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From the blog…
Ah, the holiday season! Crowded malls piping nonstop Christmas tunes endlessly sing-songing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and insisting, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Angry motorists competing for spaces in overstuffed parking structures! Not to mention those happy-go-lucky family get-togethers! It’s enough to turn you into an abominable snowman.
Btw I’m writing this on Green Monday. What? When did that happen? It wasn’t enough to have Black Friday and Cyber Monday? No, now we have Green Monday too? What’s next? Red Wednesday? Purple Thursday?
When you’ve been waiting at Macy’s for over twenty-five minutes and you finally get to the front of the line and the cashier at your register goes on a break … When you’ve been patiently idling for a parking space for what feels like an hour and a Porsche-driving muscleman starts honking his honker to get you to move then cuts in front of you to grab the spot that finally opened and you want to get out of your car and punch the anger off his smug entitled face despite the fact he’s double your size and you’re a woman (an over-55-year-old woman, a “senior” in some circles), what do you do? … When Part X gets a hold of you so hard you’re at risk of becoming a tornado of rage that destroys everything and everyone in your path, what do you do in the moment?
First, take a breath. I know, so banal. Not even a Tool! But really, take a frigging breath. Now take another one. Already a little better right? Wrong? OK. Take another one. For god’s sake don’t get out of your car.
Most of us long-time Tools users are advanced enough or at least life-preserving enough to hold our tongue at Macy’s and avoid confronting the muscle man–but what about later? When you find yourself reliving the moment? When you’ve done Active Love for hours but you’re still righteously pissed off. When the relentless frustration and anxiety induced by the holiday season feels like an actual force in your body, manifesting in clenched jaw and tense muscles … In my experience this is not something you can meditate away. You need to actively transmute it. Give it a path for transformation! You need a Tool for that.
Luckily, we have a great one:
Close your eyes and imagine you’re in a place like the Sequoia or the high desert. You’re atop a mountain on a clear night. A black sky full of stars. Now feel your anger, let it build inside you until it becomes a burning rage. Now SCREAM/YELL/BELLOW (in your mind—or not!) at that sky of stars. Imagine the anger leaves your body and is absorbed by the night sky. The stars glow and flash brighter as they receive the anger then absorb it. They transmute the anger into radiant peaceful loving white light. And the entire sky baths you in this light. Now you feel a sense of peace, ease, and well-being. The anger has left you. There is a sense of majesty and stillness. You feel your smallness as you gaze into the hugeness of that sky and you are a part of it. Another star. You are filled with a sense of humility and grace.
Still mad? Contact me for a private session and stay away from the mall!
(Illustration from The Tools, by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.)
A longtime client called me the other day in despair. We’ve been working together for a year now and her life has changed dramatically for the better, but she was in a slump.
“I’ve never felt so unmotivated” she said, ‘I don’t want to get out of bed! I feel like I haven’t changed at all. It’s like I’m under a black cloud.”
“This is really good news!” I answered.
“Huh?” she said, certain that I’d lost my mind.
“The best time to use the Tools is when you’re at an absolute low – when you feel like sh*t. That’s when the teaching and healing is most powerful. Think of it as diving into a swimming pool -– once you touch bottom, you’ll rise. Sometimes being in the worst place is the best place to be.”
“Um, Okay…” she replied, clearly unconvinced.
Then I gave her a prescription— Grateful Flow…
The Grateful Flow
(As described by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels in an article for Goop.)
- Start by silently stating to yourself specific things in your life you’re grateful for, particularly things you normally take for granted. (You can also include things that you are grateful are not in your life.) Go slowly. Feel the gratefulness for each item. Each time you use the tool, try to come up with new items for the list.
- After about 30 seconds, stop thinking and focus on the physical sensation of gratefulness. You’ll feel it coming directly from your heart. This energy you are giving out is Grateful Flow.
- As this energy emanates from your heart, your chest will soften and open. In this state you will feel an overwhelming presence approach you, filled with the power of infinite giving. You’ve made a connection to the Source.
I had my client set a timer for 15 minutes and told her to go on with her day. Then when the timer went off, do the Grateful Flow tool listing at least 5 things she was grateful for. I instructed her to repeat this process all day. I told her not to worry whether or not felt like it, or felt anything when she did the Tool– Just do it every 15 minutes no matter what.
She called me 45 minutes later.
“It’s working.” She said.
“Good. Now set the timer to half-hour intervals.”
Two hours later she called again.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I feel good. I’m getting so much work done.”
“Congratulations.” I said, “You’ve just found out you have mastery over your mind. You know you can connect to “source” or what I think of as flow anytime you want. ”
The Tools are like medicine for the spirit. Next time you’re feeling depressed, negative-minded, or judgemental of others, try a strong dose of Grateful Flow. You’ll be on the mend before you know it.
(Illustration from The Tools, by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.)
A friend asked me why I decided to leave town when my father was so ill. My trip to The Omega Institute to assist Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, co-authors of The Tools® at their workshop Conquer The Enemy Within had been planned for over a year – and while I knew there was a chance my dad would pass while I was gone, I told her, “I’m good with God’s timing.”
My father had been suffering with Alzheimer’s for several years and was living at home with my mother as primary caregiver. A year ago, when I moved into the apartment next door, I became second-in-command.
As hard as it’s been with Dad this year, as I watched more of him slip away each week, my worst fear had always been the day when he’d be too sick for us to care for him at home. That fear came true three weeks before I left for Omega when a gallbladder infection brought him to the hospital and then a skilled nursing facility.
There is a Tool® called Category Three.
Close your eyes and conjure a strong feeling of LOVE.
Let go of it.
Now conjure a strong feeling of RAGE.
Let go of it.
Cycle through again.
Feel intense LOVE.
Let that go.
Let that go.
Now trigger BOTH FEELINGS TOGETHER.
Let that go.
BOTH FEELINGS TOGETHER.
How do you feel?
This Tool is designed to bring you into a flow state – a state where you are neither in the past nor future, but acutely in the present. Being with my father this last year has felt like a constant Category Three experience…
Once he was away from home there were terrible moments. Dad, who at this point had the cognitive abilities of a young child, begged to go home. I stayed overnight at the hospital holding my father’s hands back from pulling out his IV and catheter. I stroked his forehead while he cried out, “It hurts! It hurts me!”
It hurt me too.
But there were beautiful moments as well. Dad calling me “Jamie” for the first time in months – instead of “her,” “my wife” (he often confused me with my mother) or “my daughter.” Dad reaching out and touching my cheek, saying, “I love this face. This is my face.” One day, while I stared at him, knowing that there isn’t such a thing as forever, he said, “You love me.” “Yes I do, Daddy,” I answered.
And I always will.
Memorial Day morning at Omega, an hour before the final session of the workshop, I learned my father’s death was imminent. I walked to a lovely lake near the meeting hall where the workshop was held and sat on a bench. It was drizzling and grey, stormy, beautiful, deserted. I looked up into the sky and thanked God–or whatever mysterious cosmic forces are responsible for such things–for my fathers’ life…
I was driving to New York City with Phil and Barry when I got the news. I simply said aloud, “My father died.” They knew what was going on and were silent as I sobbed. They didn’t try to “fix” the situation in any way and held space for me to grieve. What better place to be in that moment? Alone with two of the best shrinks in world. Alone, but together . . .
He was the sweetest person I’ve ever known. He left love in his wake. The standing room only crowd at his funeral was not just friends and relatives but everyone from the cashiers at our local grocery market to the guy at 7-Eleven from whom he’d bought his paper when he could still go on his daily walks.
From my father, I learned what makes a truly successful life. Not money, not fame, but the people you’ve touched. Even at the hospital, when a new person – a doctor, nurse, orderly – came into his room he’d find something nice to say. “You have great hair!” “You have a great smile!” Or just “You’re great!” (Of course, at the end, because of his disease it was often followed by “Would you like to see my penis?” but that didn’t seem to bother anyone.)
I have a friend who, instead of the ubiquitous salutation, “Have a Good Day!” used to say “Give a Good Day”. My father embodied that idea.
If there’s one thing this year has taught me, it’s the preciousness of the moment. Because of the Tools and my other spiritual work I was able to be present and show up for every drop of Dad that was available. I have no regrets.
When my father died, he was alone with my mother, his bride of sixty years. He took his last breaths encircled in her arms. All as it should be. A perfect, peaceful passing. God’s timing.
I’m so good with it.
The picture above was taken at the final session at Omega. I’m not certain what caught my attention in that moment but I like to think I felt my father saying goodbye.
I’m always telling my clients, “Play the life, not the lines.” That’s why I suggest NOT to worry about memorizing your lines for you your auditions. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great if you know your lines by heart (notice I said by “heart” not by “head”), but at the audition, what the CDs and/or producers and director want to see is your performance as the character, not your memorization skills.
Too often I see actors blow auditions because they forget a line. Why put this pressure on yourself? HOLD THE SCRIPT! We assume by the time you’ve got the role you will have the lines down, what we can’t assume is that you can inhabit the role.
My theory here is exemplified by this video of Hugh Laurie auditioning the for the role of House. He is using the script and he is fabulous.
Learn this skill, how to snatch the line off the page (theater actors already know how to do this because they usually don’t need to be “off book” until at least a week or two into rehearsals).
A good way to practice this skill is to read to a child from a storybook. (If you don’t have a child handy, read to your pet, or a plant!) “Once upon a time there were three bears…” When you read a story to a child you are not “off book”, but you are attempting to make the story come alive. You make eye contact, you inhabit the roles, you don’t keep your nose buried in the book. Do this for (at least) ten minutes every day.
In late April I had the pleasure of being a jury member in the Short Film competition of the USA Film Festival. The festival itself was fantastic! So well produced and attended. I saw two great feature length documentaries–the sumptuous and riveting Dior and I, directed by Frederic Tcheng, and the fascinating Tab Hunter Confidential. I recommend them both highly. I also got to see the classic Nicolas Roeg film from the 70s, The Man Who Fell To Earth, on the big screen with the marvelous Candy Clark in attendance.
The judging itself was grueling. My colleagues, director John Putch, and actor/director Christina Beck and I, were sequestered in a small hotel room(armed with diet cokes,raw almonds, and dark chocolate), where we watched 75 short films in 2 and ½ days!
It was so inspiring to see the range of works in competition. Yes, a few suffered from weak scripts and/or poor casting and production values, but many were absolutely wonderful and equal in quality to works produced by big studios.
Some of the films have really stayed with me. Particularly Against Night, a beautifully directed drama about a Russian cosmonaut that reminded me of one of my favorite films of all time, Slaughterhouse Five,The Way of Tea,a powerful film about a Muslim man making peace with an angry racist (we awarded this film First Prize), and the documentary, War Within the Walls, that illuminates the world of Vietnamese children who were born with birth defects caused by Agent Orange. War Within the Walls focuses on the journey of one young man,”Chau,” who was raised in a “war remnants” orphanage. Despite not having the use of his hands (he uses he mouth to paint) and no financial or educational resources, when he gets out of the orphanage he finds a way to fulfill his dreams of becoming a professional artist. I urge you to see it if at all possible. Chau’s story is incredibly inspirational and it’s also very important to get the word out about the damage inflicted on these poor innocent children due to our use of chemical weapons during the Vietnam War.
Other than the few times I’ve cast projects, this was the first time I was in the choosing-who-gets-the-award business. It really is an impossible task. There were at least two contenders in each category, animation, documentary, narrative fiction, student, that were completely worthy of first prize. I saw once again the old apples vs oranges thing in play. Once again an illustration of the fact that when someone wins the prize, ( or the role, or the book deal, etc.) it doesn’t mean they were necessarily the “best,” or that the other contenders were second rate. Something I’ve always known in my head, but of course when I’m the one in competition, not so easy to remember.
Candy, her brother Randy, and me.