The Power in Limitation
...today I recognize that the very limitations and contrasts that provoked a sense of futility, fear, doubt, even depression at times, yes, also provoked my imagination and artistic sensibilities to awaken and thrive.
As an Artist I discovered my sense of true abundance later in life. And when I did, I gradually began to see how to transfer this sense of abundance from my craft to my daily life.
Abundance! Finally I understood that I possessed it and I no longer had to convince myself with unconvincing affirmations that I had it. I simply experienced it; abundant energy, abundant artistic flow, abundant inspiration, abundant creativity. On good days I felt able to command the flow of abundance. I felt connected to it. Present. Awake. Recently I came to a deeper understanding about abundance: that my willingness to embrace it is directly related to my willingness to know and allow limitations. Abundance alone will not create and bring forth the conditions necessary for the imagination to thrive. Limitation, or Contrast, will.
Today, as perverse as it seems even to myself, I recognize that the very limitations and contrasts that provoked a sense of futility, fear, doubt, even depression at times, yes; also provoked my imagination and artistic sensibilities to awaken and thrive. It was not easy and it was never welcomed. Yet counter-intuitively and with reflection, I must acknowledge the fact that stringent limitations and contrasts, if I consciously engaged with them, created their opposite: massive creative fecundity and possibilities that gave rise to unending choices; abundance. So certain am I of this symbiotic dynamic that I believe I have a formula for success based on contrast and limitation.
How does this abundance/limitation-contrast show up in my actors?
In many ways. All equally fascinating.
I am most struck by actors who, when faced with multiple opportunities or when they get what they want - in some small or large way - seem to disappear into a sinkhole. Choices (options, abundance, possibilities) create in them an anxiety usually reserved for those about to be tortured. At least it is so to my eyes. Why would they shrink from the magic inherent in choosing, having, experiencing, I wonder? When I coach actors I move them to see the possibilities that DO exist, not just in a particular choice but in the act of making a choice. That is where power and creativity lies; in the very act of making a conscious choice, within the limitation. If the actor can unglue herself from the details of the choice and simply make a conscious choice with her scene partner, she will sense possibilities open up for her, immediately. But she must make a choice first. She must take a risk. If she does not she will miss the abundant possibilities that open up with choice. She will be stagnant in the face of possibilities that remain locked within her, seemingly unattainable.
When I coach I limit myself even as I limit my actor. I do so in order to engage the power of my own imagination. I restrain her over-active mind and bring her to focus on her heartbeat. I bend his unbending will into a moment that holds nothing but his breath. I hold the space. I leave them free to breathe, to listen, to be present to something simple and always perfect: a pure and unadulterated breath, a simple beat. Limited to breath and (heart)beat, the actor is liberated to dare, to risk, to be spontaneous and to act from a place of conscious choice rather than blind fear.
With practice and given time, Being will re-awaken. Brain and Imagination will recognize Choice as playful and liberating. Fear (masquerading as boredom or indifference), and Self-doubt will slink away, shame-faced. Abundance will flow as a giggle-headed inner-child once more. Possibilities will thrive, it’s what possibilities do. And the impersonal teachers, limitation&contrast will stand aside, awaiting their next moment.