The #1 Way To Be Remembered In An Audition (and you don’t have to do anything)


 

 

What if there was something you could do more often that would radically – and perceptibly – change how you’re perceived and alter the impression you leave on others?

What if, as an actor, it was something that you didn’t even have to worry about “doing” because it sort of does itself once we become available to the moment and it significantly changes how people might perceive your work?

It’s called consciousness.

And it’s already a part of our basic hardwiring as people.

Our job to make it work more for us is to become a little bit more aware when we simply aren’t aware.

As we move from mindlessness to mindfulness, our creative work and state of being changes.

Harvard Psychologist, Ellen Langer says that as we become more mindful, we leave a “consciousness footprint.”

The implications for actors is staggering. As we become more available in the work – through presence and engaging emotionally in the moment – then we leave an imprint without us even realizing it. This shows up in our auditions, on set, in class, on a film set.

The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to do anything. Meaning, there’s something about you that’s unique and different from someone else. That means you don’t have to try and put something on, or show us how clever you think you are, or try to impress us, or try and make something happen.

Science proves that if we can show up and become fully present we naturally leave our mark. But this is also hard to do because of the innumerable ways we distract ourselves out of the moment and go into our heads. So the work – like life itself – becomes about doing things more mindfully. More fully. Being here now. When we do, we are leaving a trace of our presence with the people with whom we interact.

But why don’t we trust that? Because we go out for 100 auditions and we don’t get feedback or we don’t get a callback and we begin to feel like something isn’t working. Or we’re not any good. Or we’re missing something. Or we’re flawed in some way. But what if it weren’t any of those things? What if it were simply numbers and with those intangibles, (even when our essence is fully engaged and we’re fully there) it just might not be what they’re looking for. That doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong. It just means we were not right for the role.

You can’t keep changing yourself to fit the idea of what you think people want. In life or in our acting.

Like anything in life, we’re attracted to people who naturally are themselves.

An audition room is just the micro for that same life truth. People are going to be attracted to you by you being you. And when you bring all of yourself to the work in a mindful way, you will be remembered.

Even if that means you don’t get the job each time.

But getting the job each time isn’t why we act. Acting comes down to understanding that you’re not auditioning for a role you’re auditioning for your career. And that takes time.

And it boils down to trusting that if we’ve done our work and made strong choices and don’t doubt our instincts and go in the audition room and let the work come from those places of who we are – there’s something firing inside each of us that’s interesting and beautiful and human and real.

That then becomes an incredible footprint we can each leave behind.

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What the Tour de France and Wimbledon can Teach You About Acting.


 

 

I went to Wimbledon.

And I was also lucky to have watched the bikers in the Tour De France cycle past me at an incredibly fast clip.

Two amazing sporting events where I took away the same insight from both experiences.

It’s really just about trying our best. And it’s all about being fully invested in each moment.

When we give up the ideas (and myths) of doing things perfectly, or having everything solved, or feeling as if we must have everything figured out first, or come across as if we know more than we do – we actually begin living in a state of freedom.

The amount of energy it requires to maintain the control of being perfect is so much more than the effortlessness and ease (and consequently real empowerment) that become available to us when we just let go and participate.

Fully. In the moment. Whether it’s a tennis match or bike race. Or audition. Or scene. Or life.

I don’t think we remember the winners. I mean, of course people win. But it doesn’t make the “losers” any less of a winner because they didn’t win the trophy or the title or the award.

And I actually don’t think that’s really why an athlete (or anyone for that matter) is doing it anyway. They’re doing it for the love of participating. The joy of competing. The experience of achieving their best. I guess if they win, that’s icing on the cake.

Three-time Olympic Track & Field Gold Medalist, Gail Devers says, “Accolades and trophies are given to inspire others.”

So what we really remember are the efforts to attempt. To try our best. Sometimes it turns out successfully, sometimes it doesn’t.

Salvador Dalí said, “A true artist is not one who is inspired but one who inspires others.”

So we inspire people not by being #1.

We inspire people simply by being.

And that happens just by staying in the game of life.

So keep pedaling. Eventually you’ll cross your finish line.

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The #1 Thing That Can Change Your Acting And Your Life.

 

Listening.

Everything in life unfolds as a result of our engagement with – and participation in – the world as we know it.

This is derived out of listening. (Or not.)

We listen as someone yells at us. We hear our flight’s been cancelled. We get the news that our aunt has passed away. We take in the doctor as he gives us our test results. We react to the information. We respond to the event. We reply to the news.

Our worlds open and close, collide and expand, transform and fall apart all through listening.

When Kenny Leon won the Tony Award this year as best director of a play he said, “Why we have the greatest cast is because they listen to each other. They listen to each other.”

So it raises the question – why is something that should be a given treated more the exception rather than the norm? So much so that when you see it, it stands out?

A few years ago I read a piece in the New York Times where the reviewer talked about how the cast of a play was listening to each other in such a way that it felt as if the actors were making up the lines as they went along. It felt unrehearsed. Not acted. In the moment.

Stop the presses!

Consequently, the work stood out as something spectacularly real, visceral and alive; i.e., the exception.

But listening is often almost given a back seat in the effort to lay out acting ideas and concepts in a theoretical way.

Listening is not a concept. It’s a regenerative and restorative act. It’s life affirming. It’s simple, but it’s not simplistic. And simple does not mean easy.

Academy Award nominee, Robert Duvall was interviewed on NPR saying, “Talking and listening…to do that is the beginning and end of acting for me and it’s not as easy as it looks…Everyone says, ‘Oh, you’re just yourself up there.’ And I say, try it. Try it! It’s not that easy.”

It’s actually very complicated because listening is the way in and we don’t want to go in, because going in makes us feel things we don’t want to feel. It alters us and takes us down paths not easily navigated. But when we bring that messy exploration to storytelling it’s very, very powerful.

Listening is receiving and giving, it’s reacting, it’s reciprocity, it’s connection, it’s allowing, it’s surrender, it’s discovery and it’s empowering.

But it’s also more than just the ear. It’s our entire body engaged in the moment and having a response. It’s instinct and impulse and intuition and spontaneity. It’s physical-ness and behavior and how we choose to live. And the way you choose to listen is what makes you different than anyone else.

So it calls forth your being. And that’s transcendental. Which is what acting wants to be anyway.

The Chicago Sun Times review of student, Shailene Woodley’s performance in The Fault In Our Stars says, “Every line of dialogue she says in this film sounds as if we’re eavesdropping on a real life. There’s no evidence of capital letters ACTING.”

That’s listening. And that’s what it does for you. And that’s something we can all learn to do more of each moment.

Listen.

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The #1 Way To Achieve Greater Connection In Life.

 

Vulnerability leads to greater connection.

Everyone probably knows that because we’ve all had vulnerable moments in life with friends or family or lovers that open us to new levels of honesty or communication or intimacy.

But what if we took the idea of vulnerability out into the world in a bigger way to include the opportunity to connect with strangers and people we couldn’t imagine we have more in common with than not.

It’s happening all the time anyway.

And it occurs through uncertainty.

Our lives are pitched into this existence that is ultimately, uncertain – which can be scary to most of us, and is partly why we like to control.

But the possibilities for love, insight, creativity and adventure really come only in the embracing of the unknown.

We can’t be controlling and powerful at the same time. Empowerment comes from loosening the hold we have on things and letting moments unfold not as we demand them but as they actually are. That’s where the “Ah-ha’s” occur.

Shirley MacLaine calls it “the spontaneity of not knowing.”

In acting, it’s the absolute surrender to the moment and allowing yourself to be available  in ways that go beyond your planning or exercising an agenda or playing an idea.

But it’s also a mindful way to open up to the possibilities of life itself. When life throws us into circumstances and experiences that are beyond our control (like every day!) it’s an opportunity to stay open to those moments and the gifts they want to give us. Embracing them presents experiences to us that are always better and more fulfilling than what we planned.

A lot of times in life we run away from – or hide behind our cell phones (!) – when events occur that make us feel vulnerable in a public way. This is simply life’s way of trying to get us out of our own heads and participate more fully in possibility itself. But generally we stay in our left-brain dialogue that keeps us from actively participating in the world.

You spill your coffee in front of a group of people, but keep your ear-buds in so you can ignore making a connection. You fall down on the sidewalk, but get up and pretend to text someone rather than having a moment with someone who saw you fall. You step into an elevator and immediately face front and look up, rather than noticing something about someone you share the space with, or smiling at a stranger.

These seemingly innocuous events can be amazing opportunities to connect beyond the way we normally allow. We often feel vulnerable or exposed or embarrassed with people and then shut down those feelings because we’ve been taught to ignore them.

But to be vulnerable and then share that vulnerability – which comes in many forms (awkwardness, shyness, joy, flirtation, upset, impatience) with another, leads to authentic empowerment.

You discover you’re not alone. Other people feel the same way. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re doing just fine. It’s okay to make mistakes. And no one is judging you.

In short, you cut yourself slack for being human.

So allow yourself to be just that this week. Human. And share that with others. What you’ll discover is a greater feeling of connection even if it’s just a fleeting moment with someone you may never meet again.

And isn’t that the part of the wonder and joy of simply being alive?

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How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life.


 

Once again, the science is in.

Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard who has been doing research since the late ‘70’s – has conclusively proven that becoming mindful can change your life.

There are measurable benefits to one’s creativity, competence, psychological well-being and physical health.

All the places where we can get stuck in life (and in our creative work) – worrying about making mistakes and doing things wrong, fear of failure, attaching labels to things, living out of the past, looking at things from a singular perspective – are reduced as we become more mindful.

In other words, getting present to the moment assists us in breaking free from the constraints and restrictions that have been imprisoning us since childhood.

Although her research focuses on mindfulness as a process to actively “notice things” – it produces the same results we are looking to create more of in our work as actors.

It puts you in the present, engages you, actively opens up your listening, makes you sensitive to context, takes the focus off yourself and puts it onto the other, creates dynamic energy and it becomes literally, according to Langer, enlightening.

Study after study with various control groups has shown that people respond to other people and their respective art, music and performance – when the person creating it is more mindful.

This is staggering.

And so simple it’s mind-blowing.

So people will actually respond to you – your acting, your singing, your orchestrations, your art – when you create mindfully. When you become available to the moment, you become available to other people.

In other words, mindfulness is visible to other people. You’re leaving an imprint.

You’re going to be much more interesting, attractive and charismatic and simply stand out by becoming present in your auditions, in your work, in the choices you make simply because you’re doing it mindfully.

So you already have an advantage when you actually become present.

It’s not hard to do. It’s the work I’ve been doing with actors for over 15 years. And it comes out of the basic hardwiring of what it means to be human.

Presence is the natural state of who we are beyond the distractions of our mindless chatter of our left-brains. Children naturally notice things. They are naturally released – and present – to the now. They play and are curious and are not bound by neurologically-induced, habituated “rules.”

As we get older, our natural seeker – the present, available, mindful creator – begins to start experiencing things on autopilot. (And one could argue when we’re on autopilot we’re not even really, truly experiencing things at all anymore!) This is because the rules and restrictions placed on us don’t allow us to deviate beyond the “known.” And it also comes from being conditioned into seeing things from a singular, limited-view perspective.

Our access to experience the world from a place of possibility and potential is diminished by seeing the world from a black-and-white absolute.

Becoming mindful re-boots our inner software that’s been put on pause for years.

We can begin to re-awaken to the moment, feel alive again, become empowered and more joyful and create optimally.

Isn’t this what every human being wants more of?

Become mindful and “notice” what will happen.

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Do You Worry? Doom-&-Gloom It? Focus On The Negative? 2 Simple Ways To Change Those Habits.


 

 

I was talking to my mom the other day – who’s now 79 years young and has seen a lot in life. Survived a lot. And worried a lot.

She was telling me how she was lying in bed the other morning trying to recall someone’s name and couldn’t think of it, which of course, put her in a tail-spin of worry, thinking she (like her sister and her mom before her) could be showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Scary stuff. I get it.

But worry doesn’t ever improve one’s situation. In fact, what’s the saying, “Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.”

This is because we give so much energy to situations in our life that aren’t working or we overthink and fret about an emotional trigger, that eventually those situations start to unfold based on the way we continuously revisit those topics. Or we simply get stuck in our brain’s neurological habituated grooves that get reinforced over time by the way we become conditioned to think.

I said, “Mom. Even after 79 years of being on this planet you still worry. Whatever happened to all the things you’ve spent so much time and energy worrying about?”

Nothing.

That’s not to say bad things don’t happen. Of course they do, but when we’re in the middle of a crisis or solving a problem or overcoming a huge challenge in life – we’re in it. We’re not worrying about it. We’re trying to improve the situation or come up with a solution or ease our pain. That’s not worrying. That’s discovering that we have the resources to overcome that which seems impossible. That’s dealing with the moment of now. It’s not living out of a fearful future that may or may not occur.

A writer for the Huff-Po recently talked about how we spend so much time giving energy to things in our minds that never come to pass that we need to shift those paradigms into only two ways of thinking. Everything else, he said, is an utter waste of time.

1). Gratitude. What else is there? Except for thankfulness for being here on this planet, being on your journey, going on the ride.

2). Envisioning what we do want. Einstein said, “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” What does this mean? Basically, what we give energy to, what we focus on, what we imagine and ultimately believe – is what eventually comes to pass in our experience.

That’s a novel idea. Spending more time envisioning how you’d like your life to be – what kinds of jobs you want to book and what kind of work you wish to create. What stories you want to tell and how you want to tell them. How you can change the world by performing and writing and creating and how much value and significance you bring to people’s lives. That’s an infinitely healthier (and more beneficial and joyful) way to spend your time and energy than worrying about what may or may not happen. In your love life. In your career. In your acting. In life in general. It’s simply a much more empowered way to live.

So what if you tried just a little more to stop giving energy to things that not only make you unhappy but keep you in a neural groove that’s habituated by worry and worst-case-scenario thinking.

Your life would improve dramatically. So would your relationships. And your creativity.

Oh, and my mom trying to recall her friend’s name? She remembered it right after she had breakfast. Of course she did.

All that worry for nothing.

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10 Ways To Think About Auditioning That Just Might . . . Well, Change How You Audition.

 

 

Hasn’t it all been said before? Probably. But I’ll try again as I was reminded of the obvious while sitting in on a casting session recently. I think it’d be helpful if actors put post-its all over their house reminding them of these simple truths.

1). I know actors think that the audition all boils down to them . . . but actually it doesn’t. The actor is one of several moving parts and what you do – or don’t do – in the audition, is really not that big a deal. The casting director is not obsessing over the mistakes you think you made. They have a casting problem and they’re hoping you are their answer. But if you’re not, it’s not personal. They aren’t thinking of you in the way you think of yourself. Eleanor Roosevelt put it best: “ You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

2) Our lives are ongoing, but we live a moment as if it’s the only opportunity we’ll ever have. It’s not. You’ll have another chance to audition. And find love. And succeed. And catch the missed bus. You’ll have another chance to book a job and get an agent and be cast in a film. Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae of life, when your life is actually a continuum of many, many, many moments.

3). The secret to auditioning? Drumroll please . . . There is none. No magic pill, no “correct” way of doing it. In fact, the more you try to do it “right” the more you’re actually doing it wrong. No one cares about your doing it right. They want you to be you. And when you do, they’ll be interested.

4). A casting director friend of mine said recently, “If an actor comes in and is willing to tell his or her story and they believe it then we’ll believe it.” You have to be brave enough to do this. The great librettist, Oscar Hammerstein said something similar to his protégé’ Stephen Sondheim once as well, “If you write what you feel, it will come out true. If you write what I feel it will come out false.” So tell your story through the material and it will be true.

5). You can be the most amazing actor and not get the role. Don’t worry about it so much. You’re not auditioning for a job, You’re auditioning for your career. Just go in and play and commit and then leave it in the room. If you do this, they’ll remember you for the next time. Wentworth Miller confirms this when he says, “You might look at my CV and see I’ve had 12 jobs, but I’ve been to over 450 auditions so I’ve heard ‘no’ a lot more than I’ve heard ‘yes’.”

6). Stop thinking about if as a job. It’s not. It’s your opportunity to create. Give yourself the permission to have your own experience. That means go in and show them how you would choose to play this role. That’s the reason to do it anyway.

7). Give up control of doing something perfectly and instead be human. Another way of seeing this is to play and have fun. When you do, we will will have fun watching you.

8). Pray for mistakes. (Doubly important for people who like to control, see #7.) When mistakes occur and you’ve been taught to embrace them and not deny them – they will usher in very exciting and dynamic moments that aren’t “planned,” “orchestrated,” and “mapped out.” You’ll go from “acting” to being.

9). It’s not really rocket science. Understand the material. Make a choice. Go all in. Commit bravely. Listen. React. Play.

10). It’s all listening. Every actor can say a line perfectly. But how you listen to what is being said to you and how it affects you is different for each person in each moment. Surrender to the listening in a way that draws you into the experience and it will draw us in too.

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4 Simple Sayings That Can Change Your Life

If you boil life (and acting) down to its most basic, what is there?

Love. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Letting go. (Sure there’s power and sex and conflict but if you think about every story ever written – isn’t the ultimate message about love or some permutation of it and the higher states of being that allow us to overcome challenges and tragedy?)

Conflict without the possibility of a resolution (love) would mean hopelessness. And that would give us no reason to live (or tell stories). As artists, our responsibility is to provide hope for humanity by sharing stories that inspire and uplift. Why else do it?

There’s an ancient Hawaiian saying that asks us to bless each moment of our lives with a silent “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. And thank you.”

If we could start doing this mindfully, can you imagine how we might change our world?

I love you.

Not romantic love (although that’s fine too) – but expanding our love to meet all people. Love for existence itself. For this moment. For creating and being able to express yourself as yourself in this incarnation. Love for the experiences and people that come into your life to show you the way. Even when it’s hard. And even when it would be easier to choose not to love.

The Indian greeting of Namaste or Namaskar acknowledges the Divinity or Higher Self in each person. If we could but think of ourselves – and everyone – as an extension of the universe how much more universally connected we would feel. Try and think of silently blessing everyone you meet with an “I love you,” and watch how your world will change.

I’m sorry.

For the innumerable things we do unconsciously. Mostly for not seeing ourselves correctly. We don’t see ourselves for who we really are, but instead see ourselves at the level of our thoughts telling us who we think we are. We are not our thoughts.

I think this is particularly true for actors because we always see ourselves in terms of our shortcomings. Our failings. Or missteps. Our bombed auditions. Our comparing ourselves to others. But no one else sees you that way. Not a casting director or producer or film director. They’re just trying to find the right person who’s most right for a particular role. That doesn’t mean you’re failing when you don’t book the job. It means your essence wasn’t a match to a role. That doesn’t define you. But often we let it.

Please forgive me.

Learning how to forgive ourselves for projecting onto others our own stuff. Once we begin to take responsibility for the innumerable ways we don’t forgive ourselves (and others) for things, we stop holding things against others who we expect to behave in a certain way. That’s called letting go. And forgiveness.

There’s a Buddhist saying, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Not being able to forgive produces the same results.

Thank you.

Philosopher, Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you it will be enough.”

I mean, really, what else is there?

I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. And thank you.

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The #1 Renewable Resource To Change Our World Is . . . ?

 

Love.

What else is there?

Why are we here? Why do we feel compelled to tell stories and reflect back to humanity what it means to be human? Why do we sit in dark theaters with strangers and watch performances that are specific and individual, yet universal at the same time?

Well if it’s not love, then what is it?

It’s not only the driving force behind our expression as artists but ultimately it’s also a powerful, expanding energy that can renew, inspire, and regenerate our enthusiasm for life and for creating.

And love comes in so many forms. Eros. Agape. Brotherly. Friendship. Familial.

We look for it generally in one way – the kind that’s romanticized in movies and 50 Shades of Grey novels – when we don’t realize that real, authentic connection is what we’re after. That’s love.

Connection with others. Connection with self. Connection with the moment and all it has to offer. Connection with the words we get to say as actors and the stories we are blessed to tell.

That’s love.

Filmmaker, John Cassavetes said, “To have a philosophy is to know how to love and to know where to put it.”

A philosophy in creating and how to create, then, is love.

Similarly, Ingmar Bergman (who directed over 60 films) said, “Films aren’t important but people are.”

Meaning, when we come together with people who inspire us and encourage us to become all we can be . . . that’s love. Creating with fellow artists to tell stories we must tell. That’s love. That’s the real reason why we’re doing it.

Sure, success is great. Booking jobs. Making money. Fame.

But what if we started to let acting be an expression of our saying to ourselves and to the world, “How can I love?” “Where can I love?” “Whom can I love?”

To be optimally expressed – to be free – requires us to shift the paradigms we hold around love. And mostly, the limitations we place around it.

Often we hold onto it, saving it for that “special someone” – scared that if we give it away too soon we won’t have anything left when that perfect time arrives.

The perfect time is always now. Love is the greatest renewable resource on the planet. It will fill you right back up once you start giving it away. To all people. So why do we hold onto it?

Start sharing it. Everywhere.

In an audition room? Learn how to love the opportunity you’ve been given and the chance to show people how much you love to create by doing so. That shift alone will change your work from fear, “Am I doing this right?” to “This is how I choose to do it.”

In your creative work? Be brave to go to the places that counter-intuitively seem to evoke feelings contrary to love – but only by expressing them do we learn how to stop judging ourselves and accept and love all parts.

In your day-to-day life? Start putting down the phone and look people in the eye. Smile. Share a moment – no matter how brief.

When you begin to realize that acting ultimately is about the exploration of self – and therefore the acceptance of self – you’ll fall in love with acting (and perhaps yourself) all over again.

What can be more exciting than telling someone, “Yeah, I’m off to self-study class.”

“You mean scene-study?”

“Nope. Self-study. And what can be greater than that?”

That’s love.

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What A Good – Or Bad – Kiss (!) Can Teach You About Life, The Moment & Acting.

I’m a good kisser. Let’s just start with that.

Yet I recently made out with this guy who told me that I wasn’t kissing “correctly”. Or maybe he didn’t say it quite like that, but by stopping me in the middle of a kiss and instructing me as to where and how I should proceed, it sure felt like I wasn’t doing it correctly.

Oh no he didn’t!? Well, actually, yeah he did.

Once I got through the shame and embarrassment of thinking I was doing something wrong (which took me all the way back to my first kissing experience as a 16-year old and not knowing what I was doing at all!) – I ascertained in the moment that this remark by my future husband (not!) had more to do with his controlling tendencies than it did my missing his bottom lip.

But it also showed me where I (and all of us) can get stuck.

When life (through people, experiences, rejections, challenges) delivers us a response not to our liking – we often retaliate by meeting such resistance with our own pushback – namely control.

It can show up in lots of ways. Shutting down. Disconnecting. Disengaging. Closing oneself off. Getting angry. Or just becoming a total ass to someone.

It’s normal. It happens. But combatting control with control never works. It shuts out all possibility for solution and from generating the kind of openings in awareness that we’re looking for in life.

That is; awareness of how to remain open, when what you want to do is really control!

If we could but realize how powerful we truly are when we let go of control, we might just never try to control things again.

We can’t be both controlling and powerful at the same time. They’re antithetical to each other. It’s counter-intuitive because we try to control everything in life. And we often do a great job in the short run. We get our way, we stay in our comfort zone, we micro-manage, we exercise agendas. Hey, control can be fun!

But in the long run we become set in our ways, unbendable, not open to new adventures and experiences, and ultimately . . . stuck.

When we realize that real empowerment comes from letting go, from allowing something to unfold rather than forcing our agenda, that letting life show us what it wants to reveal rather than our demanding it – life takes on a whole new meaning.

We become freer. Have more fun. Stop stressing the small stuff. Let go of our Drama Queen tendencies! Live more in the unknown. Experience surprise and awe and wonder.

Remember those qualities? They used to be abundant when we were kids. As we grow older, our ability to see the world that way becomes diminished because control not only shrinks our capacity to see not only other worlds that exist, but also from seeing our world correctly.

It’s still full of surprise and awe and wonder. You just have to give up control to experience it.

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