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:
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.
Now that the mind is steady, it needs know what to focus on and nothing focuses the primal monkey mind more than a clear intent.
Energy follows attention—it’s that simple. If you are unclear as to what you’re paying attention to, the mind will become agitated and spray energy all over the place. This is one of the primary reasons for being nervous.
Intent acts as your director through the audition process. Have a conscious intent for every moment leading up to the audition. Make your intents strong and also kind to yourself (you don’t need to put yourself under more pressure than you may already be feeling). Make intentions to have fun, to create, to share, to connect, to surprise. Make an intent for your time in the waiting room so that your attention doesn’t get hijacked and so that you stay focused and positive. Make an intent for the person/people in the room, and make it generous—“to make their day better, to lift their spirits, etc.” This sends a message to the mind that there is no threat, and that there is no one it needs to keep you safe from because you are in charge and watch it loosen its protective grip.
I assume that you have an intent for your work, so commit to that during the reading and then make an intent for how you leave the room as well. Working in this very conscious way keeps your mind focused on the immediate job at hand so that all of your energy flows forward in support of that job/intent. Conscious intent will also make you appear clear, strong, and on purpose through each phase of the process—qualities that are essential to you getting the job.
You can try this conscious intent exercise in your daily life and see how it works. Start before you even get out of bed and see how many you can establish during the day. Your mind is establishing the intents that it wants you to have without you even knowing it, so why not establish them consciously so that they benefit and enrich your life the way you truly want them to? You’ll also get 10 times more accomplished and have so much more energy, if you always know why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Your intents determine not only the course of your days and the outcome of your work, but the direction of your life as well.
Over a life time of auditioning you’ll make hundreds of different creative decisions and hopefully bring numerous rich colors to the work you do. The one constant through all of your audition experiences will be your mind and body. They will always be where the decisions and colors will originate and be housed. Only when the mind is steady and the body is grounded will the effect of those decisions be profoundly felt and the colors be vividly seen.
Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!