Zenprov: The Art of the Now


The hosts of the podcast series Zenprov share an excerpt from their upcoming book in process.

Zen declares that everything is happening right now. There’s no other place or time to get to – there’s no destination. The journey is the destination. According to Zen, this is not just a nice philosophy and way of thinking – it is the literal Truth.
Enlightenment, brilliance, genius, all of these things are absolutely available to everyone right this second. In fact, now is the only time these things are available.  If you’re looking for them in the future or in the past, you’re lost. You can craft something by memory or projection, but we are looking for Art.
In the art of painting, the work has to occur within the boundaries of some structure. It can take place on a really big canvas, or even a wall, but at some point you reach a limit and you have to work within that frame, literally. It’s important to know what the framework is, what the boundaries are, what your paints and brushes are  – that’s an essential part of the craft of painting. But what you do inside that framework, the emotion, the Truth that you channel onto that canvas – that is the thing that moves beyond Craft into the realm of Art, and that Truth is only accessible in the Present Moment.
It’s the same with improvisational comedy. We’ve all seen improv that displays an excellent sense of craft. How wonderful it is to see someone who knows exactly when to enter or exit a scene, with exactly the right character or offer.  How pleasurable to hear someone who has done his or her homework and offers superb dialects. Or someone who has spent a lot of time noticing and learning social references. That’s the craft. Very important, but that’s the canvas, the framework, the structure you work within and the tools you use.
To move beyond the craft into the land of brilliance, one must move beyond skills and tap into what we call, “The Source of Genius.”  This Source is available to all people and connects everyone, so when we access it, our audience, fellow players, and we ourselves can feel it.
You must ask yourself why are you on stage? Why are you improvising? What are you bringing to the table? What are you trying to say?
Art (with a capital “A”) always communicates Truth (with a capital “T”), which is at the very heart of who and what we are, and therefore is universally recognizable because we all share in it.
It’s going to that place within yourself that is so deep that it’s beyond language, and yet communicates perfectly to everyone.
Here’s an interesting exercise. Be still and become aware of a thought. Try to catch your thought at the moment of its inception. When does the thought actually begin? Once it’s verbalized in your brain, the thought is already old. It is a narrative thought which is a commentary on the thought or experience that has already occurred and thus is not a present thought. There is a moment when the thought actually arises that is pre-conscious and pre-verbal where the Source exists. If you can get quiet enough and focused enough, you can find it. More and more, as you still the narrative thoughts bouncing around in your head (a.k.a. “being in your head”), you are able to be present and concentrate on what is. When you can move beyond the narrative thought to the original thought, you have moved into the present moment and then, you’re cookin’.
When you meditate regularly, you start to move into that place where thoughts begin. That is the place you need to access on stage. It’s the place where you’re not stressing, creating/doing, and putting forth effort, but are being bathed in the music of the Universe. You stop working and are free to just be and truly discover. One of the first things you discover is that the original thought does not come from you or from any effort you put out.
It’s actually a much easier place to exist as an improviser and as a person, but because we’re so habituated in life to doing and controlling, it seems much harder. You do have to practice to get back to that place which is entirely natural. Meditation is the tool we use to retrain and focus our mind. Eventually, when we have habituated ourselves into being in the Present Moment, it becomes easy and natural to access the Source.
Imagine a gibbon (a long limbed great ape that is at home swinging through the trees). It is a magnificent acrobat and fairly flies from limb to limb. Without thought or premeditation or any question of trust or distrust. It lets go of one branch and reaches out to find the next one as its trailing hand lets go of the previous branch. This is the image of Effortless Effort. Imagine being able to live your life in this way. Imagine being able to perform in this way. Without thought or self-consciousness. Without hesitation.  Every moment lived in the full embrace of the constant flow of transformation from one state to the next. This is the ultimate surrender to the present moment, where we can connect to the Source.
That’s where Craft becomes Art.
To find out more about Zenprov, you can follow them via their Facebook page, their website or their podcast at (also available for free via iTunes).
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