Outta Your Head And Into Your Life
By Sharon Freedman
There’s nothing average about the life of an actor. You rarely stay at a job for years or even decades and you’re continually building relationships so you’ll get your next job offer. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be fully engaged in your current project. In fact, the more invested you are in your current project the more desirable you’ll be to perspective employers. You’ll notice how a particular TV actor will all of a sudden start working in films. People want to work with someone who is killing it in their current job because they know they will get the same dedication to their project. Also, don’t you love the auditions that you do some focused prep work before and then move on to the next part of your day after you’re done? This is easier said than done if you don’t have some simple yet effective tools to help you gracefully move from moment to moment.
The key to doing that is Mindfulness. I’ve broken it down into three parts that will help you reduce stress and up your game. The first part is: OBSERVE. This is the skill of simply noticing what’s happening right now. I like to say, “Your breath has got your back” meaning that in every moment, you’re breath is there to touch base with and get grounded in reality. Start noticing when you get lost in thoughts like, “I wonder what they want at this audition.” or “Ugh, I should have done that last take differently.” Those are the perfect moments to pay attention to your breath. Our thoughts are just thoughts, but our breathing is reality. No matter how hard we try we’ll never change the past or create the future with our thoughts so why spend all that frickin effort trying. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, once said,
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Just like LeBron James shoots baskets every day when he’s not playing a game. You will get more skilled at OBSERVING by practicing in your daily life so can easily do it when you’re on set shooting your first guest star or at your final callback for a Broadway show. So, the next time you’re doing something as simple as taking a shower, walking down the street, or washing dishes notice when you get lost in thought and bring your focus back to what’s actually happening in that moment. Notice your breath, feel the water, hear the street sounds. Not only will you enjoy what you’re doing more but you’ll also have much more specificity in your work as an actor.
One of my favorite tools to cut through nerves in those important moments is called square breathing. Everything is on a count of four. You breathe in for four, hold for four, out for four and hold for four. If you do this three times in a row you’ll easily be able to get out of your head, disconnect from your nerves and kick a*% at whatever you’re doing.
There’s no time like the present to start incorporating OBSERVE into your life and next month we’ll dive into the second part of Mindfulness, DESCRIBE.