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Attendance

Recall how in elementary school the teacher called the roll? You answered "Here!" or, if you were a smarty-pants like me, "Present!" In Impro author/teacher Keith Johnstone (at the beginning of the section "Notes on Myself") observes, "As I grew up, everything started getting grey and dull. I could still remember the amazing intensity of the world I'd lived in as a child, but I thought the dulling of perception was an inevitable consequence of age—just as the lens of the eye is bound gradually to dim. I didn't understand that clarity is in the mind."

Johnstone describes some methods he discovered "that can make the world blaze up again in about fifteen seconds, and the effects last for hours." For instance, he makes his students get out of their comfort zone and "pace about the room shouting out the wrong name for everything their eyes light on." The result is that things change size, become sharper, take on brighter colors, etc. Then he describes, Richard P. Feynman-esque, some experiments he tried on himself, investigating hypnogogic mental images, "the pictures that appear to many people at the threshold of sleep." He discovered that to observe them, "You have to attend to the images without verbalising about them, so I learned to 'hold the mind still' like a hunter waiting in the forest."

Then Johnstone goes on to tell how by attending to other mental images, "... The effect was astounding. They had all sorts of detail that I hadn't known about, and that I certainly hadn't chosen to be there. ... The effect was so interesting that I persisted. I thought of a house, and attended to the image and saw the doors and windows bricked in, but the chimney still smoking (a symbol of my inhibited state at the time?). I thught of another house and saw a terrifying figure in the doorway. I looked in the windows and saw strange rooms in amazing detail."

And then, the Big Insight: "After a lot of practice at attending to the images I conjured up, I belatedly thought of attending to the reality around me. Then the deadness and greyness immediately sloughed off—yet I'd thought I'd never move through a visionary world again, that I'd lost it."

So maybe it's all just about attending ...

(cf. Chuck Norris on Zen (2008-10-12), Mind Over Exercise (2008-10-22), Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Out of Shape (2009-10-06), Kundun (2010-03-31), Attentiveness (2010-11-28), Calm Technique (2011-05-07), Ceaseless Society (2012-05-10), ...) - ^z - 2012-12-29

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