Do you ever feel the need for a safe haven? A place to go to rest and regroup? We all do.
But I think actors, writers, directors, dancers and anyone in the arts need refuge more than most. There is so little security as an artist, so little control. There is also a good deal of rejection, often with no explanation. If those three things aren’t reason enough to have safe places to turn to, I don’t know what is!
Following are three sources of refuge for the beautiful, weary, and tender soul of the artist.
The Heart and Body
To sit down, to go inside, and look deeply into your heart and to feel how the hearts joys and longings live in the body, is to take the truest refuge possible.
Yet, we often seek refuge in others, first. We trust those others to be kind and nurturing in a way that we often don’t trust ourselves to be. A refuge is a safe place, not a battle ground, so before you take refuge in the heart and body, it is wise to make the decision to be your own best friend instead of your own worst enemy.
Your mind can contribute much to the worst enemy category. As the main function of the brain is to create logic streams and to keep you safe, it can come up with some really negative talk around living the risky, illogical life of the artist.
This is why it is wise to first find refuge in the heart—to sit in its warmth and kindness is a wonderful way to remember your strengths. Your heart beats with the blood of a kind, generous, determined person who has overcome so much to pursue a dream that most people think is crazy. Listening to the heart allows you to live in the peaceful, positive emotions of all you have achieved, and in the pulsing determination of what is to come.
The body also offers a purely non-judgmental place to be safe. Unlike the mind, the body has no opinions, it is the truest indicator we have as to what is actually going on – not the story of what’s going on (mind), but the actual content of the experience. The body is a refuge because it will never lie to you. Sit with it and feel how all of your hopes, fears, successes and challenges affect the different parts of the body. Learn the exact location where each of these many and varied emotions are held, where you feel them the most deeply. Let this information remind you that you are a big container, able to hold the full range of your emotional world with ease and strength.
What purer refuge could there be than your own heart and body—the two places that will always tell you the exact truth of your direct experience.
Class has the potential to be a true refuge both physically and creatively. It should be a place that, once the door is closed, envelops you and allows you to breathe, and to let go of the clamor of your mind and the opinions of the world, so that you can remember why you wanted to act in the first place. A place where you can come home to yourself as an artist.
Class is the refuge that inspires you to be bigger and better and gives you the tools to do so. This is where being the best actor you can be is always the most important thing, where you can safely explore and go deeper and deeper into the work and into yourself.
Here is the place where your social media profile and your “brand” don’t define you—where you are encouraged and led to expand instead of contract.
A class that is a creative, professional refuge teaches the importance of including discipline, focus, and concentration in the creative process. In an audition, you need to be seen as a solid actor, as well as a unique, compelling individual with the personal strength and professionalism needed to give the people in the room the confidence to hire you. So many times this balance isn’t achieved and you get either a very creative and interesting actor who doesn’t know how to pull it all together in the room, or an actor who is technically skilled and focused, but ultimately not exciting enough to interest the people in the room.
The class that is a true refuge provides you with the skills, encouragement, and tough love that it takes for you to find your perfect balance—to be a dynamic, honest, singular, employable artist.
I see a lot of starving actors in L.A. Not because they’re not eating, but because they are not creating. Creating is food for the artist, but in order for your creative work to be a true, nourishing refuge for you, it must be of the highest quality. Buffets are a nourishing refuge to no one.
This means doing everything you do thoroughly and with 100 percent commitment. I see a lot of actors frantically trying to do as much as possible instead of focusing on doing each thing well. They’re acting, writing, producing, etc., which can be amazing, but many are doing it all in a way that is more about running away from anxiety than leaning into creativity. Most of us are capable of doing many things at once, but how many things are worth doing and actually get our very best efforts?
A refuge is a home and the home needs to be built on a strong foundation, with solid materials. Doing 100 things at once, but not doing any of those things to a meaningful completion is like having a house built on sand with half a roof.
At the end of the day, you can’t fool yourself and there is no point in trying to convince yourself that that second rate is good enough. You can only feel that creativity is a refuge if it is the absolute best that you know you can do, if it satisfies and nurtures, makes you feel proud of yourself—if it feels like home.
You need to create strong sources of refuge for yourself in a business that can be unpredictable and, at times, hurtful and discouraging. If you have no place to check in, the seeming lack of any control can send you spiraling down to level after level of anger, fear, and doubt.
Your places of refuge are places to rest, recharge, and remember. They are the places where you go to regain your confidence and to rediscover your pride in your work and yourself, to come home to truth of you as a creative being, an artist, and as an actor.