Richard Long
Richard Long

Varieties of Disturbance, a recent New York Profile about actress Claire Danes yields many intriguing and illuminating ideas about the processes involved in her famously “volcanic performances” (of late, most notably in Homeland).  Among them, Dane’s passing mention of her occasional practice of walking in circles to get “out of her head”.

 If I have a very emotional scene, I’ll often walk in circles before. It gets you out of your head. I’m not afraid to use it.

A way to GET OUT OF OUR HEADS, the thinking, chattering, editing mind? We googled variations on ‘walking circles exercises acting’ and found little to illuminate this interesting technique. We do know that ‘walking in circles of various kinds’  threads through many cultures, as in the image above “A walking and running circle, Warli tribal land Maharashtra, India 2003“, found on a site about artist Richard Long. We have practiced a the Chinese martial art of pakua (or bagua) a bit, which involves slowly walking in a circle, and found that it did indeed get us out of our heads, calm us down and make for a clearer view.

Richard Long
Richard Long

We’d really like to know more about Danes’ technique. Could it be as simple as walking in a circle to get back to one’s more authentic, less edited expression?

More on Richard Long, much of whose work is made by walking, here.

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5 replies on “walking in circles to get out of your head (claire danes)

  1. I believe the google search term you want is “walking meditation,” for that is really what Ms. Danes is doing. All you need is a sufficient amount of space in which to move unencumbered and undistracted, like a studio or park meadow, or a woodsy path or along a quiet beach.

    One very simple version is to begin walking while holding a downward gaze aimed about three or four feet in front of you. You can move in a circle, pace out a square (keeping to the same size or gradually make it smaller), or traverse back and forth in parallel lines. You choose. Just focus on your breath and the soft gaze on that spot on the floor or ground in front of you for as long as you like. (Best to start with a few minutes and then build up.) You can also focus on the syncopation between the feet as each plant themselves gently in the rhythmic heel-ball-toe progression.

    Some parks may have a maze or a labyrinth in which to do the walking meditation, and sharing the energy of like-minded meditators there will quietly support your own practice. If you’ve a large backyard, you can make your own. But if all you’ve got is a narrow path through a small apartment, then use that. (Which is another way of saying “look around and improvise.”)

  2. What wonderful advice. I was going to mention labyrinths, but then, those seems a bit different than a circle, which you can do…anywhere I’d say. Mindfulness is part of it, but then again it seems that the walking in a circle itself seems to have a powerful effect…

  3. Hi Sally, my dad leads a meditation group here in Austin, and they often do walking meditations, either in a labyrinth, or just wherever. They walk in the woods sometimes, too. He says, like Chris says above, that the important thing is to move slowly but steadily and focus on your breath, in and out. His theory is that walking meditation is better for extroverts, since it gets you out in the world, as opposed to just in your own head. But like with all meditations, the whole point is just to give your thinking mind practice at being quiet. That’s neat that Claire Danes uses a technique like this. She’s a great actress. Amy

  4. Hmmm, I wonder why he says walking meditation if better for extroverts. Would love to know more. I’m a bona fide introvert and find it really helpful…the walking in circles (outdoors) even better.

  5. Well, yes, I guess it it a sort of walking meditation. The Chi Gong I sometimes do involves walking in a circle while looking into the center at all times…

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