Enlightenment, embodiment and Constantin Stanislavski
I have been involved with acting, for some time, in my life. I was planning to be a professional actor, but lady fate was kind enough with me, so I failed a couple of auditions for acting schools. This gave me the great opportunity to, under very strange circumstances, meet my acting teachers, who initiated me to “The Method”. That was a beginning of a wonderous journey which culminated in a series of plays, where I had the honour to have the leading role as actor and producer.
My teachers, a couple form America, were students and then teachers, in the school of Sonia Moore, in New York, a direct student of Constantin Stanislavski. It took two years of lessons to learn the method and another three to applying it in theatrical plays. It was HUGE work, but it definitely worth it!
My teacher used to say that “acting, is reacting honestly on an imaginary situation”. The goal of “The Method” is to create a natural live human being on stage. This is identical to the spiritual path and in the “stage of life” there are good actors and bad actors. Part of what makes one a good actor is the fact that they are responsive in the communications with their fellow actors on stage and they are reacting to whatever is happening, using their own means of expression, without resistance. They do not try to fake emotions or movements but rather they let them flow naturally.
Stanislavski, created a systemic approach on how to build a character, in other words, how to create an identity that uses the actor’s own means of expression in a natural way. Using identities, is also the way the mind works in everyday life. Right now, writing this, I am assuming the identity of the person who wants to share some insights about how things work. Right before finishing the previous paragraph, when I got interrupted, I temporarily assumed the identity of the husband and kissed my wife, thanking her for bringing me some delicious tea, in order to assist my writing. Earlier I assumed the identity of the weightlifter, when I was training at the gym and in the morning the identity of the coach, when I was coaching a client.
When people change identities spontaneously, without effort, then things flow well in life. If not, then problems start to appear. A major part of psychotherapeutic work is to eliminate the conflicts between the identities and to integrate them, meaning that they can co-operatively work whenever needed, without the one suppressing the other and that’s the work of psychotherapy.
The work of spirituality, is for one to realize who and what they are prior to any identity and to the habit of identification itself. Using the example of the actor, prior to being an actor, one is a human being. So, the human being through the agency of the actor, creates an identity which is the role that they play. I, the human being, use the actor identification mechanism and create an identity called Hamlet and live as Hamlet at least for a while. In exactly the same way, Consciousness, creates and identification mechanism and then identifies with the ego self, Tasos. The end result is the identification with the ego self, the body and personality and completely forgetting about the truth, that I am the consciousness that created these structures.
It is as if Hamlet, the character (the identity), forgot that he used the mechanism of the actor and the human being that he was prior to that. The reverse process or remembering, is called Enlightenment. Enlightenment doesn’t finish when one has realized their nature prior to everything, but this is the starting point of an integration process, where one learns to live from that and that’s where an actor, in the stage of life, becomes a good actor.
I wish Constantin Stanislavski was still alive, and that I could have this conversation with him over dinner. I remember telling to my theatre teacher that creating a role without realizing who and what you are, nonmatter how good one is in doing so, is like trying to wear a costume over everyday clothes. Nonmatter how good the costume is, how exquisite the fabric how vibrant the colours, something is not going to sit right. Of course, it won’t! It is the everyday clothes that this construct it is sitting on! Same goes for people who are doing “spiritual practices”. There is only one spiritual practice and that is finding who and what you are. Anything else is going to stick out like the everyday clothes do with the costume. Same goes for life. If one doesn’t know who and what he is, how can he participate in the game on life without feeling odd?
Please keep in mind that for this to happen, on must go prior to any identification and then back to the character, with that Knowledge of the Realization. If one does not go full circle, then the character is not alive and real. Some of us have witnessed “spiritual” people who are dull, colourless and uninteresting. Who wants an Enlightenment that will make them look like an Indian cow? Not me, for sure! I want to be vibrant, juicy, alive and the only way to do so, it through the Stillness of the Self and the realization that life, as a dynamic process, is happening within and as that Stillness. This Stillness is Realized as being a Dynamic Stillness. Using the metaphor of the actor, if the actor, in the middle of the play realizes that he is not the character on stage and that he is an actor and prior to that, a human being and stops there, he won’t be able to play the role in a good way. Who wants to watch a show with an actor like this?
The full Realization is that one is consciousness and at the same time the identities that come after that. One Realizes that he is the character on stage and the actor and the human being simultaneously. On goes from I am my body, I am my emotions, I am my thoughts, to, I am not the body, I am not the emotions, I am not the thoughts, to, I am also the body, I am also the emotions, I am also the thoughts.
So, if you are an actor by profession, or an actor on the stage of life, who had amnesia, please find who you are and please take it to the end! Do not stop halfway. It is not fun and it is not natural.
My teacher was right when he said “acting is reacting honestly on an imaginary situation” and I say “living is reacting honestly on the imaginary situation we call life”.