Think of someone you admire, I said to the men at the shelter, and walk silently around the room as that person. Don't mimic or imitate; find new ways to hold your body and become someone else.
In my line of theatre, this becoming is essential to personal awareness and empathy for others. And let me tell you: seeing a homeless man walk like President Obama makes you stop and think.
Tall Tom stood taller. He held his shoulders back, his head high. Look in his face and you'd see a fortitude not there a half hour before when he stood on the sidewalk to wait for breakfast.
Each time I led a similar exercise in the shelter, I came away thinking I'd found the key to personal evolution. Something so simple as good posture can build a person's self-confidence, which surely could help them begin the ascent out of life on the streets.
But later, while watching the hoopla preceding the finale of LOST, I noticed something.
The characters of LOST are stranded on an island. They must hunt and gather for their food, earning each of them strong, lean bodies. The island is tropical, lending a sheen of moisture to their sinewy muscles. Hair is tousled thanks to the stress of life lived among polar bears and black smoke.
The actors in LOST are, in short, hot. In every sense of the word. In interviews, however, these hotties were just average folk; they washed off the sheen and the appeal disappeared. Can hotness fall off in the shower, I wondered?
I decided to ask my friend Dan, an actor in NYC. Why, I asked, is the very hot Desmond not hot in real life? Why wouldn't he draw on his inner hotness? If you've got it, flaunt it...right?
After a long diatribe on corporate television, comic books, and the Bush administration--Dan's a bit distractable--he finally said this: Because it would be exhausting.
We have a default posture, as it were. We may be capable of holding ourselves otherwise, but we generally gravitate toward a certain position. Think of those folks you found on Facebook after 20 years; they still stand the same way, don't they? Head tilted to one side when they smile?
Posture, I've come to believe, includes not only the way you stand in the kitchen but how you stand in front of the calendar, as well, ready for what the day brings.
Recently a friend wrote to me after hearing of my son's diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
Be strong. Life is full of ups and downs. Be courageous so that every problem seems to be weak in front of you, and run away from you.
I've asked for a boxing bag for my approaching 40th birthday. The primal nature of the sport appeals to something deep in me, and it's just a matter of time before I take it on.
Yet it pains me to realize that, beyond the sport, I see life like a boxing ring--either you're fighting in the center or you're sitting in the corner between rounds.
That's my default posture. I don't know that I'm convinced my friend's advice is possible without exhausting someone like me. How about you?