A few days ago, I was immersed in a Palm Springs International Film Festival screening of Shakespeare High. This documentary film follows the paths of high school students who discover the truth of their beings as they accept the challenge of creating winning embodiment of Shakespeare’s characters. Kevin Spacey was interviewed as a successful alumnus of the program at his high school. When asked why he is a strong supporter of high school arts programs, he stated, “I stopped wanting to be an actor, and realized I was an actor”. His words created one of those flash bulb “ah hah!” moments when insight pops. A shift of focus towards active reality, that moment-to-moment flow that’s always present when our minds quiet down, and we are recast not as subjects–but actors–of our lives. We are verbs couched in human skin. Bucky Fuller, one of my favorite early teachers, put it so simply and eloquently: ‘I Seem To Be A Verb”.
As our mindfulness practice unfolds, our verbiness becomes more apparent and present. Like the high school students, we can see our options open. We can chose to embody a character, but based on the awareness of our choice, not artifice. Or we can chose to drop characters all together and trust our natural flow. Put yet another way, we can get over ourselves as characters, and be (a verb) the essence of our true nature before we were born into human form and attendant conditioning. Watching the film, I could see the high school students light up as they found that the secret to a winning performance was to be mindful of the truth and universal aspects of their characters, and to trust finding that same truth in themselves. That connectedness brings performances and humans to life.
Our human conditioning embeds us all with roles, or characters, we play out. As mindfulness practice develops, it evolves beyond special moments spent in practice. It becomes more consistently present, not unlike a beam of light behind an object. We can discern the movement of choice that may have been unconscious before. We can actively engage each moment in this light. As practice develops even further, the edge between choice and conditioning disappears and a choiceless flow is revealed where everyday reality and the expression of our true nature are lived as one and the same.
This state of grace, really a state of love, fulfills and replaces our deepest longings. The gift mindfulness practice offers us, a sustained and sustaining equanimity, is not about big bang experiences. It infuses all moments—the very best and the very worst and all in between–with the abiding energy of faith. There is no need to avoid anything that unfolds. We have the confidence to act in spite of our fears, conditions and our conventions. As Kevin Space noted, we become the verb of ourselves, not our thoughts or conventions about who we are or supposed to be. This is the path of peace.
May all living beings be happy and safe,
May all hearts be filled with joy,
May all living beings live in equanimity and in peace.