The Art of Detachment

Now I don’t know what the word “detachment” conjures up for you.  It may carry negative connotations, it may mean self-protection or cool aloofness to you, but that’s not the kind of detachment I am writing about.  There is a spiritual concept of detachment, which is actually a very good thing and can be a lifesaver in desperate times.  I first learned about it from a great little book by Deepak Chopra called, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.  Detachment is the 6th law he talks about in the book.  It is probably 6th because the first 5 prep you enough that you can handle reading about detachment without having an ego freak-out.  If you read about detachment first you might chuck the book into the nearest garbage can (err...recycling bin).  Despite the potential for an ego freak-out, I am writing about it anyway because there is such a valuable lesson in it.  Here’s the definition straight from the book, “The Law of Detachment says that in order to acquire anything in the physical universe, you have to relinquish your attachment to it.  This doesn’t mean you give up the intention to create your desire.  You don’t give up the intention, and you don’t give up the desire.  You give up your attachment to the result.” 

You have a dream; a deep desire and you want it to come true.  In practicing the spiritual law of Detachment you can still hold onto that dream and desire, but you must relinquish how it comes about and what it looks like in the end.  The Art of Detachment allows for something different, but just as good, or even something better.  Sure you’re on this path, you’re committed to being an actor, painter, writer, artist.  You have a vision and clear goals of what that looks like.  But you can only control so much of what you envision, the rest is up to the mystery of the cosmos and often other people.  You can envision being the next recurring star on House of Cards, but what if there is something else, something better, something more fulfilling that your heart of hearts longs for, but you can’t see yet?  Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way writes, “Sometimes you shake the apple tree and the Universe delivers oranges.”  Still fruit, still good, just a different result that what you thought.  What would happen if you allowed for the possibility of oranges in the end? …(or bananas or pineapples or avocados?!)   

                                               "Orchard Row" by  Liz West  used under  CC BY 2.0  

                                               "Orchard Row" by Liz West used under CC BY 2.0 

The Art of Detachment reminds me of the simple prayer, “this or something better.”  You don’t know how things will turn out, none of us do.  You think this thing that is happening to you right now is the most miserable thing in the world, but you have no idea where it will lead.  Many people that survive a life-threatening illness say the experience ends up being the biggest gift in their life because of what they learned and how their lives changed for the better.  Maybe you didn’t land that job because you need the fire in your belly to start your own project and if you keep booking the same kind of jobs you become comfortable, you sit back on your laurels and never take the reins and put into the world what is yours to do and share…that thing that you are really meant to be doing.  You know what I’m talking about.  There is greatness in you that longs to come out.  Don’t hold yourself back.  Begin it!  

The Art of Detachment is practiced when you relinquish your firm grasp on your dream and instead hold it open in your palm and say, “I really want this and I am working for it and I also allow for something even better to happen.”  My guess is you’ll be delighted with what the Universe can surprise you with! 

                                               Unknown creator 

                                               Unknown creator 

Do you have an experience of letting go of the results only to be surprised with something better in the end?  Share it below in the comments!  

10 Simple Action Steps for Frustrated Actors

Have you been feeling anxious or frustrated about your acting career?  Maybe you haven’t heard from your agent in a while or maybe you’ve been going on auditions, but haven’t received any callbacks or bookings lately.  The rejection we feel as actors can weigh heavy on our hearts and play games with our head.  We may begin to doubt our abilities and wonder if we’re good enough or whether we should even be doing this.  We also fear that our agent will lose faith in us, we’ll disappoint our families, we won’t be able to pay our rent, we’ll not have anything to talk about at that industry gathering next week…and so on.  All of these thoughts and feelings can overwhelm us to the point of feeling totally anxiety-ridden or even depressed. Here’s what I recommend you do right now (or the next time you feel like running back to the safety of your old miserable desk job):  Take out a pen and a pad of paper.  Write down 5 simple things you can do this week to help your acting career.  They may seem like small things, but taking any action toward your dream will help you feel more in control of your career and lighten the burden in your heart and mind.

Here are 10 Simple Action Step Ideas:   

1.     Send a thank you note.  To your agent thanking her for her dedication, or a casting director who gave you some pointers the last time you auditioned, or an acting teacher who paved a path for you, or heck, even your mom, dad, or aunt who always encouraged you to pursue your dreams.  Sending out a note of gratitude will automatically lift your spirits.  And remember, what we send out we receive back in kind. 

2.     Book a photo session.  Been needing new headshots for a while?  Look at your calendar, pick up the phone, and make an appointment.  Money an issue?  Start saving some money every week until you have enough to pay for them. 

3.     Clean up your résumé.  As we gain more experience we tend to clutter up our résumés with every little thing we’ve ever done: every student film, every workshop we’ve ever taken, even background jobs.  Now if you don’t have much experience you need to make the most of it for sure, but remember that your résumé is a marketing tool, put your best stuff first even if it was a few years ago and make it easy to read for a CD or director.  A little white space can be a good thing.  You need to leave room for what’s next! 

4.     Go for a jog or to the gym.  Get some exercise.  The endorphins alone will make you feel better and you can go to bed tonight knowing you did something good for your body and your acting career. 

5.     Sign up for a class or workshop.  It’s amazing what being in class with a room full of like-minded people who also love acting can do to lift your spirits and get you up and working. It’s a chance to perform and do what you love with the added bonus of constructive feedback so you can improve.

6.     Send your headshot and resume with a simple note or cover letter to a casting director or theatre company you haven’t read for in a while.

7.     Call or text an actor friend and make plans to see a film or play you want to check out and then go out afterward to talk about it.  As artists we need inspiration, we need to surround ourselves with fellow artists and with our art.  Witnessing good work reminds us of what is possible and motivates us to get to work ourselves.  (If witnessing good work depresses you because you aren’t working, read my blog post on jealousy, all you need is a new perspective). 

8.     Find and work on a new monologue.  Even if you are mostly an on-camera actor, having a couple good monologues in your arsenal is not only a good idea, it’s necessary for certain auditions.

9.     Do some online networking.  Find some acting groups (even in other cities) to connect with, see what people are up to, make some connections and let people in the industry know what you want to be doing.  Putting yourself out there can be scary, but in my experience it tends to open some windows if not doors.

10.     Do some visualization work.  Imagine yourself doing exactly what you want to be doing.  See yourself playing that dream part. Take yourself through your ideal day as a working actor.  You can go there in your mind for free, anytime you want.  We underestimate the power of the mind, but everything that has ever been made or achieved by human beings started in the imagination; from the 4-minute mile to Google to the chair you are sitting on.  You can achieve great things too!      

Now pick one thing to do today.  And do one thing each day for the rest of this week and watch your frustration dissolve as you take charge of the things you do have control over.  Post the words of William Arthur Ward, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it!"