Mystery and Secret


When I was attending acting conservatory, we were encouraged to read a book called Audition, by Michael Shurtleff. The book offers instructions to actors as they prepare for auditions, by way of twelve guideposts. One of these guideposts is titled Mystery and Secret. In this guidepost, Shurtleff advises the actor that once he has completed the first eleven steps to discovering his character and his relationship to other characters in his scene, he should then embrace what he doesn’t know about the character. There is a mysterious inner working to the character, just as there is to each of us, that the actor must respect. Shurtleff writes:

‘Think of some of the questions man has pondered since the beginning of his time on earth: What is love? Is there a god? Is there life after death? No matter how much science finds out, we never do know the answers to these questions do we? They eternally remain mysteries to us. So it is with any relationship you create: No matter how much we know about the other person, there is always something going on in that other heart and that other head that we don’t know but can only ponder. And no matter how we explain ourselves to someone else, no matter how open we are, there is always still something inexplicable, something hidden and unknown to us, too.’

Things are always changing. I have found myself looking more at the past lately, at the wide precipice between Now and Then. Looking at the journal entries I made when I first began my yoga teacher training with Mind Body Dancer, I swear a person other than myself wrote them; only my handwriting tells me otherwise. When I began my training, I was slightly intimidated by the fact that I am not a dancer. I was the only student in my group that was not a dancer, so I didn’t have the same movement background as the other girls. I was entering this course with only basic knowledge of how the body works. I was waiting for the day that someone would call me out and say, “You don’t belong here,” and so I thought I had to have all of the answers. If I didn’t know the answer, I would make it up until I could find the correct answer. I thought that admitting that I didn’t know the answer was a sign of weakness or ignorance. That seems so silly to me now. When I underwent training, the hardest thing for me to learn probably was acceptance. It’s still tough for me, and I find myself going back to old habits sometimes, but now I absolutely embrace the unknown. I admit what I don’t know because then I get the chance to hear someone else’s answer.

Recently I was able to attend two classes taught by girls from my yoga certification class, and they were wonderful classes. I expected nothing less from them of course, but it made me think, once again, of the past – of that time in my life when I was struggling, along with them, to teach a standard sun salutation, and that time when teaching a full class to a group seemed like the most terrifying thing in the world. Now I find myself teaching students with all types of backgrounds, from professional dancers to people who have never taken a yoga class in their life.

So many things have happened since my training, I find myself almost in a different skin. I remember writing my yoga journal entries, yet I can’t remember the feelings I had in those very moments that filled the pages with my words. What was my motivation in those moments? There is a mystery about ourselves that we can’t solve, another layer that we can’t quite tap into. Maybe we shouldn’t. Just like the questions that I thought I needed every answer to, it might be best to throw up our hands and admit that there is a part of us that operates on another level, further from cognitive thought. Perhaps it was meant to be that we have a carnal, impulsive side to us that should be left to do as it pleases.

After all, we’re never one personality, are we? I play several roles in my life, daily. I am an actress and a teacher, a godmother and a niece, a best friend and an acquaintance. And isn’t it quite the pleasure when you find that mystery in yourself? You may have met someone for the first time, and something about him or her, maybe an energy or a mood, invites you to be more mischievous, or more conservative for that matter.  We work very hard to have a handle on our lives and present a professional, complete person to those around us. Comprehending that there is a portion of ourselves that we may not have complete control over can be a real lesson in acceptance. The good news is, if you can meet the mysteries within yourself, if you don’t know all of the answers, then you can still surprise yourself and discover excitement from all of that mystery.

– Molly Way

4 Responses to “Mystery and Secret”
  1. Wow Molly! This is such a beautiful reminder and exactly what I needed today. There’s something about this cooler weather closing in that has me delving into the past as well. I remember those stressful weekends convinced I would never remember to instruct an inhale or an exhale mid-Surya. It seems so strange how quickly things shifted to a more confident place in which we can all teach a full class. I’m in a different situation now where I’m learning a lot and finding that same worry that I will fail or disappoint, but with this reminder I will push through, ask my questions, and admit my unknowns to learn even more. Thank you Molly!

  2. Jessica McCarthy says:

    Molly, thanks for sharing your insights and journey! It’s reassuring for us trainees to hear current teachers reflecting back on their training experiences and identifying with struggles some of us are experiencing in the present moment. I love the bit about reading back on your journal entries – it’s surprising how much we can shift our attitudes and perspectives over a short period of time.

  3. Jonathan Matthews says:

    I really love this…not only in learning to accept and be content with big cosmic eternal mysteries, but also in maintaining a sense of curiosity and a healthy uncertainty in things I think I’ve conquered. That we can have this experience of feeling as though we’ve taken on a new skin suggests an always evolving mystery in ourselves as well. It’s in a way liberating to consider that even our individual arenas of presence and experience we inhabit aren’t safe zones of consistency, as it encourages stepping out and beyond ourselves in a kind of level playing field of discovery and newer more complex secrets. LIFE AS AN AGATHA CHRISTIE NOVEL, YEAHHH

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