Open To Belief

another from the Yoga series by David Robinson

another from the Yoga series by David Robinson

I’m having one of those days ripe with revelations and have been scrambling to capture the insight ripples before they rush down my thought river, around the bend, and out of mind.

One of the ripples has to do with the “As if….” The “As if…” is a tool for actors, self-growth seekers, and human beings in general. For an actor, to act “As if…” opens the door to belief in a character. For the seeker of self-growth, to act “As if…” opens the door to belief in his or her capacities, as if they were a character in the play of their own lives. The “As if” serves as a bridge into a possible future when belief is hard to come by.

When I was younger, a favorite “As if” mantra imparted to me by adults was, “To dress for the job I wanted, not the job I was applying for.” In other words, dress as if I already had the job I wanted. In my case it was lousy advice because donning pants and shirts spattered with paint was not the ladder climbing attire they wanted me to embrace. For me, the elders needed a different premise beneath their “As if” advice. There was no ladder in my paradigm. Dressing for any job felt like self-betrayal on my way to soul death. Of course, years later, having lost my mind, I actually put on a suit and lace-up shoes to coach my first executive client.  He laughed heartily as I writhed in my new suit. He advised me to show up as I am, not as what I thought he wanted me to be. Great advice! His quote, “You are an unmade bed and need to own it. It’s why I hired you – because you are different.” As if!

I’ve understood for years that people perform themselves. “As if” can be a kick-starter for a belief-filled performance. It is an illusion-seed that, when watered and tended, grows into the identity you wish to inhabit. In other words, perform the person you want to become and not the one you currently believe yourself to be. Invoke “As if…” and sooner or later you may start to believe in your performance. Sooner or later you may become who you imagine yourself to be.  The roles we play are not fixed identities and much more fluid than we pretend! Becoming who you imagine yourself to be is called growth and requires a wee bit of acting.

One of my favorite lessons from the theatre is that character (the role you play, like Hamlet or Juliet) is not something you pretend, it is found in how you do what you do. Characters in plays want something; how they go about getting what they want reveals who they are. So, when building a character, swim upstream.  The character will reveal itself through you (the actor) if you identify and take action: craft how he or she does what they do. Young actors have to transcend the notion that acting is pretending. It is not. Action and pretense are two different things. A musician does not pretend to play music and an actor does not pretend to play a character. An actor pursues intentions. An actor acts (thus, the moniker). Actions are the notes an actor plays. Hamlet is the consummate student. He seeks truth. He tests hypotheses. How he goes about seeking and testing determines what we see as a character.

The same might be said of you and me. A human being pursues intentions. We take actions everyday and so, perform ourselves. How we go about our pursuit reveals what we believe. When we have little belief and big, big fear, we have the option of acting “As if…” It’s a loop. “As if…” leads to belief and belief leads to “As if…” Life off the stage is just like life on the stage: it is a cycle of belief and dis-belief. “As if…” is an ongoing growth process. Imagination knows no outcome.

In a recent workshop, after remembering a favorite childhood game, a man in the workshop said, “My imagination opened me to my belief.” Yes. That’s it exactly!

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