When people used to say to me that a certain actor has great presence, I never really knew what it meant. I guess I just looked at it objectively; that they just had a certain magnetism that made them fascinating to watch. It's only recently though, and through meditation, that I've begun to understand what it means subjectively - an actor who has presence is not thinking about anything except what's going on in that very moment in the scene. This is what makes them fascinating to watch.
When I find myself in a situation where I'm nervous, and it's affecting whatever I'm supposed to be doing, I try to use my meditation experience to bring myself back and be present. I've come to understand that when this happens, I'm caught in the evaluation part of my brain; thinking about how and what everything happening right now means to me, and, if I take a second to focus my awareness on the body it will shift my state of mind into a place where I feel more alive and in touch with everything and everybody around me. I become present, and the job becomes easier.
Have you ever been at a social gathering and introduced yourself to somebody and three or four minutes later you've no idea what their name is? You weren't present. This happens to me all the time. I meet them, ask them their name, and I see their lips moving, but all I'm thinking is; "Have I met this person before?", "Am I coming across too friendly or not friendly enough?", "Am I standing like a little tea pot, short and stout?" and so on. The conversation usually doesn't last that long because I never made a true connection. The person I was talking to probably thinks I didn't care enough to listen to them not knowing that I was really just caught in an anxious autobiographical ruminating loop.
Or have you ever been reading a book, that you're sure you like, but in that moment you realize you stopped paying attention three pages ago? And you've been sitting there reading like a zombie? Again, I am constantly doing this. I try to be present to the text but there's some word, some trigger, and I'm off to the races, trying to come first in my own narrative. So I have to go back three pages and read again. Time wasted on irrelevant rumination.
So then it comes to acting myself, and this shit is multiplied by a thousand, especially in an audition setting. Now all I can think about is whether I am right for the role, or if they can see that I am a good actor, or whether I slated my name properly or whether this casting director looks like she's interested in my performance or.... uh oh... Why's she looking at me like that? Damn, I've done it again. I wasn't present. I've probably ruined my chances. All this nonsense swirling around in my brain when all I should've be thinking about was whether Cop #2 is going to make it home safely to his wife or not!
So to conclude; there is no conclusion. I was so present while writing this that I didn't anticipate an ending for it. I guess presence doesn't work in every situation then.