Returning to love, again and again

I don't cry at the drop of a hat anymore, two solid years of crying brought on by a Method acting class finally worked that out of my system, but I am still easily moved by "heart messages."

In other words, I don't cry at commercials very often, but show me who you really are and I'm a goner.

I cried in the car last week, in full-on, westbound at evening hour traffic, listening to an NPR show on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I cried in the middle of the BlogHaus at SXSW, talking to Liz Strauss about personal branding (and not out of frustration with the concept getting co-opted by tools.)

I cried more when The BF's dog, Arnie, came to comfort me because I was already crying.

One of the great lessons you learn with a good acting teacher (and no, she doesn't have to teach the Method) is that everything is right there, all the time. Or that it can be. It can also be hell breaking through to the point where you recognize that Everything Is Right There All the Time: ask anyone who had to sit through most of my scenes in class for the first three years.

But once you establish that access, it's hard to go back. This is neither a good thing nor a bad one: it just is. You will feel stuff, easily and quickly, all the time. In a way, it's like a return to a childlike way of being, only with all the acquired consciousness and skills and history of adulthood. You know the truth of a situation right away, or really quickly, if you care to look. And sometimes, even if you don't.

I'm no expert, but it seems reasonable to me that this is why a lot of people turn to things that muffle the truth. There's the really obvious stuff (drugs, alcohol) and the slightly less-obvious stuff: TV, internet, video games, exercise; pretty much anything that is taken to a level of obsession. Compulsive levels of things: shopping, gambling, sex, smoking, cleaning, etc. That old saw about moderation is there for a reason. Even moderation, done excessively, can be an issue: would you trust someone who never, ever cut loose? Or would you wonder if maybe there were some Issues-with-a-Capital-"I" brewing there?

The older I get, and the more things I'm confronted with, the more I realize that most stuff can be addressed with a one-two punch: take it in and love it up.

This seems to be the foundation of a lot of spiritual practice. Meditation is observation plus detachment, which is really creating the space for love: a way to not react with reptile brain, but from a higher or deeper place of compassion.

"The Work" of Byron Katie boils down to that, too: it's a process for shifting thinking (and being) by approaching information differently, i.e. with love. (Note: I'm not a Byron Katie scholar or even a student, but I did research The Work several years ago while exploring modalities for change.)

Talk therapy, when done right, does the same thing: it helps you view things through a different lens than you're used to, and part of the reason it works is the safe, compassionate space provide by the therapist.

What I've come to, again and again, is that love is at the heart of it all (you'll pardon the pun), but for myriad reasons, we forget that and need reminding. Our funky reptile hardwiring so quick to shift us into danger mode, for one. Life, for another: have you looked around and seen how complex things have gotten lately? How many of us there are? How many languages we speak, or more accurately, that we don't speak?

In times of extreme crisis, the death of a loved one, on a small scale, or a tragedy like tsunami, Katrina, 9/11, on a large one, the first, immediate reaction is a falling away of everything and a feeling of tenderness. Think outflows of cash, help, feeling. Hell, here in L.A., people actually waved people into traffic for a full two weeks.

The problem, of course, is staying in that feeling. There's a reason those super-compassionate monks and world champions of mind-training have to spend so much time meditating: staying in compassion is not a natural thing. Frankly, I'm still unconvinced that it's an entirely good thing, but then, of course I'd say that: I'm not highly evolved enough to, yet.

What I have been doing lately is examining the reactions I have and seeing how they make me feel. Righteous indignation? Umbrage? Not so good. Plus, when I react from these, the reaction it sets off in others is really not so good.

When I can take one motherfucking goddamned moment to step back and breathe, however, the shift is remarkable. I feel better. I can usually interact with someone in a way that, if it doesn't make them feel better, usually doesn't make them feel worse. Nothing works all the time. But when I'm really, truly doing it, when I'm working clean, not working it to game the situation, it works most of the time. And my own peace of mind is increased every time.

This is a more open-ended musing than I usually post, and for an obvious reason: I'm at the beginning of this particular road. As such, I'm really curious to know what your experience is in acting from that space of love: when it's easy, when it's hard, and particularly, what practices have helped you get there. Some people seem to have been born to it, my paternal grandmother is one of those people whom you honestly couldn't imagine thinking unkindly towards anyone, much less acting that way. But most of us aren't Betty. do you do it? How are you doing it? Who has taught you, and what have you learned? Inquiring minds, and hearts, want to know...d

xxx c

Image by jpmccluskey via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.