Tuesday, 2 December 2014

So Razowsky: Live Life in the Present

To continue the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. After some immense moments with the man, it has led to a lot of great results. Unlike the previous semi-season of articles, this completes this half of the series with aspects that are congruent with his thoughts. In this article the topic is about living life in the present.
Ambition drives people, but it controls people too. The drive is useful, but it is painful when you end up battling reality with desire. The persistent desire can blind the real, the present situation. As the moral of a Buddhist tale states fools get trapped by their desires. (Buddhanet.net, 2014)
What is happening is no doubt great. This offers a focus on the present moment. If it is possible to accept the opportunities that surround us, it is viable that the sense of happiness is present. Furthermore, reaching the space where living in gratitude happens it will stop misery from the 'future'. Live in the present, in the now, and be grateful for what is. Razowsky states, on his podcast (Razowsky, 2014), to replace ambition with gratefulness (Victor, 2012). Pick the Brain's editor in chief discusses how seeking more implies that the current is not good enough, there is unhappiness. Also looking to the future, to the ambition is deeming now as unsatisfactory. (Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement, 2007)
In a similar way, Razowsky, (ibid.) says how he felt he would be happy if, at any moment, the job ended. For example, for Razowsky, on 'Main stage' at Second City with Steve Carrell and other such well known names, if it had just stopped he would have been happy. This comes from the happiness in the fact that it happened in the first place; it is not about it having ended. As with all process-based approaches, it is a practice. Everyone fails at some point. Like the aforementioned mental adjustment to that special something stopping, failure is an opportunity to remind ourselves why do it in the first place.
A positive approach to life will be more useful than a cynical perspective. A car could die in the middle of a long journey. However, it got the person that far; what adventure, new experience, will it lead to and become useful or important for later? Steve Jobs states that after dropping out of college, the skills he decided to learn are now our norm in computing. Jobs took classes in calligraphy and without that our fonts would not be anything like they are now. (News.stanford.edu, (2014)
The origins of the phrase 'every cloud has a silver lining' comes from John Milton in 1634 (Martin, 2014) in the book Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle; the term silver lining is used to offer the better side, the silver side of the moment. In 1840 the proverbial form arrived, which ever since has been a reminder of the positive side of a situation. In improv, seeking the new perspective is taught. In Charna Halpern, Kim “Howard” Johnson and Del Close's book Truth in Comedy they write about perspective with an analogy: "'You've got chocolate in my peanut butter!' The other replies, 'You've got peanut butter on my chocolate!'" (Halpern, Close and Johnson, 1994, p.3) What this gives insight into is seeing anything fom a different view. Everybody has a different look on the same thing, in improv we take advantage of that by putting it onstage. Not only that but being positive and supportive is taught too, hence the reason why the practice of a positive life is more apt. Everything has a purpose, maybe not in the moment or perhaps not directly relating to another era in life, but, as with improv, it builds to a total result, with all aspects accounted for.
Being in the present enables better insight into the moment; internal reactions; people's behaviour; the state of actions in the surroundings. It is these qualities that can start the long process and practice in self-realisation. To realise the reason for an anger impulse will calm it down quickly. Nonetheless, we can be present with the emotion; knowingly live with it or willingly release it. Razowsky uses the phrase, “lose what no longer serves you”. (Razowsky, 2014) A negative emotional state does not do any use, so lose it. It is understandable to be locked into an emotion, but once it is realised it can be dropped. A challenge is to be angry when the reason behind it is fully understood. Along with not externalising issues, obviously, then the emotion will deplete itself. This is what Steve Wells and David Lake (2010) call the dark side. Wells and Lake suggest that people wish to want the problem to exist. (p.144) It seems true that people avoid acknowledging and cannot connect with themselves, which hinders all realisation potential. Razowsky (2014) lets people have there emotion as it is not to do with him, even if it is at him.
Many people get stuck with themselves and are unable to release their capacity to achieve. Everyone has many reasons they tell themselves. A favourite saying Razowsky has from what he says is 'if you says so.' If the individual stops telling themselves these statements, which they hold on to, they will be what they say they want. This is one way procrastination happens. Craig Ballantyne says that people tell themselves these lies that they cannot do this or that. (Ballantyne, 2012) It is a stopping factor; it will stop someone from changing that thing that they want to. Many factors come into the problem, like Ballantyne suggests, such as social re-inforcement and societal pressure. However, we can look at the circumstances of various statements that are made: For example, 'I cannot stop eating chocolate biscuits.' The response to this is 'If you say so.' All these statements derive from the place of avoiding a task, i.e. cannot or can't, and labelling ourselves in judgement, e.g. I am too clumsy. The facts behind these statements are historical and not present. People that wish to change can. Holding onto the past means you are not present with what is. The phrase, 'if you say so' can free people from their lie. Ballantyne (ibid.) states the biggest lie we tell ourselves is we can't do something: we can.
Likewise, Razowsky also says to lose the why and the how of doing a task. Lois Holzman (2014) explains that we are trained to seek the causality of all situations and moments. Holzman describes the cause-effect thinking that most, even in psychology, hold to be useful. This is furthered by the example of how a therapist could open the possibilities of non-causality response by suggesting that the reason for the effect is seeking the cause or the resolution to the effect. The example (ibid.) is the patient is depressed and stayed in bed; Holzman suggests that the therapist states the potential that the reason the depression arose is due to seeking the cause and resolving it with staying in bed. Clearly in the article, Holzman is querying the use of asking why. Another perspective can also be to query why to do this or how to do that will merely be a procrastination to the actualisation of the event. Jenny Maryasis (2002) wrote, “procrastination thrives on a cycle of blame shifting and avoidance.” When people ask why to do a task, they miss the opportunity to find out. Although in generalisation the question is to avoid or judge the activity. A constant shuffling around the next step in the path that is available will only lead to it staying still. Improvisation teaches us to move forwards. If an improvisers hides in judgement or is asking why improvise the scene or how to improvise the scene, that scene will not happen. An improviser lives in the present; they live with what is present; they treat everything as gold, including the people around them.
So the important lessons from what Razowsky has found and speaks about, and linking to improv, is to replace ambition with gratefulness. The happiness this brings shall improve the quality of life, like not holding onto negative emotions; release the anger by realising why that exists. Similarly, procrastination comes in forms of judgement such as asking why to do an activity or how to do it. When it ends, it ends; remember that it at least happened.

Ballantyne, C. (2012). The Biggest Lie You Tell Yourself. [online] Earlytorise.com. Available at: http://www.earlytorise.com/the-biggest-lie-you-tell-yourself/# [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].
Buddhanet.net, (2014). Buddhist Tales: The Fortunate Fish. [online] Available at: http://www.buddhanet.net/bt1_36.htm [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
News.stanford.edu, (2014). Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement address (2005). [online] Available at: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Halpern, C., Close, D. and Johnson, K. (1994). Truth in comedy. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Meriwether Pub.
Holzman, L. (2014). Why Ask Why?. [online] Psychologytoday.com. Available at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/conceptual-revolution/201410/why-ask-why [Accessed 4 Nov. 2014].
Lake, D. and Wells, S. (2010). Enjoy emotional freedom. Wollombi, N.S.W.: Exisle Publishing.
Martin, G. (2014). Every cloud has a silver lining. [online] Phrases.org.uk. Available at: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Maryasis, J. (2002). Procrastination: Habit or Disorder?. [online] Serendip.brynmawr.edu. Available at: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro02/web1/jmaryasis.html [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].
Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement, (2007). Are Ambition and Gratitude Mutually Exclusive? - Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. [online] Available at: http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/are-ambition-and-gratitude-mutually-exclusive/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Razowsky, D. (2014). A.D.D. Comedy. [online] Addcomedy.com. Available at: http://www.addcomedy.com [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Victor, P. (2012). My Nephew is a Poodle: Geeking Out with...David Razowsky. [online] Pamvictor.blogspot.co.uk. Available at: http://pamvictor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/geeking-out-withdavid-razowsky.html [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].

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