The Act of Invisibility

Yesterday, a professional musician read aloud The Prayer of St. Francis.  The man wasn’t performing for the crowd.  He was reading as though the prayer had been written for him.

The intonations and musicality of his voice lured me into loving the words.  I questioned the opposites contained in the prayer.   Are they better served verbally?  Or silently?

Does an effective “channel” speak love or just show it somehow?  How is it easiest to receive vibes of pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy?  Is it best to transmit consolation, understanding and love with an act of invisibility?

People who personify the virtues listed in St. Francis’ prayer are rare, but Susan Boyle came to mind.  Did she have years of invisibility?  Did it magnify her beauty?



The prayer says, “It is in dying that we are born…”  Being, instead of being seen, disciplines the ego and makes room for giving.

I wanted to know:  How can I construct my own invisibility?

This question first arose in the early 1970s in London, Ontario.  I joined the London Little Theater Group and was given the role of a seductive secretary in a murder mystery.  I was overjoyed until I realized my character was murdered in the first minute of the first act.  My only lines were repeats of phrases spoken by my lover/boss.  I was taking shorthand while he dictated a letter.  I didn’t even have to do a dying scene.  The lights went out, a shot was fired and when the stage was lit again, weeks had passed.

That kind of invisibility was easy.  The mystery revolved around my character and I didn’t have to do a thing.  I sat bored and impatient backstage, waiting for the end of the performance so I could do curtain call with the rest of the cast.

Stan, a professional actor who had retired in London, was a small, quiet man with powerful stage presence.  His role in the play suited him – a quiet, polite, detective who matched the cunning of a yet-to-be-famous Columbo.  His role required a deftness that caused players, and certainly audiences to forget he was on stage.

“How will Stan ever be invisible on stage?” I asked the director.

“It’s one of the most challenging roles for any actor,” he said.  “It’ll be especially tough for Stan because everyone likes to watch him.”

“Does that mean the other players have to do a good job of distracting the audience?”

“That’s important, but Stan can’t count on that.  What if the other players don’t pull that off?  The story relies on his shadowy observations and impeccably timed responses.”

During rehearsals, I popped in, did my one minute on stage and left.  I didn’t have a chance to ask Stan about invisibility.  He was continuously engaged with fellow cast members.

We had a packed house each night of both weekends.  I wanted to watch Stan in action, but had to stay backstage.  It wasn’t until the cast party that I finally had a chance to pose my question.

Stones, balanced with mortar-less perfection, stand on the hillside and silently watch the ferry slip through its island laden path.

“Stan, apparently you mastered invisibility every night.  I’d love to know how to do it.  Is it the opposite of acting?”

“It’s a wonderful and artful challenge.  It’s customized with each play, each cast and each setting.”

“But how do you do it?” I asked.

“I think myself into a state of not being available.  I’m absolutely still.  I don’t draw attention to my character in any way.  I work with the timing of the other actors as I blend in with the scenery, the movements, and the mood.  I imagine myself small until it’s time to step back into the spotlight – big as life.”

“So…you are turning your visibility off and on in accordance with what’s around you?”

“Yes.  For me, being invisible requires more acting than being center stage.  It’s draining.  It is the most intense, yet rewarding, acting I have done. It’s terrifically fulfilling.”

Here I was, yesterday, listening to a professional musician invisibly read a prayer.  I listened to Susan Boyle sing the St. Francis prayer with the power of coming out “big”.  I remembered a gifted actor teaching the art of invisibility.

Am I any closer to knowing how to channel the virtues named as opposites in the prayer?

I’ll have to see how invisible I can be.  However,I’ve learned one thing.  An act of invisibility is a supreme act of giving.  Self-willed or not.  Both have purpose.

Can you become invisible?

43 thoughts on “The Act of Invisibility

  1. What a beautiful opportunity to write a comment with Susan Boyle’s voice in the background. And so I’ll write the following: This past weekend I experienced a beautiful baby shower for daughter #2. When I arrived I realized I had left my camera, the very same camera whose battery I had carefully charged so I could take pictures that could be made into a photo album of the event. The two lovely young hostesses ushered me to my seat, tended to every detail and snapped, snapped pictures. When I grabbed my daughter’s camera to take my chosen shot, one of these lovely hostesses immediately understood the picture begging to be taken. “Mrs. S. I’ll take it, go ahead an visit. You don’t have to DO anything.” What a lift that was. So, instead of snapping away, I can say I visited with everyone meaningfully. The pictures were taken, but I know not when…thanks to these wonderful friends who simply gave of themselves the entire time I truly enjoyed my time not “on assignment.” I know St. Francis’ prayer addresses deeper issues than this, but I can relate to
    “Where there is darkness, light.
    Where there is sadness, joy.”

    • It’s an interesting shift to suddenly be out of the throes of responsibility. Oddly enough it can be puzzling…the role has shifted. Has it been diminished? You obviously took the gracious route by understanding, accepting and seeing the light and joy in your new role. How to BE, Georgette!

  2. Wow, some powerful food for thought! I may need another cup of coffee this morning for this one! 🙂 I think I would equate being invisible with being the “observer”, which I grapple with a lot. I never thought of the actual “invisible” factor being a part of that but I guess it is.

    Wonderful post! Hope you are having an awesome summer! I’ve been back and forth to the lake a lot and have missed a lot of computer time, as well as missing your posts. Glad I didn’t miss this one!


    • Good for you, SuZen – one of the posts you likely missed was a reminder that we’re all spending too much time on the computer in unhealthy ways. Hope you enjoy your time away immensely and get all sorts of oxytocin running through mind and body! I love this time of year – lots of seasonal produce. Plus I have access to more raw plant-based food since a couple opened their Rawsome Cafe recently.

      Remember, you don’t have to bury yourself in the sand to be invisible! 😀

  3. What a beautiful prayer that is…the Prayer of Saint Francis…and sung so tenderly by Susan Boyle… I think she deeply understands the virtues, the opposites in the prayer and invisibility as she sings it… (I share her last name and seem to connect in a heartfelt way to/with her…)

  4. Alas, my dear friend ‘invisibility’ is not a problem for many in society…but ‘visibility’ is far more dificult to accomplish…just a random thought brought on by your fine post.

    • I believe I understand what you are saying, Charles. As a woman in business, I’ve cried over my invisibility on different occasions. As a woman who is now a senior, I am again faced with a new kind of invisibility. I don’t claim to be able to compare with anyone else’s, but I know the pain of mine. That is the reason I wanted to learn the power of being silent, invisible and observant. I wanted to learn how to step out BIG without being whiny, wingey or heavy handed. Sometimes I can do it, other times I am not successful. I’ve learned that people with hearts pay attention. The rest? I blend until I can put them aside and get on without them.

  5. Invisibility can be a blessing. I so appreciate the wisdom of your actor colleague. Amy, St. Francis Prayer is the ultimate prayer. I missed this of Susan’s. Thanks for sharing it here.

    A perfectly love post. May I reblog that on Bardo before I put in on hiatus? I will look for your answer here. I’m only keeping it active for a bout another week.


    • Of course you can reblog it, Jamie. You have honoured and encouraged in so many ways (and not just me!) that it is hard to know how to thank you properly. You are of a caliber to which I aspire. With blogging, it feels I’ve been backstage when I really would rather be out in the audience watching you and taking lessons.

    • You got me going today with Lady GaGa! Isn’t she a topper?! I really respect how she champions her fans and gives out encouragement like confetti.

      That’s the way to be powerful!

      Yes, Kim…I feel you know about dying. A piece of you may have died when Kay was murdered. However, from your blog, amongst the love you express for Kay is embedded a strength that shines admirably. It’s not always obvious, but the subtle stuff speaks volumes.

  6. Invisibility often is a double-edged sword … for those who live in the shadows, living the opposite of small is a challenge … but living small, they deprive the universe of their gifts of uniqueness and be-ing — all powerfully Divine … and those who live large — too large for some tastes … does that mean that they are not true to their gifts, but “putting on” for a show? Random acts of kindness are blessing from both the invisible standpoint and the obvious standpoint … both can take practice. I suppose approaching it with “for the highest good of all” is the key … Pondering and food for thought!!! Thank you for sharing, Amy!!

    • The focus of the post was how to live the “opposites” of the St. Francis Prayer. Some people deliver virtues with a lecture: “You should” or “All you hafta do” or “Why doncha”. A lecture causes most ears/minds to close unless advice has been sought.

      Some deliver with a story. A story lets people take as much or as little of the content as they need or want.

      Some deliver by example. Attraction is hugely powerful. Simply living those opposites, being them, without being center stage, without the spotlight, has a profound effect on others.

      To me, practicing invisibility means having no ulterior motive. It is being content to live in a state of love, joy, understanding. Most of us have fleeting moments of that state.

      I have a mentor who can go in and out of invisibility. He is a minority in a number of ways – his skin is darker, his culture is different, he has a garbage business, and his education was mostly heart directed. He cannot walk into any room without people noticing him – and they don’t realize why. He is powerfully invisible. He doesn’t think about any of this. He just lives with motives of goodness and kindness. When he knows it’s time to speak up, the words he uses, and the concepts he delivers, touch hearts. As he has said to me many times: “Speak from the heart and hearts hear. Speak from the mind and you’ll find an argument.” 😀

  7. Waiting quietly behind my table this past weekend, I knew that those who had the eyes, would see. Those who did not, would not. Sometimes the invisibility is necessary in order for the work to get done. I will be mulling over the comments by the actor-that invisibility while ‘on stage’ when one is the usual center of attention is the most difficult feats of all to accomplish…

    • Yes, Julie Marie – you do understand. Invisibility is necessary at times for THE WORK to get done. This is not repressing oneself. It’s more of a re-fueling. Thank you for visiting and for leaving your insights with us.

  8. Firstly, I’m with Gerogette on this one. I loved, loved, loved, being able to read the blog with lovely music inspirirng me and playing in the background. My takeaway for this, and I’ve writtten it down, are your words: “Being, instead of being seen, disciplines the ego and makes room for giving.”
    We were created for a purpose. Being instead of “being noticed” fulfills that purpose. Powerful words, my dear friend when I needed them.

    • Barb, thank you for your welcome understanding. That really is the whole point…how to give. I’ve wondered if spiritual maturity has been achieved when there’s a switch in default from “what am I getting” to “what am I giving”.

  9. I love that prayer, Amy, it’s what I pray every morning because I am a little “look at me, look at me” 🙂 I think it’s about not being needy. About being self actualised enough to choose to serve the needs of others, simply because it gives us joy. I will be thinking about this for days, Amy 🙂 Thank you.

  10. I love this post, Amy. As you know, I have taught, in some facet, for years. Oh yes, I’m visible when I face a student and teach them to ride a horse or a technique in watercolor or a little one to float and begin their first strokes in the water, but what then? They leave and move on. Some time in my mid thirties, I received a letter from a prior student who had become quite successful. There had been other instructors for her and she had grown rapidly. She wrote to thank me for her start and that she had realised that I had provided the groundwork for her success and felt that she would not quite be the person she was today had she not met me. In that moment and from that time forward,I have never forgotten that letter as I teach others. Knowing that there are others who have taken what they can learn from me and go out into the world and achieve and help others with that gift feels far better than any prize or notoriety that I can gain, myself. It just feels better. So, to those others who teach and share their gifts? Your invisibility is visible in multiples of those you have gifted over the years. Kind of like passing the light. Isn’t that like Namaste?

    • Fabulous example, Leslie. What a great soul to take the time to express her gratitude to you. That is passing the light – and it illuminates both in ever-increasing circles and power. And you know, those times when we have apparently given something significant, we were unaware. Our egos were having a nap backstage or something good like that. It’s those times that we were not trying to be visible; we were well blended with our soul’s determination to give.

      With a grin, I write – these moments are the ones that keep us there for all the rest.

  11. Actually Amy, I can! Qi gong is Excellent for this kind of thing.
    That being said, I used to have no boundaries.
    Life teaches, and if we are open to it, we learn.
    Sometimes I think it’s as simple as that.
    Great post! Wonderful story.

    • Okay, that’s it! It’s time for me to undo my package of Qigong from Spring Forest (Chunyi Lin) and get on with some practicing! Good for you, Bela! What an art.

      From what I can see, one needs tremendous boundaries to be invisible. I sense having boundaries means having the confidence to be invisible. Has that been your experience?

    • It sounds like you are in the folds of care-giving. That can be an incredible act of invisibility. Don’t forget to look after you as well. We have to do that so we have some medicine in our medicine chests! Blessings, HealthyWarrior.

  12. I guess what you mean by invisibility is to keep your persona out of it and live in a way that your love and comassion is “felt” by the other without any need for any focus on oneself. Listening to Susan Boyle in this video is an experience like that. It is not just Susan Boyle’s love that you feel , but all the Love in this universe. What a beautiful prayer this is.

    • Yes, Nadira – you captured the idea perfectly. There are various facets of invisibility – some of the other comments address them. But your summation was my focus.

  13. I know when I pray this exactly where I am in the spectrum of my usefullness to G-d and others. I feel it–it’s a rearranging of me from the inside out.

    Frankly, G-d uses me with or without my permission–centered or not. And how effective that turns out to be isn’t always known by me…… But that’s not mine to ‘have and hold’…..I’m not married to the outcomes, I’m married to G-d. He gets to deal with that and I just get to accept. Doing based on outcomes isn’t particularly reliable, especially with other human beings. We don’t get to know when we’ve made an impact–but I’m very clear that what we do, inter-personally with each other, MATTERS mountains! I’m not certain that makes sense to anyone but me, and perhaps putting that in black and white here is more about me than it is about what you posted here……which I’ve read multiple times now, as I’m want to do with posts of yours time to time. That usually means me taking my inventory, talking with the Big Guy and having a chuckle or two…LOL

    There are times I’m invisible and times I just, for the life of me, cannot BECOME invisible–I’m not sure that’s all about me but I am sure that He finds a use for whatever end of the spectrum I’m on. He’s kinda like that. Is there a different ‘feel’ to the invisable-ness–sure there is….I know when I’m there cuz it’s effortless to simply BE love. When I’m shoving pride and ego aside to GET there I struggle to make it happen. I can still ACT loving, it’s just with a bunch of my own feelings attached to it….and I’m very clear that while I might BE effective, I’m farrrrrrrrr from invisible.

    There are a few old farts I’m graced to know that simply exude LOVE. I don’t always know it’s them that’s doling it out, but I can feel it before I see ’em. I just settle…..and breathe…..and get warmed in what they exude without effort. I put myself next to them when I finally discover their presence….not because they’re centerstage kinda folk…..LOL…that’s more ME than them quite frankly– But you can’t sit near ’em without wearing it and they don’t actually see themselves as anything but humble servants.
    I wanna be like them ……IF I ever grow up…….

    • Yes, Mel, I want to be like them, too. Thank you for your fabulous comments. I feel as though I’ve just been sitting on the other side of the table with a good cuppa tea. The work you do on yourself is so evident, Mel. A bunch of us women were talking about honesty just today. I thoroughly enjoy your self re-alignment throughout your writings. I brings a whole bunch of love to my day!

    • Welcome, Madhu…it truly is thought provoking. David has been diligently uncovering layers, making contacts and putting it out here for us. He’s experienced a lot of heart ache over getting out this information. I’m overjoyed the actions David was told about months ago are proven valid and underway.

  14. This is a beautiful prayer Amy made all the more so by such a poignant rendering…
    The issue of invisibility as much as visibility is dependent I do believe on our own personal ‘raison d’être ‘…as well as society’s  view of us at various stages and ages in our life as you so rightly pointed out…the ultimate of course would be to be able to understand…accept and align ourself with the concept of Divine love and the invisible cloak it wears…not needing constant validation and being able to spread and give gifts of love…joy…solace…kindness…peace! But that is not always so easy for us mere mortals….

    Much food forethought and introspection Amy…many thanks and God bless…

    • My oh my…I love the way you put this: “accept and align ourself with the concept of Divine love and the invisible cloak it wears”. At times, I confess, there are times I think I have to be the invisible cloak. 😀 Talk about being profoundly mortal! God has to have a good sense of humour.

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