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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Diana Castle

Diana Castle and Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Acting

Diana Castle is a first generation American born of a holocaust survivor. She attended a fine arts high school before graduating with a BFA in theatre with a music minor. She began her career in both musicals and dramatic roles in NYC, in national tours and regional theatre, as well as on stages internationally.

 "Diana Castle’s THE IMAGINED LIFE™ – Acting As The Art of The Empathetic Imagination- is a creative philosophy and practical application of your natural empathetic imagination to the art of acting...

Diana works with actors, singers, writers and directors of diverse backgrounds from all over the world in an effort to illuminate an experience of alternative perspectives, facilitate catharsis and create community through her creative philosophy and the empathetic imagined life experience."


We had a fun, dynamic and almost 2 hour discussion about the nature of empathy and how to embody it through acting. We explored how to not just talk about empathy, but embody it.
Sub Conference: Arts



Diana Castle and Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Acting (Pt 1)


A Culture of Empathy  - Edwin Rutsch’s Interview with Diana Castle


 00:00 V.O.

See the world through other people’s eyes now empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.


00:07 EDWIN

Yeah I was five years old when we left, so I don't remember much. Let me just introduce this- Hi I’m Edwin Rustch and this is dialogues on how to build a culture of empathy--and I'm so excited to be talking with Diana Castle, thank you for joining me.


00:23 DIANA

Ah, Edwin as I said just a few seconds ago I am so excited to be with you, I feel like I’m meeting a brother from a long time ago


00:35 EDWIN

Oh great


00:36 DIANA

Really, it's just a wonderful opportunity to have this dialogue I really appreciate it


00:43 EDWIN

And you even mentioned you had questions for me so it’s going to be a real dialogue, it wont be just me asking questions




00:47 DIANA

I’m dying to- - because, because what you're doing is so profound I mean you really are building a circle of empathy in the world, you’re taking so much action and I just want to find out how it all started, I mean, how did you get interested in empathy and how is it that you began to create this incredible site, I'm fascinated by it.


01:11 EDWIN

Yeah well I’d like us to talk about that, but lets first, let me introduce you. You know, I just came across your work because of an interview you did with The Deepak Chopra Well and they interviewed you about your work in empathy and acting and there was your website and its about “acting as the art of the empathic imagination” which says “is a creative and practical philosophy and practical application of your natural empathic imagination to the art of acting” and I said I have to contact this person and I’m really glad to connect with you on this and I want to hear about yourself and how you got started with this and I'll share some more about myself maybe a little bit later


2:00 DIANA

Well I think, you know, how did we both get interested in just the topic of empathy? I mean when I created The Imagined Life™--Empathy obviously has been a topic many people have spoken about for a long time, but I think its more in the consciousness today than ever. A little bit of my background I'm the daughter of a man who survived Holocaust and I was raised in the deep South - -


So the combination of European parents in the deep South in the 60’s was a real pressure cooker of feeling disconnected and as a child yearning so much for connection - - I mean so much, I mean what child doesn't want to have friends on the playground and feel connected to other children and I was also in the south in the 60’s so we're also going through a period of what they were calling desegregation.


And I say “they” as is if was an us-and-them situation but at that time it felt like “they” were calling it that and it was, it was a challenging time, but I'm so grateful. I have such a sense of gratitude to my parents for introducing me to the arts and that was the playground where I could find community and experience catharsis and collaboration and people of all different backgrounds were coming together around a single mission to share a story and to, as Shakespeare said, “hold the mirror up to nature” and I think now it should be, my little quip is, hold the mirror neurons up to nature.


Now we’ve done a lot of discussing about mirror neurons and I'm sure we’ll get into that today but, to show scorn her own image, so I went, I went through an experience of such scorn and I watched my father suffer so I was very empathic. I was born thin-skinned and so in the presence of his deep suffering over the annihilation of his entire family and his inability to- -you know he didn't have what today would have probably been a lot easier for him to seek out support and community--so I love the arts because it's that's where-- I think it's a mini world peace"


04:45 EDWIN

So what I’m hearing here is that, you know, you grew up in the deep South and you're kind of feeling disconnected from the Society and that the arts was kind of this place where you could find that sense of connection and community then.



05:00 DIANA

And not only community, yes, not only community among the artists who were behind the mission to share a story with a group of people but the greater community of the group of people who walk in and we all laugh together and we all cry together so the greater community called an audience and of course a lot of actors yearn for applause and they yearn for validation and approval and a lot of the times is where a young person that's where the fuel comes from but I think on the deeper level who doesn’t want to feel that connection with another person? I mean who doesn’t want to feel understood?



05:41 EDWIN

We actually had started a dialogue before, but it crashed so we’re kind of doing take two right now. So we’re just going to kind of pick up where we left off and you know we’re hearing about your story about growing up in the South, of Holocaust survivor, your father is a Holocaust survivor, and how you connected art as a way of connection


06:06 DIANA

Yeah, and it wasn’t just the connection of the people you know in the story, in other words to the other actors the director the crew all the people that gathered together to create, to share a story with a group of people called an audience, but it was also the greater connection the heart-to-heart life-to-life connection is happening between the whole company that had collaborated together and the audience so it was an incredibly euphoric feeling to make that empathetic connection and hold that mirror up to nature or those mirror neurons which we’re gonna discuss later on today. So yeah, it was a very profound beginning and one and I'm very grateful for having very grateful to my parents as I said in the “crashed version”


07:00 EDWIN

They taught you the arts— you said they valued the arts and they shared that with you


07:05 DIANA

They shared it with me, and my father used to read Shakespeare to me and Chekov to me and really opened my heart to the great writers and my mother loves music and shared opera and classical music with me and used to play Chopin and so I was really around two people who I think the arts were a source tremendous of relief for them because you can transcend and transform through the arts and I think that that's where my interest in empathy began, you know, under the pressure and challenge of disconnection and through the gravity of pressure, challenge, obstacle, conflict my real lift off happened.


You know, I don't know that I would've found such a deep empathic connection if I hadn't had such pressure I think in a way pressure and challenge and obstacles these conflicts that we’re experiencing between people actually offer a deeper opportunity for connection. When you think about a plane taking off and gravity pulls it down so the more weight that the gravity has the higher you can go in a way



08:36 EDWIN

I’ve kind of noticed that too—you’re saying that people who have felt deeply, have felt deep sorrow and suffering which your father would have experienced, being a holocaust survivor, that having that deep emotion of the pain also gives you deeper insight into life and can also make many other experiences more intense or something like that?



Yeah--more beautiful. How about you?

I'm really interested in--because you're building this incredible circle and culture and I just, I know you grew up in Cleveland, or you were born in Cleveland but, from there how did you get into this topic of empathy where did it happen for you?


09:22 EDWIN

Well you know, are both your parents Jewish or is it just your father?


09:29 DIANA

No, they had a great marriage but that's another source of-- two people from very different backgrounds coming together, my mother is from England -- Church of England—and met my father after the war.


09:48 EDWIN

The reason I ask about that is because you’re asking about me and my parents were actually Germans during World War II so they were in the East and my mother tells stories of seeing the cattle cars filled with people heading being shipped to the concentration camps and then towards the end of the war they were in the Eastern parts the first part of Germany that the Russian soldiers came in so all of the family on my fathers side they were all killed and he was hiding in the barn and the soldiers came and shot everybody--and with my mother it was everybody the women were all raped, so it's kind of the same in story is underlying kind of horrors of life.


10:42 DIANA

And so you heard these stories as a child and I have been watching a lot on your website and getting to know you and I loved that quote from your mother about “when you share your joy with others it's doubled and when you share your sorrows with others it's halved.”


10:58 EDWIN

Yeah, Well she's always trying to get me to get married and that was her phrase she used of why you should marry—“you’ve got to get married because…” and then the quote comes. I've never been married so it didn't work you know, what can I say


11:20 DIANA

Well I think you're married to this profound mission that you have and making connections and intimate committed connections with so many people  


11:32 EDWIN

Well I’m kind of wondering-- where did the empathy part come in? It's sounds like you kind of had an experiential experience of the empathy but when did you say “Hey this is what empathy is, this is how it works I'm gonna really focus my whole energies on developing and exploring this empathy.”  


12:00 DIANA

When I first began I was just enjoying storytelling and enjoying the experience of being part of a troop of people who were sharing stories and then I started teaching actors and because I'm a natural empath --I think we all are-- but I was already naturally empathic because of my father's experience and my mothers experience just as I started to work with actors they were reflecting back to me that we were this shared experience this mirrored experience they felt understood, they expressed that, and emotionally connected and I didn't start out to be a teacher--


I didn't know I was a teacher I started out just exploring the arts as a child and then started doing it a little bit in New York and then started helping some of my friends with storytelling and they would comment you know that I was able to see things in story that they had not seen and through a series of events more and more people started coming to me and I found out oh my gosh I guess I'm teaching this thing called acting which I wasn’t really interested in…until I really discovered that acting is the art of the empathetic imagination and literally I woke up in the middle of the night-- I was just calling it Acting Classes with DIANA Castle.



 I didn’t have a name for it, life-to-life, heart-to-heart, one person at a time doing the best I could to support them to share whatever story it was they were being asked to share with the world and then I woke up in the middle of the night and literally in my mind thought “The Imagined Life™ acting as the art of the empathetic imagination” I wrote it down in the next day that's I started calling it and that was a profound experience just recognizing that what I was doing was not really teaching acting teaching the heart in the art of acting which is empathy and that play, this thing that actors do, which is storytelling, play is what Meryl Streep says, it's imagined possibility. So wow, I mean an actor is uniquely asked on a daily basis to accept and agree to alternative interpretations of life, that’s what they do, they’re asked to except immediately exchange one interpretive framework for another one and I find that to be an extraordinary process and have been doing it 25 years.


14:57 EDWIN

So since that time you’ve been using the word empathy and really exploring the nature of empathy and I'm kind of curious, how did you, how did it pop up? Had you primed for the word empathy?  Or it just kind of came up out of nowhere?


15:14 DIANA

It really is true, it just came. It just came it just came-- and I mean of course I had been primed because holding the mirror up to nature and showing virtue her own feature and scorn her own image --so this idea of Shakespeare’s advice to the players and asking us to hold the mirror up, the mirror neurons up, and really speak to the potential in others and I deeply believe that when we see the potential and others we really we realize our own potential. So you were asking me, you know, what's a metaphor for my work and early on the metaphor that has been a metaphor for my life and my work is Michelangelo's David and the reason for that is there's a guy who wrote a book called The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri and he says “the whole value of art rests in the artists ability to see well into what is before him” so, I mean, if you can speak into the potential and someone else to see well, to see the David through all the marble, then you become Michelangelo, you become an artist of life


16:36 EDWIN

So it’s really like, if your looking at me and your seeing a block and then the empathy is really seeing more deeply into it, the David, or the beauty, or the deeper qualities that are behind what you're seeing initially. And it’s that process which is actually the definition, the original word for empathy is feeling your way into something, so you feel your way into the block and feel and imagine more.


17:05 DIANA

And I also think it is because we have the block, that if the marble didn’t exist the David couldn’t exist. So that there is this beautiful inherent reality, you know, of poison and medicine--there is this inherent capacity for the marble to be the very thing that delivers The David. So that we shouldn’t, or that I, shouldn't shy away from the things that exclude us or disconnect, that it's through that that we can actually find connection and I think that when we, or when I, and my experience with students over the past 25 years is that when I make a connection to The David in the marble when I really make that connection and chip away at the marble, that stands between me and you, I make a connection not just to your virtuous self or my virtuous self, but also to my scornful self.


So, you know, being an actor is not just about accepting virtuous parts it’s also about accepting scornful parts. So we don’t only accept the side of us that’s been annihilated, we also must accept the side of us that’s an annihilator, and I think that the process with doing that, with other -- with parts, with stories helps cognitive and emotional empathy helps us with self-empathy. We become more empathetic or compassionate with ourselves when we see that-- I don’t need to see my self in you, my job is really to see you in me. And if I can do that, if I can find my way to seeing your scornful self, your virtuous self and come into communion with that, I’m going to have more compassion not just for the other but also for my own scornful self because I’m not alone in it.


10:56 EDWIN

Yeah, so its kind of really being a mirror to someone else in that sense, allowing yourself to be a mirror and in being a mirror to others you kind of see yourself as well I guess, in a sense you are seeing yourself as the mirror right?  Oh, I see myself as the mirror reflecting who you are.


19:20 DIANA

And when we bow to the mirror the mirror bows back. So there’s this wonderful guy named VS Ramachandran, have you had the conversation with him yet?


19:31 EDWIN

Not yet he’s on my list, definitely.


19:33 DIANA

Oh.. It’s incredible what he’s talking about and of course with Marco Iacoboni, who you’ve interviewed, who’s extraordinary obviously, a hero. But this idea that of phantom-- if I loose my arm and then I sit across from you and it’s my right arm and I’m having phantom limb pain and somebody comes and massages your left arm, I get relief. 


20:06 EDWIN: Hmm, hmm.


20:07 DIANA

So this idea that it seems like we are separate but the minute I loose my skin I am you and you are me--the only thing that separates us it that.


20:19 EDWIN

That’s when I talked to Marco’s and he was saying – I asked – I’m looking at how do we rebuild the culture of empathy?  How do we raise the value of empathy in society and make it really a foundational cultural value? And for him it was just that realization that you’re talking about how mirror neurons work—and that we are not separate in that sense-- I am waving my hand and your mirror neurons yeah right are firing --and feeling that as well.  So in a sense the air and the space is only like a synapse between us. So we are really – we are not really disconnected. And to have that realization, he thought that was one of the most profound realizations for fostering empathy. 


21:06 DIANA

I think that yes - - I think that this idea of saying hello myself, or hello my brother, or hello my sister, hello myself. I’m not meeting -  - like an actor doesn’t meet a part on the page, they’re meeting a part of themselves.  You know this whole idea that I’m going to play a part, no-- Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird “you never really a human being until you walk a mile in their shoes.” But walking a mile in another person’s shoes doesn’t mean that you give them back. It means that I’m gonna walk a mile in your shoes. And I think that what we find out is that those shoes exist in our own closet.  Oh I walk a mile in your shoes, wow I didn’t realize it but I own those shoes. They may be in a darken place in my closet but wow by taking that walk I find out that we’re not separate.


 Um, and the importance of exchanging interpretive frameworks, nowadays can’t be underestimated--and I think the culture of empathy begins with a willingness I think that's the greatest challenge that we have today it's not so much whether we can empathize, but its whether we're willing to. It's a desire for connection a desire to be that intimate is a desire to open our hearts to another person might be thinking and feeling. And there's this tribe that I talk about a lot with my students with regard to willingness-- because you know one of the challenges that an actor has is that they don't get to pick what they empathize with. I mean when you're Meryl Streep you get to pick--you know it's a child's game and you get your childlike rights back--you get to pick your story--but most actors they don't get to pick their story--you know they get a phone call from their agent or manger and it says "tomorrow you're going in and on Monday you're a mother and on Tuesday you're a murderer" so you don't get the opportunity to pick the story to pick what you're empathizing with.


To pick " oh, I'm only going to empathize with virtuous parts" No. I mean sometimes you have to empathize with scornful parts of yourself so this part on the page is not on the page it's in you, in me.  And if the actor can empathize then the audience can empathize. It starts with empathetic journey of the actor and the director and of course the whole team, but I work with actors, the empathy of the actor for the written word and making spoken is a great challenge-- so this tribe the Moken tribe in Bali, in Southeast Asia, they um, they're gypsies, I don't know if you know this story? Do you know about the Mokens?


23:49 EDWIN

No, I don't know about the Mokens. No, But I've lived in Bali


23:54 DIANA

Oh, really when did you live there?


23:56 EDWIN

Well it was in the 70's. I traveled around the world for about 10 years and ended up in Bali in the mid-70's and then actually got really interested in Indonesian language and Indonesia, studied it for awhile and spent a couple years there bought a sail boat and sailed around the northern part but I didn't know about this culture-- like some subculture or some sub-tribe or something.


24:23 DIANA

Gypsy tribe


24:25 EDWIN

Gypsy tribe, uh huh.


24:27 DIANA

See, so I've got to find out about that because that's-- you, you've raveled abound the world and been on a sailboat and met so many people from so many cultures, certainly that's been a tremendous influence, don't you think?


24:43 EDWIN

That was one of the big influences on empathy and you were talking about how do we develop empathy? And I felt that the traveling-- you know I grew up as an Evangelical Christian, conservative, everybody in the family still republican, votes republican and so you know this travelling really changed me in terms of -- I thought I had the answers of what life was about and you know just engaging and being with all these different cultures was what I think really opened up my empathy, as you had for you, you had the arts, for me it was the travel.


25:23 DIANA

In a a way I think of storytelling as travelling to other countries. Traveling to the Imagine-nation or this Nation of Images-- alternative perspectives, alternative interpretive frameworks. When you read a novel that’s fictional you get to time travel, you get to travel to different perspectives. When you read a script-- when you read a screenplay or a play and um I don't think there's anything more important than cultural exchange.


25:58 EDWIN

Mmmm hmm...and imagination.

I was just thinking about my partner Joan-- she talks about as a kid she would take her brother into the "wish wish machine" and it was just like some chairs with the sheet over it and they'd get underneath and it would be the "wish wish machine" where they could travel around the world or around the galaxy or what have you.


26:22 DIANA

It's that childlike innocence-- it's that childlike willingness to travel, to be curious, to be open, that's that willingness I was talking about and we develop this hard shell and travel is such a great way of softening and opening--and cultural exchange is very important and I'm hoping to do more of that in the near future with a play I recently directed, but in Bali-- how long did you live there?


27:03 EDWIN

In Indonesia, in total, probably about 2 years and in Bali probably 8 months maybe


27:09 DIANA

And what was it about Bali that you most, that most inspired you? You know Julie Taymor lived in Bali for a while and it really inspired her work with The Lion King and her mask work


27:23 EDWIN

Oh yeah, it was the exotic quality it's so different from western culture you it was the first time I had kind of been in an Asian culture and just everybody's wearing sarongs and the whole feel of the humidity and the mystical quality of it and learning the language and I had children, there were little children and I'd talk to them about learning--they would be my teachers for learning Indonesian and they were like these great teachers I had so much fun, we'd be just sitting at a local cafe and just talking to kids, I'd have my little dictionary they would be correcting me and kind of making fun of my mistakes and that kind of stuff it was just wonderful


28:16 DIANA

The children had a tremendous influence it sounds like


28:20 EDWIN

Yeah it was just their playfulness. It's like, you know we were just talking about reflection, you're talking about actors right, the actors kind of stepping in the shoes, and you were also talking about this guarding of ourselves that we do--the fear and the anxieties, all that to kind of shut down that playfulness that we have, that imaginative exploration and the children have maybe less of those fears and anxieties more of that joy


28:57 DIANA



28:58 EDWIN

And I'd imagine that's what you're trying to cultivate and too-- I'd imagined that would be the thing to cultivate in your workshops


29:03 DIANA

That is the thing, that is the thing and to cultivate play--play spirit and the play spirit starts with the I Am. I want to talk a second about that Moken tribe because I think that relates back to your experience Indonesia with the children and learning a new language and also in an Asian culture, which has a greater sense of interdependence. That it is not just built on the spirit of independence but that our independence is interwoven and we are in a web, a web, that mutually supports and a lot of Asian cultures talk about that and have an innate sense of that, that no man is an island.


And the Moken tribe, the gypsies in the Moken tribe, they have a story that had been passed down for generations that when the cicadas stop singing and the water level gets to a certain point that the big wave is coming and they survived for generations because of that story being passed down—the story of “how I survived” and they go to a particular place, the top of a hill with a tree, they know that tree, and that that will ensure their survival.


Well on the day of the tsunami in Bali the leader of the gypsies, the Moken tribe, recognized the cicadas had stopped singing and that the water level had risen and he started running up and down the beach "the big wave is coming the big wave is coming" and when he was interviewed by 60 minutes he was asked, you know, he was down by the water he was down in water -- did you not tell the fishermen? -- Because the fishermen perished and your tribe survived, did you not share this story with the fisherman that the big wave is coming and he said, "yes, but the fishermen can only see the fish." And I think if we are not willing to exchange interpretive frameworks and we are only able to see the fish we're gonna perish.


31:26 EDWIN

Uh hmm, yeah so it's really, the part I see there is the storytelling as a way of communicating and holding kind of wisdom through the ages


31:40 DIANA

If we don't share our stories, now more than ever, if we keep holding on to our fish, if we keep holding on to our map of the world and we're standing in a completely different culture, we can perish


31:56 EDWIN

It's really that holding tight, holding onto ourselves tight, it's really how do we start to loosen up so we can start feeling each others experience? It seems like acting is the way of doing it-- one way to kind of engage in that and start taking on these roles, start trying this out and that's kind of opening us up then, kind of letting go of that tightness


32:23 DIANA

Completely, and also for people who are more timid about it just go in to see a movie-- I mean the fact is, is that, if the story, and I think that's why it's important for us to take a look at the stories we're sharing-- because we want to share stories--I am hopeful we will begin to share stories less about our violent natures and more about our empathic natures, ultimately.


32:54 EDWIN

Yeah, that's a whole topic in itself, what our existing television and media is about. The one thing I did want to bring in, in terms of acting, I've done some conflict-resolution work and in this process you have 2 disputants and then 2 mediators and in the training everyone takes on the different roles, so you actually you do some-- so you become a disputant, you're given a script and then you play from that script


33:27 DIANA



33:28 EDWIN

To be the disputant. And I was just so amazed how everyone was able to do that. There was no one who could not step into the shoes of this person and amazingly act out the conflict in relation to someone else, so for me it was like an insight-- acting is really a part of our nature kind of like we are almost wired for acting


33:52 DIANA

Definitely, I mean we know that play, even the squirrels in my backyard play, we’re born to play, we come into the world playing-- we love imagining we love using our imagination to fantasize, make up stories, it's just part of a necessity that we have for interconnection and I think that, yeah what you were saying just now really affects me though, because so many, a non- actor has this willingness to walk in and say "I'm in a dispute with you, but I'm willing because I want this dispute to end" on some level conflict resolution begins with a desire to end the conflict and cultivating that desire I think is what, movies, plays, screenplays, fictional novels can cultivate.


34:58 EDWIN

And would it be more not just conflicts between 2 people but maybe inner conflicts as well, is what I was imagining there


35:09 DIANA

Yeah, I mean, I think that when we step into the shoes of the person that has--who's being victimized, or feels as though they are not being heard or not seen, I think that when we step into those shoes we take on their interpretive framework and begin to experience the patterns of thought, the patterns of conduct, the way we see, the way we think the way we feel. When we step into those shoes and allow ourselves to have the experience then we find out "oh my gosh" again my own inner conflict between the person who is the annihilator and the person annihilated that were not one or other, that its a both/and experience and I think that that's what conflict-resolution, through the arts, can bring about. A deeper sense of self compassion as well


36:22 EDWIN

Well I was wondering, you said you had that insight about empathy in acting calling it the empathic imagination, The Imagined Life™, and from that point, you said it was like 20 years ago--


36:45 DIANA

25 years ago, yeah


36:46 EDWIN

25 years ago, yeah, we'll you've been thinking about this for a long time, it's great, I mean I've only been working on empathy for about 5 years in a focused kind of way, so I'm a bit envious, if I would have discovered empathy like 25 years ago, I'm almost tearful thinking about how much I could have really developed


37:12 DIANA

Weren't you already, didn't you already discover empathy? I mean isn't that what the travel was, isn't that what your life's been about-- every moment of your life up until the point when you created this website and started to do it in a conscious way to contribute to others, but hasn't been all along, hasn’t your life been a preparation, an empathic preparation


37:37 EDWIN

Yeah, I didn't have the vocabulary for it and you know I kind of missed having the vocabulary for it, it kind of being a lager vision, because I had, when I did the travel--I had a friend who's also sort of a seeker, traveler and he was really an empathic person, his life was really about caring and empathy so I really learned a lot from him and it was one of the influences of getting that awareness more, empathic awareness, I didn't have the vocabulary for it, and he didn't either. He called it just love.


38:25 DIANA

Yeah, I think that connection—yeah. I don't always love, it's not always love, I don't think-- I think sometimes its a challenge sometimes to recognize one’s own scornful self but to love that too



38:47 EDWIN

Ahh, uh huh, so see our scornful self, the mean self, the un-empathic self, that kind of crushes and puts others down or puts ourselves down and how do we open that up, kind of break through that and do it so we don't narcissistically beat others—I’m gonna pound you down so I can be bigger


39:13 DIANA

Yeah, right, right, right so that it’s complementary not competitive, that we complement each other, I mean it is a marriage, it's an intimate relationship it's a marriage souls, it's a marriage of spirit. It's a marriage of heart; it's heart-to-heart, life-to-life experience empathy. And again it’s the desire-- because again I work on just, personally, cultivating everyday, it comes naturally to me with regard to story and coming into communion with what a writer might talk about empathizing with these beings on the page and finding those beings on the page in the hearts and spirits of other people


40:02 EDWIN

Your interview with the Deepak Chopra Well you talk with the people who are interviewing you about their intention and saying what is your intention and you kept coming back to tapping into their intention


40:16 DIANA

Well that's half of my, the daily practice that I teach actors. The first half is the I Must and it comes from Rilke's first letter, Rainer Maria Rilke


40:25 EDWIN

We are both drinking tea I'm getting over a little cold


40:32 DIANA

What kind of tea is that? I want to know


40:49 EDWIN

This is Indonesian green tea, it's our friend, our neighbor actually went to Indonesia and he bought this at the airport


40:52 DIANA

I had a feeling, I was gonna say is it Indonesian tea. Um, so the I Must work in Rilke's first letter he's advising a young writer and in that first letter he writes that "you must ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night, 'must I write.'" Now he was advising a young poet,  "and if the answer comes back a resounding ‘Yes’, then order your life according to that necessity." So certainly my experience of you, so far, is that you have ordered you life around this necessity to empathize and to contribute to the conversation about empathy and to the experience that we are all having with empathy.


 So I think an actor asks that question every day must I contribute to the empathetic conversation through storytelling? And awaken to the greater mission. Because I don't think if an actor--you know anything in life requires a deep rooted mission that goes beyond ones own self interest and the mission to contribute to the experience of empathy which happens every time an audience comes into the theatre, every time an audience comes in to watch a movie. The I Must, am I ordering my life according to that that necessity? I mean it doesn’t mean doing the laundry every day, I mean " I must do the laundry" no, I mean I Must-- that daily mundane activity can be an expression, like the tea ceremony in Japan, it can be an expression of a larger mission, when you start washing the laundry and you're working on a story and the laundry becomes the shirts of the person you're dealing with in story, you know, that kind of thing, but my point is, is that every day 20 minutes a day, I ask the actor to sit down and just get in touch with their real I Must, I don't dictate what the I Must is,  just what is your I must as a storyteller, if you've chosen to be a storyteller in the world what is the I Must and for me it's definitely how can I today turn my experiences...






Diana Castle and Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Acting (Pt 2)



A Culture of Empathy - Edwin Rutsch’s Interview with Diana Castle


00:00 V.O.
See the world through other people’s eyes now empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.

00:07 EDWIN
We were just talking about kind of that sense of constriction that can kind of happen—and I feel it within myself kind of too I can viscerally feel my own constriction in my life and its painful it hurts

00:25 DIANA
It’s so painful to feel that and I think that’s the release that happens when we go to the movies together and we’re sitting there next to each other and the handkerchief—I cant remember who wrote this but, “one handkerchief comes out and dabs a thousand eyes” the guy who wrote Dylan, Sydney Michaels, said that, and I love that image—that we’re all sharing the handkerchief together and then we forget our individuals and we all come together and have that—what Aristotle talked about catharsis—so there’s two parts to the work that I do with actors, the I Must work, awakening the mission of a storyteller that goes beyond the challenges that actors are faced with and I think that the challenges that actors are faced with are very similar to the challenges that we’re all faced with – an actor doesn’t get to pick what they’re going to empathize with so they are asked to be that mother on Monday and murderer on Tuesday, so that can open up a whole feeling—“well I want to be that part, but I don’t want to be that part, I’m right for that part and I’m not right for that part, and they tell me I’m right for that part and I’m not right for this part.”


 So, this stuff starts to go on with actors where they start to cast themselves in limited little boxes and of course the business might—then that’s a whole other story—but if an actor is only as expansive as the way other people see them, then if we’re only as expansive as our externals, if we’re only as talented as our acting partner or as talented as our environment, then I don’t think we will develop our Michelangelo self. We have to, as artists, be the people in society who create the climate of expansion, create the climate of empathy, it’s up to the artist to do that, that’s the function of art—to create a climate, the circle of empathy

02:30 EDWIN
Well I'm hearing two things there, one if we're feeling the constriction which we have in our lives that it's through taking on all the roles, opening ourselves to taking on all the roles of life, all the positions, that each of those kind of opens us up, that visceral constriction that I feel in life and that being said, that could be for everyone trying to do that, but that art in general, the artist, it's kind of their role in society to do that and to contribute that to all of society and they have a big role to play in building a culture of empathy in that sense

03:12 DIANA
As opposed to a culture of narcissism, which is -- Majid Tehranian, another amazing human being, who speaks about the culture of narcissism and turning it away from a culture of narcissism to a culture of, what you're talking about, a culture of empathy, and a culture of connection. So, the actor deals with not getting to pick their story, not getting to pick their empathetic embrace--so every story teaches an actor how to become more empathic.


Every part that comes an actor’s way teaches them "oh, this is a part of me." And sometimes it's "yes" and sometimes it's "maybe" and sometimes it's "no," but we have to get through the marble and we do this, we start by putting ourselves in the shoes and we start to see, and smell and taste and touch and I can talk about some more of the specifics of it because you wanted--so that's one thing, so the actor doesn't get to pick their empathic story, and so a lot of people feel they don't get to pick their story, I mean in life--you know you can say I come from a background--"I come from poverty," or "I was molested as a child" and "I didn't pick that story" it's been trust upon me and now I'm living from an orphan sensibility, you know, a victimized sensibility.


 So a lot of people walk through life feeling as though they didn't get to pick their story, and we can pick our story, we can choose our story, we can integrate. The story that I was born with of my dad as a holocaust survivor, it was a difficult experience and then to go through life as a--as either the person who was annihilated, victimized, separate from, or the person who survived, survived, and what is survival--so, changing our stories. Another challenge that an actor deals with is taking the written word and making it spoken.


A lot of people use the vocabulary--have limited vocabulary based on education, culture, their parents-- you know we get those catch phrases in our head, that our moms or dads said, that don't really serve us. So that vocabulary, when you're given new works-- there's a guy named Hiyakawa who wrote a great book, Language in Thought and Action, and he says when you're given new words, you're given the opportunity to be new in the world, so that's the importance of education. So, when we're given a script and we're given words put together in ways we wouldn't normally speak that opens up a new perception. You said you learned Indonesian; did it open up a new perception for you--just learning the language?

06:37 EDWIN
Yeah, I would see the world from a different felt sense, to speak a different language there's a different feeling, in the language, in the bodily experience, so to learn the different languages it was to realize that this one way of being is not the only way to be, that there are other ways of feeling what it's like to be in the world.

07:07 DIANA
It's amazing. So an American actor gets a script written in English but if that American actor also speaks French or German it widens their possibilities. Actors who speak other languages and can play pretend in other languages experience just seeing in gender--the minute you're French or German you're seeing in gender, you're experiencing things in gender--so taking the written word and making it spoken, and I'll talk about that in a second, that can be something that can be used in non-actors, with writing down a story--if the person in your conflict-resolution, in your empathy circles-- if a person has had a traumatic experience and they want the other person to experience what they've been through or their perception of it and they write down, "I heard his footsteps coming of up stairs or her footsteps coming up the stairs slow" and this is the person coming to molest them and you don't have any experience with molestation, you don't know what that is but you want to be empathic with the person who's been through that and they write down what they see, what they smell, what they taste, what they touch, what they hear and they write it down very vividly as a past event and then I give you that, I give that to you and you allow yourself to imagine-- take the word and turn it into a world, see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, hear it, it's incredible what that does in the body.

08:59 EDWIN
Now, I'm still on the point where we're feeling constricted in our being and it's that awareness of those subtle differences the taste, the smell, the feelings, and it's that awareness of that subtlety that's kind of like opening up the experience, so we want to get into the--we want to open the constriction and maybe the alienation by kind of getting into the subtleties of felt experience

09:35 DIANA
Yeah, the specifics of it—its those specifics. When you’re sitting there and you’re telling me about Indonesia and if I just sit and I just ask you about when you were sitting there at that café, and those kids are making fun of you, and you’re having fun with language, I see it, I hear it, I can hear the little frothy laughter of the kids, I had a sense of the kids moving their bodies toward you and then running away giggling.


I could see you sitting in the café I could feel your body sitting in the chair, I have a sense of the heat—I mean just as you were sharing it with me I felt the sun on you. I mean if you really, sit from the place, not think of you—it’s a big difference thinking of you in Bali versus thinking from you in Bali. So that’s a big defining difference—I don’t think of your experience, I think from it. So one day, when I’m sitting in a café and little kids are making fun of my mistakes in my vocabulary – I can feel those little boys and little girls giggling and it’s a wonderful experience, it’s a wonderful thing to think from

10:54 EDWIN
And it’s also so enjoyable to feel that sense of connection with each other. In a sense, you are feeling connected to me and my experience and its almost like we have shared that experience together.

11:06 DIANA
Together—and when did you—if you were going to tell me what you ate there, give me an example of something you had, one fabulous food that you had

11:15 EDWIN
Oh, I still remember its was like I arrived on the airplane from Australia and its like and we came through the streets—

11:24 DIANA
What time did you arrive?

11:27 EDWIN
Wow, um, well it was still light, so I think it was kind of in the afternoon, probably, maybe two or three o’clock in the afternoon.

11:37 DIANA
And what was the weather like?

11:40 EDWIN
It was clear, it was a clear, warm Bali day and we were taking these mini little trucks where everybody sits in the back and so we were driving through the streets and there were all these shops and people dressed in sarongs and it looked so exotic, I had never seen a place where everybody was dressed so differently from myself—and then we got established and then we asked someone “where do you go to eat” and they said “Mama’s” and it was like an all-you-can-eat, I remember it was Mama’s Restaurant in Kuta Beach Bali and its like all you can eat Indonesian food all kind of homemade, all decked out stuff—this huge feast we had just kind of diving into the culture and just kind of being swamped in all of these magical experiences

12:57 DIANA
What was your favorite—when you go to this buffet at Mama’s, what was your favorite thing to eat?

13:04 EDWIN
You know I’m probably making this up, but I just remember satay comes to mind—you know they had these little sticks with little tiny pieces of meat on it and they put peanut sauce, you know they poured peanut sauce on it and you kind of dip in there and you eat it and I has a little spice in there too

13:37 DIANA
As you’re doing that I’m experiencing—I can feel the satay in my hand and as an actor—and actor has to have an insatiable—you know I could ask you so many questions about how you where feeling when you got off the plane in Australia—from Australia into Indonesia—what was on your mind when you got in that cart and took that drive—we could spend hours getting more specific about the moment you landed going all the way through, and that kind of specificity work is what a Daniel Day Lewis or Meryl Streep does, being so specific in the creations based on what’s dictated by the writer.


 If that were on the page—if what you just shared with me about your experience was frozen—petrified in language—written words on the page, I would have to turn that into a spoken experience and so, I get the opportunity to share it with you, and ask questions with you in the flesh, now the actor has to take the written word and turn it into a flesh, turn it into an experience, so they have to ask lots of questions. They have to ask lots of questions and then they get answers from their imagined life—they get images that come in, smells and tastes and touches form their ancient brain, from their right brain—from the storehouse of all the humans being that have ever been—its right there in their imagination, ready.

15:03 EDWIN
Yeah, so it’s kind of like asking for the details, keep looking for deeper details—but it seems to be really a sense experience—ask for the sensations, what were the sensations for it—

15:17 DIANA
It is a—some people who are highly visual, they need graphic, they need color, they need shape—they work very specific in their visuals. Other people who are more kinesthetic, or body—it’s a more felt sense and also touch—if I'm going to say I have a brand new baby immediately I feel is lungs, I feel his weight and I feel his little butt, and I feel his breath—but for someone who is highly visual it’s a sight—they see the eye color they see the graphic.


 You can’t imagine wrong, but whatever particular sense in strong, its going to be strong anyway and for actors they want to develop the other senses as well—so if they’re strong kinesthetically they want to develop their auditory sense, if they’re strong auditory or visual they want to develop their smell or touch. So we develop that and then it’s also the perception side of things. If the writer says, “I have to go to that party” the job of the actor is to create a have-to-go-to party not a get-to-go-to party.

So it’s a different character, if the character says, “I get to go to the party” it’s a completely different framing of party in the brain—so language matters because we are naming what we’ve already framed in our brain. So the writer is doing their best to give us the language that expresses the framing. A “get to go to” party is not the same creation as a “have to go to” party and its not the same person, its not the same tendency.

17:07 EDWIN
So your saying that as an actor you’re getting the material, you’re reading the material and if its going to a party—I’m trying to understand—there’s kilns of the intention you get to go or you have to go

17:23 DIANA
If the writer writes down, literally, if what you’re going to say in the movie to another person is “I have to go to the party” that’s a different creation then “I get to go to that party”

17:40 EDWIN
Oh, uh huh, and you need to tap into that experience and that energy of have to go, and the heaviness of it, and the pushing yourself against versus "Oh yay! I get to go! "This is really great! Yay, gonna get to go! So, there’s a whole different energy around those two experiences.

18:02 DIANA
Absolutely—you’re a good actor. Of course, unless the problem is, that you’re lying.

18:10 EDWIN
Oh, then you have other layers, within layers of it, uh huh.

18:15 DIANA
So that’s why acting is so complex. But in going back to in what ways its applicable to non-actors is this vocabulary that we’ve been given versus education, cultural exchange, learning new languages—this gives us an opportunity to not only broaden words but worlds—and when we open up new worlds inside of us through developing, learning new languages, learning other ways of naming things—by re-framing we re-name—then were given, as Hiyakawa says, opportunities to be new in the world.


Then the last challenge that actors deal with, that I believe people deal with too, is that an actors being asked to empathize with a story that he or she normally doesn’t empathize with, you know, they don’t get to pick what they’re gonna empathize with, they must take these words and make them spoken—have to go to party, get to go to party—and then the last thing they do, they share intimately in front of people or a camera.


And so and actor—it’s a very courageous thing that an actor does by empathizing with the part and opening their heart to the part, they facilitate the empathy of the audience, and if they don’t do that then we don’t get to go to the movies, we just start watching ego, narcissistic, look at me, persona acting—not empathy acting. I mean, there’s a difference between persona performer and an empathetic transformer. And I love those transf—I love Daniel Day Lewis, I love Meryl Streep, I love Ben Kingsley—these transformative actors where I go and see them in a movie and I don’t see them—I experience myself through them a possible self—that’s what they facilitate because they have accepted it as a possibility for themselves and that’s such an amazing thing

20:37 EDWIN
Yeah, with Meryl Streep there’s a video I put together with some of her—there’s her speeches, excerpts and parts—and she’s talked a lot about empathy and the importance of empathy, saying how its this foundational value to her—so that’s pretty good promotion for the importance of empathy in learning that--so its sounds like what you’re really saying is that learning empathy is going to make you a better actor

21:06 DIANA
It’s the foundation of it

21:07 EDWIN
It’s the foundation

21:09 DIANA
I think that it’s absolutely the foundation it is at the heart of the art of acting; there is no question about it. It’s at the heart of creating community and what else is acting --creating community

21:28 EDWIN
Well what I’m looking at is taking it farther, beyond the acting, we can have better actors and connect with the community, but can we really make the whole society more empathic where the value of empathy is not like, “oh well there’s an actor, I moved that’s great” but that it really becomes a core part of our culture? We have all these social institutions, the justice system for example which is really geared toward the samurai—I think you—somebody had mentioned the samurai, maybe that wasn’t you, it was a different interview—but its like two lawyers battling it out, there’s not a lot of empathy there its not a system around empathic connection and healing. And so you look at every institution, and even the media to an overwhelming large extent is about this reality TV—who’s going to get booted off the island, how are we going to demean this person, how are we going to put them down, how are we going to ridicule them, and its just not about empathy.


And so, it seems like we really need an empathy movement, so that’s what I'm really looking at, how do we really create this empathy movement and how do we get people behind that and to really transform society so we can avoid the Holocaust, you know what I mean—you talk about your father going through the Holocaust, my family going through WWII and the horrors of that—you know how do we head that off from happening again?

23:04 DIANA
So I think we have to pick up the samurai sword of peace and become warriors of empathy—and think that’s what you’re doing, for sure. And I think it beings with—I think on one of the videos where you had, maybe it was the Palestinians and Israelis who were sitting down to speak and there was a little plaque and on the plaque it said, “the story begins at home.” And every story beings at home. It goes back to your mom and your dad and it begins with their experience, and my mom and my dad and their experience, and beyond—and here we are together, somehow we are deeply interconnected—you know, through our experiences, you as a German, of German descent, republican, Evangelical—me as this Jewish, liberal, British, democratic background—and here we’re meeting—and we’re having a dialogue as openly and intimately as we can at this moment in time via Skype—I hope you’ll come to Los Angeles, I would love to treat you to a wonderful Indonesian meal, I have a wonderful restaurant Id love to take you to.


So I would really love to invite you to come and see our theatre and meet everyone here, I would love to do that, and continue our dialogue because I’m very inspired by what you’re doing and I think that’s the question “How do we do that? How do we facilitate?” I think it starts life-to-life, heart-to-heart, one person at a time. There are many movements, I think, around empathy, a lot of movements, but its all about—how do we come together? And I feel like that’s definitely what you’re doing—you’re going out into the world and saying ok this person on empathy, this person on empathy, lets bring all these strings together and see what we can do together—and it’s a massive accomplishment, tremendous accomplishment. So, I do my best, on a daily basis, one person, one heart, one life, one student at a time—which is why I sent you those things, I have so many of those things about not only in what ways their art has been transformed, but their art—and I think it begins with engagement with one person at a time.

25:51 EDWIN
Yeah, those are beautiful—yeah you had sent a list of comments students had written about you’re work—and one student said “My folks had always told me to stand in other peoples shoes, but it was through this work that I was actually able to do it, so I actually learned how to do it” and “Through The Imagined Life I learned the term ‘empathic sensitivity.’” You talked about your sensitivity growing up, growing up a highly sensitive person and then you turn it into strengths—so that sensitivity is not something to be afraid of but actually becomes a source of energy and strength. You had a whole bunch of really beautiful—

26:36 DIANA
I had one today—one of my—a woman I have been working with a really long time, she just shared this incredible, this tremendous story of how she’s become a better mother to her son, through empathizing with the mothers she’s played—you know, because she played an alcoholic mother in a story—and alcoholic mother who gives up her child and that strengthened her when she went back to her own child. Its really extraordinary what a story can do to transform----and also you’re empathy circles which I’m very interested in and want to find out more about—or through teaching acting as the art of empathy, in both cases we’re just, in our respective areas, we’re both standing, I really believe, where you and I are standing, that’s where it begins.

27:34 EDWIN
Uh huh. So its really having that intention, it seems to be on of the first things, and you had mentioned the importance of intention—so lets have the intention to build a culture of empathy, to foster empathy and from that intention everyone just kind of works from where they are and it kind of builds from there. I am kind of a little concerned about the time; we’ve gone way over. I could talk for hours about this, I learn so much, but I don’t want to keep you if there’s—

28:08 DIANA
I good until—I love talking with you—I’m good until 5:00pm.

28:12 EDWIN
Oh, ok, wow. Ok, well then lets talk a little bit more then

28:14 DIANA
I put two hours aside for our conversation. I know, obviously, no one wants to watch something for two hours but I'm not—while I’m thrilled people will be watching this—I really, and I know you want to ask me questions, but at the same time, as a person doing my best to foster empathy in people, I’m so interested in your empathy circle and how it is you came to do that, and what is it that you’re doing—what are some of the practical applications you’re doing to foster a deeper sense of empathy with people?

28:55 EDWIN
Yeah, as I started exploring empathy it started off as sort of a landscape—if I can sort of use a metaphor—well this I see is important—you know Barack Obama said we have an “empathy deficit” from my exploration of values I sort of stumbled upon the importance and centrality of empathy and then really found that this is what I had been looking for, what I had been kind of about and the stared getting the vocabulary for it. And then I started asking people about empathy and doing these interviews and reading and studying and, you know, I do free style dance—

29:35 DIANA
You do?

29:36 EDWIN
Yeah—oh, I lost you again—

29:38 DIANA

29:40 EDWIN
Freestyle dance—that’s sort of an emotional exploration- I’ve kind of done a lot of my emotional exploration in dance—where I'm physically mirroring people feeling my way into their experience—just kind of what happens, kind of my art form. Let’s see I was kind of talking about, in general, empathy, the empathy circles and how I kind of—I’ve been looking at, what are the larger ways we can look at the society and change society—and you know people can give speeches, and that’s all good and well, there's acting, you know you experience—so there’s all these—there’s a lot of empathy already in society but how can we be more organized, more systematic, more focused and I’m thinking that were creating what we call empathy circles, where we meet on Google Hangouts and we have 5 people in the circle and we have weekly meetings and where we start the circle with our intention—our intention is to build a culture of empathy—and then we have a little candle lighting ritual—and then we starting with some mindfulness, sensory awareness, what’s going on inside of ourselves and then we manifest that into a physical manifestation—so it would be, you know, I’m feeling this energy going out—and everybody reflects, mirrors—so we’re doing mirrored empathy—and then everybody’s doing the same thing until you feel “fully gotten” you know, the energy of it—so then the next person, what you’re feeling

31:56 DIANA
I love it

31:58 EDWIN
So we do this kind of mirrored empathy—so what were looking at is self-empathy connecting to the awareness turning that into something that’s easefully reflected by the others, then the others reflect it, ten by doing it you kind of accentuate the mirror neurons, right. So were kind of doing that mirrored empathy. And then we go into, ok how do we build a culture of empathy together? And there we’re doing just reflective listening—so I’ll say something, and I speak to someone in the circle, and then they reflect back what they hear me say until I feel fully heard—kind of like Carl Rogers reflective listening approach—then its that persons turn to talk and it just keeps ping-ponging around like that—and so we’re looking for other activities like that. We’ve also done some imaginative empathy where we’re working on a “user-guide” where everyone became the “user-guide” I Am the “user-guide” and what are you experiencing now?


Well as a “user-guide” I feel very lonely, no one is paying attention to me, I really want some attention, I people to do something with me, make me big and strong, I need to get filled and full, I need to be big and strong.

33:29 DIANA
You know what you just said is so important about the first step with empathy, is the acceptance of the I Am, isn’t it? I mean is has to be I Am

33:41 EDWIN
Oh, I Am the thing; I Am the “user-guide.” I Am you.

33:47 DIANA
I Am—because if the experience is He, then that experience is outside of us.

33:55 EDWIN
Oh, uh huh

33:56 DIANA
But the I Am is the being place. The right brain kicks in, empathy kicks in, mirror neurons kick in, I Am. So I—that’s so important in acceptance of your story—I’m sitting in a café or I’m on that bus or I just got off that plane in Australia—I mean it is an experience of the I Am.

34:17 EDWIN
So it might be a way to explore empathy is to say, I Am empathy, in a way, what is my experience of empathy? I’m embracing you in a big hug—

34:33 DIANA
Well, you know, again I think we go back to those 5 senses because empathy can be such a conceptual word, can be such a concept, and we have turn the concept into something living and breathing and flesh and so that’s where we being, like you’re saying, not I Am empathy—then I really start to experience—when I sit down and have that satay and I feel that wooden stick and I feel that weight, I begin to have the I Am experience of your joy there, through the food, or through your experience of the children at the café—yeah its putting myself—the I Am in the chair and then through that I Am empathy—if I Am in the chair then I Am empathy.

35:24 EDWIN
And what can we do, we’re looking for activities we can kind of add too—because we want to have these circles reproduces—we have 250 people on the waitlist who are wanting to join these and I only have limited about of time and my partner Lidevai, who’s my partner in Holland, we are kind of developing this so we want to do kind of a teacher training so anyone can, or facilitators, so they can kind of spread, virally, so that more and more of these circles get created and that we have these—that we have different activities, we have our intention but how do we practice it? What can we do? What are kind of little activities, practices we can do?

36:11 DIANA
The 3 things that I can share with you are the I Must work—I do think the I Must work, setting the intention is important together, the I Must Create a Culture of Empathy, and then—that’s a great statement, but what is the personal I Must, what does creating a culture of empathy mean to me? I Must experience connection with you. I Must experience community with you. Or, I Must be heard, or, I Must hear you. We have to find out what it is for each individual person as a translation into something sensorialy.

36:44 EDWIN
Uh huh. So what were saying, from setting that intention, that we need to get everyone engaged in what does that intention mean for them—we need some sort of activity that says, ok you’re wanting to build a culture of empathy what does that mean to you?

37:02 DIANA
I always think, what does that look like to you?

37:05 EDWIN
Ok, what does that look like?

37:07 DIANA
What does that look like to you? What does that sound like to you? What does that smell like to you? What does that taste like to you? So, If I really have that connection to you—my feeling of connection to you, sitting in that chair in Indonesia with the sun shining on me and playing with those children and learning a new language—the kind of heart, that kind of human being, that kind of heart to sit and play with children around words and word games—I can feel their giggle—that’s the I Am, I really want to feel a connection with another human being and I'm going to put myself in their shoes, in all 5 senses and I’m going to ask more questions. What were you thinking about? What were you feeling? What was on you’re mind? You know, and I begin to find out what was influencing you—so asking lots of questions—

38:06 EDWIN
Ok, so I'm trying to translate into doable exercises

38:11 DIANA
Let’s do it, let’s do it

38:12 EDWIN
Well I see it as, ok we want a culture of empathy and its like what is it—what is a culture of empathy? You are a culture of empathy, what are you experiencing? What is you’re experience? What are you seeing? What are you feeling? What are you tasting? What are you hearing?

38:35 DIANA
So I might say to you, if we were doing it today, let’s say, I might say to you--- tell me about an experience you had this week that you’d like me to feel with you, positive or negative, that you would like to feel heard about, positive or negative, can you share one?

38:55 EDWIN
Which I have, um, that first thing that’s coming is my frustration with—we had this, I’m enjoying the dialogue so much, and we’ve had it crash on us 3 times, so I have a sense of frustration about that and its like, because its been braking the flow of the dialogue that I enjoy so much, so it causes some stress and tension within me

38:26 DIANA
Ok, so um, I want to take that on, I can feel it already, but if we’re gonna do it through an exercise—so tell me what you see at the moment is crashes

39:39 EDWIN
I see that I’m by myself here, you’re gone, like there’s suddenly “bing!” you disappear and the screen is blank

39:50 DIANA
The screen is blank. Is it black? Is it white?

39:53 EDWIN
Yeah, well it’s myself, all I see is myself, and there you’re gone and then I’m kind of imagining people, uh oh, somebody’s watching this and now what are they gonna—you’re gone. And then they’re gonna say, “oh this is boring, this is—there’s nothing happening here.” And then I think, well what do I tell the audience? And the say, “Well we just had a little glitch, I hope Diana comes back in a moment” so I was kind of filling the space a little bit.

40:24 DIANA
Uh huh, so I’m starting to feel some sadness here, aloneness, a heaviness about the mission kind of like, how am I going to—a sense of, how am I going to explain myself, some need of explanation to others, somehow personalizing the crash

40:56 EDWIN
Uh huh, I can just feel the crash, I can feel the stress and tension in my body, I can feel my body kind of constricting.

41:08 DIANA
So what if the crash is the thing that actually creates a deeper connection for us? What would that be—

41:14 EDWIN
Um, yeah—so um imagining what it would be like—

41:25 DIANA
How can we turn that—being alone on the screen made you want that even more and me want even more to find a way to each other

41:40 EDWIN
Yeah its like—I was think maybe we should redo it—you know use Skype or something—I was trying to strategize, I find myself wanting to strategize but you’re saying just imagine how it could—

41:55 DIANA
Well I think its about, I accept that that crash happened and now how do I turn that into something—I want to see the David in the marble, so the marble in the crash has actually created—

42:15 EDWIN
Oh, oh it’s an opportunity to experience stress and constriction—it’s an opportunity to experience—oh this is great! This is wonderful! I’m so glad we had this crash because now I'm able to experience it with you—I've just had this revelation that the crash itself is like the brick and its allowing me to experience, to viscerally experience the brick and experience the realization that there’s actually something beyond the brick

42:48 DIANA
That’s right. That’s it.

42:52 EDWIN

42:53 DIANA
And so, to turn that—I mean wow! I mean we both—I don’t know, I don’t know how long you usually are with people, I put aside these hours, but the thing is, is that we needed it

43:06 EDWIN
Yeah. We needed it to—yeah this dialogue is going on a long time, as we’re getting longer and longer we’re getting more into it---this is so great that we’re going on so long—something like that kind of—yeah just really seeing, just really feeling it—and you know feeling the experience

43:32 DIANA

43:33 EDWIN
And how to keep doing that--

43:38 DIANA
That every time there’s gravity, or every time there’s a marble, there’s always a David. You know, whenever there’s gravity you’re gonna fly higher. So, in an empathy circle when somebody starts to reflect back what they felt, what they saw, what they heard, the silence, seeing the black screen, all I see is myself, I’m feeling constricted, I'm feeling frustrated, and the other person starts to see and feel the same thing, and then, together, how can we turn that marble into the David?

44:13 EDWIN
Yeah, it’s the visceral experience of it. I viscerally experienced it by going through it, and it was really having—I have to feel it, I have to really connect to it and then its like having a—what am I feeling now and how do I see the David underneath whatever that feeling is? And just keep doing it—

44:37 DIANA
Practicing it.

33:38 EDWIN
Practicing it.

44:40 DIANA
It is a daily practice. The actors that I work with they practice every day. They sit down for an hour every day and they take the marble of the word, which is—its frozen, its just a piece of marble—you know, “I was sitting on a chair in a café.” They have to crack past that marble called words, which is a left brain conceptual experience, not in the body, and open up an experience of the sunlight, the children laughing, the feel of the chair underneath you, the smells, the sights, all of it, and then, wow, and then they can say that sentence.

45:28 EDWIN
Yeah, so how about for you? Do you have an experience you’d like to share?

45:36 DIANA
This week, wow every day-- one of the challenges I have, is that I got myself a brand new little puppy, who I love so much, and he’s teaching me how to—he’s teaching me so much about---you know when I wake up in the morning and I see him bounding into my bedroom with his little jaunt, with his little boxy body, he’s 25 pounds and he’s got this little cock-of-the-jaunt walk and he’s got that smile and those little eyes looking up at me, with his little face saying “Come play with me! Let’s play!”


I mean, he’s teaching me so much about play as the first thing in the day—not “Oh, I've got this to do and I’ve got that to do,” but immediately “Let’s play!” that’s what life is about—and I have asthma. And I am challenged with breathing in the right to that kind of love. I mean literally, breathing stored tears—I mean that story is part of my father’s story, the right to breathe. And so, even though I’ve done all this work around play, my body still remembers annihilation. So the more I share, honestly, my experience of my fathers challenges with deep sadness, and fear and doubt—I mean when you come from an experience like that, when you know the worst in what people can do, when you know people are capable of that, journey back to trusting and empathy—it’s a long one and I think that’s why my life’s work has been about empathy. So being with you today has been so beautiful.


It’s been one of the most—I'm just so grateful. Thank you. So my experience this week has been, just continuing to say, I can breathe in this love, I can breathe in this life. I can be intimate with another human being, I can play, we can play, we can be like puppies –

48:20 EDWIN
I was feeling myself be the puppy.

48:27 DIANA
He’s teaching me a lot. He’s opening my heart to play—that the day isn’t dark, you know, that my dad woke up with darkness, the day isn’t dark, the day is filled with play and I do it for a living, I don’t do it for a living, I do it for a living. It’s my life’s breath to work with people in empathy. Not only am I supporting others to be more empathetic, but every person I encounter is a teacher opening up my right to breathe in the world and to be empathetic. And I really appreciate how open and caring and loving, I just feel very heard and I really appreciate that.

49:22 EDWIN
When I hear peoples stories, I sense the beauty in what you’re saying and I feel like I gotta do something, I gotta make something happen—and this creates a sense of stress, so I think how do I just connect with people in kind of a deeper way, to kind of be present to hear what they’re saying and just be present and hear and just be empathic. And I feel I learned a huge amount, just from talking to you. That story of the brick it was like a huge “aha” moment. You know, seeing the brick, seeing the experience, it was really transformational for me—I had that awareness.

50:10 DIANA
I’m so appreciative —I really am blown away by—the feeling that you’re talking about I have too—this sense of “I’ve gotta do something! I’ve gotten do something!” and we’re doing it—were doing it! I know for me—every time I willingly challenge my own—and open my heart and open my spirit and open my life up to another human being I'm—I feel transformed by it. Empathy is transformational. Reflecting back, it’s extraordinary, because we’re not alone—I'm not alone on this screen—it’s an incredible experience

51:11 EDWIN
It’s really just speaking to the fears, the fears that come up and to see those fears as something that can be spoken to and can be transformed in the sharing in the hearing of those fears, those anxieties and not stepping away from it, but trying to engage in it and feel into it and maybe to develop maybe a trust in that process too—trust that we can really step into the fears into the anxiety, the more we do it—I know myself, I'm seeing to more I can do that it becomes more of a trust more of a resilience, a grounding in that experience and I think the arts are such a great way of doing that—you know I talked about the dance, I actually had that awareness because I was sensing in myself my anxiety and my fear and I thought,


I've got this anxiety and this fear and I kind of brushed it aside and I thought instead of doing that, I’m going to go to it, I want to see it, I want to hear, it want to feel it, I want to touch it, I want to taste it, I want to feel the nuances of it and as I did that in the dance I went more and more into it was like as I did that the fear dissolved it just disappeared, but within 4 or 5 seconds another one came up, but in a whole different texture, a whole different shape, a whole other feel and then I went to that one and then by being present, by feeling it and all the different subtleties wanting to get as close as possible to it, feel it, I wanted to get so close to it, by doing that I couldn’t get quite close enough because it would dissolve and the door would open and it was like, wow, I'm looking in this door and then with another 3 or 4 seconds there comes another fear—is this one gonna do me in, is this one gonna kill me, then it was like—I'm gonna go, I'm gonna struggle—then the door would open, so it was like keep going to that fear, and learned kind of the language more—I hadn’t thought of the taste, the touch, to really get into the sensations of it that that kind of gives it a shape and a body like that—

54:16 DIANA
Absolutely. And then you dance your fear, or you speak your fear through story—because its in the safety, I find, of an imaginary set of circumstances, that allows—because when we accept and allow an alternative interpretive framework, when we say yes to an imagined life set of circumstances we’re freer to be intimate—more intimate.

54:50 EDWIN
By creating the acting and kind of setting it aside a little bit—we’re not in the pit of fear and anxiety—we can kind of detach a little bit from it, is that what---

55:02 DIANA
Actually, it’s not detachment—I know there’s sort of this idea that in cognitive and emotional, particularly emotional empathy, that there’s this “as if,” but I don’t think so, I think it’s as one—I say I accept the I Am, I accept your fear as my own, and in accepting your fear as a possibility for me, not only do I empathize with you and feel connection with you, but I liberate myself from my own fears as well. So it’s like a dance we do together, the mirroring exercise, as you dance your fear I dance with you and I experience, through you, your fear and liberate from my own as well and that, I believe, is why emotional empathy creates self-empathy.

56:05 EDWIN
So is that kind of the idea that you start with yourself, a lot of the mindfulness is that you’ve got to get into yourself, but I always thought its about seeing myself in others

56:20 DIANA
Seeing others in yourself

56:22 EDWIN
Seeing others in myself. So that’s really the first step in empathy.

56:29 DIANA
That’s it! Because when we say, “I see you in me. You’re a mirror reflection of me. Hello myself. Oh my gosh, hello myself,” that’s when we say, “Oh, wow, I see more deeply into myself, I widen my empathetic embrace,” and I see more deeply into myself, I develop more self compassion. And that’s why engagement with others is so important, that’s why what you’re doing is extraordinarily important, because you are in a worldwide engagement in that dance. And, honoring me with the opportunity to share that is—I gotta tell you, to dance with you today has been extraordinary; it’s been extraordinary and transformative.


So, yeah, I would say my main I Must in life is the message of: it is through engagement with others and seeing others in us—the function of art has always been to see more deeply into life—you know I don’t look at the bowl of fruit on the table the same way after I see a Cezanne painting, I don’t bring my own bowl of fruit in Los Angeles to the Cezanne, Cezanne teaches me how to see. So, art teaches us how to see, empathy, which is art, teaches us how to see more deeply into our own lives. So I would say, imagined life first expands our empathic embrace, empathetic embrace expands compassionate action not only for others but also for ourselves.

58:16 EDWIN
Well this has been a fantastic dialogue. We are only a Skype call or Google hangout away, so perhaps we can pick up this discussion, explorations—so I hope this is just the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

58:37 DIANA
I would absolutely love that, I would love that, to continue our dialogue and id love to join your empathy circle, id love to dance with you more and I really hope that you’ll take me up on my invitation.

58:50 EDWIN
I definitely will. I know you have to go at 5; we’re almost there

58:58 DIANA
I can hear my students gathering. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Actor Diana Castle Empathizing with Paul Bloom's Case Against Empathy with Edwin Rutsch
Diana Castle’s THE IMAGINED LIFE – Acting As The Art of The Empathetic Imagination - is a creative philosophy and practical application of your natural empathetic imagination to the art of acting.
(More on The Baby in the Well - The case against empathy)



2012-11-27 - Master the Art of Empathy - On Chopra Well


"In today’s episode on 30 DAYS OF INTENT, Iman and Natalie meet with Diana Castle for an acting lesson and empathy workshop. Diana teaches theater through her original method, THE IMAGINED LIFE™, which emphasizes the role of empathy in creating and portraying dramatic roles. We interviewed Diana on the importance of empathy, on stage and in the world.

The Chopra Well: You are an acting instructor and also teach empathy skills. How are empathy and acting related?

Diana Castle: Acting is all too often thought of and even encouraged to be a narcissistic profession – and yes, there are plenty of cultural narcissists today. However the truth in the art of acting is to be found in the heart of empathy. "



Diana Castle's - Huffington Post Blog - Tell-A-Vision
You have to be willing to change the channel. Empathy is first and foremost an act of acceptance.  Empathy starts with a willingness to put your self in another person's shoes. Empathy as a daily creative practice means to walk around in those shoes. Without imagination there is no possibility for experiencing a perception under the impact and influence of alternative interpretive frameworks. Without using the gift of our imagination there is no empathy. The art of acting, when it is practiced correctly, is truly a humanitarian art form...


And if we can all practice the art of empathy and become students of alternative perceptions then Atticus might be right when he told Scout, "You'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.".


Diana Castle’s THE IMAGINED LIFE Website
Acting As The Art of The Empathetic Imagination- is a creative philosophy and practical application of your natural empathetic imagination to the art of acting.... Her classes are a creative environment devoted to supporting the transformative experience and expression of the empathetic imagination.

Feedback From Students of The Art of The Empathetic Imagination

Growing up, I was always taught by my parents to "put yourself in someone else's shoes." I always thought I knew what this meant, however, it wasn't until I started working with Diana and The Imagined Life that I truly understood. "Put yourself in someone else's shoes." It's not just an idea, it is an action, it's an experience.

 This was the beginning of what Diana calls "widening my empathetic embrace." The Imagined Life has taught me that as human beings, we are all connected. Through the "widening of my empathetic embrace", I now not only "put" myself in someone else's shoes, but I can experience others in me. I can experience others as an alternative possibility of me. The Imagined Life has expanded my capacity to instantly empathize with others and, on a very profound level, to love more deeply. This widens my embrace in my art and in my life.
Chris Sheffield

The Imagined Life has informed me how to use my empathetic heart in a positive way. Before studying with Diana I always was trying to shut down my "over-sensitivity." I would go so far as to say I was almost ashamed of it. And that was manifesting in seriously negative and inhibiting ways. Through the Imagined Life, I have learned a practice to turn empathic sensitivity into a strength. It's an internal shift that I get to practice and utilize every day in my art and in my life.
Jessica Jade Andres

Diana and her philosophy have completely revolutionized my life and art.
I feel as though I now never meet a stranger.
Through the work of accepting new perspectives with every story I take in — my own personal perspective has widened and shifted so much!

The daily practice of the empathic imagination -- "seeing from" -- has also showed me that I have the capacity and ability to change my own story — as there are so many possibilities of perspective to any give circumstance.

Diana has taught me how to change my own story!
Words can not express how grateful I am for her and this practice!!
Faline England

Two days ago, December 1st, was World Aids Day. Now, before Diana's class and specifically The Heidi Chronicles, I- as a straight man in the world- would have thought " ok, cool, aids is terrible, really awful disease, what's for lunch?" But after living in Peter Patrone's shoes I found myself experiencing the terror of not knowing what was happening when HIV first appeared in the rely 80's. We were shamed, and many of us died with very little dignity. It made us question whether there really was something wrong with us. I thought of the friends and lovers that I lost.

This is remarkable when you realize that in my own reality I am not gay and do not personally know someone who is living with AIDS. I was also amazed at the fact that I didn't try to think of those men who were sick in my story, it just happened automatically in a split second-I even get emotional writing about it now. It gives me another lens through which to look at my world and wake up and be grateful.
Very Grateful, Christian Zuber

The imagined life has expanded my empathetic embrace by exploring all parts of myself and by seeing everyone in myself. She has taught me the I am! Through empathetic embrace and acceptance I no longer have to go outward for results. I accept that the relationship already exists within me through the magic of my imagination.
Shannon Kane


A Culture Of Empathy with Diana Castle - TEASER TRAILER   (2:30 min)



 A Culture of Empathy with Diana Castle- EDITED INTERVIEW - (26 min)