“Do you do it, or does it do you?” A quote from the one and only Alan Watts; he said it while speaking on the idea of breath, relating it to the organism-environment field. The whole idea of meditation is to synchronize the ego, or mind, with the body, and, in turn, the body with the environment. This doesn’t mean that everything you once saw becomes all the same, meshing into some big, unidentifiable goo; it just means that everything begins working in the same direction, flowing freely, like water in a stream. Then you understand and realize the real self.
I tend to begin meditation with a nice, long out breath, letting my body, sort of, hang limp. Then, as soon as the gasp reflex begins, I allow air to come into my lungs as it pleases, dropping into, and expanding, from the deepest, most central point of my body. The inhalation creates a lifting sensation, uprighting my back, expanding my solar plexus and chest cavity, before it leaves my mouth with a sigh of relief.
The more I breath, the more the breath works on me, and the more I explore the tensions of my body. The experience becomes as if God has taken over my body, blessing it with grace, awakening the deity within. I can feel the ground beneath me. With every movement I sense the subtleties of muscle contraction and relaxation, and I feel…right, as I should feel, like I did when I was a child. When I finally stand after the timeless experience, and the feeling returns to my legs, every moment then becomes more playful. I am much more comfortable allowing my actions to go without conscious interruptions or instructions.
I am ready for what comes next, although I do not know what it will be. This seems to me the most intelligent way to behave; because, in this state, one acts out of emptiness, with a completely open mind that is ready for whatever life brings. In this state, I can truly express myself in a natural, spontaneous way; the way I was before I “knew” who I was. In this state of emptiness, there is nothing to bog me down, nothing to make a response unauthentic or phony, and my attention is fixed just where it should be – the only useful place for it – the here and now. I can receive, fully, all that comes to me; and in an instant, give it right back, like a mirror reflecting a face, or a lake reflecting the gulls. I own nothing, and nothing owns me.
So, why would this be useful to an artist? An actor, for instance, uses words and their body to fill a space in a dramatic fashion in order to create a living character. Some of the difficulties in acting are memorizing lines exactly, inflecting the voice properly, and blocking (movement) in a natural, realistic way. Without understanding your breath and its effects on your spontaneity, and without the practice of relaxation, these acts are very difficult to execute. It may feel as though you are a juggling, riding a unicycle, and balancing a bowling pin on your nose all at the same time!
But how does the juggler do it?! To do so much at once is very unnatural. The singer-songwriter plays his or her guitar, sings marvelously, and taps their foot to the beat without missing a single note or beat – and does so effortlessly! Well, I can tell you that if they do it well, they are very relaxed through the whole process – as any good actor is, as well.
Trying to remember lines, how you said them, and where you were on stage will only create a log jam throughout your body, resulting in a poor, unnatural performance. How do you prevent this? First, you must spend significant amounts of time with the script. Next, at rehearsals and the performance, you must relax. Feel your breath move throughout your body until it expands into the space you are working in. Don’t hold on to each word as if it’s do or die – this will strangle you! On the contrary, know not a single word; the character will speak his or her mind without your help; and he or she will move in his or her own way.
The same goes for life. We are all artists. Consciousness is observation, and thought doesn’t need to precede every action. Acting, as with music, and laughter, and dance, is a fantastic time to practice emptiness and spontaneity. With practice, every action in life can become effortless, natural, and fulfilling.