From Performers to Transformers: Principles of Sacred Artistry
I was part of a great conversation the other night between musicians and visionaries. It came up that for a lot of conscious performers, the word “perform” is one that doesn’t quite fit anymore. We are not as interested in getting up in front of a crowd being watched as we are of being part of a crowd being expressed. If you know what I mean, then chances are, you are not really a performer, but a transformer. Whatever your art, be it singing, music, dancing, acting or something else, you recognize that you are doing what you’re doing to inspire, evolve, and transform yourself and others. You are a vessel for something greater than yourself.
Several years ago, I developed for myself the principles of sacred performance. (I used the word “performance” because I didn’t know what else to call it back then.) It was my attempt to bring balance to whatever I happened to be sharing with an audience because I found that “performing” often left me out of whack.
I began to think of performing as a multidimensional event. There is the external dimension at which everything is about the crowd, the environment, our bandmates, our voice teachers, and external validation. It is neither good nor bad, positive nor negative. But if it is our sole focus, our performance is out of balance and inauthentic. If we are obsessed with reviews, heads swelling from praise and guts twisted with criticisms, we are far too impressionable in this dimension.
There is also the internal dimension. There are of course many excellent performers who operate more so from this level at which the focus is on the energy of self, our emotions, the physical self, our training, and our actual voice. It is obvious why this tends to be the dimension of which we are most aware as performers. Our sensitivity is what makes us artists. But if we get stuck here, the imbalance can result in self-importance, and we lose our fluidity.
The dimension that is often lacking or unacknowledged is the one that that adds greater depth to what we bring to our performances. It is the dimension of the secret realm. I’m using the word “secret” here as the Buddhist do…to mean hidden. It is hidden because it remains out of our tangible reality, and it is often dismissed or ignored. On this level, the focus becomes the energy of spirit, the meaning beyond the lyrics or lines or composition, our connection to other, our presence and light, and turning to something bigger than self. This level must be grounded by the other two, or we lack substance. If we are too far out in this realm, we cannot ground and share our vision.
I am now calling this body of work Principles of Sacred Artistry. It brings to light these dimensions as they pertain to performance and expands upon the traps that each dimension contains when we tend to favor one and neglect the others. It is only in moving fluidly though and between each dimension that we move away from being performers and towards becoming transformers…balanced, riveting and magical. It is a practice that can be cultivated with our awareness and the conscious consideration we are willing to give to our art.
I’d love to hear what people think about these ideas. And if you’re a transformer, what makes it so?