Parallels of Enlightenment & Success
Has anyone else found the Buddha's teachings eerily applicable to actors? History tells us Gautama Buddha was a prince before becoming a wandering ascetic, but man, it sure seems as though he'd lived life as a 21st-century actor too.
Enlightenment and success mightn't strike us as even remotely similar at first glance, however, there are intriguing parallels. On a recent deep dive into Buddhism, we were struck by this shared trait: both occur in either one of two ways — suddenly or gradually.
When we set out on the actor's (or bodhisattva's) path, we're prescribed to one of these camps. Provided we apply ourselves, our success (or enlightenment) is inevitable. The real question is whether it will be sudden or gradual.
Here, it's super important we flag that neither one is better than the other — both, in fact, pose formidable challenges. And, interestingly, self-doubt makes an appearance on both paths. Self-doubt really gets around. This is true whether we're pursuing Buddhahood or the Hollywood Walk of Fame; whether we find our tent pitched in Camp Sudden or Camp Gradual.
Our journey will unfold exactly as it needs to. Without getting too woo-woo, let's not forget we're beings first, actors second. Everything we encounter on our life path — including the path itself — is precisely what our being needs.
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The Buddha spent the 45 years after his enlightenment travelling and teaching. While his own voyage to enlightenment took considerable time and effort, he was nonetheless responsible for the sudden awakening of many of his followers (for those curious, the specific phrase: "Whatever has the nature to arise will also pass away", did the trick on several occasions).
If we recognise ourselves as fellow residents of this camp, breathe. Keep the Camp Sudden mantra close when imposter syndrome starts to creep: the universe isn't out to punk us.
We're in good company at Camp Sudden. Our neighbours include Anya Taylor-Joy and Emma Watson, and neither are any less of an actor because of their meteoric rise. Remember, Taylor-Joy has gone from 2015's The Witch to a slate of projects engaging her for at least the two next years, while Watson's face has been plastered on billboards since 2001.
Ananda was the Buddha's personal attendant for 25 years. Yet, despite spending nearly every waking moment by the Buddha's side, Ananda hadn't achieved full enlightenment by the time of his master's death.
According to legend, he finally did soon after, but let's take a moment to acknowledge his journey took over 25 years.
If we recognise ourselves as fellow members of this camp, breathe. Chant the Camp Gradual mantra when frustration starts to fly: our success has a due date; our time will come.
The company is just as good at Camp Gradual. We share the streets with the likes of Amy Adams and Jessica Chastain, and they've both done pretty alright in their "short" pro careers. Remember, Adams has been nominated for an Academy Award six times and Chastain three — though she snagged the shiny, gold statuette just this year.
It's easy to pine for the grass on the other side of the fence. If we're in Camp Sudden, we wish we'd been on the bus to Camp Gradual. If we're in Camp Gradual, we spend our days straining to get a glimpse of life through the fence at Sudden.
To circle back to the top, being an actor — hell, being a human — is made a shed tonne easier if/when we have some faith in the process. Live as though your success has received a holy/divine/universal "approved" stamp.
Because, dear amigo, it has.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.
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