Occupy Your Center

773. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Robert is a gifted actor, director and teacher. We had a long conversation yesterday about actors and acting. He said that the art of acting is unusual because young actors in training don’t always recognize the necessity of technique. So, for instance, an opera singer would never expect to advance in his or her career unless they had rooted their voice in solid technique. A pianist would not expect to become a concert level musician without a solid technique. As Robert said, “Many young actors believe that if they feel it, if they connect the dots from feeling to feeling then they are acting. “Anyone can emote and call him or her self an actor,” he said, “but acting requires just as solid a technique as any other art form. It’s just not as expected or understood.” Robert recently told a young actor, “It does the audience no good if you feel it but they aren’t invited to participate.” Technique facilitates participation because it frees the artist to be present. The point of any art form is to share, to include, to transport. Artistry is never about the artist. It is always about the relationship.

Today in tai chi Saul-The-Chi-Lantern paired the beginners (me) with the more advanced students. We were doing a simple push hands exercise that I recognized as the technique beneath the practice. I had a revelation that shocked me to the core and inspired me to teach it to every artist that I know. In push hands, the idea is to empty of all resistance, to drop deeply into your center and use your partners force to knock them off center. As the advanced students told me, “The point of the exercise is to fail. Failing is the only way to find your center and empty yourself of opposition.” My revelation was this: opposition (resistance) is the act of giving another person responsibility for your balance. Literally, you invest your balance in their center. It is visceral. My partners easily tossed me off balance because I easily gave away my center every time I resisted them. When I (occasionally) found my center and emptied myself of resistance, I entered a balanced fluid center that shocked me in its potency.

I left tai chi today and went to see a student production of a Shakespeare play. The rivers of my conversation with Robert and my tai chi revelation met as I watched the young actors push and force and resist and reach for feelings. They did not know to include me. Their play was about them, not the story or the opportunity for relationship with me, the audience. Yet, the paradox, the moment of truth came after the play when I listened to their investment in what the audience thought of their work. They gave me their center because they shut me out of their play. Had I cared I could have easily tossed them off balance. As I left the theatre I thought, “Someone needs to teach them how to fail.” In that direction technique is found. In that direction is learning.

I wished the young actors had access to Robert or the advanced students in my tai chi class. If I keep at it in fifteen years or so I might have the capacity to keep my center. The young actors need to pretend that they can do it all now. They are oriented to the test (performing the words with feeling) and not the mastery.

Even though I know the 37 moves that constitute the tai chi form, I am only now capable of beginning. At this age, I am finally capable of understanding the relevance and necessity for solid technique.

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