In my mid twenties I went to drama school in London and at the end of the course we were to perform the play ‘Summerfolk’ as a showcase for acting agents. As the day of the first performance approached our director, who had been looking increasingly frustrated, suddenly stopped the rehearsal and gathered us all together. He told us the play was ‘dead’ and that he’d finally worked out why.
Since being taken on by a good agent was seen as an important springboard into the acting business we were all feeling the pressure. As a result, to feel more in control, more safe and secure, we were fixing every detail of our performance: where to stand, where to look, how to move, how to speak each line. That’s why it was so lifeless.
So our director pulled the rug from under our feet. He told us that, other than the script itself, he didn’t want to see anything he’d seen before. A wave of silent terror spread through the room.
But as we anxiously restarted the play something incredible began to happen. In being stripped of our stale conclusions, in not knowing what anyone else was about to do, suddenly we were naturally deeply listening to one another, responding freely, spontaneously, and in fresh and exciting new ways – magic was happening. Like flowers that for safety had been hiding tight in their buds, we were daring to risk blossoming into life.
Similarly in our daily experience, to feel more in control, more safe and secure, we too can ‘fix our performance’ – nailing life down with definitions and beliefs about who we are and ‘the way it is’. But in living inside our prison of beliefs then, just like with the play, life can start to seem dull, repetitive and uninspiring.
When we courageously dare to drop our well rehearsed masks, to be exposed in all our nakedness, to openly feel the raw energy of whatever fear, sadness, grief or despair that may arise, to be the loving embrace that welcomes it all in, then, in our tender vulnerability, the dividing walls of our mental prison come tumbling down and we rediscover ‘aliveness’, ‘playfulness’, ‘spontaneity’ and ‘possibility’, along with deep, wordless wonder at this mind-blowing, miraculous happening that is the here and now.