“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
-Agnes DeMille

I was listening to a New-Agey podcast the other day-- because I do that kind of thing sometimes. And the host was saying that he thought that people thousands of years ago could communicate telepathically. His rationalization was that people couldn't write letters and if they were separated for long periods of time, they must've found a way to communicate with each other. His hypothesis was that they must've done so telepathically.

I didn't necessarily agree with his hypothesis, but it got me thinking... about human beings today and how our intolerance for the "unknown" is so low. This random podcast led me to my own hypothesis: humans who lived thousands (or even a hundred) years ago must've had a much higher tolerance for the unknown.

A thousand years ago, information was extremely hard to come by. Books were rare and usually written in Latin. According to Google, only 6-15% of the MALE population was literate in the Middle Ages. There must've been a great deal they would've had to come to peace with not knowing.

Go back to 1915, just a hundred years ago, there was no internet, no television, no radio. There were telephones and it was possible to send a telegram, but it was expensive and uncommon for most people to do so frequently. People mainly wrote letters to communicate. If you wanted information, you had to go to a library or ask someone. Alternatively, you might have to live with the fact that there was a question that you could not answer.

Now there's us in 2015, living in the age of technology. In New York City, most of us walk around with palm-size computers in our hands (or at least within arm's reach) for at least 16 hours a day. Today, information is literally ALWAYS at our fingertips. Is there something you don't know? Not a problem, just Google it and you have your answer-- or in most cases, you have pages and pages of answers.

This has revolutionized the way we relate to the world. It has had many positive benefits, sure, but there are some negatives. I would argue that it has greatly lowered our tolerance for dealing with the unknown. We can find answers or confirm what we already know on an infinite number of subjects. "What was Robert Downey Jr's most recent movie?" "How do you make a chocolate soufflé?" "Should I worry about this funny looking mole on my right elbow?"

So when we are confronted with the questions we can't "Google," it's very disquieting to us. We have the answers to millions of questions one click away, but we don't have all the answers. "Am I going to get cast in that show?" "Did I do a good job at my callback today?" "Does my agent still like me?" Then there are even bigger life questions like, "Am I always going to work at a day job?' "Will my relationship last?" "Is there a God?" "What is the meaning of life?"

Of course, all of the above questions were always unanswerable (even before the internet). However a hundred years ago, there were also many more questions in any given day that were unanswerable. And so we were more used to living with the unknown. We were confronted with it all the time. Today, we are still confronted with the unknown, but information is so easy to come by that it makes the answers that we can't have intolerable! And this is backed up by the increasing rates of anxiety in our culture. According to an article in Salon, almost 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in any given year and 28.8% of the population had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

How does this relate to acting you might ask? Well, it certainly relates to the anxiety that many of us experience when we're waiting to see if we booked a job or how nervous we get before we go in the room for an audition. Below are some coping strategies that may help increase your tolerance for the ambiguity we face in our lives.

•Unplug: turn your smart phone off or put it away two hours before you go to sleep each night. If you do leave it on, resist the urge to check Instagram or Facebook just one more time before you go to bed. You'll sleep better... and really you won't miss much. Give yourself the opportunity to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that might arise. I promise you they will pass and you will have given yourself the gift of growing your tolerance for the unknown.

•Get outside: Studies show that people who live in less populated areas suffer less anxiety and depression than those who live in urban areas. If you live in a city, make it a priority to get out of the city and into nature weekly. This doesn't even mean you have to leave the city. If you live in New York, go sit or take a walk in Central Park, Prospect Park or go to the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.

•Meditate: Every day find time for stillness. Meditation can be what you want it to be. I don't necessarily mean sitting in the lotus position and contemplating your navel (although that can be great.) Meditation can be listening to a guided meditation, it can be sitting quietly and focusing on your breath or on a mantra, it can even be coloring in an adult coloring book. The most important thing is that you're taking space in your life for quiet stillness and contemplation.

•Exercise: This is perhaps the most important item on the list. When we exercise we create more space and flexibility in our bodies. Creating space in our bodies also creates space in our minds. Exercising regularly is a proven fighter of anxiety and depression. However, even if you don't suffer from either of these conditions it can still help to create more ease and joy in your life.

I'm not sure previous generations were telepathic, but I'd argue that people who lived in another era experienced more wonder and more uncertainty in their lives. And as a consequence, they had greater tolerance for the unknown. We can cultivate a greater tolerance for the unknown in our lives through the above tips and also through simply connecting with our breath, grounding, and having compassion for ourselves.

Author's Bio: 

I offer one-on-one coaching in a supportive and holistically minded environment that encourages clients to become more fearless actors and public speakers. I'm passionate about the craft of acting and am eager to help you realize your full potential. My teaching philosophy combines Meisner technique, Linklater and MVM voice work, as well as Michael Chekhov technique. I also use holistic strategies to get you feeling empowered and connected to your creativity. I have my MFA in Acting from Rutgers University where I studied with William Esper and Lloyd Richards, among others. I'm also a teacher of the Miller Voice Method and mentored under Scott Miller, professor of voice at NYU's prestigious Graduate Acting Program. I've taught at Rutgers University- Mason Gross School of the Arts and New York Film Academy. For more about me please visit: www.sarahkoestner.com