Acting from a Spiritual Perspective
by Kathryn Marie Bild
I think that acting is one of the best career choices offered to us. Whether on stage or in front of the camera, it is a tremendously effective means by which to learn and grow; it is well balanced as an art, a business, and a calling; and last, but not least, it's a blast!
We live in a world where we have to make a living. And the fact that we do provides us with a certain structure that can help us if we let it, in the same way that structural parameters can be helpful to a fine artist. If you're instructed to paint a painting on a wooden plank of a certain size and to use black and green but no red, rather than limiting you, these parameters can become a blast-off point for creative imagination. So it can be with making a living. Like it or not, we have to do it, so we might as well pick a career that is consistent with the objectives of our pilgrimage and that gives us a few laughs in the process. People have various ideas about what heaven is. We can all agree, however, that heaven on Earth includes making a living doing something we love to do. If it's your way, acting is a great way to do that. But whatever you choose as your way, it will only truly be your way if you love it.
Like all right livelihood, acting provides the actor many valuable opportunities to develop and express his or her abilities. It requires great intelligence to be a good actor and great compassion. You have to really understand the human condition, the intricacies of consciousness, and the psychological elements that play upon or come up against one another within relationships. You have to understand the deepest human desires and motives, as well as the neuroses, fears, and inhibitions that resist and retard the expression of those desires and motives. By trafficking in this human mental makeup on a daily basis as your work, you, the actor, gain the understanding that eventually makes you a great actor. You realize, "This is how people behave, interact, and are. This is how I am. This is the way', that it is." It requires lots of courage to be a performer, to get up there and lift up your shirt and say, "Here I am. This is what I've got," and to not only trust that it is enough, but that it is worthy of honor and respect. It is by dealing in these elements on a daily basis, in your spiritual career workshop called acting, that you develop your spiritual musculature.
Your living commitment to this work is one of the great ways by which you bless yourself. And doing it well gives you the opportunity, as well as the forum, to bless others. The folks with the power to hire you see that, yes, you get the gist of how this acting stuff works and they hire you. The audience comes in, they give you their admission fee, a certain amount of trust that you're going to give them something back, and they sit in the dark, captive, while you perform the palpable service of elucidating truth for them and, at the same time, entertain the socks off them. Then they, delighted, refreshed, and bettered, go out and use that truth to bless others besides themselves, and everyone is richer for the experience. Not a bad day's work on the part of the actor.
Another good thing about being an actor is that it doesn't matter who you are or what you look like. If you're a person, then you are already qualified to represent a substantial contingent of humanity. When you are ready to demonstrate that you know how to do that on stage, you're ready to be an actor Other people - agents, casting directors, directors, producers - will also be able to see that you can do it and do it well, and you will have become "supply" to their and society's "demand." Opportunities will arise accordingly, which will lead to your satisfying and dependable prosperity.
To truly succeed, you must love the entire process and be thorough in your work of acting, because the delight comes from doing the work. And the sooner you submit to this process, the sooner you will succeed. You have a huge task ahead of you each time you take on a role: you are about to elucidate truth for an audience. Realize that. Realize that the merchandise of your trade consists of imbibing and expressing ideas of love, truth, and beauty. You are enlightening minds, comforting hearts, and freeing souls. Be willing to do this fully and thoroughly and to stay with it until it is done.
When you are on stage and lose your concentration, if you commit more fully to your action -fueled by your governing intention and feelings - not only will you bring yourself back on track, but you will nail yourself to the heart of the moment with such fixity that there will be no further danger of wavering during the rest of that performance.
Commitment, connection, meaning. Commitment connects, you to your meaning, the definite, unhesitant going-for-it. Commit, therefore, to acting as an art. Commit first to learning what the art of acting is. The moment you think you've got it down, be a child and discover more. Keep the awe, the wonder, the art of acting alive in your heart. Read the master teachers and practitioners of the art of acting. Spend an evening reading what Michael Caine has to say about the differences between film and stage acting, or read Laurence Olivier's memoirs, or what Katharine Hepburn says about how to succeed in the world of drama. It will be like having them over for dinner except that you won't have to cook. And listen to what newcomers to acting say they think acting is, why they are attracted to it, and what they love about it. Via their innocence and naïveté, fresh insights will be revealed to you: You will realize that you know more about acting than you thought you did, as well as how much it is a part of your life.
Reaffirm for yourself that acting is your chosen form of self-expression. Sometimes when we get caught up in the business of acting, or even in the mission of acting, we forget the joyful aspect of acting as a means of expressing ourselves for self-fulfillment and fun. Acting gives us a sense of innocent and delightful play in the kingdom. We get to pretend, make believe, be anyone and everyone. So go ahead, recommit. Dip your creative toe into every pool of life. Live hundreds of lives in your one. That is what acting is as an art, the ability to expand your' sense of yourself into every self, all selves, the one overall collective self. Acting as an art is the thrill of making your own decisions about how a particular state of mind should be represented, and then making yourself believe that you really are all that the assignment calls for.
Acting is a natural expansion of our sense of ourselves. It is your art and you do it well, with love, compassion, and awareness. Deepen your commitment to your art.