As I write this blog, I just finished a weekend workshop of Contact Improvisation. It’s a form of improvised dancing where two people share their weight and dance around the movement in their common center of mass. It starts with two people leaning into each other in a delicate balance. When the one person moves slightly, the balance is disturbed and both people start falling. Movement happens to find a new balance. And so the dance continues.
I find the experience incredibly interesting and exciting. A key concept in Contact Improvisation is to dance with an empty mind. It is impossible to “plan” the movements ahead. Just as it is impossible to think about how you will respond to the next movement. All that the dancers can do is to introduce small movements and feel into how the dance happens to them. How it happens all by itself.
In life just as in this dance, we should take small steps, and then pay attention to what happens. In my experience, this concept is fundamental to all creativity. Creativity is not a pre-defined plan that is tightly executed. Creativity is about the process. Did you ever notice how artists always talk about concepts and techniques? They use words that describe the process of their work. They pay far less attention to the specifics of the end result.
We can apply this same idea to our social and internal lives. There is no way to think our way into living. There is no way to improve our social life, discover what makes us happy or solve conflicts by sitting behind the TV. Movement in our lives only happens when we go out. When we do something. Are you unhappy with your life currently? No problem! Just create a tiny movement, tipping your life off of it’s delicate balance, and things will start to move. Just think back to the dance.
This might be scary. Just as with the dancers, we cannot know exactly what will happen. What will the new balance look like? And are we willing to stick with the feeling of ‘falling’ for long enough to even allow a new balance to come to be? Are we open to the possibility that we fall down onto the ground and have to get back up again? Doing this requires trust and courage. But the basic idea is simple enough. Move around and life will start happening to you.
There are no bad choices here. Any movement is a good one. The only bad choice is not to move.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear describes how “habits are the compound interest of self-improvement”. He advocates habits to be small, like atoms. Always look for the smallest step forward. Don’t start working out every morning for an hour if you want more physical exercise in your life. Instead, start with something smaller. Maybe just change into your sports clothes every morning at 8? Don’t work out, just change into your sports clothes and then change back again. Once you are used to doing that, introduce another small change. Maybe do a warmup for your sports session, and nothing more? In this way, you can start compounding your habits and accomplish big change.
If you should take anything from this blog, it’s that bucket lists are not the solution to a fulfilling life. It’s not about the end-result. It’s all about the process. And you can only go through a process one step at a time. The true adventure of life happens to you as a surprise, so start moving and see what happens. To live is to move. And movement is life.