2 Tips for Steadying the Wild Mind
Last week we discussed the importance of grounding your work in the body and creating a stable physical foundation for the audition room.
This week we’ll discuss some strategies for grounding the wild mind!
I have found as a teacher that this work is essential. A grounded body and steady mind are your foundation. It doesn’t matter how amazing your technique is or how great an actor you are, if your foundation isn’t strong, it won’t sustain your work and it all will come tumbling down.
So, to begin with, the mind is not your enemy. It has jobs to do and it wants to do them. The issue is that some of its jobs aren’t very beneficial to the creative process. That’s OK. The wonderful thing about the mind is that it’s pliable—you can train it to behave in ways that support you as an artist.
One of the primary functions of the mind is to protect you and to keep you safe. Good. You’re still alive, so thank the mind for that. One of the ways it protects you is with the fight, flight, or freeze mechanisms located in the reptilian chamber—the oldest part of the brain. Auditioning, because you are in a new environment and in front of strangers, seems dangerous to the reptilian brain and the flight mechanism kicks in big time.
In order to be free to let go and share the amazing work that is stored in your body and heart, the mind needs to know that it can release control. Here are a couple of ways to help you do that:
Breath/Mantra The first thing you need to do is steady the mind. A good way to begin is with the breath. The mind is tremendously receptive to the messages that it receives from the breath. Breathe shallow and the mind will sense danger; breathe deeply and the mind begins to release its grip. Breathing in a way that is specific to your needs will send the message even faster: Breaths emanating from the stomach help with feeling large and expansive; chest breaths help you relax; focusing the breath on the solar plexus opens the heat; and concentrating on how the breath feels traveling in and out of the nostrils increases focus. I went into greater detail about these breath types in this article.
You can increase the power of your message to the brain by attaching a mantra to the breath. I think it’s a great idea for all actors to have a creative mantra—one word that describes you as an artist and what you aspire to become. Take your time finding it and if you want have a couple, go ahead. You never know how you may feel and what your needs will be.
Inhale deeply from your chosen body area, gathering the mantra into your mind/body. At the top of the inhale, say your mantra and then exhale it out into the world.
The action of breathing your mantra into your body will steady the frantic and overly vigilant mind, letting it know that all is well, you are safe in your creative space, and it can take a break from guard duty so you can be free to feel, to create, and to fly.