Creative Aliveness in Daily Life

Many years ago, I did a little bit of local community theater acting, and even did a class or two. It was around the time that I had started studying meditation, and it often struck me that the acting exercises we did had a lot in common with sitting meditation.

I was reminded of that when I listened to an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with the novelist, playwright, and actor Ayad Akhtar (the interview aired on January 17; you can find it at tinyurl.com/6ljv97n, and the part that interested me starts at 24:10.)

Akhtar studied with some major acting teachers, including Jerzy Grotowski. The interviewer, Terry Gross, asks him whether the exercises he did with Grotowski were related to Akhtar’s religious interests. His answer is great; The short answer, he says, is “yes,” but the more interesting answer is “no.”

Why this split? Because Grotowski felt that yoga and meditation were intended to help people withdraw from the world, whereas his exercises (based on yoga, but much more active) trained actors to engage the world wholly.

Now, Grotowski was clearly no expert on meditation, and this distinction is way too simplistic. But it does help make a point about Creative Inquiry. The aim in Creative Inquiry is to be wholly present to experience and the knowledge it carries. And the key insight that makes this possible is that at every level, the present is much more than we think it to be. How do you activate this expanded, richer, more immediate, and more meaningful present? That is what Creative Inquiry is about.

Any actors out there who would like to weigh in?

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One Response to Creative Aliveness in Daily Life

  1. michaelg says:

    I’m not really an actor, but in the mid-eighties, around the same time as I first encountered TSK, I joined an acting workshop that led to me being in a couple of plays. I wouldn’t compare this experience to yoga or meditation so much as to TSK. I recognized that I was confined in a particular set of personality characteristics through having access to this acting practice in which I could try on other emotions, attitudes and concerns. This helped me to break some of the tethers that bound me. I only did this for a year or so, but it allowed me to recognize that I really had other options in how I approached my daily life. It opened up my sense of Time, Space, and Knowledge in very specific ways. Like Boris Pasternak has Hamlet say in one of the Zivago poems: something about how the audience is watching, “along the sights of a thousand opera glasses, and I wonder what is to happen in my lifetime.” Each night you have to walk out on stage exactly on cue and say precisely the lines you have memorized. That sounds like living a determined life, but since it is not our life, it shines a light on “what is to happen in our lifetime”, giving options while there is still time to follow them. Michael Gray

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