Have the Courage and Desire to Know Yourself Better: Part One

If the goal is to be authentic then the only way to be authentic is to be authentic. Therefore, an actor needs to learn how to consciously do what they are doing unconsciously anyway. The underlying premise of what follows is rooted in the belief that standing or sitting on the mark is no different than anywhere else. You are always here. It is always now, and you are always some aspect of yourself under different conditions. If you accept this premise, then what follows should hold true. If you don’t it will crumble under its own weight.

PART ONE: GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
You cannot bring to a role (intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually) more than you are. This is why the first 3 items on my list of “12 Things You Must Do To Be a Better Actor” are aids in the expansion of “self.”

There is a tendency to believe that the collection of habits we’ve developed over the course of our lives is our true self and becomes how we define ourselves. The three main ways you can get to know yourself better as laid out in the earlier blogs are: Empathy, Curiosity, and Breathing. Please refer to the previous blogs.

There is a story of the man who went in search of the meaning of life and thus to discover who he was. He searched the world over until he was told that there was indeed a holy man who sat way up in the mountains that knew the answer to the questions he was seeking. He inquired as to why others did not make the journey. He was told it was too perilous and would take enormous effort to arrive there. Many couldn’t be bothered. He decided to make the journey. When he got there after nearly losing his life many times and experiencing several crises of confidence he finally arrived on top of the mountain and found the holy man. He asked the holy man “what is the meaning to life so that I might discover who I am.” The master told him that he had asked the wrong question. The question was not “who am I, but what am I.” The only real question was how to conduct oneself moment to moment in the world and depending on what one did it would unlock the answer to the question of who you are.

My definition of character (in art or life) is simply: Character is a response to a given set of conditions. Full stop. How else do you know anything about anyone or anything, but by how it or they respond to its/their environment. We know the animate/inanimate by their properties or characteristics. So, it’s never about the character, but always a question of character.
We only get to know ourselves or what we are capable of by pushing the boundaries of our ideas of ourselves and not accepting the defining tags placed on us by teachers, friends or a well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) member of our family. Obviously, there are limits (ex: a goldfish will never grow as big as a whale. BUT it will continue to grow to the size of its bowl.)
Branding I believe is an unfortunate word when it comes to define the role of the artist. In my mind branding is what we do to livestock. It is like The Mark of Cain” a permanent mark that defines you. It cannot be erased. Who has the audacity to tell you who you are, and who you will ever be? A label is just a marked moment in time. It is like sticking a pin in a Butterfly and mounting it in glass and declaring “This is my life!”

HOW TO GET TO KNOW YOURSELF BETTER:
1. Be more honest with yourself. Appreciate your accomplishments and acknowledge your shortcomings. However, remember you are more than your last success or failure.
2.  Remember you are more than what you imagine yourself to be at this moment in time. 
3. Remember you are more than others’ expectations of you.
4. Be aware of the thoughts that take you off the path of growth and self fulfilment and change them if necessary.
5. Go for a walk. Invite random and confusing or troubling thoughts in. Your thoughts won’t kill you: they will enlighten you. Thoughts are like seeds. They grow. What kind of garden do you want?
6. Sometimes the wind is at your back and sometimes in your face a great sailor adjusts accordingly with courage and grace.
7. Self-love is not as important as self-awareness. Self-awareness is self-love.
8.  Write a poem. Write down the dialogue that is chattering away at you. Write in a journal. Speak them out loud. Recall your dreams and daydreams.
9. See your brain as an amusement park not a haunted house.
10. Leaving this one blank. This one’s for you to fill in. What else can you do?

Although fear and desire are often vital to our safety and survival, they also can be filters through which we see a refracted and diminished reality for ourselves. I’ve come to believe that it doesn’t matter whose techniques or systems you use or how many inspiring quotes one reads, it will come down to faith in oneself and the discipline and rigor one deploys to attend to fear. I remembered this powerful mantra from Dune:

“Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.” – Dune by Frank Herbert

From “to be or not to be” to “to do or not to do.” In the end an action must be taken. Those who can make this leap of faith into action will enter the world of imagination and broadening horizons. In the beginning was the act, not the word. Stop waiting for the phone to ring! Whether dealing with it on a Meta level or the micro level whether we like it or not Nike got it right “Just do it.”

Part two to be continued next week…