The experience of the ‘Inner Critic’ is something we’re all familiar with. We might refer to it by a number of different names, but the experience itself is the same; a frequent and persistent judging about what we do and who we are in our lives. This voice seems to come from within and usually, it feels like it’s in our heads, rarely missing a chance to snipe or remind us ‘what we’re doing is wrong’.
Judgement only ever leads to more judgment. Whether it’s externally, by one person judging another, or internally by a person judging themselves. A person who is being judged by another, will inevitably either judge back in return, or internalise the judgement, thereby judging themselves. A process that leads once more to them judging others.
Very often we have a subtle judgment that can play out when we meditate. It often comes along with the very intention to meditate in the first place. In some form or another, we meditate to alleviate the suffering or unsatisfactoriness in our lives that we already experience. But the irony is, that this ‘in order to’ mindset itself is what often creates the suffering we so desperately seek to cure.
We often have an uneasy relationship to ‘desire’ as a species. We have a tendency to fall into one of two extremes when it comes to how we relate to it. Either way we view desire as a problem that needs to be solved. As is often the case, viewing something as a problem makes it a problem, even if there were no problem to begin with.
What I’ve found in my own learning is that the right teacher, book, lesson or instruction is completely relative. It depends entirely on where you are at right now. The ‘rightness’ of the teaching is determined by how successfully it progresses your understanding and gets you to the next stage on your path.
Wanting to be calm all the time is an understandable desire. It’s a natural reaction to a world that offers and encourages very little of it. That being said ‘calm’ in the way we are often taught mindfulness, is not the solution, nor the intention of those who originally pioneered mindfulness meditation.
By letting go of the tendency to relate to mindfulness as a thing, a noun, a what and to allow ourselves to relate to it as a process, an adverb, a how, we begin to integrate the right-brain hemisphere back into our perspective and allow it to take its rightful place as the wise shepherd of our experience.
So many times in our emotional and spiritual journey it would seem that we confuse the product with the path. We see someone who is far along the path as ‘calm’ and ‘relaxed’ and assume that this is the path or indeed the goal of the path. But this is a mistake I believe. Relaxation and calm are not the path, but products of the path. Pleasant by-products that come from it but not the intention of the journey itself.
Meditation like ourselves is full of many contradictions and paradoxes. Broadly we could say that we practice it for one sole reason, expressed in two different ways. Either to escape from the cycle of unsatisfactoriness and suffering in our lives, known as dukkha in Buddhism. Or expressed another way – to be truly ‘happy’, for lack of a better word.
In Mindful Acting we use a range of techniques from various different acting practitioners as well as meditative traditions. From Meisner and Practical Aesthetics through to sensory exercises of the various Method acting traditions. By filtering these techniques through a kind of ‘mindfulness filter’, we can begin to understand how and why these techniques work.