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Reza Diako: Embracing The Unknown

Reza Diako: Embracing The Unknown

Love. Since we are consciousness flowing through everything and everyone, then from that perspective, we are love embodying the human experience, and not the other way around. When we solely identify ourselves as physical beings, we put the veil between consciousness, the unseen, and consciousness densified, the seen. As the presence we are, extensions of God, we are always awakened; as human beings, this awareness allows us to experience love translated as physical emotion and direct it to everything and everyone.

Artist Reza Diako who plays Apostle Philip in the globally acclaimed television series based on the life of Jesus, The Chosen, says, “I am Reza, and I’m a human apprentice. I’m a seeker of love and truth. The sooner you get exposed to change, newness, difference, or what I classify as unknown, the more, whether by force or conscious choice, the framework you have so far breaks. And so, you have to rebuild. I call it a Phoenix experience. It’s burning and rebuilding; it’s letting in what is valuable and letting go of what is not and then using that process. I was born in Switzerland, with Iranian heritage, and I didn’t feel I belonged there. I went to an English-speaking kindergarten from age three and then moved with my family to Iran, which has a different atmosphere and school system. Then, we moved to Vienna, Austria, and I attended a Christian school. And eventually, I went to a Jewish international school in London, UK. A lot happened, from academic to technical challenges, where I had to learn to adapt quickly. But on the other end, from an internal level, the exposure to newness over and over again gave me the space to look beyond the more superficial frameworks. My focus became on far deeper and transcendental values. I am more interested in individuals’ narratives, values, and bigger questions. I saw a lot of differences and commonalities between humans. It was challenging and made me quite an oddball compared to the people I see. I’ve always felt a bit like an alien.”

An extract from the book We All Are One: The Essence of Everything That Exists by Kosta Trifunovic, says: “Everything is One. That, which is your awareness of being separate from others is the starting point in your evolution. As you experience more variety, you get to ask questions about being more than that. When your basic needs are satisfied, you are ready to experience more. And that which you are looking to experience more of is always within you. It is the wider perspective of One.”

Once we understand, accept, recognize, and start to experience within ourselves the essence of everything that exists, we will embrace the uniqueness of our individual lenses blended with the oneness of our core existence as opportunities to know more of who we are continually becoming. The exposure to variety brings us clarity and a zest to express ourselves authentically. Then, we allow ourselves to naturally become instead of trying to control and experience newness in infinite expressions, which always comes from the unknown. Separation is an illusion of holding on to specific identities with the fear of something new. Polarity is not good or bad, but an indication of us being in love or the opposite, which can always shift and change when we are aware that we have the freedom of choosing the perspective we are currently looking from.

“Having gone to 10 schools in four countries, one of the things that was important to me was to leave something behind that is of value to the world. I am always driven far more than by personal materialistic gain. I looked at the common pattern between those places I’ve been to, and many people had traumas and knots. When I was seventeen years old, I had an idea to set up a center for people to access therapy, emotional healing, and support, where children could openly speak up about it. It would allow us to make future generations and the next set of adults more at peace. A lot of the warfare and complexity that we currently go through as humanity and have gone through in history has been through trauma. Trauma leads to fear of the unknown because it’s its way of building a wall to defenses. I have studied a lot of Carl Jung and the idea of the collective unconscious. There’s collective trauma that we are passed through our culture, history, and generationally through our ancestors. That motivated me to study psychology in London at Queen Mary and get a master’s in psychology. At King’s College, I was working with very complicated cases and situations; I worked in the national psychosis unit. I was quite surprised by some of those experiences, and then the natural progression for me was going into psychiatry. I have the maximum amount of outreach to set up this center. I went to medical school in Bristol for two years, studying human anatomy and physiology as well,” Reza pauses and then continues, “Then, I can’t explain, but it was serendipitous like God, or the Universe had opened a path where I found myself getting stuck spiritually. I paused, and the door of acting opened in a way that I wasn’t expecting at such a rapid rate. My mom’s a painter; I was always into art. I started with the piano with significant engagement when I was nine. Then I began writing songs and was very interested in that. I played sax in school. And I also would write something that I would call emotional vomit, but some would say poetry. I was always engaged in art. I started acting when I was around fifteen years old. I always loved exploring humanity through that individual lens and the arts. Even in psychology, I was doing acting classes all along. And because of that, probably I was quite trained and ready. So, when I paused, I was doing some theater jobs here and there in London. Then, I was offered the leading role in a major film, but they said, ‘You need to be trained.’ At the last minute, they turned away. I decided to get trained because I had the time,” shares Reza.

The words trauma carries a lot of fear. Since we are passed with stories from generation to generation, those stories become ingrained in our DNA; we are born in a specific place and environment that holds to these stories. On a psychological level, we can try to get to the root of the trauma. Still, eventually, it can create a loop of being identified with that generationally perceived traumatic experience. When we tell the same story of the past, there are always changes and amends to the original events, as we always speak from a current perspective. Paradoxically, healing happens when we accept and fall in love with the whole of who we are, including our traumas. Children are born not differentiating from “right” or “wrong” the way adults like to judge; they are purely in love with life and want to express themselves being love freely. Sometimes, the lack of awareness can affect the child’s perception of the purity of the love they are when adults don’t acknowledge the equality of their existence. Then, children might perceive that being who they are is not correct; therefore, they repress themselves and start the process of external validation. But also, regardless of the trauma we have experienced, there is always an opportunity to heal and be love. From our God’s perspective, we cannot, not to love ourselves.

Reza about applying his experience in phycology into acting: “Serendipitously, Riggins was doing their casting tech run, and they needed young Iranian actors for the first time in history. Things rolled in a way that I am grateful for and feel very lucky about. I use the material that I’ve learned from psychology and experiences. It’s less about knowledge but a lot of experience working in those areas. Also, while I was picking up acting, I did a second master’s study and Jungian studies in child development and psychoanalytic work; that helped because that was much deeper and more thorough, from where the sperm meets the egg to when it becomes the character. Some of my studies involved watching newborn babies for the first two years of their life and seeing how different things impact them. And then learning about Jung and archetypes of the mythology, and the hero’s journey was helpful too because you get to understand characters from a more archetypal level, which are the common seeds that supposedly we all share as human beings.”

Understanding humanity and expressing the divine is the foundation of any artistic expression. Through art, we give meaning to our existence, creating art as messengers of our soul’s expression while allowing the freedom of the observer to become its own message. The origin of the word ‘science’ in Latin means ‘knowledge’ and in Greek means ‘to cut, or divide.’ Our intellect can absorb knowledge, but when the mind is too stimulated, it becomes an accumulation of information divided into different sections. The language of art unites that which is beyond knowledge and the intellect can understand, art can only be experienced within us.

“Psychology, especially from a modern psychology point of view, is very much interested in establishing knowns, patterns, and collective categories. It is helpful and has its place, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I was much more interested in the individual narrative. I’m also a big advocate for therapy. I had a lot of analytic therapy myself. I found that deeply useful, especially when combined with acting. Sometimes, people ask me, ‘What’s the best training and acting?’ Analytical therapy is a very lovely way forward because it gets you in touch with the little corners of your dark self that you probably wouldn’t want to visit alone. And you get some support out of that. Then, you become more open and part of your repertoire to channel in the future. What I find interesting is how much psychology and acting tie together. So, you train in Meisner, the idea of being present in the moment and being vulnerable to your impulses. Now, I was observing an infant. And get you back to that moment is what acting is all about. So, you’re back there. You see many people being with that vulnerable infant and wanting to smile, play, or do something silly, but sometimes the infant isn’t in that place. If you’re there receptively, Meisner helps in working with complex cases of autism or with people who are very aggressive or angry. You only need to give them that little moment and presence where acting and play come in; this shows that drama, play, and art therapy have been helpful. On the other hand, the knowledge of psychology, psychoanalysis, and developmental psychology helps build the character from the feet up. Still, also experientially, when a playful without feeling, it’s not a life-or-death scenario anymore,” says Reza.

Our responsibility is having the ability to respond to ourselves with awareness, compassion, and love. When we care about how we feel, we are aware in which direction we are pointing our flashlight of attention. And wherever we give our attention is where the energies that create worlds go. We can be and give attention to ease, joy, love, satisfaction, abundance, prosperity, or the absence of it. We set goals for clarity, yet every goal is a transition point from one desire to another. Therefore, we are continually in the process of creating more, and our desires are what summon life’s expression to existence. Without desires, there is no creation and, therefore, no life experience. We are born to thrive and succeed in whatever is our life’s preference. We don’t have to infuse with survival every single desire we have. Once our survival necessities are covered: food, roof over our had, and safety, then everything else is a fun play in creation.

Reza shares about what he learned from his experience of changing: “There are elements of life that I am in control of, and there are lots that I am not. And that served me quite well. Let’s say I wanted to do well in school, so I was always pushing hard, but then suddenly, you’re changing school, and it’s a whole different system. Suddenly, you’re getting lower marks, and you have to catch up and use tutors or go to after-school extra. I’m a believer in God. So, I believe that some of it is in your hands, and some is in God’s or the Universe’s hands. You have to have that responsibility to give yourself a 100% shot. So, to neglect that only leaves you with enough questions and doubts, where you’ll be like you won’t know what contributed to the outcome. The way I’ve dealt with that is to find what’s meaningful to you, press hard at it religiously and repetitively through discipline, and then let go of the outcome, which is hard, but you have to try. With acting, particularly, I think that’s been helpful for me because a lot of my heroes in the acting world all say the same: work more than any other person is willing to go, push to the very limit, and I foundationally believe in that. And then, once you do that, you don’t get to be occupied with the outcome. You surrender and let go of what happens and trust that, if it turns out or if it doesn’t, it’s fine. I recently had to let go of a particular job that I was really, really looking forward to. But there is an element of a bigger picture involved. Supposedly, from medical school to acting, that shift taught me that I can’t plan it all. For me, acting and auditions are more like prayers.”

We all are miracles of the Universe. How many millions of sperm get to an egg to create a human being? It’s a one-in-a-million possibility. Being physical, we all won the biggest jackpot. And although our talents are special and unique, they are an excuse to shine our light from within to without. Worthiness is our natural state of being, and it’s not attached to any condition or outcome; it can’t be achieved through any hard work; it can only be innately recognized within oneself. Our world is diverse to see, feel, create, and experience life from our unique physical lenses. So, we can observe the uniqueness of others and experience more of who we are from a different angle. Yet, we all are one consciousness. Being inclusive starts with including ourselves in allowing being in love with who we are so that we can see that love in others and unconditionally include, invite, and inspire them to recognize that love within themselves.

“I’ve found the process of diversity and inclusivity very useful; I appreciate how it’s rolled on. One of the things that does sometimes happen is that it tends to get looked at superficially from a categorical level, which is a good first step. But I firmly believe that art is designed to transcend the political and categorical framework; artists are designed to connect. So, I’m always interested in anything I would love to contribute to as a reminder that we all have to be more comfortable with the unknown. And the unknown always feels threatening, different, and unusual to us. First is to admit that the unknown is a good thing. Because if we don’t, we’re pretending we’re all angels, and that’s false. It’s about having open conversations but also being tolerant of those conversations so that you can receive back the complexity and even fears from the other side of the table. Dialogue is about connection. Then, it’s also about realizing that humanity has a common thread that it’s not unreachable. I like art when it’s playful and open, with no limits or bounds on how far you can stretch your horizons. The foundation of it is love. Again, I go back to my perspective on life, which is going to the layer underneath. Otherwise, why would I want to watch the same picture that looks exactly like me? That’s trying to make a copy. Why would I watch a film about the middle of Africa, the Philippines, or a group of Eskimos? Because there’s common threads of heartbeat, human soul love, and struggles that me and you are experiencing, too,” candidly says Reza.

Aren’t we all the chosen? Jesus was able to allow miracles as he was unwavering about the potential he was seeing in others. He wanted to show everyone the empowerment within themselves. The Bible was written over 2000 years ago and re-written and translated into different languages from its original scriptures. Yet, we find in this bestselling book teachings of all times that we can still apply in our modern life experiences. The Bible is a piece of art, a messenger full of parabolas from which the reader creates its own message. We can all tune in to Jesus’ consciousness and see the world through his eyes of compassion, love, and full potential.

“I was a big fan of The Chosen before I even took on the role of Bishop Philip. It was a big honor to be a part of it. Philip’s character resonated with me a couple of years before becoming part of this project, partly because he left his home to go and live with John the Baptist in the wilderness. And then, he left that to go to Jesus. He had those stops and starts, seeking family and a deep journey similar to mine. At the same time, he’s quite an esoteric weirdo, so I tried to hide it, but sometimes it comes out. That was the common thread. I approach every character from my hero’s words, Philip Hoffman, who says, ‘Look for what’s similar and different.’ The difference is that he was more practical than I am. He’s more comedic, fun, and group-loving than I am, which was exciting to channel. At the same time, there was the reading of the biblical text thoroughly for the first time. I had some education in the Christian school I attended for three years. But reading the text, and again reading from what you can take as a human being, as opposed to trying to get into the religious faith aspect, was great. The Chosen does this exceptionally well. It offers you a chance to take interesting values and lessons about how to approach life, an interesting perspective that you can take what is good and what doesn’t resonate with you. That’s a personal journey and a personal choice. But it is interesting because it offers a lot of things that can be applied to life. I think The Chosen is wonderful because it brings those biblical texts into a visually artistic, creative, and human experience through the disciples’ lens. So that is why I love The Chosen, and it feels like an honor to be part of it. Being a part of it as an actor was also interesting for that reason because I had to try and look at it from the human struggle point of view,” reveals Reza.

Jesus came as a human to show God we are within ourselves. Beyond the Bible’s interpretation of the religious aspect of it, it’s about our own relationship between our human and God aspects. Jesus couldn’t assert in anyone else’s free will. But Jesus could look at a sick person, and all he saw was well-being. He was inviting others to see their well-being to heal themselves. But not everyone was ready. Therefore, those who couldn’t see and be what Jesus saw, couldn’t experience the miracle they already are.

About the relationship between Bishop Philip and Jesus, Reza says, that: “It is part of the exploration I have done for the character personally, to humanize them. There was a big question as to why Philip left his comfortable home to go and hang out with John the Baptist and eat locusts and honey. For me, it starts there. This classic Jewish family at the time was from the town of Batista, which is this little fisherman’s place and is where Andrea and Peter were also from. So essentially, why does he leave this comfortable merchant-type business life, which I imagined his father would have pushed him into, to go into the wilderness? Every person has this type of soul journey, and we all thirst for authenticity and finding the inner self. So, that happened quite early on for him, which is why Philip is defined as the old soul. He’s the only disciple who got to see a miracle before; he didn’t have to be proven anything because he saw the miracle of the baptism with John the Baptist, Jesus being baptized, and the heavens opening. From that perspective, Philip was already there. He was counting the minutes because he saw that his mentor, or his father figure, I imagine there was a father that Philip was running away from, a father that was probably not what he wanted. And he found John the Baptist, a father and a guide he wanted, and he expresses that even in the text. Now he sees that John the Baptist, the father, is saying to him, this is Jesus, the guy to follow. I imagine Philip was trying to prove himself to get to the place where he could go to follow Jesus. What gets tricky for him internally is that once he goes on this ride, John the Baptist, as we know, gets decapitated. His old father figure is killed. Now, he knows Jesus’s capabilities of doing miracles, stopping things, etc. There is this question for all the disciples this season: Why did Jesus heal in the past seasons but didn’t help John the Baptist? So, all these questions come up very naturally, like a child and a father trying to learn not the material world but the transcendent spiritual world —the unknown. That’s the sort of major inner quarrel for him: Why is Jesus letting these things happen? What is right? What is wrong? And how does that affect my understanding of who I am as a person, a man, and a leader?”

Polarity is the opposite of the poles of existence so that we can choose and experience from its eternal cycle of creation. We often label darkness as evil and light as good; it’s almost like our biological origins kick in since we were a cell in the ocean looking for the light in the sky to expand into more. Darkness, nothingness, and the unknown are where everything comes from. The light is the fire, the birth of the physical dense frequencies of the darkness. Darkness is needed for the roots of a tree to be grounded, then looking for the light to complete its metamorphosis. But there is nothing to complete, as once the tree reaches the light and grows, it will eventually create seeds that will be back into the darkness, and so the cycle goes on.

The Chosen resonates with different people at different times of their lives. It has moments to offer, which, if you take out the backdrop of religion and faith in Christianity, there are very interesting lessons about how to approach complexity, whether that’s leading with humility and love or keeping faith when things are getting tough. There’s a lot of great values there. And this season particularly hits at that because things get dark quickly. As I was hinting, there’s much more of why all this is happening. And that’s where that element of surrender comes in. That’s where faith comes in. And where me personally from a union point, the paradox that light and dark coexist. And for Philip, this season, he’s the guy who taps the shoulders and looks. It’s a transformational season for many characters, particularly for Philip and John’s dad. With every death comes a letting go in a new start,” says Reza.

New starts and opportunities keep revealing themselves for Reza. He also will be a co-star portraying Bahri in the film adaptation of the best-selling memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran. About the book, Reza says, “I love that book. I’ve read it three times, but I’ll go by it again. The first time I read it, it was very emotional. Also, the time I read it, when I was preparing for the role, it was very emotional for different reasons. But there are aspects of it which are to do with things my parents and my family were exposed to from the 1980s when the revolution of the Islamic Republic took place and the culture that ensued. Universities were shutting down; this is the actual history of what my parents went through. There was a very personal element that I assigned my therapist: homework to read the book to understand me at a deeper level. And then, there was the end, which also left me with tears, which I don’t think I can explain other than it was very visceral but very well rational. It’s beautifully written about a true story, trying to hit at the common thread of humanity rather than the difference in looking at you.”

Being courageous means being afraid, but still choosing to do something about it, even if in the uncertainty. When we are not judging ourselves for being afraid, but we accept that as part of us at that moment, then the fear starts to dissipate. There is no comparison to anyone because again, we all are a mix of unique experiences. An ultimately, at the moment we are judging others, we are the ones experiencing that judgment.

“My favorite aspect about myself is that I didn’t have a choice, but I had to learn courage to leap into the edge of the unknown. To the point when you feel like you’re about to lose yourself, but you don’t, because you’re your spine of value system. And that has helped a lot because you’re always ready to listen, to look and see what else is out there. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned. Because that’s the recipe for love, growth, and dialogue, as far as I’m concerned. And I love to see in others when someone asks how you and cares to listen and not judge, to look first within before pouncing outside. It’s my hope to see it more often,” beautifully concludes Reza.

Like Reza, are you thrilled about the unknown and seeing the world from the eyes of compassion? Let yourself be surprised and delighted, and allow the new to come in.

Photography //

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