How Guys and Girls Deal with Feeling Differently

Acting asks us to do things that we avoid in life.

You know, like feel.

Emote. Get angry. Lose our shit. Live in desperateness. Be vulnerable. Do awkward things. Be physical. Trust our instinct. Live privately publicly. Be seen with our imperfections. Stay in conflict.

But it’s hard to call upon and then live in those deep expressions of being human in our work when A) we run away from them in life and B) our natural tendency is to avoid conflict and seek stasis.

Simply, in life when it comes to big conflict, our fight or flight response kicks in.

Generally we run away, shut down, deny, brace for impact, pretend nothing’s happening at all, or get passive-aggressive.

But those options aren’t really what makes for authentic, dynamic, voluminous, free storytelling when it comes to acting.

So life makes us not want to feel and acting is asking us to feel fully. WTF! It’s some major contradictory cosmic joke being played on artists.

But this is why we study. And practice. And attempt and try things. And experience.

This is why we build awareness and expand our consciousness. This is why we become empaths and stop judging (ourselves and others). And as we start to change our relationship to our feelings we are able to more effortlessly feel them and share them. In life and in our work.

It’s not a gender problem. It’s a human being problem. But since men and women both process and express feelings differently, and as feeling becomes more complex (and often more painful) both genders have ways to control and shut down. The goal is to let go of that which needs to be released in order to energetically give rise to story.

Sometimes, I’ve found it’s about allowing ourselves to be more like the other in our work. Basically it’s finding your spirit animal in the other sex! For men, it’s often allowing themselves to be more sensitive, to give themselves permission to feel things that culturally they don’t often allow themselves to feel. Vulnerability.

For women, it’s about getting into the unapologetic part of themselves. To stop saying, “Sorry!” for simply existing and to actually get more into their (manly) ownership of things. It’s okay to be strong.

From a scientific standpoint, we are both. We are all both masculine and feminine energy. We are all Yin and Yang. We’re really just a bunch of sex cells that are genderless until fertilization. We’re all potential.

So let us all allow our heroes to be both men and women. Seeing the qualities in others, regardless of gender, that inspire us to be better human beings. Not because we ascribe them as male or female, but instead as brave, honest, real, compassionate, strong, genuine and electric.

Universal.


Why Every Member of Congress Should Take an Acting Class

As we continue to process the shootings in Orlando, I want to share a few points about how we collectively allow ourselves to feel – and heal – through such a national tragedy.

I simply cannot iterate how extremely difficult, scary, vulnerable, empowering and healing that is.

A thorough examination of self in front of other human beings allows oneself to drop the “act” or persona we’ve been playing for years. (Or maybe it’s playing us without us even realizing it as we’re mostly on unconscious autopilot).

Where do we feel? How do we heal? Why do we segregate? Us vs. Them. To make ourselves feel better about our fears of someone who seems different and yet science says (through the Human Genome Project) that (on average) we share 99.5% of the same DNA sequence of all other human beings.

How do we make conscious choices about actively sharing love in the world? That’s not Pollyanna. That’s empowerment. That’s not New Age “woo-woo”, that’s philosophy.

How do we decrease our footprint of prejudicial exclusion and expand our circle of inclusion?

I’m not different than you because of whom I love. I’m not different from you because I meditate, but you pray. I’m not exotic because I come from a country you’ve never heard of.

’Merika isn’t the Universe. It’s a tiny label we’ve given our home that exists in a solar system with billions of other such homes we’ve never even heard of. That’s ultimately how small and insignificant we are.

We’re human. We get scared. We feel separate. Our reinforcing any belief system that pits us against anyone else only reinforces the illusion of separatism and allows us to marginalize others.

The narratives have to change.

Here’s what our policy makers will learn in an acting class:

We always have a choice. When dealing with tragedy, challenges, personal setbacks, and the unexplainable – we always have a choice in how to respond. Perhaps before reacting (from a memorized script we’ve heard thousands of times before), we each take a breath and ask ourselves, “Is what I’m about to say going to leave the person I am speaking to more uplifted, inspired or hopeful? If not, maybe I could choose not to say it.” What if we sat instead with our feelings rather than reacted? But we have very few spaces to do that nowadays. We live in a culture that demands answers to things immediately. And yet, the natural process of life ultimately takes much longer than the 3-second sound bites we’ve become accustomed to ingesting for things to often reveal themselves.

If you’re an empath – and I hope you are – the things that happen to other people out there also collectively happen to you. There is no me or them. It’s us. It’s consciousness. It’s connection. If you can’t sit with that, at the very least, it’s called compassion. Anyone I can marginalize so that I feel like I’m in control is not empathy. Taking an acting class will wrestle control from your ideas, plans and hands and prostate you at the feet of humbleness realizing we have no control. So trying to create false versions of it are futile.

Feeling is the only way we get liberated from the imprisonment not feeling brings. Interesting paradox; feeling is the expression of our life force, but burying feeling destroys lives. Everyone’s addicted to something. Yes, you are! Cigarettes. Drinking. Shopping. Gossip. Our phones. Porn. Negativity. Facebook. Scrolling Instagram pics. TV. Drugs. Unhappiness. Complaining. If you can admit you are, you’re halfway home. If you can see what the addiction is, you then can probably identify what you feel that drives the addiction into place. Loneliness. Shame. Anxiety. Separation. Depression. Futility. Existential Angst. Fear. In extreme cases, our aversion to going deep into our feeling is what leads to violent explosions of all kinds. If you want to heal, you have to feel.

James Baldwin said, “All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.” Catharsis (from the Greek) is the process of purifying or healing through feeling. The expression of it, the release into it, the sharing of it creates renewal, redemption, restoration and ultimately, a life of meaning.

So Congress how about it? Instead of talking, talking, talking about things . . . why don’t you feel them instead?


You Are A Storyteller

In light of the tragedy that occurred in Orlando over the weekend, I thought it would be best to remember the lives lost by celebrating our lives that we still get to live.

And as great as it is being an actor – the best story you’re ever going to tell is your own life story.

Your story.

To become mindful of the stories we wish to weave of our precious lives is purposeful. It’s powerful. It’s impactful. It’s the reason we’re here.

If you then, are the storyteller, how could you ever get it wrong? You’re not only telling other people’s stories through the various prisms of who you are, it’s the way you uniquely do it. No one else can do it your way. That in of itself is significant.

What if we started approaching our lives and our auditioning and our acting in terms less as “acting” and end-results but rather more in telling the stories we wish to tell, and how we want to tell them.

Why are we obsessed with telling other people’s stories? Partly I think this is because we think our stories are meaningless and people won’t be interested in them. That they’re boring or f**ked up or too disturbing or that other people won’t relate.

If it’s personal, which it is, and it’s universal – which all stories are – people will relate.

The truth is your story is connected to my story is connected to her story is interlaced with all the stories we’ve ever been told since storytelling began. Our stories are shaped by the stories we believe. They’re stories we don’t want to believe. They are stories other people tell. They’re interwoven with all the heartache and love and passion and joy that’s come from so many before us. They’re also stories other people tell about us – which we give far too much attention to and lose our own narrative.

In his amazing documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Warner Herzog examines the Chauvet Caves in Southern France which contain the oldest (recorded) human- painted images ever discovered some 32,000 years ago. It seems there was some major art (!) going on in the Upper Paleolithic era.

Human beings were doing then what we are all doing now. They were telling stories of survival and nature and love and being part of a tribe called humanity.

People were telling stories long before they were describing themselves as “actors” or “artists” or “poets.” They were just expressing. Without a label. It’s just what people did. It’s how culture began. And I would go so far as to say it’s what keeps the human narrative alive.

In the face of tragedy, in the face of opposition or bigotry or prejudice, all the more important to understand that your story matters. That to silence your own story would not only be a personal travesty, but it would also be something the world would never hear.

So remember that. And celebrate your story. Especially to honor those people who no longer can.


How to Break into Hollywood (and Remain Happy)

They sometimes seem to be at odds with one another, don’t they?

So let’s look at two facts that will keep you on course even when you feel like you’re anything but.

1) What keeps us unhappy? The belief that there is something currently missing in your life – that you need – in order to be happy. We get what we want in life and then ask ourselves, “Is this it?” Or we get the dream job (or lover or house or vacation) and then wonder, “What’s next?” Or we get what we’ve been wanting for so long and then realize maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

The nature of desire has us constantly desiring (but can also wreak havoc by leaving us constantly unsatisfied). This can be healthy if it propels us into searching for more meaning or meeting our challenges or working on ourselves. It can also be damaging and, ultimately, a futile and neurotic pursuit if we constantly push our happiness down the road to some future event. It won’t come that way.

Well, for sure, the event may come. But the happiness we were expecting along with it doesn’t.

Happiness simply doesn’t abide in an event, person, thing, job, money, cars, fame, success, location, or title. It’s not out there. It’s not outside of us. It’s an inside job. It’s a choice. It’s an expression of our being. It’s our essence. It’s who we already are. Complete and whole without needing anyone or anything else to make us feel good.

The way into a happy life is to change these stubborn paradigms that support our incorrect belief that we will be “happy when….” Everything you will ever need is inside you right now. Your job is to go there first, and then everything else is just icing on the cake.

2) That there is any way into Hollywood. There is no way in. There’s only your way.

Comedian Aziz Ansari says, “You have to make your own way. No one would have given me a show like Master of None. It definitely would have gone to some white guy.”

We are constantly inundated with formulas, steps, plans, rules, stories, “secrets”, and tools we are told we must have to be pretty, successful, rich, happy, famous and liked.

Do you know what the secret is? Be yourself.

First off, what else do you have? If you can’t trust that who you are is unique and interesting and has something to contribute and give to the world – then what are you actually going to give to the world once you’ve “made it”?

We listen to the “experts” and start believing we have to change who we are before we can get any of the things we want. We also believe that the absolutes that most people throw around, “You can’t do it like that,” “That’s never going to work,” “You’re too fill-in- the-blank,” “That’s impossible,” “That’s not what people are looking for right now,” are the final chapter and must be true, simply because someone says they are.

We live in a world of infinite possibility. Anyone who speaks in absolutes is either A) a terrible scientist or B) not telling you the truth. In the words of the late, great Muhammad Ali, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”


7 Reminders of How to be Awesome

We often don’t think we are. Awesome. Or we vacillate between delusions of grandeur (“I’m king of the world!”) and downright self-annihilation. What if we just set the dial more in the middle? That pretty much all of us – by being here on this planet, walking a walk (whichever one we’re on!) and doing the best we can with what we have right now makes each of us pretty remarkable. If you don’t believe it, remembering these simple facts might help you get there.

1) No one is thinking about you. Especially in this digital age where we’re bombarded with millions of data to process – our brains compute 34 GB of information everyday, apparently. If we’re all being overwhelmed with digital downloads, we’re all constantly moving on to the next sound bite. Good to know. Everyone is just figuring their own shit out most of the time. Period.

2) No one has a free pass. It simply doesn’t matter how pretty or popular or how many millions of followers someone has – everyone has to contend with his or her life through it all. The journey is a journey for each of us. Sometimes, people take detours. But believe me, in the long run, everyone in some way has to reconcile who they are and why they are here and what they are fundamentally doing with their life.

3). The stuff that goes “wrong” in your life isn’t wrong. Good isn’t always good or bad necessarily bad. The transmutation process of converting your suffering, your challenges, your setbacks into something sacred and learning how to sanctify all of it is the process of being alive. Life is not to be devoid of challenges. When we realize that and embrace the crunch – then, and I believe really only then, does our life take on real meaning and purpose. And we discover, it’s all ultimately good in the big scheme of things.

4) Martin Sheen said this working with Francis Ford Coppola on Apocalypse Now – “I remember complaining to Francis one day about my confusion about all that was going down. I said to him, ‘I don’t know who this guy [the character] is. Who is this Willard?’ And Francis just looked me square in the eye and said, ‘It’s you. Whoever you are, whatever we’re filming at the time. You are that character.’ ” Mic drop!

5) (Re-read the above quote again.) Then realize, if all we want ever – is more of you – then how could you ever be wrong?

6). Nothing is as it appears. Ever. Don’t get caught up in the way things seem to look. Like an iceberg, 2/3’s of the actual iceberg is under the surface.

7). As Anthony Hopkins’ character says in the film 360, “The fastest, most powerful prayer in the world, my friend, is fuck it.”

Amen.


What You and Beyoncé Have in Common

If all we want is more of you than how could you ever be wrong?

Think about it.

In all your artistic endeavors, what has been asked of you? As a musician, poet, painter, writer, actor, sculptor, designer, novelist, singer – the same has been asked of artists throughout history.

We want more of you in there.

Does this sound familiar? How can you be more honest? Tell us what really happened? What’s your point-of-view about this? This is great but how do you feel about it all? What are you so scared of? Why aren’t you showing us who you are? Go deeper. The real story is what you’re not wanting to tell.

And on it goes. The same theme over and over. More you. Always. In relationships. Art. Creating. To the point sometimes you might want to bang your head up against the wall, because you think you just can’t go any deeper. But then you take a moment and try again. Or you put the novel away for a few months and then revisit it months later with a fresh perspective. Or you hang up your ballet shoes for a couple years and then come back to it with a new passion and insight. Or you digest what your lover says to you and then have an epiphany about where you hold back.

I think Beyoncé’s new music video, Lemonade, demonstrates what we’re talking about here. It can be easy to take the easy way out. And sometimes we do. The over-commercialization of everything gives us a free pass. But she didn’t. She decided to tell us her story as she knows it.

Work that is significant to us – and that which really touches people (and is often controversial because it pushes people’s buttons, hidden fears and prejudices) is when we let our truth out all over the place in our work. It’s personal. Messy. Painful. Cathartic. Ugly. And beautiful.

So do just that. Let all of you hang out in the work. Go to those places you think people can’t take. Or maybe you can’t take it and you use other people as the excuse to hold yourself back. Stop editing yourself and thinking what you have to say has been said before or is uninteresting. If it’s your story and you lived it then it’s going to be interesting. I promise you. And yes, similar stories may have been told again and again, but that’s what makes the universality of you being you and me being me relatable.

It’s all been said and done millions of times before anyway. Except it hasn’t. Because this time it’s through you. You’re the channel. Stop turning it off. Don’t tune into someone’s else’s when yours is more than adequate. Yes, sometimes the reception is so freaking fuzzy and full of static because of fears and doubts and we listen to the naysayers and stop trusting that what we have to contribute is going to be any good. But you have to tune in. To you.

And stop worrying if it’s going to be good. If it’s truthful, it will be good. So just focus on getting more honest.

The more you start doing that you’ll see that life has a way of giving each of us (like Beyoncé ) the opportunity to make our own lemonade out of those lemons.


A New Way to Understand Auditioning (Part 1)

Academy Award nominee, Charlotte Rampling recently said, ‘‘I’ve always, since the beginning, had my antenna out, like, ‘You can’t get me.’ It makes you more interesting when people know they can’t get you.’’

She should know. She’s been in the business for over 45 years, made over 100 films and TV projects and started in the business when she was 17.

Mystery.

Why do we give it all away? Especially to people who don’t deserve it? I did that constantly in my 20s. If you think of sharing yourself as giving away a bag of jelly beans, I’d spill all the beans merely if a guy I liked said “Hi” to me. So much for mystery. How can anyone try to figure you out if you show them everything about you at first encounter?

We live in a world now where everyone is telegraphing everything about themselves all the time. It’s instagrammed, facebooked, snap-chatted and virtually sent around the world in seconds. People know what you eat, what you think, who you date, where you live, what you watch, what you buy and on it goes.

First date is drinks at a bar. Second date is sending nude selfies.

Where’s the mystery in that?

Being human is mysterious. The process of acting is mysterious. Getting to know someone is mysterious.

Just because culturally all the answers to things seem to be spoon-fed to us immediately doesn’t mean that we don’t like the challenge of figuring people out. It’s human nature, because as we do, we are subjectively projecting onto people the stories we want them to live out in our imaginations. They are our fantasies or ideas or prejudices or fears.

It’s subjective. But if you don’t create room for people to do their own personal imprinting on you, they lose interest.

When you go into an audition room, your job is to do your work. Experience how you choose to interpret a role and do it. That’s it. Casting directors may want to get to know you and that’s fine. But there’s a line between sharing and being desperate that they’ll like you. One is based on intrigue and curiosity and the other on obviousness and self-esteem.

Maybe we do that because we don’t trust that we’re enough. Or we need the job as some sort of confirmation to bolster our self-esteem. We doubt that we’re interesting. That we’re bad-ass. People will be intrigued. So instead we push, we show, we demonstrate, we reveal all instead of holding back.

When you watch someone simply being, doing nothing, you’re mesmerized about the person’s story. Who are they? Where do they come from? Why are they here? What are their dreams?

When you see a stranger in a café and your imagination runs wild with stories of who you think this person could be and all he or she is doing is actually sipping a latte . . . is there really anything else to do?

That’s the power we possess. An innate sense of presence that emanates from our being is inherently mysterious. It’s as mysterious as being alive. Let people project onto you as they will. (They’re going to do it anyway!) You just keep working on being. You.

As Ms. Rampling goes on to say, ‘‘Creative expression comes from places we don’t know. When I started out early in films, people said, ‘Oh my gosh, you can do this.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I can.’ I don’t know why, but I knew I could. I can’t explain what it is and how you get there, but it’s not anything to do with the intellect. I wanted to get to the being state of a character. Just watching someone being, living.’’


What Does It Mean to be “You”?

Be yourself.

We hear that all the time now from self-help books to TV shows, in songs and philosophies, indeed, even in the foundation of what it is I’ve been teaching actors for almost 20 years. Being yourself is all we can ever be. To think we will ever be anything but ourselves is not only pointless, but in circles of psychiatry, it might be suggested to be dangerous.

But sometimes I grapple with what being “yourself” means. Especially since we do everything in our power to not be.

Is it being myself as in who I am right now in my 40s? Is it not judging myself for who and where I am? Is it allowing the history of who I am and all that I lived be the source of my expression and creativity? Is it accepting my body for all that it can (and can’t) do? Is it holding on to the opinions and ideas that have shaped me?

At a relative level, yes, these are all things that make you you. From our mind’s perspective.

But the self that you’re going for – that we’re all after (whether consciously or unconsciously) is that recognition of the deeper self. It’s the you that’s connected to something beyond your identification with ego self-descriptions. The way we label, conceptualize, judge, control, calculate, and define. These constructs are not who we are. But rather functions that often prevent us from experiencing the true self.

To get to the core of self, one must smash all doctrines and dogmas. Examine all beliefs and narratives. But when you begin to question world orders, you begin to question yourself. That’s scary because you might lose yourself (or who you thought you were) in doing so. And who wants to do that? We’d rather hold on to our “principles” which are often thinly disguised prejudices, fears and judgments.

But artists do. Examining who they are is what being an artist means. They get lost in roles. They go to dark places in examining all the potentials of what it means to be human. They inhabit other universes and explore the taboo. They turn worlds upside down and traverse the unknown to get beyond the conceptual or academic.

And that occurs by allowing ourselves to be empty of all the stuff that is constantly chattering away in our heads all the time, and instead become the vessel for a greater self-expression to move through you.

That, then, purely becomes the essence of being yourself.

It’s difficult to find who you are when you’re told what to wear, how to look, what’s popular, what APPs to buy to get more “likes”, how to be happy, when to take your vacation, who is the most famous, how to have a perfect bod, who to vote for, and which God is correct.

The great filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick remarked: “The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

So that’s being yourself. Light. You are light. Almost all energy used by all living things comes from light. The sun and all the complex systems through photosynthesis that converts sugars into energy is light-driven. It’s all light that sustains us.

For you to be a channel for that fully is you being yourself. No filters, no restrictions. Just reflecting light.

Good to know that’s what we are without even having to do anything. Be light.

It’s life itself.

 

Actors in video: Hayley Shaw and Charlie Bewley


If You’re Going to Jump . . . Don’t Jump to Conclusions

They say when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.

Well that’s for sure. But we still do it all the time.

We get tiny parcels of information about things and then immediately fill in the blank based on our own stories. We jump to conclusions created out of our own limited understanding of the world. We project things based on our own fears.

It’s sort of like an iceberg. We only see 1/3 of something visibly. The largest part – 2/3’s – is hidden from us.

When we make assumptions about things we can get ourselves into all kinds of trouble. We react. We judge. At extreme levels, we marginalize people. Separate them. Make them different from us. Feel better about ourselves by making someone else feel less than.

I understand why we do it. We don’t like to feel out of control. Making up a story that fits a narrative we’re comfortable telling – because maybe we’ve been telling it for many, many years – allows us to make meaning out of something that disrupts our narratives.

But generally the meaning we make is false.

Things take time to unfold. Human beings are impatient and demand that the answers for things be delivered immediately to them. It’s sort of narcissistic when you think about it. Who says we have to have the answers to all things now? Why is it we can’t live in the unknown more? Why do we feel safer when we can categorize things in ways that allow us to be in control?

Part of why we are here is to live in the mystery of it all. Constantly trying to define the mystery doesn’t solve it. It just makes us feel better because we tell ourselves we have the answer to something that is – in essence – unanswerable.

Seeking doesn’t mean defining. It means searching for that which wants to be found. And the searching has been going on for millennia. If it had already been found, our journeys here would have ended long ago.


There’s No Going Back. It’s All Forging Forward (with Awareness)

If you’re reading this you’ve probably graduated from the 3rd grade.

That means there’s no going back. That’s a good thing. You got your lessons and are moving on up.

So why is it we don’t trust that the things we learned when we were at a certain phase in life have stayed with us?

Life is a bunch of circles, not a straight line. And because it’s circular we will repeat or revisit situations and patterns in different ways. But we have new awareness each time we go someplace we feel we’ve been before. So we have new tools to deal with old information. Yes, we stumble. Yes, we seem to make the same mistakes and wonder how we can be “here again.” Yes, it appears sometimes that we’re back in the 3rd grade.

But with progress in life comes awareness. And as long as we’re moving forward, awareness equals evolution.

When we face familiar roadblocks or obstacles or seem to be stuck in a problem that feels more like a pattern, it’s important to move through the challenge with that awareness.

Basically, don’t allow old habits to kick in and run the show. Sure, we’re going to get triggered. Sometimes the habit seems to have a mind of it’s own. It does because it’s not based in conscious choice-making. That’s why it’s a habit! So you’re facing the same relationship problem you had with your ex with your current lover. What do you do differently this time? Or, you’re about to reach for that doughnut even though you’re not even hungry. What’s it a substitute for? Sadness? Loneliness? Or, you want to go to the gym or take an acting class or start writing that novel, but every time you’ve tried before, something “came up.”

The same resistance or fear may be evoked the second or 10th time around. And that can be scary when we seem to be revisiting something that generated so much anxiety or heartbreak or discomfort the first (or fourth time). The difference is you can at least see your participation in this thing from a different vantage point. You may still fall apart and succumb to an old habit, but eventually with persistence you’ll overcome.

Let, “I’ve got this!” be your new mantra. Because surely you do.

Artist and writer Portia Nelson best summed up this journey of awareness we’re all on in her short story, There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery.

Chapter 1: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am hopeless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open; I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter 5: I walk down another street.

 

Actors in video: Liliana DeCastro and Chris Cusano


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