Looking for an Empty Suit

Yesterday I was talking with a coworker about relaxation and napping. (I know sounds weird, right?) It was one of those conversations that went from how tired we both were after long days at work, and what we were able to do or not do afterwards. This led me to tell her about some relaxation techniques and methods that I learned in college. We would spend long periods of time, just lying on the floor. After all, these are some of the things you learn when you’re an acting major.

Back in college I had honed my skills at some of these exercises, which were very much like meditation, to such a point that I could lie down for 10 quiet minutes, and feel as if I’d slept for a few hours. I could still my thoughts and relax my body, at will. This wasn’t easy. It took practice, but over time it became quite effective. It also became essential as graduation approached.

One technique I remember working rather well was called “the empty suit“, something we learned in movement class. It was one of several imagery methods designed to relax the tensions and clear the mind. I would sometimes come away from our movement classes feeling about ten pounds lighter, as if I were floating.

And how did this help our acting abilities?

Stress and tension can be like static on the radio or phone or tv signal. It interferes with the images and messages. With a clear mind and relaxed body, the creative ideas can flow and your mind is more apt to find the connections it needs for the moment to moment existence of the character in that scene, with those other people, with that set of cirucumstance and with that desire, etc. etc. 

I guess I’m thinking all this because I have several kinds of stress and static happening right now and I can feel it weighing on me, very heavily. Almost, too heavily. It ocurred to me this morning, in light of yesterday’s conversation, that it’s inhibiting my creative mind and keeping me from imagining the possibilities of the work I have before me. This is why I’m feeling mired down, inhibited and strangled. 

If I can clear out the wrinkles in this suit, I might be able to get back to place I need to be.


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