The Art of Acting Human
Protagonist - the principal character of a story. If your life to date were a famous story, would you wish to play yourself?
I started writing this book almost thirty years ago when I received a photo from an old student I’d met in France. There was no inscription or long letter attached. She simply sent me a picture of herself and it said everything I needed to know. Her expression wasn’t about smiling nor was it some beautiful headshot promoting herself. She was in awe. I could feel her heart. The picture breathed more than smiled. She was living her life.
I was assisting the director when I met her at a workshop. She was remarkable, a true natural at the craft plus she had zero idea how gifted she was. It was simply lovely watching her. One afternoon when talking with her, she told me a story about how her family thought she was off because she always daydreamed. They went as far as suggesting therapy and threatening her with an asylum. This beautiful woman who could clear her mind and live in stillness with grace and poise, was diagnosed as a simpleton by those she loved.
That is when I decided to write this book and give all and everyone permission to be their selves. But given the dysfunction of most rearing or guiding or teaching or leading others today, what good would my permission do? We’ve been acting like those caring for us for our survival for years. No, that right had to be given by oneself. We had to give ourselves permission. We had to allow our authentic selves some room to play. So, my little book on acting became a larger book about being oneself and being the best self, a human could be!
Why do you want to become an actor? Why would you want to deviate from that which you already are?
Most people come to film by an escape route. For example, our parents are away and some strange, pimpled-face person has replaced them and we think, what if this person is not capable of the job? They have no clue what pillow I sleep with or food I like. And the anxiety builds, so on goes the television or out comes a video and a light comes in through the darkness and in that light is something familiar, someone who gets us and we are comforted.
Film, television or theater and especially literature are our first experiences at having an opinion. Now we could have a voice without it being downsized or dismissed because it was our own personal journey, our sole experience and if truly good, a soul changing one. There is no hierarchy to the viewing experience. Sometimes the youngest, most innocent in the group sees what’s happening before the wise elder does. Like life, a film or theater experience has little to do with age or intellect or physical acumen, because it's happening to us alone. It is our private perception. When sharing the experience with another, we may view it together but never through the other person’s eyes.
Thus, film becomes a magical vehicle that doesn't judge us or test us afterwards. Its sole purpose is to simply entertain us or move us in some way. Most times it’s to simply move us to watch the next episode or the sequel but that is another chapter. So here we are in a dark like womb of a room watching a flickering light illuminate us in ways we never imagined. Then we speak those words that will forever change our lives. “I want to do that. I want to make movies. I want to be an actor!”
You may change the word ‘actor’ for writer or painter or costume or set designer or simply oneself; no matter what creative intention one has, it’s the same process. We are all here to co-create our existence with all there is around us. All one need know is what one aspires to create, otherwise we’ll live in the land of beautiful dreamers—asleep!
How does one tune their instrument?
Most art uses a tool to create. The painter uses brushes. The carpenter uses many tools to bring out the beauty of the wood. A musician uses notes and scales and then chooses an instrument to bring out the song heard within. The writer uses words to express one’s experiences in artistic form, but the actor only has oneself to bring an author’s creation to life. In all the aforementioned scenarios in the end it’s only oneself and the inspiration of one’s imagination that creates that opus, chef d’oeuvre, masterpiece that will withstand the test of time so doesn’t it make sense to fine tune that instrument first?
I've been doing yoga and meditating since the 70s. In those early years, I'd also been exploring drugs so I was going to have to go back to ground zero to uninstall those buttons of limitations and excess my ego had employed and then judged and convicted me of and I'd have to strip down to my bare heart to achieve it. But how would my experiences help another’s journey? I’d have to go even deeper than that. I guess I too would have to start at the beginning.
In the beginning it was all black and white. ~ Maureen O'Hara
The human anatomy has wheels of energy that allow light to pass into and animate its being to keep the body template working optimally. We are creating our lives via energy. Whether it be emotional or physical or spiritual or even ethereally, we are co-creating with The Divine a piece of matter called______. (Fill your name in there.) Now it’s time to learn how to create ourselves in our own images as our Creator designed us to be. I mean no insult to Spirit-Creator-God the Supreme Producer. He/She/It still has the final say. Plus, the thing I love best about creating is this inspired collaboration. It’s heavenly!
Most when employing the chakra system speak only of the major seven within the body’s anatomy but I’d like to use a 9-chakra system where we begin with our mother the Earth. Let’s visualize her as a Black star beneath our feet. She is who we truly incarnated to meet. She is where we can manifest energy into form. Our connection to her is truly our first umbilical cord.
When we close our eyes before we start dreaming or have any inspiration, we see blackness. Remember in grade school when we were taught white is the presence of all color but black is the absence of all color. It is stillness. It is primal energy at its best. Every tool, idea or inspiration is in that black void, so please don’t fear it. Embrace it because in there all possibilities exist. Well, all that one can visualize do. Maybe that is why the world fears black so much and the color has always been given a negative context, because we haven’t used its possibilities yet and they are endless! So, before we start, we must gratefully acknowledge that all possibilities are present in the darkness.
I remember standing behind stage one night waiting to enter when we had an earthquake. We all held our breath for what seemed like an eternity while the earth rumbled beneath us and the lights flickered above. No one moved or said a thing, but when the rumbling stopped and we had all taken a collective breath, an electricity went through us. Even the audience was moved watching us move as one unit, completely united til the end until a thunderous applause broke the magic. It was one of my favorite moments of being connected. But how do we learn to do that at will without an earthquake to inspire us?
Before we start anything, we have to prepare, right. Even if it’s simply going on a date. We choose what to wear and research where we're going, then we bathe and adorn ourselves and we decide right then and there how much or little we will reveal or do. However, a lot of times nothing goes as expected. I believe in those times when things go askew even after all that preparation is because we didn't follow our own advice. We flitted here and there and allowed ourselves to be pulled off center emotionally. We did not ground ourselves.
Grounding can be as simple as putting your hands in a potted plant’s dirt or taking off our shoes and allowing our bare feet to rest on the grass. We can make it complicated and run ley lines of energy here and there but really the most efficient way is the way you choose, meaning it’s the intention you set. For example, listen to a child or mother for that matter, scream “Now!” OMG does all come to an immediate stop. Now everyone’s focus is on that now!
So now that we are all on the same page, let’s turn it, please.
“You’re an actor? So, what have I seen you in?” RED!
The Root Chakra is related to instinct, security, and survival and it's also basic to human potentiality. Physically, it governs sexuality, mentally it governs stability, emotionally it governs sensuality, and spiritually it governs a sense of security. It has a relation to the sense of smell. (Chakra descriptions from mindbodygreen*) It is responsible for the fight-or-flight reaction when survival is under threat.
Unfortunately, in the beginning we are reliant on others for our existence. At first this is okay for we are infants and we’re wisely unaware of the fact the entire world is not a part of us. We swim in our mama’s belly listening to the din of life, ignorant that it is separate from us because we totally have no clue where one hand ends and our toe begins. Then a big ole face pulls us out into another reality, and it has shape, form and it smells and has colors. It’s new and wonderfully interesting. We simply love living life. We hear strange, exotic sounds. People start humming when we eat, so we hum back, “Hmmmm yummy!” People applaud us when we poop, so we poop in a pot and they scream, “Yeah!” Then we learn to stand up and they give us a standing ovation and when we walk, well, wow! But then we fall and they moan, “Ouch”.
We stand - they clap. We coo - they smile. We eat – they hum. We laugh and they will do that same stupid thing over and over again. Then they tell us to stop. They tell us they mean it. So we say “No” and we continue parroting them, but they don’t like that. They say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Then they tell us to “Behave!” Now we must behave. We must “be-have”. What is ‘have’ you ask? I have no idea. Maybe it’s to have the same expressions, words, looks, and feelings as them. Hmmm… Who’s validating whom here?
So we fast-forward 15-20 odd years and we find ourselves pleasing people for our survival. We've lost site of who we are but we have become very talented at being other people. We have become actors; very good, ‘bad- actors’ who have been using the same motivation for every scene, act, or part we play. That motivation, you ask? Well, it sounds something like, “Please like me.” Or worse “Please don’t hurt me.” Or even worse, “You know you love me.”
We are so busy trying to manipulate our survival that we forget we've already killed that person we were so intent on protecting years ago. So for the last 20 years or so we've been trying to be-have and have our own way too. Thus, the art of manipulation and lying become the survival tool most necessary for one’s existence. If I tell her she’s pretty, she smiles and I get my way. If I ask for his help his ego will do it all for me. If I say ‘yes’ my check gets signed and somewhere in there, the pay off has become that we have begun losing ourselves. How do we find ourselves again? Well that’s simple. Stop Acting.
I know we’re angry. We live on Earth. That Blue planet honoring free will. We’re supposed to be able to safely and securely create our own reality, right? Yes. That is true. However, what if everything we’ve learned was programming for some sitcom we’ll never get a role on or wish to play? What if we’re dramatic actors and comedy doesn’t suit us?
RED means STOP!
Since the beginning of communicating we have chosen the color red to mean stop. We've been programmed to stop on seeing red. Now if red is the color of our survival and well-being and we’ve been programmed to stop being well or to stop and take another path to our well-being, then that path probably leads to someone else’s well-being or worse-their agenda.
So, we have to reprogram the mind to see red and feel safe and warm and secure. It’s okay to stop but stop in gratitude and acknowledge we’re safe and secure. Stop to smell the roses for life is always around us putting on the best show in the world for free. Stop and ground ourselves and align with all there is in the world and I promise you, our personal, individually-designed path will come into view.
What is the first thing we do when coming into this world? We breathe. Then they slap us and we hold our breath. Thus, the us/them, yin/yang, this/that, light/dark -binary opposition of life begins immediately. So, we must return to the beginning and relearn the very thing that facilitates living. We must learn how to breathe again.
“Breathe”, you say. “Ahhh, come on, let’s do a monologue or some Shakespeare, or even an improv, but breathing exercises!” ..I’ll wait while you finish your whine. Done. Good.
Think about it. One can live forty days without food, four days without water but we couldn’t live four minutes without air. Our breath is what keeps us living. It is the first thing we do upon being born and the last thing we do before transitioning. It is the most important activity in our day. So why don’t we practice it more? I have no idea.
We’ll spend hours a day in the gym trying to keep tight, or millions of dollars yearly trying to reverse the signs of aging, or billions adding letters after our names so others (in the same boat as we, mind you,) take us seriously. And the entire time we’re doing this we’re holding our breath. We’re hoping no one can see that we are just mere mortal beings trying to make it through the day.
Every time we get excited we hold our breath. When we become afraid, we hold our breath. We anticipate and hold our breath. We sneeze and hold our breath. We meet the person of our dreams – and we stop breathing. And while we dream of performing all the great emotions brilliantly, we are holding our breath. Breathing is very important. So let’s learn how to breath again shall we.
First, let’s find a comfortable place where we can rest and be ourselves. Find that place where we can fart or even cry without fearing someone is listening or judging or smelling us. Please make sure you are not in front of a door or walkway or there’s a draft or old gym shoes nearby or anything else that has a strong sensation that will disturb your concentration. Settled? Good.
Next, lie down and put your hands on your tummy and place your focus there. Breathe deeply into your abdomen and then gently release it. Do this at your own pace. Now slowly move your hands up to your diaphragm (the place right under the ribs where they fan out) and focus your breath there. Just rest and breathe through your diaphragm for a minute or so.
Nice. Now place your hands on your shoulders and breathe into your heart. Let your hands remind your shoulders to relax. You can even pat yourself with a little “There, there now,” sentiment. Sigh. And breathe again.
Now let’s put all three parts together. Rest your arms gently beside you. Close your eyes, and on a slow count of four, take the air in through your feet into your tummy - 1, and up into the diaphragm - 2, and into your heart - 3, and out the crown of your head - 4.
Then exhale, 4 - into the crown, and 3 - past the heart, 2 - thru the diaphragm and into the tummy and out the feet for 1.
Now rest and ground yourself into the earth. Don’t think. Don’t even count. Just set an intention to open up those areas that facilitate breathing; the tummy, diaphragm and lungs. Go into your heart center and past that big-ole-mouth and nosey-nose back to the core of your existence. Now bring the air back thru the crown and anchor in your highest self. That self that already knows how to do this if we’d give it the opportunity to lead the show, but that’s another chapter.
We really must practice breathing. Try Kriya yoga breathing or any other technique you’ve learned in the past, whether it is Art of Living or Kundalini breath work or circular breathing or any other breathing technique you’ve learned along the way and abandoned. Simply spend 10 minutes a day reminding the body to breathe.
We are perfect living entities that have innate knowledge of how to live and heal ourselves. My grandmother once told me, “There's nothing on God’s green earth that can’t be cured by air and water. Just drink water to push it through and breathe deeply to move it out and you’ll be fine.” And it’s the truth. The only way I’ve ever gotten sick is by putting something bad inside me, and the sickest thing we can put inside ourselves is a mean thought.
What are you thinking right now? Uh-hum. Take a breath. Let it go. And know everything is going to be just fine. Now get yourself a glass of water and join me on the next chapter, please.
*The Art of Acting Human is a layman's guide to authentic being using basic spiritual hygiene to assist our balance during these shifting times. It is my gift to you! Please donate something in return to the site. It would be greatly appreciated!