All of us are making up our lives as we go along. We improvise in our daily conversations, our parenting, our work. Whether making a meal or fixing a tire, we do the best with what we have. Patricia Ryan Madson has taught drama at Stanford for three decades, worked as a creativity consultant to corporations, and served as a private counselor. She and her husband, Ronald, direct the California Center for Constructive Living, based on the work in Japanese psychotherapies of David K. Reynolds.
Madson writes: "A good improviser is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do something useful and give something back and who acts upon this impulse." We live in times when people are desperately seeking security and a life of as few risks as possible. This is precisely the time, says the author, to savor the pleasures and delights of an improvised life. She has come up with thirteen laws of improvisation along with exercises for each. They include: say yes, don't prepare, just show up, pay attention, face the facts, act now, take care of each other, and enjoy the ride.
Together these laws spell out a flexible and spontaneous spiritual practice of play. For Madson winging it is not terrifying; it is a pathway to adventure. Try these exercises, and you will find that paying attention, being present, using your imagination, and acting joyfully will come more easily.