because we are neuro-biologically hardwired for belonging and connection. We’re hardwired to want it, and need it so much, that the first thing we do is sacrifice ourselves and who we are to achieve it.

Ms. Brown: The irony, right? Yeah, we’re desperate for it. I think if you look at — if you look from the lens of neuro-biology or even evolutionary biology: as a social species, to not be wanted and to not belong to the tribe or the clan or the group meant death. We are wired for this. It is — John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, who does this incredible work on loneliness, says that the only real biological advantage we have over most other species is our connection, our belonging; our ability to collaborate, plan, be in relationship with in special ways. And so that desperate need to belong is not a neurosis; or it’s not an ego-driven thing. That need to belong and be a part of something greater than us is who we are in our DNA.

Ms. Tippett: I love that also, in fact, the genius — the source of the genius of our species — that’s the implication of it.

Ms. Brown: That’s it. It is. Yet what we do to ensure that we’re accepted and fit in ensures that we have no sense of belonging.

Ms. Tippett: So you use this language of “true belonging.” So talk about what are the qualities of true belonging, as opposed to those many things we do that feel like belonging but, as you say, are a hollow substitute for true belonging. What is that?

Let me know if you listen and what you think!