One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned stems a decade back to my time in theatre school. While studying theatre arts in college, I learned the lesson of stopping, going back and beginning again. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that like most lessons in life, it’s true potential didn’t really sink in until years after graduation.
While rehearsing in acting / scene study class, we as students, were instructed to stop ourselves the moment we recognized that we were no longer engaged in our character, scene or task. Once stopped, we were told to go back to the moment where we dropped out and from there, begin again.
Sounds simple right? Well I thought it was at the time. I remember the first class after those instructions were given, a few, including myself, stopped ourselves early in our rehearsal. For me, it was to experience what it felt like to stop in front of my peers and teachers.
Assuming that at this point you don’t know me very well … I’ll fill you in. I like to be challenged. I always have and rarely find myself backing down from any type of challenge. Like most things, stopping, going back and beginning again, became one of those challenges. One that I chose to accept.
After stopping a few times, the fear of failure and the shame that it presented for not making it to the end of the scene soon faded. Moments where I dropped out are moments where I was unclear. In other words my goal, focus or purpose was unclear. There was no driving force to continue forward, so the only sensible thing to do was to stop, go back to the spot where I lost my focus, with my goal in mind, begin again.
Would you expect to learn all that from a simple lesson of stopping, going back, and beginning again. I didn’t! But thats exactly the pearl this simple lesson had inside.
The beauty with scene study classes is that these types of environments are safe and specifically designed for us to fail. Classrooms, rehearsals or other forms of safe environments are made with the purpose of exploration, failure and learning the powerful skill of picking ourselves up after we’ve fallen. Choosing what you do after you have made a mistake or failed, is an important tool to understanding our strengths and weaknesses. Having compassion for yourself and going back to where you felt you failed, shows true wisdom and strength.
My time with acting taught me many things: getting over the embarrassment and shame of not being “perfect”, understanding how to handle a tremendous amount of rejection, being vulnerable in front of complete strangers, etc etc. Above all, the ability to stop myself, go back and begin again whenever I lack clarity, has been by far the most valuable gift.
How does this apply outside of acting?
Well that’s where you come in. I’ll share a few other areas in my life where this lesson plays out; What really interest me is where in your life you are either using this lesson or in need of it.
I meditate daily, a discipline I discovered a few years ago. Shortly after the discovery, I made a commitment to embrace this discipline as a daily practise. In a meditation practise, one is instructed to choose an anchor. Something to focus on, such as the rise and fall of the breath. When I find the mind wandering, as minds do, my task is to remain in a state of observation versus participation. Training myself to observe the inner world versus participating in it. If I find that I am participating, then I simply stop, go back, or in other words bring my attention back to the rise and fall of my breath and then begin again.
Every breath we take is an opportunity to begin again.
I work as a coach. While coaching my job is to typically help people shed their stories. When meeting someone that is in need of my services, I start by asking the following. What’s missing from your life? What story do you keep telling yourself that’s preventing you from getting it? The answer to these questions can be very revealing to say the least. Once worked through, people start their journey of re-empowering themselves or as a mentor of mine said “They get their spirit back”. In sessions with clients, it’s important for me as a coach, to recognize when a story is being spoken. Ignoring our stories keeps us stuck, repeating the same patterns over and over again; Which believe it or not is the definition of insanity.
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
~ Albert Einstein
Recognizing when we are in story land is crucial. Clarity of where the story begins is a must. From this specific place, we can dive deeper and look for why there is a need for a story. When we’ve reached our depth, then and only then, can we start to being again.
I can go on forever. I find myself stopping, going back and beginning again in all areas of my life. As I mentioned earlier though, I’m more interested to hear from you.
What areas in your life are you already stopping, going back and beginning again? What areas in your life could you benefit from simply stopping? How could the act of stopping impact your life?
Leave a comment below and let me know where you are finding success and where you aren’t. Remember we are in this together. It’s in a community of like minded individuals that we find some support on our journey back to empowerment.
Comment by AH
AH 2015-01-25 at 07:05
Wow! How true. I have many stories , that I call beliefs, that are preventing me from reaching my full potential happiness. It’s amazing once you look at where you came from and what beliefs or stories you developed, some serious untruths. Once I did, I could decide which ones were worthy of calling my beliefs and values and others simply a self-deprecating message I subconsciously tell myself- now taking steps to stop and let go of those. Thanks Ben!
Comment by Ben
Ben 2019-01-01 at 17:40
I still struggle with this and I’m finding that things are getting harder to catch. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but I’m not a huge fan of that. I still feel that we can change our lives at any time we want and a lot of that change can happen when we start to look at our current belief system. It isn’t easy, it’s been a little easier in a relationship because I can witness some of these beliefs by how I communicate to my partner. Grateful for your comments!!