FIVE MINUTE MIRACLES
June 14, 2007.
Where, oh where, to begin. This week I gave my full attention to the principle of letting whatever happens be okay, and that includes the events I participate in, the emotions I feel, how other people interact with me, and where I am in my life and my work. It was astonishing to find out how liberating and joyful that acceptance could be, even if I only felt it in flashes here and there. It was so different from the judgment or resignation I normally feel or think that “acceptance” implies. It felt more like gratitude and exhilaration.
Yesterday, because of the utter terror I was feeling about my acting class, I read and thought as much as I could about this principle. One thing I read talked about how often we attach ourselves to thoughts and stories about the past and future- both real and imagined. The book said, what if you just tried living from breath to breath? What if you allowed yourself to remain aware and in the present, without hurtling yourself backwards and forwards through all those imaginary scenarios? It was incredible to just stay in the moment and I tried to do it as much as possible throughout the day.
Whenever the fear became too great I tried another technique, which is to focus on all of the sounds you hear around you and then to switch your focus to the vast silence that remains underneath the sound. That’s a quick and effective way to quell the panic. I also found myself worrying that, even though I’d felt emotionally available all week due to my meditation, I was slowly shutting down throughout the day and that I wouldn’t be able to deliver once class came. I kept reminding myself that we don’t receive what we need until the moment we need it, so there was really no point in worrying about it too early.
On my long drive to class I listened to a meditation CD, tried to breathe, quoted affirmations, and frequently just said, “Help!” I had headaches, was nauseous, and pretty much wanted to run for the Hollywood Hills. I feel this way whenever I know that I’m ready to make a leap but am scared to do it.
S. and I spent a few minutes before class reading through the scene but we didn’t do anything full out and we didn’t get through everything. What was helpful, though, was seeing how engaged and excited he was to do the scene. Another pair went up first and they took lots of risks and struggled through things that were hard for them and I knew that I would have to do the same. Watching them was at once inspiring and nerve-wracking. Tony made us go up next and internally I think I just launched myself off the cliff. I made a big physical choice that propelled me into the scene and S. was right there with me. From that moment on we made huge choices, tried things we had never done before, and basically just went for it. It was wonderful to hear the vocal responses from the class and to feel the rush of going moment to moment. On stage it was the chance to experience, in a heightened way, what I was trying to acquire on a spiritual level. One fed the other; each made the other possible.
Tony said that I had made a major breakthrough and I got some really lovely feedback from the rest of the class. Tony is excited for where he wants to take us with this scene. On one hand I felt enormous relief and joy that I had leapt instead of staying on the ledge- it was great to know that I had done it and could move on from there. On the other hand, I know that I will have to go even farther next week. The process doesn’t stop or perfect itself- one risk just leads to the next. But at least now I have a little more confidence and excitement about it.
The rest of the night was truly remarkable. One pair of actors after the other got up and launched themselves off that cliff. It was terrifying for every single person but every single person pushed through the fear and came out the other side completely transformed. There was a tangible energy in the room that was so powerful we were all laughing and crying throughout the entire night.
In the middle of class, when one actor was engaged in a fierce struggle with himself, Tony delivered some incredible and inspired insight about what it takes to step out into the unknown. He quoted from an interview with Christine Ebersole, who just won a Tony award, and she said that an actor must be willing and open to receive. The actor must not only “see the suffering…she must become the suffering.” The willingness to take that on is the “grace and the burden” of the actor’s life. Tony acknowledged that it is the scariest place to be but that we must remain in those places in order to transform as artists. He said that for each of us the transformation occurred when we accepted the fear and pushed through it anyway. He said, “The miracle always happens five minutes after you want to stop. If you had stopped, the miracle could not have occurred.”