Life is a Stage
By some strange series of circumstances I once found myself facilitating workshops as an acting coach.
I somehow found myself in rooms with very talented artists critiquing scenes and offering feedback, and being paid to do so. This was all very curious considering the fact that I quite literally have zero experience as an actor. I know nothing about the business, the process, the various techniques and methods of preparation, etc.
Again, to be clear, I know absolutely nothing about acting.
Paradoxically, being a complete ignoramus in this field had no bearing on my ability to reach the actors at a level they seemed to appreciate in the workshops I’d been co-facilitating. The artists I’d worked with loved the material offered and often came back for more.
I’ve reflected on how this was even possible.
It seems to me that we are all actors, whether we are aware of it or not. In reality we are consciousness and we are light. The marriage of those two forces creates a person, a person who has various experiences that coalesce into a personality, and we all walk around acting like this personality is what we are. Attached to this personality is a story, an identity, a history, some preferences and aversions, weird hang ups, fears, kinks, ambitions, beliefs, and all of “our stuff.”
This “stuff” is not really who we are – but we forget.
It’s so easy to forget…
Like a suffering actor who loses the capacity to separate self from role, we lose the truth of ourselves in the performance of life’s tasks – and the performance suffers.
On set, the skilled actor will use their own life experience to generate the emotion the scene calls for. Although they fully embody the character, they do not lose themselves in the role. An actor who earns the distinction of artist allows the full expression to move through them, but they remain connected to the truth of themselves apart from their character in some way. They call this “actor consciousness.”
For example – you’re an actor, on set, and the scene calls for you to be really angry and scream at someone. So, you may recall a time in your life when you were consumed with anger, you use that recollection to generate anger, real anger, and you give yourself the freedom to express it fully. But you do not lose yourself in it. And you do not hate the other actor in the scene with you. A part of yourself, however small in that moment, still recognizes that you are in fact on stage, acting, and generating anger in service of the character they are playing so that they can reach the hearts of their scene partner and the audience. You embody the experience of anger in service of the authenticity of your craft.
Similarly, in life, as one’s consciousness deepens, a strange recollection starts to emerge. A gap appears between your habitual reactions and the part of yourself with which you identify. That “gap” in our lives could be analogous to “actor consciousness” on set.
Within that gap, choice and spaciousness emerges where previously there was only reactivity. As “actor consciousness” comes more and more into fruition in life one begins to exercise more freedom in how they play the role of self. One starts to feel the profound wisdom in the notion that life is indeed a stage, and all the world it’s players. In a moment of empowerment, the awakening individual begins to step in and truly own the role.
You can analyze the scene you find yourself in. You may decide to try a new take. Perhaps getting angry is not the best expression of your character in this scene. So, from the view of awareness, you instruct the “actor” to do something differently. Or perhaps you determine anger is called for to make the scene authentic. But now, like a masterful artist, you can generate that anger without being consumed by it. You can express that anger freely and with an open heart in service of the actors in the scene with you, and the audience. Once expressed, like a good actor, you can truly let it go.
As actor consciousness emerges on the stage of your life, you may find that you’d like to play a different part. Maybe you’d like to bring some new energy to the character you’ve been playing.
You may find that the character you’re playing has gotten really good at expressing nervousness. Say, for example, he consistently turns in Oscar worthy performances of being an absolute dip shit around women who he is attracted to. Perhaps you have forgotten that is just a role you’ve been playing. There’s nothing wrong with that role, but maybe you’re beginning to realize that it’s not aligned with the arc of the story you want to live. You realize that you do actually have a choice in the expression of your character. As your actor consciousness emerges, you feel that you’re ready to make bold new choices.
Maybe you’re ready to start playing the slick, debonair, leading man. That’s totally an option. Why not?! You could learn to embody that role.
You can learn to play whatever role you want. Life is a stage.
Like a shape-shifter, a good actor can embody anything the scene demands. Sure, it may feel foreign at first to embody a slick and empowered leading man after all the roles you’ve been playing in the movie of your life have been nervous or meager types. As an actor, those expressions have become very familiar. So to depart from the familiarity of those roles may feel scary, or inauthentic. It may feel forced, like an “act.” But give it time. Practice. How many countless hours did you allow yourself to practice nervousness or self-deprecation before their expression became automatic?
In the movie of your life, you begin to see a choice where before there was only reaction. “Actor consciousness” has given you the capacity to choose and to explore your new role. What would I do if I was slick? How would I stand if I was courageous? How would I walk? How would I breathe? How would I hold eye contact? What would I wear?
Just act! Explore! Practice!
Soon, you will have the capacity to be just as believable being slick as you used to being nervous. Or just as empowered as you used to be sheepish. You will be believable in your role – first and most importantly to yourself, and then to the world. Watch as the audience and your scene partners respond differently to your new role.
The expression of your character is totally up to you. Truly, you determine which roles you accept and which you turn down. It’s up to you how authentic your performance is on this life’s stage and it’s up to you how your character grows and develops as the masterpiece of your hero’s journey progresses.
We are all actors. Choose your role wisely.
Maybe I do know something about acting after all…