Tag Archive | creativity

CONFRONTING SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION ONE DAY AT AT TIME

Blue Sky Head

On Christmas Day, I deleted the two social media apps I use (Facebook & Instagram) and committed to a 30-day detox. Days 1-11 were surprisingly easy. Days 12-17 have been extremely challenging…hence this blog post. I contemplated breaking my fast for a good ten minutes before deciding to write about it instead.

I determined to fast from social media because I had been feeling a growing dread and dissatisfaction for quite some time. I am wired to crave deep, intimate relationships. I also seek relentlessly for external validation even though I hate that about myself. It doesn’t help that I’ve been an actor for most of my life and am accustomed to gauging the response to whatever I put out there. But I am weary of this grind and have started asking the question, “What for?” Why am I looking for meaning where it can’t be found? Why am I streaming the minutia of my life in exchange for a momentary reprieve of boredom/restlessness/sadness? And why do I expect other people to care?

There are many alarming consequences to the invention and implementation of social media. For me, the worst has been the disintegration of “real life” communication and relationship building. I love having one way to keep in touch with friends from the various times and places in my life, but I profoundly miss telephone conversations, letters and in-person visits. I hate the feeling of sharing something vulnerable and being met with an emoji instead of a personal check-in. I’m certain that social media has greatly exacerbated my already difficult battles with isolation, loneliness and depression. And it’s telling that, with the people I’m closest to, we never rely on social media to communicate.

Right around the time I deleted my apps, I discovered Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism. I am drawn to minimalism as a lifestyle, anyway, and he makes an urgent and manifold argument for the need to take back our lives from screens. He expands on the idea that through social media we connect on (usually) the most superficial level, which has displaced the kind of true communication human beings need to thrive. He also delves into the tremendous loss of time, energy, creativity, accomplishment, autonomy, freedom and well-being that is a consequence of social media use. While many of us won’t want to leave social media completely, it’s imperative to start consciously using this tool in ways that serve us, instead of serving ourselves up to a technology that takes so much more than it gives.

What I’ve gained so far…

  • I felt an immediate and extraordinary weight lifted because my energy was no longer getting sucked into a vortex of political outrage, glossy posturing, endless complaining or mindless chatter.
  • I feel more in touch with my own heart and mind. I am creating meaningful moments and movement in my life without needing to document it for outside validation.
  • The forced stillness and inability to check out has helped me to confront the triggers that normally send me into addictive behavior.
  • Boredom can be good for the soul. Something interesting usually arises if you sit with it long enough.
  • I am thinking about how to reincorporate social media back into my life. What will I use it for? What’s worth sharing? How can I engage with it intentionally?
  • I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, but I feel closer to finding my purpose than I did when I was distracting myself all the time.
  • I feel calmer as I finish this post than I did when I started it. Even if no one reads it—because I won’t be sharing it on social media—I have created something concrete, and that feels a million times better than surfing Facebook to fill a void.

THE SACRED ACTOR

Masters

For me, acting is almost a spiritual discipline. First of all, the visualizations and meditations resemble spiritual techniques, which stem from what acting originally was; the original actors were priests and priestesses in the temples. For the real actor, I think it’s a spiritual calling. I don’t see it being talked about much anymore, but I think many good actors experience their art that way.

~ Ellen Burnstyn

In the middle of this, my year of everything-falling-to-pieces, the one beautiful shard has been how deeply my spiritual practice has grown. I ran across this quote in an old notebook and was struck by how relevant it still feels to me. I haven’t acted in many months, and I miss it every day, but I finally understand why acting has always felt so important to me, and why I feel so empty when I’m not able to engage with it.

Acting has been the one arena in my life where I feel completely myself. It never feels like work, I lose all track of time, and I feel joyful and fulfilled. I am in the zone and out of my head when I get to channel my creativity. It’s also been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever encountered but it’s a challenge that thrills me.

This year, I’ve realized that acting has been my spiritual path–which, like any spiritual path, is meant to bring me closer to the Divine. However, because my other spiritual practices have deepened, I can now experience daily, without “doing” anything, what I used to only experience while acting. It is the sense of aliveness, presence, and connection to Consciousness. The amazing thing about it is that I don’t need a stage, a set, or to book an audition. I can experience this no matter what I’m doing, no matter where I am, and no matter what is going right or wrong at the time.

When an actor trains with Sense Memory, she encounters an object without any pre-conceived labels or judgements. The actor may sit in a chair and hold a cup. She observes the cup as if for the first time. She describes its qualities to her fellow classmates: it’s made of glass, it’s medium height, it has raised ridges, there’s a wide rim, it’s a bit heavy, the light comes through it, I see a distorted image if I hold it up to my eyes. Only after the actor has fully explored the glass objectively does she begin to attach personal meaning and a story. But, without that personal story, she is looking through the lens of Presence, and so even something as ordinary as describing a glass has become a totally spiritual practice.

Memorizing lines is akin to meditating and chanting with a Mantra. One focuses the mind on a word or series of words in order to keep random thoughts from taking over. At first there is effort involved but, finally, one goes into a sort of trance; instead of continually calling your attention back to the Mantra, you simply ride the waves of the sound of the words. I use a memorization technique I call “walk the lines.” Whenever I have large chunks of text to memorize, I go for a long walk outside, all the while chanting the text. Eventually, the rhythm of the words drops into the rhythm of my body, and they become one thing.

The practice of a Mantra is not about the Mantra itself. It’s meant for the moment when your mind suddenly releases thought and the Mantra disappears, without your knowing it, into No-Thought. Then, you’re in a state of union with the Divine, for as long as you allow yourself to remain there. When an actor’s lines have dropped into her body, she doesn’t think about them anymore; they simply arise out of her as if they are her.

Anything we do in life can be our spiritual practice: meditation, Yoga, relationships, sports, housework, nature, religious rituals, creativity–you name it. As long as we don’t mistake the practice for the Divine Itself, it doesn’t really matter what it is. I’m finding comfort in the knowledge that, even when I can’t participate in the practice I love the most, I can still experience the core of what I love about it, which is simply the formless quality without the form attached.

HOPE IS A BEGGAR

MeditationThe creative process is not about hoping, wishing, waiting, wanting, trying, or looking–hope is a beggar. It’s about embodying and becoming your creation. ~ Dr. Joe Dispenza

There’s a reason they call it “practice.” Learning how to embody something, instead of muscling it, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are virtually no outward signs that anything is changing, which is a tough benchmark to explain in this world of form and results. Inside, though–explosions. Perhaps the greatest reward of finally reaching a moment of consciousness (sometimes only after an hour of battling myself) is that, once I get there, all of the wanting that led me there in the first place disappears. It’s like basking in the presence of someone you love, just because they are, and not for anything they might do for you. You could stay there forever. There is an awareness that something had been lacking but, in the Now, you can’t remember why it mattered. The sharp edges are gone. Outside of meditation…pain can still be felt but from a distance or, maybe, with the sense that it’s not you…not the way you once thought it was.

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