Presence in the Pursuit (Or the Art of Letting Go): One Pre-Enlightened Actress’s Guide to Living The Dream


# 13: When Overwhelmed with Life: Take The Time to Connect with What’s in Front of You

Michal Sinnott as Agnes with Jim in Red PineIt’s been an insane week. Since this time last Thursday morning, I have started and finished a lead in a period Western short film, helped lead an amazing all day workshop for 10 to 13 year old girls, completed an in depth treatment for a surfer comedy feature that Joseph and I are writing together and sent it off to a potential producer, hosted several meals at my house, learned that I am to head to NYC for a job and then decided to expand that trip for a month for various business / personal reasons, started the process of packing and attending to details for that month away (who will take care of our dogs in LA, who will feed the fish, what do I need to do in NY while I’m there, etc), read and evaluated two feature length screenplays for a potential producer, self submitted on numerous projects and connected with agents / my manager, sent off countless emails, FB messages, and texts, had at least 100 conversations with a good 60 people, completed the finishing touches on my new website, spent quality time with Joseph and my dogs (including a magnificent hike), and attended to all the usual day to day stuff that inevitably comes up. Whew!

Life is busy! For the longest time, I’ve had this sinking feeling that life was moving faster and demanding more then I could possibly give in any one moment. But the truth is, you can only ever be right where you are. So take the time, when you are where you are, to check in with what’s in front of you. You’ll never get that moment back so live it while its happening! If you do really connect to the present, I promise you, that connected moment will even serve to heal your past indiscretions and pave the way for a better future.

I learned a great tool for staying present at Sunday’s workshop. How lucky these young girls are to be learning it now! It involves helping us to see “our negative thoughts from another perspective.” For, our negative thoughts are just stories we tell ourselves. But the danger of this is that when we believe these stories about ourselves, “we change our behavior to fit them and we MAKE THEM TRUE.”

I participated in an exercise, known as The Work (by Byron Katie), along with the 10 to 13 year olds in the seminar. I was asked to pick a negative thought that I have about myself and then ask myself a series of questions that eventually transformed that thought into something positive.

“I am not going to do a good enough job.”

This is a thought that always seems to get me at the most important moment. Despite how much I have prepared or studied or know about something, I often feel like I just don’t have enough time to give the task the amount of effort / study it deserves. And so, when it comes time to complete the task, I start to panic in my head about all of my inadequacies regarding it. Byron Katie’s The Work helped me that very night to transform a moment of doubt into pure presence.

Following the workshop, I had to return to set to complete the last three scenes and an interview for the film. At around midnight, after a long day of sitting with young ladies and talking to them about everything from moon cycles to their child selves, I was four hours in to wrapping up the film. As I sat to the side in between set ups of one of the last scenes, emotionally preparing for a short moment on film to come, I felt my little monkeys (that’s what Maggie Smith, my dear former manager would call them), starting to take hold.

“You’re not going to be able to cry when the gun goes off. There’s not enough time for you to get it in before Shane calls cut,” I found my monkeys saying.

And then I remembered The Work. And I transformed the thought: “I will do a good enough job.” And so I let it go. “Who cares if I cry,” I said to myself. “The scene doesn’t even require it. That’s something you’re putting on yourself, Michal.”

I connected to the moment. To where I was at. To all the people around me, helping to capture this great moment. And I let it be.

Then: sure enough, come gun shot, a perfect, miraculous tear flowed directly on cue. Not because I willed it. But because I gave it up (to something bigger then me).