I spent Halloween helping friends pass out candy in their neighborhood. It was a blast seeing all of the kids, young and old, dressed in their costumes.
My favorite kids were the ones who had the ritual down. March up to the door, boldly announce “Trick or Treat” and receive their goods. Others would come to the door, extend their pillowcase-filled hands and simply imply that you needed to drop something in. Regardless of what kind of kid was in front of me, their behavior always elicited an immediate response based on how they interacted with me in that moment. It hit me this morning that this was a perfect example of what I teach.
I am easily excitable and would shock most kids by blurting out whatever reaction their costume inspired. If it were a little girl dressed as a princess, I may have delicately said, “Oh, you are a beautiful princess! Here’s your candy, Princess.” and the little girl would smile shyly, take her candy and go, as if delighted that someone acknowledged who she truly feels she is. When a little boy dressed as a boxer came by for the second or third time, I would excitedly say, “Wow! You’re an awesome boxer!” Being all of about four years old, he would proudly say “Thank you!” and walk off with a little more confidence each time. I believe in politeness, so when older kids would crowd in front of the little ones who were slower than they were in getting up the stairs, I wouldn’t say a word to them, fighting back the intense urge to yell to correct their behavior, but would proceed to give them the smallest piece of candy I could find. I can be a curmudgeon this way.
We react to our surroundings constantly. Most of the time, we are unaware of how we react because usually we feel suffering surrounding our internal story of “They did this to me!” If we are to become better improvisers, not to mention better people, we must become more aware of our internal goings-on, to be witness of our actions. We are mammals who react with instincts. When we feel we are being hurt, it is in our nature to want to return the hurt. When we feel comforted, we want to comfort.
Unlike other mammals, we have the ability to be aware of what we’re feeling, to define what feeling it is, and witness how we are responding to it. If our response paints us into our usual corner which causes more suffering, perhaps next time we feel that same emotion, we change our response. Perhaps we allow the suffering subconsciously, so as to continue a pattern we aren’t sure how to get out of. Either way, we are ultimately in control, on stage and off, to be aware of how we’re being affected by our surroundings so that we may respond.
At no time did I ever see a costume-clad youngster and think, “I’ll say _____ to them. They’ll think this is funny!” I simply went with my gut. This is what we strive for on stage.
How are you responding to what you cause and what is affecting you today?
No need to change it, simply be aware of it.