Slow Acting: Part II

March 28, 2011

Gabrielle Scharnitzky offered the most amazing weekend acting workshop I’ve ever attended. The heart of acting is about coming from a pure state of truth. The slow comes in realizing things come more quickly to us, the things we truly desire, when we slow down. When we take time to absorb the moment, our awareness teaches us more than any book, film or other person can. Our inner knowing is housed in our DNA. If we’d only listen.

To cut out the white noise of haste, I screeched my deadline-driven week to a halt. Starting with a Zumba class (think Brazilian hip hop) on Friday evening, I literally danced my way into the weekend. On Saturday morning, I spent two hours on a manuscript, then attended my son’s soccer game only to then have lunch with the family and some quiet time on the couch reading with my husband. The workshop went from 4-10 p.m, whizzing by both days. I left the room a different person. A clearer one who lives in acceptance of what is at any given moment.

The power of slow acting involves breathing deeply and turning the gaze inward. All our answers are there. The challenge is quieting the mind, and the world around you, long enough to hear them.

 

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“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

Why is forgiveness such a loaded topic? Because many believe that somehow the victim has to be the bigger person, raise himself up to a higher standard than the perpetrator and make amends to reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

Hogwash.

Forgiveness is a process that can sometimes take years. And it is the key to personal liberation.

Betrayal, violence, neglect and abuse are the themes of Helen Whitney’s book Forgiveness: A Time to Love & A Time to Hate, which grew out of her upcoming film on forgiveness, which will be broadcast on April 17 and April 24 on PBS.

Forgiveness is a vastly misunderstood theme that deserves our renewed attention. As the world’s uprisings, both natural and man-made, have recently shown us, there is no better time than now to understand the healing powers of forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not mean you have to reconcile with the perpetrator or condone their behavior. I am certain there are many who find Gaddafi unworthy of their forgiveness, for instance. But, as Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based psychologist and author of How Could You Do This to Me? Learning to Trust After Betrayal, so aptly stated in a phone interview, “Forgiveness is the resolution of your rage.” There is a time for wrath and a time for warmth. It is about coming to terms with what has happened in our lives, acknowledging our anger, releasing it to feel the depths of our despair, only to realize it has its limits, too.

Then, once felt, the gaping, lingering wounds of our years can seal.

We have all experienced some level of betrayal in our lives. We think we cannot bear the searing rod iron-hot pain so we develop coping mechanisms such as self-abuse, angry relationships and continued drama cycles. In many of the personal stories Ms. Whitney conveys, people held onto their pain for years. In the book, she illustrates the story about a fugitive responsible for the death of a policeman in the face of anti-Vietnam protests who didn’t fully accept responsibility for her acts until well after she had handed herself in to the authorities two decades later. It wasn’t until she released her anger toward the U.S. government from the 1960s that she could apologize to the family whom she had caused so much pain.

“Apology is necessary to begin the journey of forgiveness within a relationship,” claims Dr. Greer. But what happens if you do not receive that apology? In many cases, the victims in Ms. Whitney’s book did not. She interviewed people from Rwanda and Nazi Germany who experienced so much sorrow. Millions of people died at the hand of a few. It is only now that people can speak of the abomination they experienced.

Without apology relationships cannot thrive. And so how does one go about forgiving someone who does not wish to be forgiven? The relationship ends, if there ever was one. That is where self-healing comes into play.

“[F]orgiveness in no way means you have to reconcile with someone who badly treated you,” states Dr. Frederic Luskin, head of The Forgiveness Project at Stanford University and author of Forgive For Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness. “If you were the recipient of childhood abuse or are in a harsh relationship you can forgive the offender and as part of that choice make the decision to end or limit contact. Forgiveness is primarily for creating your peace of mind. It is to create healing in your life and return you to a state where you can live capable again of love and trust.”

Roxanne Renée, author of Laughing Again: A Survivor’s Guide to Healing Depression, says that “[t]he one who hurt me does not suffer the destructive, internal physiological effects of my sustained anger; I do. When I practice forgiveness, I engage my “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) nervous system, triggering myriad calming and healing physiological changes in my body. When I forgive, I am the one who is set free. “

In fact, forgiveness begins and ends with us.

Our misconception of forgiveness lies in our belief that we someone should ‘forgive and forget’. The truth is we will never forget, although we may suppress memories that bubble to the surface, oftentimes decades later. The pain is expressed either way. Sometimes it comes in the form of an illness. What the mind ignores, the body absorbs.

Forgiveness is not about reconciliation. We may never wish to see the perpetrator again. Dr. Luskin says there is nothing wrong with that.

“Another misconception about forgiveness is that it depends on whether or not the abuser or lying person apologizes, wants you back or changes his/her ways,” says Dr. Luskin. He cautions about making someone else’s behavior the determinant for your healing and happiness. “[Y]ou can forgive you ex spouse for their insulting speech and even for abandoning you and your children… but forgiveness in no way means you do not take the ex to court to make sure your children get their support payments to which they are entitled. Forgiveness and justice are not the same. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same. Forgiveness and condoning are not the same.“

At this point in my research, I was quite relieved to learn the distinction between forgiveness and what our religious traditions have us believe is forgiveness. Ms. Whitney’s book features the 2006 Amish schoolhouse shootings in which the parents of the children killed by the local milkman turned gunman promptly forgave him, even though he was dead. They reached out to his widow and found comfort in their God that says you will enter His Kingdom if you forgive. Ms. Whitney raises the question of whether suppressing one’s natural feelings without allowing for a certain level of unforgiveness is healthy.

There’s got to be grieving at your own pace.

But perhaps Ms. Renée is right when she says “As we vividly remember the hurtful encounter again and again (practicing un-forgiveness by holding on to our hurt and anger), we trigger the same fight or flight response that we initially experienced. When we stay angry, we keep our sympathetic nervous system constantly engaged. In this state, we are trapped in a place of unrelenting stress. Because humans were not designed to live this way, the ultimate result over time is quite harmful — systemic inflammation leading to a host of chronic, degenerative conditions.”

Many studies have been conducted about the health benefits of forgiveness, including lowered blood pressure, slower heart rates and decreased cortisol levels. Dr. Philip Carlson, author of Love Written in Stone, pointed me to one such study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine that claimed study participants who learned to forgive experienced significant increases in blood flow within the areas of the heart where it had been previously impaired due to damaged tissue resulting from a heart attack.

Whether we choose to forgive or not needn’t be a loaded question. It is our choice whether we wish to carry the burden of a heavy heart or to nurture it with forgiveness.

Forgiveness heals. Unforgiveness destroys. When we forgive, it is much like love. We are all entranced by its power and through it, we are set free.

~~

Listen to my podcast with Dr. Frederic Luskin to learn more about what forgiveness can do for you.

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One of my all-time favorite shows is Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. I’ve always been fascinated by the acting process, the courage it takes, the authenticity it demands. The program showcases all kinds of filmmaking talent, from directors to producers to actors.

In many interviews, you will hear a common theme, especially from actors often talk about seeking the truth of the character. Gabrielle Scharnitzky, actor (Verliebt in Berlin, Sturm der Liebe, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes 2)  friend, and founder of the slow acting method, says we must first unlearn the judgements we have about ourselves to uncover the true, authentic self. In a rare moment, I got to sit down with Gabrielle and play James Lipton. Below are both the transcript and the 3 ½ minute video.

Christine: Hi Gabrielle! I’m sitting here with Gabrielle Scharnitzky, the founder of slow acting. I’d love to know from you what slow acting is.

Gabrielle: Slow acting basically is how to unlearn the judgement you have about yourselves. Judging is the source of what I call the fabricated being. We need to function in this world so we don’t allow that which is really there to be there. Instead  we are trying to build up another persona that is out there in the world.

Christine: Isn’t that what acting is about?

Gabrielle: No, acting is about shifting gears. Acting is about getting into the truth. To unlearn clichés, to unlearn the roles we have put on ourselves to function in this world. As an actor, you need to transcend that to really get to the truth of things. Which of course when you haven’t learn it in your life, it’s difiiculat as an actor. The first thing is to learn in the day- to- day life, to express what is really there, what you really feel and since we have been trainted NOT to do that, we have sort of created another body. Within that body we behave, we react, we think we are that, and slow acting helps you first to understand what is festering there. All the judgements that keep you from expressing yourself so you learn to experience yourself within your judgement, what it does with you, how it limits you. And then we you’ve expressed that, which of course takes courage, but you learn how to express it and take the courage because you understand this is not me, this is fabricated, this has nothing to do with the truth. So you first express that, and then after that , you can really go deeper to the real perception of yourself and to the liberty to express that.

The good news is when you do that… We always think that if we express ourselves and the truth that we will be killed, that we won’t be accepted. But the good news is when you are authentic with what you really feel and what you want to express in this world, suddenly, doors open. Suddently, judgements dissolve. Suddenly, you are embraced where you thought you would be killed. So that’s the beauty of the whole work that suddenly, you allow yourself to be who you are in this world.

Christine: Thank you Gabrielle, for liberating us all!

**To learn more about the slow acting method, go here.

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Many thanks to @SuzanneHenry for pointing to these trends, such as de-teching and outsourcing self-control (remember my time suck Quickrr post?), to help keep us interacting with each other in the now.

Charlie Sheen in March 2009

Image via Wikipedia

 

Habits. They are the foundation on which our lives make sense. Or don’t. Do you know whether your habit is actually an addiction or something that raises you up? Take coffee, for instance. I stopped drinking it for almost a year, then started drinking it again after I realized the pleasure of chatting with friends over a cup of java far outweighed not having a cup at all. I proved I could live without it, but chose to live with it. Habits make us feel safe, give us a sense of control and order. They are the grease that makes the engine run.

But then there are other habits that turn to addictions, such as sex or attention addictions, that destroy people’s lives. Charlie Sheen is no exception. My kids, who are reaching puberty on the fast train, asked me the other day why Charlie is getting so much attention doing bad things. His online rants have garnered so much attention he’s been offered several new shows. The UK edition of Marie Clarie reported that the live shows he’s planning for April in Chicago and Detroit sold out in eighteen minutes. Whether that’s spin or truth is immaterial. He’s being celebrated for acting badly.

But it goes even deeper than that.

His addiction is being exploited for ratings and sales. It is sad as we all snicker about him behind our palms in a voyeuristic, sadistic way. In truth, we are enabling Charlie to continue down a path of self-destruction. All in the name of entertainment.

Dr. Dahlia Keen, a well-known clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, sat down with me for a chat about Charlie Sheen (six and one-half minutes)  to talk about Charlie’s addiction and what he, and so many others who are afflicted by it, might do about it. The highlights include:

  • How attention disorder comes to be
  • Why celebrities are particularly susceptible to it
  • When voyeurism turns to sado-masochism (or why we feel good when others feel bad)

Enjoy the show!

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Tapping into your childhood dreams is an important part of living a full and fulfilling life. Randy Pausch, the brilliant professor at Carnegie Mellon who moved the nation with his carpe diem attitude when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, dedicated an entire section of his legendary book, The Last Lecture, to ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’.  Whether you dreamed of becoming an astronaut (as he did) or becoming a writer (as I did), our childhood dreams tell us a lot about who we are and what we’re made of.

Kristi Yamaguchi would agree.

Remember Kristi, that dazzling 1992 Olympic Gold Ice Skating Champ, who danced in the rink (then later With the Stars)? She captivated us with her levity, her charm, her so-not-Tanya-Harding heartfelt flair. She is as beautiful today, posing with her two equally lovely daughters, on the back flap of her new children’s book, Dream Big, Little Pig!

Together with Linda Oatman High, she authored a truly inspirational work with adorable illustrations by Tim Bowers. Her children’s charity Web site, Always Dream, supports young people to really go for it. Whole Hog.

Poppy, the peachy pig who dreams big, goes through a series of failures, but not without her cheerleading friend and family to keep her going. She yearns to be a star, the center point of inspiration for herself and others. When she discovers ice skating, it’s no longer important that she’s not perfect. She skates for the magic she feels.

Kristi recognizes that the support of her family, along with her own hard work, is what got her to where she is today. She also realizes that not every child has that same support network. Thus her charity, Always Dream, was born.

Whenever I read such children’s stories aloud to my kids (now ages 9 and 11), I can’t help but get choked up. Are they hearing the message? Do they feel encouraged to realize their childhood dreams that are still forming? Will they understand the importance of cherishing those desires and cultivating them in the soil of their souls?

This morning I decided to test it out. As my son and I discussed his fears of not doing well in math, I encouraged him to keep going for his dreams, like Poppy.

“Yeah,” he smirked. “But that pig doesn’t have to go to school!”

Hmmmm…I might need to write Kristi about that one. Perhaps there’s a sequel in the works. Poppy Practices Pre-calculus?

Dream big, my power of slow lovelies. Dig deep within yourselves to the place where your childhood desires reside. You will find that your true self has been cradled in your web of dreams all along.

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