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I think part of the challenge of being on a spiritual journey is that sometimes we can get all “Lama-Dama-Ding-Dong” about it. We think enlightenment is serious or we express these platitudes of love and peace and Kumbaya – when in actuality, real transformative, spiritual change occurs by getting into the nitty-gritty of it all. It occurs by working with our stuff. The stuff we judge to be too dark or weird or messed up. The stuff we tell ourselves that leaves us feeling untalented or unworthy or unlovable. The stuff that makes us feel separate and alone and alienated from everyone else.
And that’s the left brain’s job: to make us feel separate because of the nature of the thoughts we incorrectly think about ourselves. We are left feeling we’re the only ones who think this way.
Yet everywhere you look in science, it’s been proven that humanity is pretty much the same. We are all made of the same shared stuff of the cosmos. From billions of years ago, we contain the stuff that birthed the stars – we actually are stardust – and contain these same atoms that have simply been reconstituted over and over again through millenniums.
Our genome composition is 99.5% the same among all human beings.
Psychologically and emotionally we are the same. Yes, we each have different individual, conscious experiences along our journey, but the universality of feeling is the same for everyone.
If you but realized that the person sitting next to you on the bus or at the movies is confronted by the same stuff you are, you’d be a lot more gentle with yourself (and humankind).
But we don’t connect to the sameness that we share with people because we listen to our thoughts that tell us we’re stupid, a bad mom, we drink too much, are lazy, or watch too much porn.
These things are not robbing you from the light that you already are. These things actually jettison you into the light when you take them out of the dark, scary places in your head and begin to work with them, share them, bravely confront them, breathe into them.
When you do, two things happen.
You reveal back to humanity what it truly means to be human.
And you become the kind of person (and artist) you’ve always wanted to be: dynamic, empowered, exciting, dangerous, funny, present, creative, compassionate, real, honest, raw, expressive, sexy and fearless.
Now what’s “Lama-Dama-Ding-Dong” about that?
You want to access your potential? You want to be a great artist? You want to tap into your creative genius? You want to book a job?
It’s simple. Get out of your head.
Again and again and again.
In the New York Times bestselling book, Imagine, a Johns Hopkins University Neuroscientist, Charles Limb, is interviewed for the research he’s been doing with jazz musicians and the activity of their brains when they improv.
In what I refer to in acting as a “let go,” or a “surrender to the moment,” Mr. Limb also found in musicians that there’s an explosion of energy in the medial prefrontal cortex – an area in the front of the brain associated with self-expression.
Limb refers to this area as the “center of autobiography” – which suggests that when a jazz musician improvs, he or she is actually playing notes that reflect his or her own personal style.
As actors, when you do what you do in the moment, you’re imprinting your style, your personality, your instinct, your self onto the form or structure through which you are creating. In acting, this would be a scene. In jazz, it would be the musical line.
Academy Award-winning actress, Tilda Swinton, says acting is, “All her,” and it’s, “All autobiography.”
Do you see a pattern here?
During the brain research, as the musicians began to riff in the moment, there was also a dramatic shift in the brain’s nearby circuit – known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) – which is most closely related to impulse control.
It’s your inner censor that keeps you from acting out on impulses. “I can’t do that!” “That would look stupid!”
But what was amazing about the study was that before a single note was played in the improv, each pianist exhibited a deactivation of the DLPFC.
That’s right. The brain silenced that circuit. Your censor can shut up!
But it takes practice. It involves lots and lots of training to develop that muscle that can overpower the inner critic.
When people come to audit a class, they often ask me why I don’t let actors memorize.
I discovered something years ago when I first started training artists that memorization actually inhibited the accessing of their intuitive, creative impulses.
And now, again, the science proves this.
In the brain study, when jazz musicians played a memorized tune – guess what? The DLPFC remained active. In other words, the censor was alive and kicking, keeping the musicians (and actors) from being freely, wildly, dangerously expressed.
That’s not to say you won’t memorize pieces. That’s not to say musicians won’t play memorized tunes. You will, but from a new vantage point. One without a censor.
The implications of these studies shows that we can access our creative potential by working a methodology that scientifically and artistically creates a new muscle to supplant the inner critic.
Get out of your head. Get into your body. Lose your mind. Regain your senses.
So, when it comes to creating, say goodbye to your DLPFC! Let go in the moment and turn that censor off.