As an actor, you are always hearing the words “be present” as it relates to your acting work. And it always feels easier said than done, right? But every once in a while you really get a glimpse of it, and it is MAGICAL…and then it’s not.
In life we face the same thing. In fact, sometimes “being present” feels so unreachable because we have so much coming at us all the time. And yet, staying present is the cornerstone of enjoying life. Particularly in the midst of this moment in history, staying present is your most important tool to keep you powerful and centered.
Let’s look at what the definition of “being present” is:
Being fully present means having your focus, your attention, your thoughts and feelings all fixed on the task at hand.
But it’s really more than that.
Being present also means being AWARE of a moment.
So why is it so hard to actually experience that?
Well, your lovely little brain is just a computer. It stores up everything that has ever happened to you since the day you were born. It files it away and keeps chattering about it and uses it to assess every moment of your life.
So here’s the problem.
Your fabulous brain NEVER STOPS TALKING. In fact, right now your brain might be saying “Where is this blog post going?” “I wonder what Leslie is really like?” “I don’t like this font.” “I have to remember to water the plants.”
And, that same brain might also like to tell you, “Oh, don’t audition for THAT role…you’re not good enough.” Or “You’ll never be able to get on Broadway.” Or “You look fat today,” etc., etc., etc.
Now, here’s the sad thing.
WE THINK THAT IS THE TRUTH.
We actually think that those voices are REAL.
And while they are going off, we are listening to them, believing them and getting distracted from the actual moment you are in, therefore making it very difficult to stay present EVER.
So, here are five important tips for staying present in your acting career, in life and during this unique time in history.
- Train yourself to notice distraction. Begin to be aware of when you are doing more than one thing. Yes, we live in a society that applauds multi-tasking. (Not to be mistaken for someone who is multi-passionate). I mean, let’s be honest, it’s exceedingly rare that you, or anyone, is truly doing just one thing. Training yourself to begin to notice when you have split focus will help you to find that wonderful space known as “present.”
- Stop worrying about the future. I know this sounds easier said than done. But, throwing yourself out into the future with a completely made-up scenario will only leave you overwhelmed with anxiety, because the future is just a story you’ve made up. We have NO idea what is going to happen tomorrow, next week or even in a moment from now. BUT WE NEVER DO!!! That is life! So by worrying about it, you’re living into your made-up story about it over and over again causing more anxiety than if the thing just actually happened. So, if you are worried about the future, do this exercise: Get a piece of paper and write down everything you are worried about. Take about two minutes to get everything out on paper. All of it. Be sure you only write down the things you’re worried about right this moment. After you’ve written them down, set that aside and continue reading this blog post. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
- Learn to breathe. If you’ve been following me long, you know I’m a huge fan of three deep breaths! Taking three deep breaths in a moment of overwhelm, or when you feel yourself pulling away from the present task or moment, will instantly bring you back to presence and calm. Let’s try it right now. Steady your body and take three deep, measured breaths. Come on, really do this. Afterwards, notice how much calmer you feel. Then, take a moment to look at the list of worries you just wrote down and ask yourself, “Have any of those happened yet?” My guess is, probably not.
- Track the great things about the day. Begin keeping a Grateful Journal or Great Things Journal (whatever you want to call it). At the end of each day, write down at least five things that were wonderful about the day. These can be small or giant things. And what this does is remind you of the wonderful things in your life which helps keep to present in the moment when they come again.
- Remember today is Day 1. I love using this notion especially during this time we are in. But it’s the truth. Today is actually Day 1. Because today you get to CHOOSE how you’re going to go through the day TODAY. Just today. Today there will be new things to face and deal with. There will be highs and there will be lows. But YOU and YOU ALONE get to handle them as they come. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” And it’s true. Today is Day 1. How are you going to live it? So, once and for all, take a look at your list of worries. Since you’ve been reading this blog post have any of them happened yet? Probably not. So let them go. Tear up that piece of paper, shred it, burn it. Do whatever you need to do to get it out of your psyche. Because it’s only purpose is to keep you from being present, and THAT would mean you can’t enjoy what fascinating moments are coming your way right NOW!
Leslie Becker is an award-winning Broadway actress, writer and creator of The Organized Actor®. She is on a mission to empower, entertain and educate others and to be a force of strength and bravery for the human spirit. www.OrganizedActor.com.