At the age of four, I walked down the stairs, dressed in my Mama’s high heels, a broad rimmed hat, multiple necklaces and no fewer than six of my Mama’s nightgowns, layered strategically to swirl while I turned. In my hand I held my Fisher Price tape player with attached microphone. I paused at the bottom of the stairs with my back towards my Mama, turned and looked over my shoulder, hit the “play” button, grabbed the microphone and yelled “HIT IT!” I guess you could say that I was a “ham” from an early age.
The hardest part of acting is being yourself. There is a tendency on the part of actors to “overact”. The best way to illustrate this is with a radio show. Think of the stereotypical “WACKY MORNING DJ”. Now think of a talk show where the hosts are simply discussing topics, not as a character but as themselves. We are drawn to the later type of radio show because it’s authentic. People crave authenticity. Authenticity requires consciousness. Consciousness requires you to be focused on the “here and now.” Not the past. Not the future. Completely focused on the present.
Today I met with Dating Coach, Jess McCann. Jess and I talked about many things but one thing that she said stood out. I have a tendency to get lost in my own thoughts. I alluded to this in an earlier post of mine, “The Kiss I Missed.” I can be physically present in a situation but my mind is already racing into the future, anticipating various scenarios, outcomes and planning for the unknown. This keeps me from being “present” and “conscious” and, because of this, some authenticity is lost and I’m not entirely able to be myself.
This past Tuesday, I started an acting class for adults at the local community center. The first class focused on body and mind awareness. The instructor had us perform “isolation” exercises, where we concentrated on various parts of our body and how those parts felt, and how they moved, in different scenarios. We then explored the mind/body connection, focusing on how we felt when we forced ourselves to smile, or forced a frown. When we laughed or when we tried to cry. Some students didn’t understand the importance of these exercises and the instructor responded by saying that, when you are focused on the present, you are able to let go of self-consciousness which allows you to be a better actor. “By focusing on your body and your mind, in the present, you are able to notice things that would go unnoticed”, she said.
I met Dave after that first class, with that last quote fresh in my mind. We met at a cute Italian restaurant. He’s a foodie and I was more than happy to let him take the reigns with ordering. It was fabulous! I have a habit of defaulting to the same restaurants and/or the same meals. I’m very happy that I allowed Dave to run this show! We sat at a table in the far back corner. Maybe it was the isolation exercises, or maybe the discussions with the dating coaches or the simple act of participating in this 35/35 project. Most likely, it was a combination of them all. Whatever the reason, I felt very “aware” while I was with Dave. I noticed when my mind raced into the future and, when it did, I pulled it back into the present. Instead of listening to my internal thoughts, I used my energy to completely focus on Dave. By focusing, I found that I talked less and listened more. Not only did I hear what he said, I heard how he said it. I also saw more. I noticed the fold in the collar of his shirt. How his blonde hair curled upwards at the top of his head. How he bit his lip when he encountered a moment of silence in our conversation.
I found that, by being “present”, I was able to let go of self-consciousness and just “be myself” which allowed me to focus on Dave. By focusing on Dave, I was able to get to know his character. And it’s good. As I left our date that evening, I found that I was acutely aware of everything around me. I looked up and saw the bright moon and noticed its beauty. I felt, authentic. And it felt good.
“The more you notice about yourself, the more complete you are.”
– Stephanie Hanna