The End of Fear: A Spiritual Path for Realists

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The strength of will needed to portray human emotions using yourself as the raw material is precisely the same strength the young monk in training is seeking in his quest for the place of quiet stillness. For the actor these techniques are sufficiently alien to engender enough discipline in their acquisition that old habits can be overcome and forgotten. By placing a unified philosophy of teaching combined with an absolute faith in their methodology of approaching the voice, the teachers of the National Voice Intensive allow their students to make deep personal discoveries about themselves.

The ability of the actor to hide behind the mask of the character is removed. Forcing them to use themselves in this emotionally baring way allows the students to realize that there is no excuse not to be free in their work. Once a commitment is made to allowing the truth of the moment to be your guide, everything else becomes a cheat. Whatever spiritual borrowings have taken place all advance this goal by providing a structure upon which a new journey is possible. The National Theatre School in Montreal is one of the oldest and most highly regarded training programs in Canada.

Its sole purpose is to prepare people for the professional theatre. If there was a school that did not have time for "fringe" methodology I expected to find it here. Instead I found, in the faculty I interviewed, a cognizance of the role the spirituality of other cultures plays in their work. Movement coach, Jo Lesly, begins and ends each of her classes with a ritual action patterned on a medicine wheel Lesly. Sheldon Rosen, the playwriting instructor, urges his students to allow their writing to be a beacon for their voice. He says, "They must let the material out before they try and shape it.

He believes that people do not know what they know and that writers can surprise themselves with unguarded access to their intuitive selves in the same way as actors, if they trust their instincts and accept the fact that the intuitive can be logical. As the Alexander and Tai Chi instructor, Steven Glassman is completely dedicated to the idea that the mind and the body are one, and that a personal spirituality cannot be divorced from the craft of the actor because the choices you make as a person affect your work as an actor.

It is therefore natural to equate the spiritual journey to the training journey. Self awareness is at the heart of almost any spiritual discipline and it is also at the heart of acting because you can't really develop the quality of listening, whether it is to your own intuition or to, on a physical level, another actor onstage or your-audience I would say that at the National Theatre School the first year is very much geared to exploration, opening up, taking risks While he feels his work has a spiritual component, it is not religious or even tied to a particular philosophy.

Alexander, for example, developed his technique for very practical reasons-he had vocal problems. He came to believe that bad physical and mental habits were inhibiting his voice production. It is a way of bringing the whole person into balance" Park, Glassman's own work has taken him to Java and he also credited the time he spent in a Gurdjieff community as being seminal to his growth as a teacher, because of its emphasis on discipline being the path to knowledge.

For him, the Alexander technique was a simple and practical way to utilize those ideas. It is the conflict between doing the task well and the desire to succeed that is often troublesome to western students who have been raised on the idea of "no pain, no gain. This desire for result and the traps of old habits were the inspiration for F.

Alexander to develop the technique that bears his name and is taught today at theatre schools and resident acting companies all over the world.

The End Of Fear A Spiritual Path For Realists

To Steven Glassman at the National Theatre School, "it is the glue that holds the training together," because of its emphasis on dealing with one's own personal stress that can be applied to any class. Freeing the body also allows for a freeing of the mind that allows for release and development of the imagination. There is a shift from thinking about trying, to a concentration on the process.

In a parallel to the Buddhist concept of freedom from emotions Alexander said:. Glassman believes that his students are aware that the Alexander technique is about how you live your life; that it is about having a greater sense of exploration. This work provides a link between all the elements of the training because it is a way of working from your centre and staying connected to your body even in moments of stress. In a creative visualization he describes a typical Alexander exercise with a meditative origin, "Think your arm long. Think of your bones separating. Your energy flowing like water or as smoke flowing down your arms.

He concluded that the connection between spirituality and actor training is the courage it provides to the student:. Spirituality is about living your life as fully as you can and finding out what is essential, having a certain peacefulness inside which comes from self-awareness; you know who you are and what your capacities are. Having the courage to deal with your weaknesses and your fears is really a lot about acting.

The Incredible Power of “Transmutation” on the Spiritual Path

You have to have the courage to face a lot of that stuff. Tai Chi is also an integral part of movement training at the National Theatre School. In my interview with Mr. Glassman he described the rationale for the inclusion of this technique in the syllabus of the first year acting course at NTS:.

If I look at it from movement training, I think why so many people now use Tai Chi It uses movement, breath and visual focus, so it's very demanding. Because it is slow the students can put into practice the physical awareness or observation work that we are doing in Alexander or voice etc So I would say that Tai Chi very much helps with a sense of focus which works from a sort of quiet place but a very strong place and it's asking the students to be aware of themselves as they move. It is not about getting to the end but being in the process of living it from one position to the next.

The End of Fear : A Spiritual Path for Realists by Richard Schaub (2010, Paperback, Large Type)

In this way, Tai Chi becomes a barometer and a guidepost for the journey into greater self awareness that the students must take as they embark on a career of becoming other characters. The spiritual or "quiet" place is achieved through the discipline, the practice of practical techniques, the constant repetition of physical and mental tasks until they become second nature.

When the mind is free from concentrating on the task, it becomes able to create. Perhaps nowhere is the link between spirituality and Alexander technique more eloquently stated than in Glen Park's book The Art of Changing. The entire second half of the work focuses on maintaining an energy flow in balance and harmony. Park makes no apologies for his views that Alexander is a technique that has benefits for the whole person and not just for the body. For him it is more than a system of relaxation and body alignment. The world is, he says, "an energy dance, a dance of Shiva," and man is energy; therefore the Alexander technique can be a way of channelling that energy Park, His work has led him to the building blocks of both life and art.

Of his students he says:.

They notice changes of a fundamental kind taking place. These changes are difficult to put into words because they are about an aspect of life we don't often talk about. In a sense they are not about an aspect of life at all, but about the source of it Park, Students delve into a refined state of self awareness where they can listen to themselves as if for the first time and without judgement about what is good or bad about their emotional responses to what they see. They can begin to make choices. If the information that influences these choices is the fiction of the play then it is easy to see why this technique has been so universally accepted in conservatory training programs.

What struck me most about Glen Park's book was not its thesis but the fact that it is a required text for first year students in Britain's largest University conservatory theatre training program, Manchester Metropolitan University. The students begin their studies with a clear textual link between spiritual growth and acting training. In my correspondence with Niamh Dowling, the program's Head, she had described the school as having a somewhat "holistic" view of actor training and pointed to The Art of Changing as a source. Their curriculum does, however, combine the esoteric with the practical; the students receive two terms of anatomy beyond the more usual movement and voice classes.

The main point of the exercise seemed to be to make a firm connection from the sacrum to the occipital bone. One of the partners lay on the floor in a semi-supine position with their feet flat on the floor and their knees up. They were then encouraged to establish a flow of energy from their head to their pelvis through the spine. Once the flow was established they started to move around this axis of unity with the aid of creative visualization and the constant contact of the partner.

Text was added to movement to integrate their voice work into their body work. The class then continued with the other partner repeating the process.

A Spiritual Path for Realists

Eventually the partners evolved a self-taught ritual form that contained just enough risk in the movement that concentration was required. When previously learned text was introduced old vocal patterns were broken by the unique physical relationship brought about by the repetition of the form. By the end of the class it was a complete integration of the body, the voice, and the actor that had incorporated elements of meditative breathing, the discipline of Tai Chi, and Alexander's rejection of old habits Dowling. Alexander Clements, the senior acting coach at Manchester Metropolitan, summed up his belief in the connection between his training techniques and spirituality when he said, "Centring is spiritual" Clements.

Patricia Roy echoed fellow voice teacher Smukler, when she described her work to place the breath lower in the body to contact the emotional chakra or centre, which she refers to not as "the swamp" but as "mud. Roy said, "We have to constantly keep finding new ways to redefine our messages. It provides a methodology for observation without judgement and for the discovery of mental clarity.

She describes that clarity in terms of ".

The End of Fear

Without such efforts she felt her students would inevitably carry too much tension into their work. Clements summed up the feelings of the faculty when he said, "I talk of the neutral self and the developed self and I think there are spiritual elements involved. Actors have to go on some terrible journeys The training must give them those tools" Clements. A teacher of acting has a responsibility to prepare students in as complete a way as possible for the rigors of the stage and the vagaries of the profession.

People will bring their own backgrounds and beliefs into their work because, for each of us, theatre starts as a personal journey. Spirituality, like training, is not absolute. It is a guide or a way of doing things and each student will interpret and take away different things from each lesson. The fundamental task of the performer is to live in a character on stage as if the circumstances of the performance were real. It is about, "being in another way" Simon Callow qtd.


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This is a difficult concept to teach because it involves intangibles like talent, intuition, and faith as much as a four-octave range and a certain kinaesthetic sense. It involves balancing patience, practice and discipline of both mind and body. It starts with the breath as the rhythm of life that connects the centre of a person to the outside universe. The rewards that may come with the acceptance of these techniques and some hard work are courage and power, the courage to always be ready to move and the power to stay still. For the actor in training, life is often a series of frustrations and seeming failures.

What once seemed easy and natural can collapse under the weight of a conservatory training program. The authors have identified the predominant Western world-views that attempt to deny impermanence and vulnerability, and offer cogent reasoning as to why these attempts must fail. The third, that of the materialist, collapses when one observes that those who have created shelter for them-selves in their wealth may see their vast fortunes wiped out; those who hide in relationships may lose lovers and friends; those obsessed with physical beauty and fitness also age, suffer, and die.

Richard Schaub, PhD, and his wife Bonney Gulino Schaub, RN, MS, are international teachers of professional and self-development, and serve as guides on sacred art and meditation retreats.


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  • A Handbook for Practice. Chances are you don't envision the world's or your own catastrophic end on a daily basis; however, we are all routinely altered by fear - from simply feeling nervous about a new experience to repeatedly rethinking a critical comment. In The End of Fear, Richard and Bonney Schaub explore the origin of fear down to its root and posit that it grows out of our innate love of life.

    They teach that fear is so influential because deep down we know that our life is unpredictable and that we are all vulnerable; we risk change and loss at every moment. No religion grants any exemption, and no amount of money or status can change this fact for us. Using examples from their lives and those of their patients, the Schaubs draw upon their 30 years of experience as psychotherapists to explore the common methods people turn to in order to cope with their basic vulnerability.