Message from the Minister
— by William Levwood, UUCT Minister
Becoming the Church of the Open Mind, Part 2
The Spiritual Practice of “Yes and …”
I’ve heard that in theater improvisation there is a foundational practice known as “Yes and …” The practice begins by saying yes to anything another actor introduces into an improvised scene. Then you, as an improvisational actor, elaborate on that or introduce a new element that propels the narrative. I’ve had a similar experience as an improvisational dancer. It can be challenging! I remember other dancers interacting with me in ways that I found annoying, frustrating, or worse! Sometimes I just didn’t like the mood or the aesthetic of what they were bringing to the moment. What could I do though? It’s not like I could stop the performance in the middle. I had to go with it. I had to say, “Yes and …”
What might it be like to take this practice into our lives? Your spouse says something you don’t like or does something they’ve done a hundred times before that has always rubbed you the wrong way. Someone at work or in this congregation suggests an idea or expresses an opinion that you don’t like or disagree with. Something difficult happens in your life, a loved one dies, a health problem arises, your job changes in a significant way. Often in these situations we say, “No!” Often, even when we can’t say “No!,” we still try. Often we still try to deny reality as it is. We say no even when we know it isn’t effective, when we know from past experience that saying no isn’t going to change anything. What would it be like to say, “yes and …”? How do we keep dancing no matter what else is happening on stage?
What might committee meetings look like if we practice saying “Yes and …”? How might it transform our social justice efforts? What about our fellowship and social lives? Our families? I invite us to explore these questions together. I invite us to experiment with the practice of saying “Yes and …” May we begin by fully embracing the truth of the moment. And from that place of acceptance, may we allow ourselves and our world to be transformed by the dance flowing in, around, and between us.
May it be so.
This message published in the January 27, 2019 issue of The Meridian.