This is my story of how I stopped being an observer of life and started to actually live, how I stopped identifying myself with my intellect, and how I finally connected to my emotions. I hope that my story can inspire you to live, and your story can inspire others to do the same.
This transformation occurred in a matter of seven days, though I have been working towards it for quite a while. As an actor, it is our bread and butter to be able to access our emotions. As a computer programmer, emotions have no part in it. Hence, transitioning myself from a programmer to an actor was especially challenging. I persisted and I finally managed to access my emotions. It was beautiful.
A little overview of the few months before the seven days.
I have been studying acting under Earl Nanhu at EVN studios since September 2015. And the one feedback that I get is, “you are too heady, you need to connect more.” I did not understand what it meant.
Three months before day 1:
I had quit my job, and over the next 3 months, I focused solely on being able to lead from my heart. Like any intellectual person, I began by observing others engaging in their so-called “lives.” Then I started reading about “love” and “romance” as that seemed like the best approach to learn how to lead from the heart. 2 months of diligent research and I was nowhere close to understanding what all of that fairy tale mumbo jumbo about love is.
I began reading “Fault in our stars”, and I was waiting for that moment that I would feel something. And I waited and waited and the book was done. I gave up any hopes of accessing my emotions. I am never gonna make it as a good actor.
One day I watched 2 romantic Bollywood movies back to back, and halfway through the second movie, I felt something powerful and I cried for the rest of the movie. I felt free, liberated and hope began to seep in. I began to like things that I previously didn’t. Something good was happening though only on a few occasions and out of my control. I needed a sure fire way to access my emotions on demand. I even enlisted the help of my sensei Adam Sutherland to access my aggression, in hopes that may be that will light a fire within me. It was difficult. Though I persisted. I kept at it, like my life depended on it; it actually did depend on it. I spared no excuses or told no lies to myself. And then it happened.
Day 1: December 15th, the evening of the Christmas Party at EVN Acting Studio.
My friend and I were driving to the party, and she got a message from her friend that her boyfriend of 2 years broke up with her. Her friend felt like that boy was the one, and that breakup was devastating for her. I felt a strong emotional response, but I quickly regained my calm and thought to myself that everyone goes through a breakup and that she was going to just fine. I even gave my usual response to my friend based on my acute intellectual observations. But I could not shake off that breakup completely.
We reached the party, and I had a few more emotions popping up, but as usual, I was able to get over it; or so I thought. Usually, I don’t talk to people unless they approach me. That day, someone else took over me and I started talking to a lot of people and then others started talking to me. My behaviour was confusing to me. I had no idea what was going on. Even when asked an intellectual question, my usual smart answers felt empty and alien.
I happen to ask a veteran actor about how does he access his emotions on demand, and all he responded was by saying that do what you love all the time. It was the first moment that I “felt” that answer rather than try to analyze it.
The whole night I was not myself, even though I maintained my usual calm disposition like I have done it for years.
On our return home, I was informed that a couple of 8 years broke up and I knew what they meant to each other. That breakup hit me the hardest. I did not have a single witty response to that, except that I will be fine after some sleep. Notice the “I” will be fine, rather than “they” will be fine (though I didn’t notice it myself then).
Day 2: December 16th, the heartbreak
I woke up with a really heavy heart. I thought that I had screwed up with someone and I tried to make it up. But that wasn’t enough. I felt really sad, and at one point I gave into the sadness. That’s when I heard myself say all that a person says when they go through a breakup. I had a broken heart. I lost my appetite and I could no longer think myself out of the pain. I was devastated. But the pain was mine, the feelings were mine and I did not want to lose touch with my emotions. So I spent my Sunday wallowing.
Day 3: December 17th, the first aha moment
I called my friend Dennis, and talked about all that happened in the last two days. And we realized a lot about ourselves by analyzing what I went through. The most important realization being that I had created a wall of intellect to block away “pain”. I realized that I was weak though I had convinced myself that I was strong and stable because of my intellect. I could analyze the triggers that cause me pain and I actively avoided myself getting involved where there was a potential to be hurt. I was a chicken shit. I never dealt with my pain, not truly. I felt horrible and relieved. I had created a wall of intellect to push away the pain. My Monday brought my first aha moment.
Day 4: December 18th, the day it all changed.
My morning routine was as usual; woke up, got ready and left for work. I felt a bit lighter than usual, but still had no idea of how to access my emotions on demand. I kept on thinking about it. Then five minutes after I left work, I began to feel a surge of painful emotions. I cried for my entire 25 minutes drive to work. All the hurt and suffering that I had pushed away began to resurface. It was truly and absolutely liberating. I felt alive, I was present in those moments, as if I time travelled. How I managed to drive to work is a mystery. When I reached work, I could not understand my own work that I did the previous day.
I called Dennis and asked if I can go over to his place. He said to come after noon. That comforted me a bit, and I was able to focus on my work. But I did not like that I lost touch with my emotional self. I was becoming “heady”, as Earl puts it. I left work soon, and was trying to force myself to connect with my emotions; it’s as if my head is ordering my heart to make me feel something, anything. I realized that it can’t work like that. So I gave up.
Immediately, while waiting at a traffic stop, I looked over on the side. There was a nice open farm, with rolls of hay, a beautiful house in the distance and the Sun brightly shining from behind the white clouds. Its a scenery to die for, to paint. In fact, every time I allow myself to be present there, more and more colours get added to that scenery. I was dumbstruck at that sight. A few tears rolled down my eyes. And that’s when I remembered Earl saying you have to allow yourself to feel tremendously. And boy did I feel. I started crying like I have never cried. I felt a fire of life being lit within me. And the first memory that came to me was the Party on Saturday. I remembered my friends smiling and laughing and enjoying. I felt happy for the first time in my life. I realized that the confusing feeling I had at the party was me being happy, and I was confused about it because my intellect could not understand what being happy meant. The next moment, I felt immense gratitude to my friends. That was the first time I truly felt grateful from the bottom of my heart. This made me cry even harder while driving. All the happy memories came pouring back up, it was as if I was present at those moments. I was there during all those moments, and I was just happy. And I was even more grateful to everyone in my life. That’s when I remembered Earl saying that you have to learn to be truly grateful to access your emotions. I had finally learned how to access my emotions whenever I needed to.
I made it Dennis’s place, and we talked about it. And realized that my wall of intellect that was meant to keep myself away from pain also kept myself away from every other emotions. My wall of intellect started to crumble down. I never wanted to be heady ever again because I finally started to live, every moment as it came. I started to sense when I spoke from the bottom of the heart or when I am just spouting words in order to seem smart. This is also what I felt at the party when I was trying an intellectual question in my usual intellectual answer. Those words were empty, they had no weight to them, I wasn’t speaking from the bottom of my heart. I decided then that I will never speak if I don’t feel like it is coming from the bottom of my heart; a decision that is a work in progress.
I shared this with another good friend that evening, and I finally regained my appetite that I lost on Sunday. I ate happily. I slept happily.
Day 5: December 19th, the fire within.
I was glad that I finally connected with myself but it took a lot of energy out of me to stay connected. I wanted to give in to the predictable comfort of being heady. After work, I was driving to my class with Adam, and was thinking about aggression. And it occurred to me, that I do not like unpredictability. I never took a risk without carefully thinking about it. I would not go talk to a girl I fancied without knowing a few sentences in advance, I would not talk to anyone without knowing that they will receive my message exactly how I want them to receive, I would not leave my house without knowing exactly where I am going. I needed to KNOW something first, even though I was good at improvising if something different happens. But I HAD TO KNOW BEFORE I ACT. And that is why I never took a risk in my life, and that is why I never channeled my aggression thinking that a situation always becomes unpredictable and uncontrollable if acted out of aggression, or acted out of any emotion for that matter.
I used my intellect to douse any kind of fire because I was afraid. I realized I was even a chickener chicken shit than I realized two days ago. And this understanding freed me. I understood what it meant when Adam says, “you have people who love you, care for you and need you, you have yo stay alive for them. If someone points a knife at you, they gotta die.” That night, I was told that I was performing my techniques with authority. That night, I took risks and my fire for life was re-ignited.
Day 6: December 20th, the first day of the rest of my life.
I was happy, I said the biggest good mornings to everyone that I walked by at work. I was able to effortlessly stay connected with my emotional self. I was living my life, rather than just observing life. I realized that all this time I was trying to find the best way to live a life by observing others live their life and that I will start living my life when I know what’s the best way to live a life. That was too “heady”, and disconnected from life. So, I never knew what it meant to live.
That evening while driving home, for the first time I told myself that I cannot identify myself with my intellect, and I love me. I loved me, and I loved everyone. There was no egomaniacal intent behind those words, even though my head tried to convince me that there was. I felt that my heart became lighter just by saying “I love me” from my heart. I could differentiate my heart voice and my head voice from then on. I could differentiate other’s head voice and heart voice.
I also realized that the head can only understand the triggers for emotion, it can never understand emotions itself. It can only see the top of an iceberg. And that I cannot force myself to feel emotional, I just have to allow myself to be emotional.
That day was the first day for the rest of my life and I committed to it fully. I slept peacefully that night.
Day 7: December 21st, the risk.
It’s started out like all was normal, the new normal. And that night I took my first risk. I went to a friend’s debut album party, without knowing a single person. I chickened out after about 2 hours, but I took that first risk. It was a win.
Day 8: December 22nd, bonus day
I was at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned. And I shared a lot of my experiences with my dental hygienist. But when I was asked a question of why do any of these holidays or days like Valentine’s day matter, I knew the answer. As people, and especially as a guy, we push aside our emotions all the times. These holidays give us an excuse to embrace our emotions without judging ourselves and express ourselves truly, whether it be happy or sad. That’s what Christmas Spirit is all about, that’s what the special day spirit is all about.