The last few years have left a lot of us feeling a little worse for wear. Seeing less of our friends and families, under the pressure of changes in society, earning less, working less. Now more than ever it’s important we spend some time actively taking care of our minds as much as our bodies. But how does mindfulness actually help us as a performer?
- Coping & Craft Are The Same
- It Normalises The Process
- It Makes You Better At Characterisation
- It Keeps It Sustainable Over The Length Of Your Career
Coping & Craft Are The Same
It’s impossible to separate “coping with the industry” from our “craft and performance”, they go hand in hand. It’s really important to understand that we don’t become a different person when we walk through the door for an audition, rehearsal, onto a set or through stage door. Compartmentalising like that is what has gotten this industry into such a bad state with mental health in the first place. The conventional wisdom that you have to “leave your personal life at the door” is dangerous and unhealthy advice but also counter-intuitive to most of the traditional systems of craft taught to actors all over the world, that teach connection to self, not disconnection.
It Normalises The Process
Practicing mindfulness activities in your personal life, outside of “the character”, firstly gets rid of the stigma around self-reflection. Challenging your own negative thoughts, interrogating why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling in your day to day makes that a totally normal process. When you then jump into a rehearsal or an audition you are immediately familiar with that level of searching and exploration of a person’s or character’s thoughts and behaviours. If you can do it for yourself you can do it for a character and that’s what creatives want to see in the room.
It Makes You Better At Characterisation
Secondly, the more you practice that level of mindfulness the better you get at it. The better you are at exploring thoughts and feelings generally, the better you will be when doing it with a role. Your character’s will benefit from how skilled you are at that process. They will be deeper, richer, more rounded, less shallow. Your intentions will be clearer, your motivations stronger and the way that inner life comes out will be more real as a result.
If Stanislavski (to over simplify) is based on remembering past feelings and adapting them to new situations, and Method is based on conjuring real feelings in the moment, then anything an actor can do to sharpen their ability to access that place will result in a richer, fuller characterisation.
It Keeps It Sustainable Over The Length Of Your Career
Thirdly, and most importantly, having a regular mindfulness practice, as complex or as simple and informal as is useful for you, is the only thing that allows you to go to that place over and over again, night after night, day after day, for years and still remain whole and fully functioning as a human in the real world. If you can’t decompress afterwards, if you can’t pull yourself out and deal with what you felt while you were in there, then that’s not sustainable, and it’s not acting.
Nobody wants to be in a rehearsal room with an actor who is not in control of their own stability, who doesn’t contribute to the safe space and the creative environment. We are all collaborators doing a job together. If you consistently bring an energy into the room that is ‘unsafe’ for yourself or others then you’ll stop getting work very fast. Nobody wants to work with someone who isn’t fun to be around, no matter how good you are it will catch up with you sooner or later if you don’t learn to appropriately deal with your own thoughts as they arise little by little, each day.
If your mind is not a safe place to be then nobody will want to join you in exploring it or let you explore theirs.