By now we’ve all heard about how Bhutan tracks not only its GNP, or gross national product but also its GNH, gross national happiness. Antenna recently decided to increase our GCH, gross corporate happiness, by inviting renowned improvisation-performance artist and Buddhist teacher, Nina Wise, to spend an afternoon with us.
Wearing loose comfortable clothing on a Friday afternoon, we gathered in a large, carpeted, unfurnished room. Naturally, one employee tried to hide in his office but we found him and dragged him to the dreaded Happiness Playshop.
Nina explained that modern society directs people into rather narrow ways of being, leaving out a lot of our human birthright that gives rise to joy: simple delights such as moving in unfamiliar and spontaneous ways, making silly sounds, singing, dancing, breathing, meditating and playing games with other humans. Her aim was to broaden our happiness toolset by familiarizing us with a wider set of behaviors.
Sitting in a circle, we introduced ourselves to her and outlined our relevant past experiences. While about half the group had never knowingly meditated for a minute, most had substantial experience with singing, dancing or other endorphin-producing exercise—we have a lot of runners, cyclists and swimmers. Already, we were talking about things we hadn’t shared with most others in the group and were revealing more facets of ourselves, becoming more complete with our peers.
For this first session, Nina started us very gently doing Architecture, an exercise where a small group creates a series of visual tableaux of interrelated poses, each person in turn creating a new pose while the others held their positions. Each pose is individual, yet related to the others. Without touching, the group’s personal space becomes interwoven. Our teams leapt right into this and became downright artistic. As we got warmed up, Nina had some of the teams demonstrate for the rest of us as an audience. It was actually quite beautiful to see.
As writers, we are “word people” so Nina directed us in word-association games—an ideal reminder to avoid boring monosyllables. The creativity displayed by one of our diligent unpaid interns was noticed by several of us. Is it a coincidence that we offered him a job about a week later?
Two hours later as we shared final comments the result was clearly positive. Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed being together in this way. Faces were glowing, bodies relaxed. Some had enjoyed Architecture the most, some the word games. To my surprise, one of our sports jocks noted that he most enjoyed the five-minute meditation exercise.
Back upstairs at the office, at 5:30 on Friday afternoon, instead of rushing home most folks were spontaneously gathering to go out to drinks, to be together, just being.