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Photo by Angela Mueller

By Sharon Lee Song

Traditional Korean family culture is not a culture that is characterized by spontaneity.  I would generalize and say that this is true for other East Asian cultures (Chinese, Japanese).  There are strong familial expectations for each individual, and particularly for children to fulfill their parent’s expectations for life, career, and future family generations.  These cultural expectations provide a sense of structure, order, control, and balance for survival, especially for the East Asian immigrant family.  From this cultural perspective, spontaneity can be perceived as irresponsible and frivolous, but this can contribute to a stifling of creativity and self-expression.

What comes to mind when you think of the word “spontaneity?”  If you spoke to me several years ago, the word would have brought up negative connotations, and associations with other words and phrases such as “impulsive” or “lacking control,” and at an extreme, “scary.”  This has changed over the years, and that transformation with my relationship with spontaneity has come with a growing trust of the Spirit, and of myself, particularly my voice.

Two good friends of mine have grown in trusting their voices and in creativity and spontaneity through the art of improv, or theatrical improvisation.  I have seen improv performances before and thought it was amazing and thoroughly enjoyed them, but I never dreamed of actually engaging with it myself because it seemed terrifying to go on stage and perform spontaneously without any script.  It fascinated me to learn more about this art form from my friends, and I asked them questions about the process of growing and preparing to engage in improv.  As they described the art and their growth in it, it sounded therapeutic because they were learning to trust their gut, their intuition, and scarily (is that a word?  I’m improvising here!) enough, they were allowing themselves to dance with the tension of being willing to fail by trying different things spontaneously in front of other people.

Another example of creativity through spontaneity is through the art form of jazz.  I’m a late appreciator of jazz.  I was recently invited to a jazz concert, and wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it because I didn’t think I understood jazz as an art form, and mainly associated it with elevator music.  As I listened to the performance with friends, I felt like I received new insight that jazz is dynamic, spontaneous, playful, and intuitive.  Jazz artists learn to listen and play off of each other, and improvise.  Just when you think you don’t really know where it’s going, it all still comes together in a beautiful display of creativity from spontaneity.

I realized that I knew more than I thought about improvisation after speaking with my friends.  Surprisingly, improv doesn’t sound that different from the art of spiritual direction.  I’ve shared about spiritual direction in previous posts, and the longer I practice spiritual direction the more I find that I can also trust my gut, my intuition, my voice, and most centrally, the Holy Spirit through those things.  I think certain thoughts while in a direction session with a directee, but find myself saying things that I didn’t plan to say or hadn’t even really been thinking at all.  It just sort of comes out…spontaneously.  And because of the work of the Spirit and the growth in trusting the Spirit and myself, what comes out of my mouth seems to hit the nail on the head more often than not these days.  It’s that feeling of resonance, that feeling that things fall into place, and the more it is practiced, the more that instinct is honed.  I described this to one of my improv friends, and she confirmed that was pretty much the same for improv.  Even though I don’t know where a session is going to land, or how it’s going to end, the Spirit knows and I can trust and be led into that.  I can trust the work of the Spirit in myself and my own voice.

Maybe some questions are rising to the surface for you like: How can I grow in creativity and spontaneity?  What ways do I need to grow in trusting in the Spirit, and then trusting myself and my voice?  What ways am I being invited to try and explore and learn from failure?  What steps am I being invited by God to let go of control, structure, order, and just play?  Asian American identity has an invitation to this growth edge, to work through deeply rooted cultural expectations that can stifle spontaneity and creative expression from the Spirit.  Stepping into this invitation takes risk and faith, but the outcomes can result in beautiful expressions of story and art that are much needed in the world from Asian Americans.  We are made in the image and likeness of God, and creativity and spontaneity are part of who He is, and we step into our identity even more when we engage in these things.  The Holy Spirit is spontaneous and creative, just as we are called to be.  “You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”  John 3:8 (The Message).

Sharon Lee Song lives and works in South Los Angeles for Servant Partners, an urban missions organization. Inspired by her own transformation through self-care and soul care, Sharon became a certified personal trainer, Holy Yoga instructor, and spiritual director. She’s committed to using what she’s learned from her training to support others in living healthy, sustainable, urban spiritual lives.

 

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Photo by Jakob Montrasio

By Tina Teng-Henson

When was the last time you did something kind…for yourself? That was good for your body?

Last week, on a whim, I walked into a little beauty school around the corner from where we live, that I’d never paid attention to before.  I’d often walked right by it over the past 5 years, nestled as it is between our pediatrician’s office and the Rite Aid pharmacy. I checked their hours and wrote down their rates for a haircut. (more…)

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Photo by Christos Loufopoulos

By Jerrica KF Ching

The word spontaneity often brings up a complexity of emotions in me that takes some time sorting through and processing.  In the past, I would not have described myself as a spontaneous person, and viewed it as the antithesis of being an organized person.  (more…)

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Photo by paul bica

By Chloe Sun

It is difficult to imagine if we have no imagination. Imagination carries the idea of picturing the unseen in the future. It involves a creative mind – a mind that defies the constraints of the current circumstances to look beyond, to think the unthinkable. Imagination takes one to a different world, a world that transcends the present reality and turns it into a future possibility. Imagination is necessary to cope with a dull or an uninteresting life. Once, I heard someone say “if you can imagine it, then you can see it happen.” I thought to myself, This statement has a lot of truth in it. (more…)

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Photo by shiver menna

By Diana Gee

“This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more mothballs?” she thought, stopping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (more…)

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Photo by Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington

By Ajung Sojwal

I am frequently asked this question, “Why did you choose to be ordained in the Episcopal Church?” This was never a question for me through the discernment process toward ordination in the Episcopal Church. Now, after more than ten years of ordained ministry, this has become a deeply personal question. (more…)

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Imagination: Yes-And

Photo by Lauren Manning

By Angela Ryo 

A couple weeks ago, as part of our staff retreat, we attended an improvisation workshop led by MaryAnn McKibben Dana. MaryAnn told us that improvisation is really more of an attitude with which we live life rather than something that is performed on stage. It’s embracing everything — both good and bad –that comes our way and building on it before we throw it back out into the world. Improvisation starts with saying “yes” to what lies in our path and working with it to create something of our own before we hand it off to someone else. (more…)

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