One of my loves is the theatre.? I’ve studied acting, clowning, and improvisation, and I’ve performed onstage for years, everything from bedroom farce to Dracula to Shakespeare.? I love it because it brings me to a heightened state of aliveness.
My love of acting has little to do with the adulation that comes from the applause for a good performance, but it has everything to do with acting’s relationship to an inner exploration.? In acting, you explore your very identity.? You explore creation.? You explore going within yourself in order to be someone else.? You find other beings and energy inside yourself. By doing this, you expand yourself – and expand everyone else who watches.
All of the other actors I know who value this aspect of acting as I do are also very spiritual people.? We may not write inspiring prose and we may not belong to any congregation, but we see a temple in the exultation of unhibited emotion.? Having surrendered within to our many selves, we’ve received a firsthand glimpse into the oneness that we all share.? And through all this, we’ve learned incredible amounts? about ourselves through the intricate tapestry of our most visible measure of ourselves: relationships.
It would be too much in this one post to recount the many lessons in the playfulness that is theatre, so for now I’ll focus on one critical element any actor learns quickly: status.
Status as a Flow of Energy in Interactions
It may be unfashionable to mention status in the politically-correct culture of the “land of the free”, but we are all influenced by it on some level.? We know when we are speaking to an “important” person.? We are affected by this knowledge.? The energetically sensitive feel how energy naturally flows to the “higher status” person.? There’s always a reaction to this.? Sometimes the effect is on our emotional reaction, from admiration to resentment.? Sometimes the effect automatically creates a dynamic in the relationship: subservience or combativeness.? Not everyone reacts the same way, but everyone feels it.? We react to it even more because we’re not supposed to notice it.
Education, on the level of status, has made us blind.? We’re supposed to believe that the homeless person living in a cardboard box is a human being with the same value and perfection we have, but I have yet to see someone interact with a homeless person on that level.? In my experience there’s disgust, aversion, or pity – all signs of the perception of status and the flow of energy from it.
In this competitive world, the cultural model is built around status.? It governs the intrinsic framework of relationships.
Most of us notice status but don’t think of it consciously.? We want to “succeed” but in order to do so we must go up a rung on the status ladder.? Being “successful”.? Owning a house, or a nice car.? Being respected by others.? Showing mastery in something and being able to come across well at social events.? Academic success.? Even spiritual mastery is subject to the concept of status — the idea of “ascension”, or “old” souls being somehow better, are perfect examples.? Being accepted as “enlightened” is very high status.? But we don’t think of what status truly is, and especially not what the ultimate expression of status is.
Exploring Status Yourself
One exercise in theatre is to “play” status.? Everyone is awarded a different number between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest status.?? I invite you to play this at a party; it’s great fun and a wonderful tool for growth.
Number one, the lowest status, takes as little space as possible.? Shame is the sea in which this status swims.? It’s as if you were homeless and were just waiting to be rounded up.? You make little eye contact. Your motions are hesitant. You are beaten before you even begin.
As the status scale increases, there’s increasingly less shame and an increasingly strong, proud, engaging bearing.? Yet while going up the scale, you’re always in a state of comparison.? You notice your relationships with others: who is lower status and who is higher?? You need to please the ones with higher status.? You give in and give them energy.? Life force flows to them, leaving the lower status empty. At the same time, you must protect your place from those “lower” than you are and maybe even get some energy from them. Yet you remain ever vigilant against them, happy when they appear to be in their “place.”
As an aside, it is for this reason that it’s no accident that it’s those on the lower status of society that are most angry towards illegal immigrants.
What is interesting in this game, and is the reason I’m mentioning this here, is what happens at the top of the spectrum. These are the people with ultra-high status.? If you’re close to the top, you know you’re above most of the world, but there’s still insecurity and full of comparison.? There is still someone above you, somewhere, somehow. You are still comparing. In our society, this might be the ultra rich — they know they have status, but they are still in competition and are looking for some way they can finally feel above it all.
At the very top, however, is a paradox: the ultimate status is with those who move beyond it. ? To these people there is no such thing as status.? The person with the “highest” status is unconcerned with games of comparison or worthiness.? They know their value.? They see their importance.? It is indisputable.? There is no question and no game.? They can be who they are without any reluctance, guile, or mask.? They can relate to others as they are. They can be in torment and doubt, and yet still be they are, without shame, and know it has absolute value. ?It is as if they were born into unspoilt royalty.? Life is full of bounty and beauty, and there is no question that the universe finds them full of value and their desires welcome.? This is true status.
Why do I mention this?? Because it is inextricably linked with the western spiritual quest.? There are thousands upon thousands of blogs on personal growth and advice giving.? In my experience, very few of them give from a sense of complete fullness.? Instead, there is a desire to feel good from having others appreciate the inspiration and insight.? (One of the reasons I stopped writing for a time was because this impulse was very strong within me.)? This is status: the more others appreciate you and give you applause and energy, the higher your status.
And yet, part of this is the problem of Arrogance: when you gain energy from putting forth something that is not fully who you are, not from true vulnerability, then you keep yourself from the highest levels of status and worth.?? By trying to raise your status out of lack, you entrench yourself as “lower status”.
The idea of the ‘evolved person’, the manifested man, the enlightened one, is also intrinsic to the highest status.? The manifested person is at the highest status, wherever he is.? He could be among nobles or beggars — it doesn’t matter.
My ‘ideal’ of how to live within status is the ideal of living in the highest status and treating every other thing in the Universe as also in that status.
Imagine this for yourself.? You are at the highest status.? Everything supports you and naturally gives you energy without depleting itself.? The universe responds naturally to you.? And yet you interact with everything as equals.? You see the smallest blade of grass as also of the highest status.? There is nothing to defend against, no lack, and even no status.? There is only plenty.
In short, the ideal is to live in beingness — fully vulnerable as who you are. This is the ultimate expression of status.? Think of Siddhartha by the river in his old age. He shows his perfection as he is whether he is surrounded by adulants or insects.? It is an expression of completeness.
Many people on a western spiritual path use the greeting ‘namaste’ without really considering what it means, but it is another way to express this ideal. Your highest nature welcomes and greets the highest nature of that which is around you. You welcome and embrace all that you are, and you treat every other thing in the Universe as reverentially as your own highest nature.
So I say to you all:???????? Namaste
I now ask you: from your own deep honesty and vulnerability, what is the truth of how you view your status in relationship with the world?