The new year can be an inspiring time to start something new. Ofosu and Leah share their first steps into new hobbies. Then, improv teacher and therapist Jill Eickmann joins to discuss the beginner's mindset and the idea that it's never too late to try new things.
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LEAH: Hello, I'm Leah Santa Cruz. One of the meditation coaches on Balance. And this is Well Balanced. Ofosu’s away spending a little more time with his family over the holiday break, but I did get a chance to chat with him about the new year, right before he signed off. We shared with each other some new hobbies that we started to explore.
The conversation had inspired me to call up a friend of the show, Jill Eichmann. So first I'll play with you that conversation between Ofosu and I, then I'll bring on Jill to talk about some of the questions that came up for us around starting something new as an adult.
OFOSU: Leah, it is a new year.
LEAH: year. I know I love the new years.
OFOSU: I really love this time of year as well. For me, at least it's more than just like buying a new calendar or remember remembering to write 20, 22 instead of 21. But in the new year, I always get inspired to try something a little bit new.
LEAH: and same here, same here.
I think that goes for most people.
OFOSU: Absolutely. So, you know, I wanted to share the new thing that I've been inspired to do. When I was younger, drawing was something that was very, very much a part of my life and my identity and my self care, everything. I haven't really picked up a pen or pencil or gotten a pad to draw in quite a long time.
I mean, I might sketch little fun things for my kids, but you know, for my own joy, I haven't. Yeah. So I actually went and got a little sketchpad, a little, little mini one and, um, just started messing around and sketching again.
LEAH: Sweet! I want to see!
OFOSU: All right. Okay. So here, I'm going to show you, um, Can you
LEAH: see like a superhero monk?
OFOSU: That is yes. So it's a sketch of Ang from avatar. The last Airbender and a superhero monk is pretty much a great description of Ang. So he's one of my favorites characters. So I thought. Yeah, let me give it a shot. That's fun. Yeah. So, um, for y'all listening, we don't want you to feel left out. If you want to check out my, um, sketch in air quotes, you can head over to our Balanced Instagram page and I'll probably post a couple of pictures there and would love to hear what y'all think so.
Well, listen enough about me. I want to know. Leah. If the new year has inspired you in any way to try anything new.
LEAH: Yes, it has. And I'm stepping into it trepidatiously. So just like you, I am really into art and expressing myself through art and I have not done it in a long time. So just like you, I have started doing a little bit of sketching just to kind of unrust those squeaky wheels and get my creative juices flowing.
OFOSU: That is so cool. Well, listen, can I see what's up?
LEAH: Here's what I've been working on before. You're like, hmm, this is very strange looking, apple and pear. Uh, I made an apple on a pear and a man's face that looks kind of Greek.
And I was inspired by a friend of mine who has been publicly showing her art using two hands to draw. As a way to really work out your brain because I'm right-handed, I'm not left-handed but she would put two pens or two pencils down on one paper and just make a continuous line and draw a whole symbol or image without ever taking the pens off the paper. So it's using two hands and it's actually quite difficult. So I think I did a good job.
OFOSU: I think you did too. This looks really cool. It's like, this is really artistic. I like it a lot. Hey, so look at us coming back to our artistic youth.
LEAH: It feels good. And it's us also a lot of thoughts about those critical thoughts, want to come up and be like, I thought I was so much better than this, and this is so hard and, you know.
OFOSU: Yeah, for sure. That's definitely what was coming up for me with this drawing as well. Like, oh, I just assumed I would just like have it still, but, uh
LEAH: yeah. I'm getting down on myself. How long is it going to take me for me to be good at this?
OFOSU: it was definitely those same thoughts. Like maybe I should go back all the way to the super fundamentals and just teach myself again in a new kind of way.
LEAH: Or I’m just going to make a beautiful sketch of like a woman like I have here, and then I'll be like beautiful woman with alien hands.
OFOSU: You can absolutely do that. That sounds amazing. I'm very interested in seeing this alien handed woman. I mean, I saw this, she doesn't have alien hands, Leah.
LEAH: It looks like the back of a squid [laughing].
OFOSU: Oh my gosh.
LEAH: It's so funny. See, this is my inner critic coming out on display for y'all.
OFOSU: Yes, but I'm here to be your outer inner friend.
This looks great. And cut it out.
LEAH: This is a fun chat Ofosu. I've got a lot of questions to explore. So enjoy your time with your family and I'll talk to you next week. Talk to you later.
OFOSU: Talk to you later. Bye.
LEAH: Now our friend, Jill Eichmann is joining me. If you remember, she's the co-founder and the artistic director of Lila Improv theater in San Francisco is well as a psychotherapist. Thisis such a cool intersection.
She teaches the therapeutic benefits of improv, and she actually works with people who are coming to improv later in life. And so she talks to them about the power of the beginner's mind and all kinds of things, but to share, she'll share with us in a moment.
So I'm really interested in hearing what she has to say. So, hi, Jill, welcome back to the show.
JILL: Hi! Thank you. Happy to be back. This is a really fun topic for me. I think a lot of people come to improv because they are struggling with perfectionism. There's a lot of folks, especially in the San Francisco bay area that are just like, they've always been top of their class and they've graduated from the best universities and they just got their amazing first job, you know, and they moved out to the city.
So there's just a lot of high-achievers in San Francisco. And I think a lot of times people, especially when there may be at that dream job that they've always wanted - that perfectionist, it's too much. It’s cripping yeah.
LEAH: I mean, yeah, I know. Cause I have a little inner hunch. Um, so you know, folks who, and I've been talking about returning to drawing after many years of not doing it at all.
I'm curious how many people do you see who are starting improv later in life?
JILL: I think all of our students, you know, it's really interesting. Um, all of them, well, maybe not everybody, but it seems like the majority of folks like hear that improv is really good for them and we'll help them with this crippling nature of their inner critic and allow them to just like, you know, let go and be flexible and creative and, you know, it's, it is really freeing, you know, this exercise that we do in our level one improv class.
Um, we do pretty much every week we call it the fool and the baby, and it can be really kind of like confronting and triggering for folks. Um, so we actually took this exercise from an improvisor, a musical improviser. He's also a teacher and he's no longer with us. Um, his name is David Darlene. He's a Grammy nominated musician. Um, and he taught musical improv for many years and he has these two mantras of improvisation. They're both embodied mantras. So the first mantra of improvisation is this.
So I know the audience probably can't see me, but I make it I'm being foolish. Right. So the fool, so we ask our, our students to just take on that character of the fool. Let go have fun, do weird, silly things. So just be the fool!
LEAH: Jill is making a silly face and waving her arms around as if she was an octopus or something,
JILL: whatever it means to be foolish.
Right. And it can be really challenging for folks because it's like, that's something that a lot of people are afraid of. They don't want to look foolish as adults. You know, we get into the workforce, we start doing adulting and we're like, that's my worst fear. Looking foolish. You know.
LEAH: I just have to say, this reminds me of a transformational workshop.
I did many years ago. And I was, I had this exact same fear of being made a fool of, and the trainers knew it. So they put me into a challenge. They said, you need to dress like a clown, I had no time to think about it. Dress up like a clown go out to, I was living in Venice beach, go out to the Venice beach pier where there's thousands of people and act like a clown in front of people.
I was so resistant to this. I got into my car, I was sitting there paralyzed, crying, and a couple of my friends came up. They were part of this workshop and they dragged me out of the car and they said, you're doing this. And I went out there acting like a clown and started to feel so free and happy that I was crying tears of joy at the end.
Beautiful. But I can relate to that fear of being found foolish.
JILL: Totally. And then the second mantra is. [cooing]
JILL: So this is the baby. Oh, that's the second mantra of improvisation is the baby. This character inside of us that's discovering the world for the first time and has great delight and pleasure in the discovery. Right. And I'm sure you're experienced, you have a baby right now. How old's your baby?
LEAH: He's one.
And he makes those sounds all the time.
JILL: Isn't it so much fun to watch that process?
LEAH: It's the best. Yeah. Yeah. It's like, there's such big teachers for that reason to look at the world through fresh eyes and they'd be like, wow, a door knob!
JILL: It's amazing. Right? So like, this is beginner's mind that we're talking about, right.
How can we get to that place again, where we approach the world for the first time with such delight in discovery. It’s beautiful!
LEAH: Yeah cause I've just been wondering how he turned all those insecurities and those self-critical thoughts that come with starting something new, into more of an advantage than a disadvantage.
You think that's the beginner's mindset helps with that?
JILL: Yeah! If you can really get yourself into that beginning. And like print your artwork for the first time, it'd be like, oh, a pen. Oh my gosh. It creates color out of it. It can just be so much fun to be in that joy place again. And I think as we grow older and stuff, we feel this pressure to be perfect.
To like, well, it's not worth anything if it's not a masterpiece, but it is worth something it's worth something to be in that delightful process, you know, and just have that for ourselves.
LEAH: Okay. Well now you're making me think that my really strange looking drawings might be worth sharing.
JILL: You could share them.
That's totally fine. Or those drawings can just be for you just to be in the process of discovery and just to have delight in the moment.
LEAH: Yeah. Part of me thinks that maybe if I share them, it'll help me get over the insecurities, but maybe not. I don't know. But I'm curious from your perspective, because you're the expert on this.
How can we overcome those early insecurities and perhaps, maybe some of the inpatients with not being very good at something right away? So we don't get discouraged and don't give up.
JILL: Yeah. So this is something that, um, I've been kind of creating in our psyche. You know, we have got the inner critic. We know that very well.
Right. But maybe there's another. That can come on board too, which I like to call the inner cheerleader. So this other part of ourselves that says yes to our creativity and encourages our creativity, right? Let's turn the volume up on that. So in an improv class, I cast everybody as everybody's inner cheerleader.
That's our job as improvisers. As fellow students, we're here to be yes. Supporters for each other. So the more that we do that for each other, the more we can start integrating that into ourselves as well. So I would recommend like, through your artwork, find some inner cheerleaders, find some people that when you show your artwork, they're going to be like, yes! I'm so proud of you! Oh my God. That's amazing to really support you because it can be really vulnerable starting something for the first time and you don't need that judgment. You don't need that critical voice right now. You need support for your creativity.
LEAH: So I used to be a cheerleader in high school, and I don't remember many of the cheers, but I do remember this one.
I went T T R U T R U C K. Keep on trucking all the way. And we do a little shimmy. So maybe I could just say that to myself, a little cheer, uh, when things feel like I'm not doing this right. And I could just play that tape. T R U T R U C K.
JILL: Totally. And for a lot of people, it can feel really cheesy and then authentic.
And to those folks, I say, you know what? Your inner critic is really good. Yeah. Like there's a part of your brain. That's really, really good at criticizing and judging. We also live in a very ‘no’ world. So we get that. We're really good at that. We don't need any more practice with that, but you do need practice with your inner cheerleader.
So maybe it might feel a little inauthentic or cheesy or weird. But you got to do it for it to feel natural.
LEAH: I think that's a really important note to make, because I do think if we try it out and we're like, oh, this doesn't work for me. This doesn't feel authentic, then it's easy to just go, oh, that's for other people it's easy for other people.
And that must be right for them. Not for me, but yeah. I don't think anything ever feels easy at first when we're mastering it.
JILL: Yeah, exactly. It's going to feel weird cause we're, we're, we're not practiced with it.
LEAH: I think what I really resonate with what you shared because I feel like that's translating for more than just like my art, but also in my life when I take myself too seriously, or even in my meditations is like a good kind of intro to seeing things through the eyes of a baby or through that foolish ridiculousness.
LEAH: Well, thank you so much for talking with us today, Jill, this has been so fun and great.
JILL: Yeah! Thank you.
LEAH: Wow. Wow. So I'm just soaking in all the lessons of what Jill just shared. It was really, really surprising for me to hear the mantras cause I'm so used to thinking of mantra in a meditative sense as a calming thing and less of like, how do I tap into my inner silliness and just not care.
Like be like a wild little animal or child, and I'm really going to use these. This is definitely the takeaways for me. If the child like wonder isn't working, I can always tap into the fool and just be like, yeah. I'm just going to go for it and I'm going to be blah, and I'm going to have fun with this.
Either one of those attitudes I think is going to really serve me because I definitely relate to that perfectionism. Maybe you can too. Maybe you have a perfectionist inside of you who says this. Just not good enough. This is taking too long. Oh, that's ugly. Or nobody's going to like this. You can't share this with anyone.
These kinds of thoughts that go through our mind when our critic is so afraid of potentially being viewed as not good enough. So I really like these exercises and I hope you get something out of this too. And, uh, if you feel so inclined to share any artwork or anything that you've been working on, that's unfinished or a brand new, you are welcome to share it with me in a fossa. We would love to see it. It might even inspire us to share more of our work. You can send it to us and in private message at Balance on Instagram, or even just tag us. If you are more brave and want to publicly post it, you can tag us at balance. And we'd love, love, love to see it.
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LEAH: Oh, man. Big. Thanks to Jill Eichmann for joining us, you can learn more about her email@example.com. That's L E E L a dash S f.com. And as always, if you like what we're doing here, please tell your friends about it and make sure to follow our podcast to get notified when a new episode is out, I'll be back next week with another podcast.
Until then have a beautiful blessed week.