At this moment, I’m sitting in WildEdge Brewing Collective – a brewpub in Cortez, Colorado – taking a huge breath. Why? Because it’s the first moment I’ve had to slow down, breathe and tend to things like my email and my calendar since leaving Florida on Sunday. I’m on the first leg of what I’ve dubbed my “Big Fat Western Adventure” — a five-state tour to run an improv camp, to lead improv playshops, to be in improv shows, and, to actually do a few non-improv activities as well. It’s like planes, trains and automobiles – with a few ferries thrown in – as well as a few hundred (!) of my friends both old and new. One thing I worry about when I’m on the road for an extended period of time is grabbing opportunities to slow down, as those are the moments when I can really be fully present. That’s why my adventure in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico a few weeks ago was so special – it was done on foot. Every day I explored a different area of the city via walks from on an old fashioned paper map. The sheer amount of photos from this trip are staggering as I noticed so much more depth during my walks. Little details such as window boxes and doorknockers and cat shaped waterspouts popped out and grabbed me. These things never would have become so prominent if I had always been buzzing around in a car.
When I lead an improv experience – whether it’s for kids or grown ups – I’m always asking participants to challenge themselves by being fully present. I’ll often use cell phone day care to separate improvisers from their phones for a period. I’ll even start off the experience by inviting them to breathe and stretch with eyes closed to encourage the group to get in touch with themselves – and how they’re feeling in that moment – before they begin to connect with each other. It’s a small gift we can give ourselves as our technology filled lives means we’re always going, and, we’re always distracted.
Our over-busy culture makes it challenging to enjoy the silence, bathe in nature – or, more importantly – be really in touch with ourselves and our surroundings. Have you ever moved from a house or an apartment and thought, “Before I move I really should take a stroll around the neighborhood to fully appreciate it?” Why must we have this on our “before we move list” rather than as part of our lifestyle? Because not only are so many distractions competing for our attention, we’re also having internal dialogues, which pulls us away from the moment. When the voice inside our heads is telling us we’re inferior in some way, we’re worrying about how we’re showing up rather than actually showing up.
In San Miguel, I walked cobblestone streets and sidewalks with my camera in hand, trying not to trip, while looking up and down for different subjects to shoot. It was challenging to juggle the (paper!) map and the camera, while watching my footing, so I didn’t have the opportunity to invite superfluous thoughts into my mind let alone anything happening on the phone. So how can we make this in-the-moment-mindset part of our regular way of existing? By being quiet though breathwork, by focusing on someone (or something) outside of ourselves and, by even walking around with a camera in hand.
I invite you to slooooow down. When you do, you might have a different kind of adventure. Please let me know about your experience, and, what tips you can offer to those of us who have trouble going slow.
P.S. If you decide to slow down in San Miguel de Allende, I can’t recommend the Toy Museum enough. It’s a wonderful place to play, explore, and photograph no matter what your age!