Tag Archive | spirituality

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.

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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.

VEILS AND COVERINGS

Ecstatic dancer yellow

If you become the one you long for then what will you do with your longing?  ~Rumi

What is there to do if you are so full as love that more love isn’t possible? If you truly trusted love abounding as all of life, then what would occupy your emotions? Unending and all-abundant love is the end of feminine drama. ~David Deida

Desire has been a driving force throughout my entire life. Deep inside I’ve always held the awareness that this isn’t all there is. I became insatiable for more, even though I couldn’t define what more was. As I grew older, that longing became twisted and obscured, protected and defended. I thought that what I wanted would come from outside of me, given to me by others, gifted to me by circumstance. I couldn’t trust enough in my own value to believe that it could come from me, through me, or that it might even just be me.

Eventually, I held that desire so far out in front of me and so far deep inside of me that I couldn’t reconcile myself with it. I could see what I wanted, watched others living the life I desired, but then, as if by magnetic force, I would repel that love and opportunity as far away as I could. Not consciously. Not by choice. But how can love come towards you if you’re vibrating not worthy in every cell of your body? Imagine a magnet whose desire draws everything she wants but then, at the last second, the force of her not worthy stops the desired in its tracks. It can’t move forward. It’s held in place by resistance. Eventually, it moves away.

It has taken me a lifetime, right up until this moment, to understand the battle I’ve been waging inside of my heart. These are not new ideas but sometimes it takes hearing it a hundred different ways, and experiencing suffering years in and years out, to finally grasp the concept that absolutely nothing is separate from who I am. It’s never been about what I do or say I want; it’s about the energy of who I am.

Perhaps the biggest frustration and stumbling block for me in the past, when I considered this idea, was that I could never figure out how to be love on the inside when I couldn’t feel it from the outside. Not that I was unloving–because I loved fiercely–but that love was never directed towards myself. I tried to fill the hole in my heart in every way possible but could never satiate my hunger, my longing. Then something really challenging happens–or many challenging things all at once–and I’m knocked so far off my center that my heart just cracks open from that hole. And then it finally gets filled by the only thing that could ever satisfy it. And it reminds me to keep waking up, keep waking up, keep waking up. Love is who we are. We lack nothing.

The most beautiful experience I’ve had this time around is that I’ve gone inward towards a vast and overwhelming love that comes from nowhere else. Meditation (combined with Yoga) is the #1 remedy I now give to myself for whatever ails me. And even the experience of meditating is an eye-opener for how I’ve handled most of my life. I find it fairly easy to slip into a deep state, where a bright white light starts to consume my awareness, but it’s taking consistent practice to let myself go into that light instead of shying away. When I do allow it, the experience is breathtaking. I am so accustomed to playing out the drama of resistance, lack, and suffering, that coming face-to-face with No-Thing, pure Love, pure Potential, almost literally blows my mind. It brings me to tears just to contemplate it.

All desires are the desire for God

obscured and veiled. When you go

out of this world and see the King

face-to-face then you will know

that everything you longed for here

–whether women or men, wealth

or palaces, things to eat, political

or religious power–all these things

were veils and coverings of him. (Her/It/Them)

~Rumi

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