Spiritual Challenge for September

Welcome What Comes Your Way this month.
Live Yesly for a month and do a Yes and No audit of your life.

This month’s spiritual challenge based on the theme of Welcome is grounded in the practice and techniques of improv. The first rule of improv theater is “Yes, and” You always buy into and the world created by the player or players already in the scene. Even if you don’t like or agree with what they’re doing.

In her book “God, Improv, and the Art of Living”, MaryAnn McKibben Dana reflects on the “yes, and” style of improv as a central tactic of the spiritual life. We all do our best to take whatever life gives us – and even if we hate it – like cancer or death of a loved one or job loss, or mental illness or addiction – we do our best to work with it, take it somewhere else, somewhere somewhat better, to move the story along. If an actor starts an improv scene with something like “What a beautiful orange sky today!” You can’t follow that with “No, the sky is blue.” It just destroys the scene. You accept what’s there and it’s on you to be creative enough to carry it somewhere. You might say something such as “Yup, we haven’t had a sky this orange since the creamsicle rocket to mars crashed into that commercial vacation shuttle in low earth orbit back in 2048.” McKibben says that improv rules are an embodiment of the serenity prayer, “to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Improv is also at home with he Buddhist idea of Anitya or “impermanence” meaning that life is in a constant state of change. “Yes, and…” practice teaches us to remain in the present moment and deal with what comes our way. Improv doesn’t require our “yes” to a celebration, just as we don’t celebrate ill health, racism, the death of a loved one, or the trauma of war. Our “yes” is an acknowledgement of the reality we face. Our “and” is our creative response. Steeping ourselves in negation diminishes our ability to “and” well.

My challenge to you this month is to keep track of when, why, and how you say “yes” and “no” to what life brings your way. If you want to be creative and go a little further, work on your “and” response to both difficulties and the good things that come your way.

As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences with this challenge. Call or text me at 508-344-3668 or send me an email at revtony@pm.me.