The Way of the Peaceful Actor

Thursday, 16 March 2017 13:37

I'm in great envy of Winnie the Pooh.

I'm thinking in particular of Winnie the Pooh as illuminated by Benjamin Hoff in The Tao of Pooh, that openhearted, wide-eyed fella who can't help but land squarely on his feet. At this moment I'm sitting on my own personal battle line and I am envious of peaceful Pooh.

On one side of this battle line is desire—my enormous desire for all the things acting-wise that I want and a sense that I want them NOW. On the other side of this battle line is action—the steps that I can take to make these desires actually happen...maybe. Since the path of an artist is never straight, this battle line can be stressful. My desire looms large amidst a sea of seemingly endless possible actions all of which require decisions and commitment, time and energy and may not ultimately lead me to my desired destination.

I don't believe that I am alone in this struggle, I have met friends, colleagues, and students in these very same trenches. We all want to create/do/be/have something in a topsy-turvy business that does not follow linear lines.

The choice to commit one's life to any field within the world of art is one full of the deepest ramifications on every level. We make this choice out of deep desire: a desire to create, a desire to give, a desire to use every part of ourselves in order to fulfill something that goes far beyond mere daily existence. It's impossible to take making this choice lightly. Inherent in the choosing is giving up a stability that is offered in the road most taken: if you do ABC you will get XYZ.

The question is, how do we take powerful actions toward our desires and dreams without falling prey to desperation and panic if we don't see immediate results? Stated more positively, how do we live in peace and flow while we're in the midst of a journey that doesn't always contain a guarantee that we will get exactly where we want to go?

We can literally drive ourselves crazy with action-taking that falls somewhere within the realm of the fear of missing out. Taking one step after another without a breath in between, spinning ourselves into an utter exhaustion that points to desire as the evil culprit of it all. We burn out quickly taking this kind of action.

I used to be a full-time inhabitant of this sort of existence. I recall the words an insightful teacher once said to me during my conservatory days: "Rhonda," my honored teacher said "you are like the woman who shows up at a store sale before anyone else in order to buy the place out." Yes! I wanted it ALL and I went about it so miserably.

When, on the flipside, I recall the most impactful moments of my life, there is nary a hint of desperation to be found. How is it that I got from Chicago to New York City? One day, while living in Chicago, I picked up a copy of a local newspaper, The Chicago Reader, on the way home from dance class. I opened the newspaper to find a very small ad for auditions for an NYC acting conservatory. Within less time than it took for my heart to beat, I was on the phone arranging my appointment. That was it: one tiny dart sailing through time and space hitting an exact bull's-eye.

Gratefully, there are now many more moments of my life when this kind of flow is in abundance. My heart is at peace as I allow the painter to paint the picture through my life without clinging to results, joyful to be on a journey of a thousand steps and filled with curiosity about the work in front of me.

But at other times, the tables are turned and I am standing over my metaphorical garden shaking my fists and screaming at the top of my lungs "GROW!" It's those directives that ultimately squash the very seedlings I have lovingly tended and nurtured. And honestly, the fist shaking and screaming are just plain exhausting.

Benjamin Hoff talks about that sweet spot in the middle of desire and doing: "...through working in harmony with life's circumstances, Taoist understanding changes what others may perceive as a negative into something positive." There's something faithful and beautiful about that phrase "through working in harmony with life's circumstances..." that instantly makes it seem like landing on your feet is inevitable.


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