Methodically, one by one, I went through the motions.
Roll the neck. Flex the shoulders. Windmill the arms. Eyes closed the whole time as I carefully stretched each muscle and joint, down to the ankles.
The routine was familiar. The setting was not. Usually, I would be doing this on a stage in an empty theatre, a silent preparation for the organized chaos of a show. This time, the space was home, a familiar place pushed to one side of awareness for just a while.
This time, the quiet moment would descend for a different purpose.
Different actors may call it different things, but I suspect that most would recognize what I call the “quiet moment.” It’s the moment before a performance when you still your thoughts and clear your head, preparing to put on a new life and story. The moment that stands between your true self and your stage self, when all is quiet and in readiness. Soon, something will be. For now, it simply is.
Everyone has a different way of entering it. For me, it’s a routine of stretches so familiar, it no longer impinges on conscious thought. For others in a cast, it might mean lying in a darkened hallway for a few minutes, or whispering an exchange of lines like a mantra. However you do it, you’re entering border country.
It’s a calm place. Peaceful. Everything given over to complete focus.
In other words, a complete rarity in today’s world.
You know what I mean. We travel through a world of constant chatter, and not just in actual conversation. Televisions blare. Radios and music fill our travels. From our desks to our pockets, computers constantly connect us, filling each space with the latest thought, the latest news, the latest clever joke or point of interest.
I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon, mind you. I’ve met some close friends through the Internet that I never would have met any other way. I’ve found inspiration from something heard by chance on a morning drive. But while it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is a busy thing, keeping thoughts buzzing, awareness ever-vigilant.
In a stressful time, that can mean less chance for respite and recharge. Maybe none at all.
And which of us hasn’t had a stressful time lately?
National politics. Local traumas. Personal matters of a hundred kinds. It can all seem relentless. Combine it with the constant mental buzz, and it becomes darned near inescapable.
Breaking that requires perspective.
And perspective – whether literal or figurative – requires a little distance.
That’s not always achievable at every instant, I know. If you’re wracked with excruciating pain right now, or distraught over an immediate crisis, that moment may simply not be reachable yet.
But it’s a moment we need, in order to survive all the other ones.
Again, everyone’s key to the door is shaped a little differently. Some of us have a whole ringful: prayer and meditation, a burst of exercise, a quiet walk under the night sky. Not so much taking yourself out of the moment, but plunging more deeply into it, taking a moment as a moment and not just a bridge to the next task.
The task will come. It always does. But for just a little while, it’s good to let the moment be.
Outside the theater walls, I often forget that. But, with apologies to the Bard of Avon, maybe it’s time to let all the world be a stage. If peace and focus is valuable for creating an imaginary life, how much more so for a real one?
The show must go on. But the orchestra doesn’t always have to be playing.
If that’s not too much of a stretch.