If you meet Del Close on the road, kill him.
What the hell does that mean? And why would I say such a thing? Especially about a man who has been dead 17 years!
For non-Buddhists I will first need to fill you in on an old adage. For non-improvisers I will need to explain who Del Close is. And for everyone including non-Buddhist non-improvisers I hope to show you how this all applies to you!
There is an old saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him.” It has been puzzling students of the Dharma for centuries. I will not claim to know exactly what it means. (Those who say, do not know.) But I will share what it means for me personally. There is no authority outside yourself greater than your own experience for gaining wisdom. You can be guided by a teacher, supported by a spiritual community, or inspired by a web series. (Such as Buddha Brunch!) But nothing can take the place of your first-hand practice and inner journey. So, if you come across the Buddha, or someone or something which tempts you as the ultimate authority, kill it! WAIT – Do not actually kill anybody or anything. But do relinquish the belief that you should put it above your own powers of Wisdom and Understanding.
If there is a “Buddha” of the Improv world it is probably the famous coach and innovator Del Close. Many great comedians and actors have studied under him including a slew of SNL cast members. If you are an improviser you have probably directly or indirectly been influenced by his teachings. When I meet someone who has studied under him, my ears perk up and I hold them in a special reverence. Yet, just as in Buddhism, there is no instructor, no class, and no book which can take the place of your own practice. All of those things can assist you, but you must DO it and ultimately trust your instincts.
So, what is YOUR art form? And who or what is your Buddha? Is there a classic technique you have been aspiring to? It may actually be keeping you from finding your own natural technique. If you work in the art of prayer you may be trying to adhere to a particular format. While that format can help at first, eventually it will stifle your true prayer voice. (Watch the Light for the Lightkeepers series for more on this.) Do you have a role-model? Great! Let them inspire you. Let them describe the path they have traveled. But remember they can only point to the road, you must journey your own.