Freedom: Freedom and Flow (Improvisation session)

In the spirit of freedom and flow, Dwelling decided to take a detour from the usual facilitated discussions we have at the Philosophy Sessions, and instead turned this one into an improvisation session! Something fresh and not experienced by most of our guests, the atmosphere was filled with anticipation as everyone waited in curiosity to find out what was in store for them this time.

Hosting the session was Yen Lin, the famous Ukulele Girl you might have read about in the news for her surprise random performance on a bus packed with NUS students, much to their delight. How many of us could lose our inhibitions and do that? And how appropriate for the theme of the evening! Yen Lin, a local artist, shared about how that has given her the confidence to hold several installation art exhibitions in Singapore at numerous locations, including the National Library and OCBC Building. In the midst of speaking, Yen Lin shared how she found herself freezing and getting stuck while preparing for hosting this event—the kind of block speakers and writers often experience. But not just them, how many of us also are at a loss of what to say when striking up a conversation with someone, or when asked to share from the audience? To that, our leader of the session, Julia, encouraged everyone to participate and throw themselves in when they normally wouldn’t, to risk the unknown, the ridiculous, and looking silly. But that’s where unfreezing really starts!

Why do we get stuck and withhold ourselves? Our guests shared several reasons: societal, economic, and cultural notions about what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and our own limiting beliefs and fears of authority or being judged. All of that has left us shrunken, boxed-up, hesitating, indecisive, stiff, stuck and feeling awkward when faced with the prospect of anything challenging, or even fun. What a miserable state we’ve reduced ourselves to. Julia shared Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s theory of flow, which is the point where a person’s level of skill or ability meets the level of challenge life throws at them, creating a state of harmony and happiness—flow. How does that work in actuality? To get everyone warmed up, Julia got everyone to move around the room and introduced themselves to different people they have not met in the room. Quickly, the awkward crowd turned into a chatty mass of people introducing themselves to complete strangers and finally, we were ready for the first improv activity.

Our first activity required everyone to form a circle and each person would say only one word to collectively form complete sentences and finally, something of a story. Something that seemed so easy turned out so difficult for some as in the debriefing, they shared that they got lost, had pre-empted something that didn’t turn out that way and got stuck, or had their attention on what they were going to say next instead of tapping into what was happening out there.

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With everybody somewhat loosened up, the next activity raised the bar a little higher and required teamwork. Breaking up into teams of five or six people, members had to ‘save’ each other whenever they got stuck acting out a scene by jumping in and continuing. No one was to be left stranded to struggle on their own. Inspired from Whose Line Is It Anyway? this exercise yielded the most hilarious of scenarios as the groups were left in side-splitting laughter at what their members generated. For a moment, everyone had stepped out of what we consider ‘sensible’ and just let go and had a great time. Talk about creative problem solving as a team! After debriefing that exercise, Julia injected the idea of how we can be more constructive and generous, and questioned the audience about how often we say ‘but’ instead of ‘and’, as most people pick on negatives and say no first before they say yes. There were many nods in agreement about how protective we are.

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Our next activity was called ‘On the Ball’. And yes, life throws us curved balls. The question is what do we do when that happens? Do we freeze, or do we flow with it? So, out came the tennis balls! Working in new groups of six, a ball was thrown from person to person, randomly. The person with the ball had to make a sentence before throwing the ball to another person in the group, collectively building up a story. If you think the previous two activities were crazy, think again. This time, the groups created stories that were beyond imagination! Creativity and freedom was the order of the day and that was all that mattered. Every group had their moments of carefree laughter ringing out as someone said something totally unpredictable which made it all the more enjoyable.

The last activity required us to weave six entirely unknown items into a story. Working in pairs, one person would dish out one item every minute to the other person to use in his story. Items had to have a description to them, and the more interesting the description, the better—imagine weaving a story with ‘red velvet cake’, ‘soiled baby diaper’ and ‘smelly left sock’! At the end of the evening, everyone had the time of their lives and seeing themselves from a fresh new angle. Some of us might have said goodbye to our fears or awkwardness that night.

With that, expect more fun and out-of-the-box ideas to emerge at our Fireside on Tuesday 21 October, 7.30-9.30pm at TCC PoMo as we discover what it means to be free to express ourselves in different aspects of life. What does it take to let go of your inhibitions, fire up your imagination, and let your natural creativity flow? As usual, we’ll have our Question Bucket for you to feed. Do you have an issue you want to solve, or are you stuck for ideas on something? Come jam with others and see what you come up with! Space is limited. Contact Weiping at 97106326 if you’re coming!