This article by Sherly Sulaiman was originally published on Daily Actor on April 30, 2015.
It’s pilot season in Hollywood. One of my clients, Cathy (not her real name), an actress that flies to Los Angeles from Sydney every year during this time, inquired about utilizing mindfulness for her craft. We normally focus on hypnotherapy to help her uncover anything that unconsciously holds her back from performing her best and fulfilling her dreams. However, during our most recent sessions, it was mindfulness on which she wanted to focus most.
With its increasing popularity – due to the help of celebrities such as Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Angelina Jolie, 50 Cent and the late Steve Jobs – it is of no great surprise that mindfulness has expanded into the arena of sports and entertainment. In addition to its health benefits, due to more calmness, people have become fascinated by its performance enhancing benefits. No wonder Phil Jackson, president of the New York Knicks, has revealed that it’s a part of the team’s training regime and Arianna Huffington has embraced it as part of her daily routine.
The meaning and practice of “mindfulness” has evolved beyond its original Buddhist roots. In modern western culture, due to the influence of molecular biologist Jon Kabat – Zinn in the 1970s, the focus of mindfulness has moved from giving attention from a place of compassion (central to Buddhist philosophy) to simply giving attention from a place of awareness. The detachment from any religious connotations has allowed mainstream society to embrace it and mold the practice to “fit all shapes and sizes” of people’s needs.
That is why it was a delight for me to focus on mindfulness during Cathy’s private sessions. At the heart of all great performances is the artist’s ability to be in the moment. This is imperative for actors. After learning the lines, studying the character and knowing directions, actors need to be present as the character as if they’re experiencing it for the very first time, despite how many takes there may have been or how many performances they may have had that week.
This present moment awareness can be accessible to the actor more easily when they have a regular mindfulness practice in their personal life. Much like the way martial artists would repeat physical movements so that by the time they may need it, it becomes second nature. By the time the actor is at that audition or on set with the cameras rolling, it’s critical to be “in the moment” as the character. The performance would be easier to do and far more effective if “experienced” as authentically as having a cup of coffee in the morning. The last thing an actor wants to experience in that moment is doubt or insecurities that takes them away from being present.
After helping her incorporate various mindfulness meditation techniques with hypnotherapy, Cathy now feels a confidence in a deeper and more profound way than ever before. She used to find auditions nerve-wracking, but recently she has noticed that she anticipates them from a space of fun and self-acceptance. She now not only hits her marks when she’s on set, she also hits her “mindfulness mark.”
Sherly Sulaiman (BA, ICBCH) is a certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and NLP (Neuro – Linguistic Programming) Practitioner. She has more than 15 years experience in the Health and Wellbeing industry. She has just started offering “Mindfulness for Actors” meetups to help Los Angeles-area actors cope with rejection, improve their auditions, and to be in-the-moment in their characters and in their lives. You can find more about Sherly here, and more about her new acting initiative here.
Visit her website www.newstressrelief.com