Benjamin Hollingsworth: Compassion, Forgiveness, and Empathy
Being authentic means being genuine with ourselves, therefore expressing that honestly into the world. Like the Universe itself, authenticity is not static; it’s continually changing and expanding. When we embrace the expansive movement of constant change we are creating, we can be fully present within the awareness of who we are authentically becoming.
Canadian artist Benjamin Hollingsworth, who stars as Dan Brady in one the most-streamed Netflix’s series Virgin River, shares about the essence of who he is. He says, “I am authentic and guided by my heart. I am a dreamer and motivated. I often find myself savoring the moment and life as much as possible, and within that, I can tap into my core.”
Our soul, or our inner being, inner or higher self, is unconditionally loving by nature. Words can’t really describe that kind of love; it can only be experienced. So, when we look in a different direction of that innate love within ourselves, we feel negative emotions. But our emotions are not us; they are our guidance system that indicates whether we are focused on being in love or the opposite. Therefore, by being aware, we can make a deliberate choice to turn our attention in the direction of our soul’s inner perspective, which is always loving and adoring in essence.
Benjamin, inspired by his own journey of discovering the relationship he has with body positivity and self-inclusion, passionately shares his awareness about this topic: “We often look in the mirror, and that tends to self-destruct what we’ve built up inside ourselves because the reflection we see may not necessarily match our inner soul. I think society has created this exterior shell that is, so far, unattainable for many people. It’s often projected through the media, and sometimes I feel that I am part of the problem, too. I work very hard to achieve the body I have. I do certain tricks so that when I am on camera, I don’t withhold as much water to be as much as possible in a peak physically looking form. What that does is it ends up creating an image that is not necessarily sustainable on a daily basis. I think it’s important that when you look in the mirror, you understand that people projecting this image on TV have worked very hard to achieve that image. And often, when I am not working in front of the camera, I don’t look like that. I love different versions of myself, and I am still me. And so, in this relationship with body positivity and inclusion, it’s often hard to pin down what we have inside of us that creates insecurity about our physical appearance. But I think it has a lot to do with how society projects it, especially in the media, perpetuating this image that it’s certainly difficult, if not impossible, for the general public to accomplish. And so, for me, body positivity is being positive about the exterior as much as you are about your interior. When I close my eyes, I can talk more about my inner world, because I do not see my reflection; I am focused within. So, it helps me connect within.”
Happiness is the ease we experience in the process of the life we create. Our outer world reflects that which we believe to be real, encompassing our generational and family memories, cultural and societal contexts that we accept as being true. But a belief is just a thought that we have been thinking, feeding it with our attention enough time for it to become not only factual, but manifested in physicality. But we all can shift, mold, and create new beliefs that are more in harmony with the happy existence we want to experience.
“It’s taking the outer part of us and the internal part of us and having a marriage that is about love and connecting the two. And I think that’s where happiness lies—when you can connect your exterior self with your interior self—that creates happy humans. It’s what creates good actors. Honestly, the confident ones are confident, not because they look a certain way. Like Zach Galifianakis, he is a perfect example of someone that radiates positivity and happiness. And it’s not because he looks like Thor, but because I feel he’s achieved a sense of inner happiness that meets with the exterior. It makes it more complete human,” says Benjamin.
Our bodies are the most receptive vibrational antenna we are equipped with. To experience a vibrant and satisfying life, it’s of the most importance for us to stretch our body sensitivity. Our body is in constant communication with us, telling us what it needs the most; we just have to listen. For example, any kind of discomfort or pain in our body, might be an indication that we are thinking thoughts that are in opposition of our soul’s loving essence. Or if we feel depleted and less energized, we might need to be aware of what foods are best for our body to function at its best.
Benjamin says, “I used to be a bit of a carnivore where if I didn’t have meat with every meal, it wasn’t a meal. It was part of how I was raised. And then my wife is a vegetarian; she’d never had meat in her life. Through the years, when you’re in your 20s, you can kind of eat whatever you want and play with it, as long as you’re active. But as you get older, you start to notice certain foods make you feel a certain way. When I was 23 years old, I was a part of a TV series that Ashton Kutcher produced. It was about models living in New York. When we shot it, it made me hyper-aware of my body and the food I was eating, especially with all these models on the show. And they would say things like, ‘Oh, don’t eat this before, don’t do this, or don’t drink water from here to here to achieve this look.’ So, I started becoming more aware of the food I ate. But it wasn’t until recently that I began to think that the food I eat isn’t just sustenance for me but also important for my state of mind and body. It needed to be a bit of an experience. And it’s about eating healthy for sure. So, eating ice cream every night isn’t a great thing. But sometimes, eating ice cream and feeling great about it is okay. It doesn’t always need to have shame attached to certain foods. But that relationship for me has developed over the years, and I don’t eat much meat anymore. There are so many meat alternatives out there that are not only good for the environment but also good for me and my health journey. I always thought that if I didn’t have meat, I wouldn’t have the physical energy or lose my muscle. And that just wasn’t true; it was kind of a myth. So, as I got older, I changed my diet; I have now been eating more towards longevity and sustained energy throughout the day. I don’t eat like 100 carbs in the morning, so I crash in the afternoon. That’s the shift that’s been for my food journey.”
Ultimately, it’s the balance between our mind, body, and soul. We need time for our mind to rest and be unfocused from the outer world. Meditation is one of the most effective practices to do so. The longest meditation we do is our sleeping time. However, taking a few moments during the day, closing our eyes, and consciously breathing in and out can bring us onto fuller balance between too much attention outwards. There also has to be time for our body to move so our muscles are active enough, so they don’t atrophy. Any kind of exercise can also be considered a type of meditation as it brings the opportunity to focus into our body allowing our brain to relax. Our body also need to be fueled with energies coming from foods. Choosing the foods that best fit our “lifestyle” and being aware when we eat something compulsively or consciously, makes a difference in our relationship with food. And of course, the intention we put behind nurturing our mind, body, and soul, will always affect not only the outcome but the process of accomplishing what we desire. If we exercise and eat from the perspective of us lacking something, it will bring one kind of experience. When we exercise and eat because it’s fun and it’s from a loving perspective, we will experience the process accordingly.
“When I was in my 20s, I did many what I call vanity workouts. There is a type of weightlifting when you isolate a muscle group and work that muscle group repeatedly, enhancing that muscle group, so it’s aesthetically pleasing. At some point, I got injured because I’ve got this big upper body but really no muscle on my legs. Then I started adapting it over the last couple of years into functional fitness, which is less about lifting heavy weights and more about actual strength that would help me in the day-to-day world. And so, with that came fewer injuries and more strength in my core. I started working out full body exercises, so everything was going to be activated in one exercise. I have kids, so everywhere I’d go, I’d carry my kids, and I’d carry all their gear, and I incorporate it into my life so that my back wasn’t hurting, or my legs weren’t so sore that I couldn’t walk. And with that came a sense of pride that came from the inner out instead of the out in,” says Benjamin, and then continues, “And as an actor, it’s important that you work out in a way that supports the character you’re playing. So, whatever character I’m focused on, it does shift my workout routines a bit. I would focus on eating much more protein and maybe on big muscle groups but working them together with the whole body. It’s all been a bit of an evolution for me. And it’s still a bit of a scientific experiment at a time where I’m like tweaking little things here and there,” expresses Benjamin.
Kids are constantly reminding us that life is not as serious as it seems to be. The ability of kids to ease up quickly when they are experiencing something they don’t want by switching their attention to something else that feels better it’s still within us all. Children are wonderous and curious; they trust their intuition. What would be the words that a child can tell us when we are overwhelmed? ‘Ease up! Relax! All is well! This is a fun game! You got this! Let’s explore. Let’s discover. Let’s have fun. Let’s love life. Be present!’
About what Benjamin is learning from his children, he says, “I feel like anything challenging presents itself as an opportunity for growth. And so, I think having kids was maybe the most life-changing growth I’ve experienced. It took my perspective about being solely focused on myself to now see life through the eyes of my kids. My oldest is now six; as he goes through certain points in his life, there are memories triggered within me. And I’m like, ‘Wow, I forgot about this. But now I remembered it, and now it’s part of me again.’ So, it’s not necessarily just growth but discovery, and that the growth comes from within and lets the power unlock. Potential is within all of us. And it can be a challenge tapping into it. But for me, my kids are the key to opening up this new perspective on life. It helped my acting career, mental maturity, physical maturity, and emotional maturity. We’re all affected by kids, and I believe for the better. My children teach me about curiosity and how sometimes the answer to the simplest question is so complex. And it teaches me something about it because I have never questioned it before.”
Giving the benefit of the doubt to someone that we encounter, and perhaps see aspects of them that don’t fully resonate with us, is freeing. It feels nice to be nice. It feels good to be kind. It feels loving to love. Everything and everyone are mirror reflections of ourselves. When we observe something that throws us off, that is because the other person is reflecting something within ourselves that still gets triggered, and we haven’t release it yet. It’s an indication to pay attention and to listen first to our inner world, an opportunity to surrender and have a fuller loving experience.
“I think that as an actor, you inform the character, and sometimes the character informs you. The more characters you play, the more perspective you gain on life. Because when I play someone who is disenfranchised, oppressed by life circumstances and societies kick them to the curb, I start gaining a perspective of what that’s like. Whereas before that, I may think, ‘Oh, he’s just dumb, uneducated, or naive.’ And that’s never really the case. When we meet anyone, I think we have this first impression, like when people meet my character Brady for the first time in Virgin River. There’s this very clear cut, ‘Oh, he’s shady. And he’s not to be trusted. And he’s a villain.’ Then slowly, throughout the seasons, I’ve peeled back these layers that he’s more than that. He’s actually misunderstood. He always lived on the fringe of life, because he never had a family that showed him what it’s like to be a part of society and be part of a community and be a part of a loving group. And so, he was always resistant to that. So sometimes, I learned through the mistakes that Brady makes that prevent me from making similar mistakes. Like it’s okay to seek help, it’s okay to be soft and vulnerable, even when everyone perceives you to be strong and rigid. And it also reminds me not to cast people into a specific category based on my first impression, appearance, or social or economic situation. Through all the characters I’ve played in my career, I have this complex empathy that spans a large spectrum of people, and I can put myself pretty seamlessly into their shoes. And within that, find that even in the morally ugliest of people, someone who has found themselves way off the tracks, still has potential, innocence, and a heart and brain that can unlock that potential. That’s one of the lessons I’ve learned from Dan Brady; the potential to love for the first time,” shares Benjamin about the benefits of becoming different characters.
When Jesus saw compassion in others, he was unwavering in seeing and holding the space of their fullest potential, their essence of well-being, unconditional love, and infinite abundance of expressing and living a full life. It was so empowering that everyone wanted to gravitate to that state of being. People then saw the opportunity to forgive; to forgive first and foremost themselves for not seeing that potential within themselves, because we are the once experiencing everything we feel. We forgive, so we can move on with love, and then direct that love unconditionally to anything and anyone we are observing. And for a moment, we can be empathetic with those who are experiencing something challenging, so we can meet them there, but them inviting them to rise to feel better, and embody the love we all are. We should strive to be empathetic, but not staying in someone’s pain, because if we do so, then all are in that pain, and we can’t be in pain and help others. We can be in love with life and others will join us if they choose to.
Benjamin continues: “I think for me, it’s compassion. And it’s interesting because I would love to look up what is defined as compassion in the dictionary. But my interpretation of compassion is sharing a passion with someone without limits. So, my compassion towards anyone starts with that. And that my relationship with people leads from there. I think it’s not about gifting people or constant praise of people, although those things are important because they’re languages of love. I think it spawns from empathy and forgiveness. And I believe in the good inside of people. And because I have compassion or empathy towards people, I’m going to try and continue to inspire the best in them. And to take it a full circle that comes back to inclusivity and body positivity. If I can inspire people to look at themselves through the eyes of self-love and choose love within image and body image—that’s empowering. I think society sometimes tells us that if you love yourself, you’re overconfident or full of yourself. But self-love is always good. I think people should start with that. And if they have self-love and truly love themselves, they will also help push those qualities in other people. And, and so for me, it was a very complex answer. Still, all layers start to pull off when there is compassion, forgiveness, and empathy.”
We are the lifeforce expressing itself. We are the extension of God, the Universe, the Divine, or whatever we want to call it, and as so, when we desire something, Source wants that for us, as well. We are innately worthy to experience the life we want for ourselves. Like Benjamin, are you moving in the direction toward experiencing your fullest potential?
Cover Photography by Chris Haylett