Meditation (and mindfulness, its more secular form) is often viewed as something done by hippies, or a fad, a bit like kale smoothies or quinoa cakes. But, quite simply, it is really the practice of being present. It is about being here and now, exactly as we are, noticing ourselves, how we are feeling and our surroundings.
Personally, I think it is a concerning reflection on our society when simply taking time in your day to do nothing but be with yourself is seen as weird or a craze – and perhaps this perception of meditation is actually an indication of why it is so needed alongside life in the 21st century.
I consider myself very lucky to have been introduced to meditation at quite a young age. It was part of my daily routine as a teenager and I believe that it had a significant impact on my ability to deal with adolescence. Another huge part of my life, and the life of many students in Edinburgh, is theatre.
Recently I have been exploring how meditation and mindfulness practices might benefit performance. One of my primary aims for Big Mind Theatre, an amateur production company set up in October, was to explore the way in which we make theatre and how we look after the well-being of everyone involved. With the cast of Mind-Full, our first production, I started to experiment with using mindfulness techniques for acting.
I believe there is a clear link to be explored, since meditation is first and foremost about being in the present moment with your body and mind, and about learning to be more aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and anyone who does any sort of live performance needs these skills.
An actor must be aware of what they are doing with their body and face, as well as being aware of the other performers on stage. All sorts of live performers, from DJs to street entertainers, have to respond to their audiences, and must be able to be present with them. All performance requires vulnerability and many types of performance ask for genuine self-expression.
Anyone who has been practicing meditation for any length of time will testify that it is one of the best ways to gain greater self-awareness. Another key benefit that is often highlighted is that learning to pause and be in the present moment can help you to relax. By using this techniques in the instant of stress, panic. or stage fright you can learn to better manage anxious feelings.
During BedFest, the Edinburgh University Theatre Company’s annual theatre festival, I will be running a workshop exploring Meditation and Mindfulness for Performers. The focus will be on acting but the exercises should be useful for any type of performance. We will go through some basic meditation, techniques to help with nerves and some acting exercises incorporating mindfulness practices such as the body-scan.
You can partake in this workshop on 22nd January, 2:30pm at Bedlam Theatre
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