Tag Archives: Creativity
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?
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.
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.
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?”
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.
How we define our reality is how we’re going to experience our reality.
Einstein said, “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”
So basically, frequency first.
Our energetic frequency is naturally joyful and expansive, but we rarely hook into that state because we let our habituated way of thinking about things drive our natural frequency down. So we get stuck at lower levels of energy and forget we’re these powerful positive forces of nature.
So if we begin to see that the causal nature of our reality is generated by where we spend most of our time frequency-wise — we can work on changing that.
Smile more. Be nicer. Breathe. Accept. Surrender.
Stop beating yourself up. Relax. Enjoy. Laugh.
Every time you want to take the Brain Drain Train and obsess for hours over something you did (or didn’t) do, what if you just chose to let it go instead.
These acts immediately change our frequency. They move us from energy of resistance and fear and worry to trust and acceptance and love.
When Einstein talks about matching the frequency he means that everything we desire has a frequency set point. We don’t think about it in those terms but all beings – all things in the universe – vibrate at a certain level.
You do on a daily basis. Sometimes you get angry and sometimes you feel bored. These vibratory rates are quite different from when you’re ecstatic or when you’re in joy.
I’m not suggesting by the way – that when we feel something contrary to happiness that we shouldn’t feel it. It’s actually the opposite. Science has also shown that big feeling moves through our body and is released within 90 seconds. So when something happens to us that triggers us, the initial tumult of emotion is over and gone within a minute or two. So feel it and then flush it.
But we instead hold onto it for days . . . in our heads. We call up our friends and complain. We bitch to our parents. We get upset because of something completely unrelated, that then sets us off again about something that happened a week (or a year) ago. We get stuck in patterns of thought about something and then regenerate the negative associations with it.
This is the kind of frequency we want to work on changing. And it’s possible.
It requires awareness and a bit of work so that you don’t get swallowed down the rabbit hole, but with patience and persistence you will get better at it.
You can calm the mind that creates such turbulence in our hearts. Because isn’t it our thoughts about things that upsets us and not the actual thing?
So work on the frequency first and observe how things slowly start to shift in relation to it. Relationships, opportunities, conversations, possibilities, information. Your actual life itself.
You start to realize you do have a say in your own life. When you start to manage your own frequency you’ll stop expecting it (and your happiness) to be fulfilled by others. And that in itself becomes a more liberating frequency. We let go of expectations and demands.
The only thing making you unhappy are your own thoughts. Change them.
When you do, you’ll see that your frequency — and your world — will change too.
I’m the king of over-share.
I didn’t even know what that word meant a couple months ago, because I realized that ever since I was a kid, I’d express things that most people would think were “private.” But it just felt normal for me to express my truth. And I think if you watch children, they’re naturally inclined to express freely in this way in the moment.
As I got older, I became self-conscious about that part of me that was made fun of for expressing feeling. I began to self-edit and self-criticize this natural part of me that seemed to be so different from what other people said was “normal.”
So I assimilated. Joined the crowd. Tried to fit in.
And in so doing, I began to equate that simply feeling (and sharing feeling) is inherently risky and punishable.
And in a way it is. I was thinking yesterday about the brave souls who lived under Communist rule in the Soviet Union (and other Eastern Bloc countries) during the Cold War. (Although one could argue that it’s still difficult to freely be who you are in many countries in the world today.) What would I have done had I lived during that time as an artist? It was very risky for artists to express freely – which ironically, is the trademark of all great art. I started thinking about the challenges of wanting to write poetry or tell stories or act in plays that expressed a political point of view or personal narrative that wasn’t acceptable by the mandates of the organized State or religion. How brutal it must have been for those artists.
Thankfully, we’re free to express. So let it not be a burden of pain and anxiety. Expressing feeling – even when it’s scary and unfamiliar – is inherently joyful because it’s the natural state of our being.
And thankfully, we’re also given second chances in life. All the time.
So don’t waste opportunities to express how you feel. Do it. Not in ways that feel safe to you. Although feeling vulnerable is safe – when you’re expressing something that is personal to you, the fear of rejection or disapproval or being negated might make you feel unsafe.
This is because rejections are hard-wired in us thru the millennia as a species originating from tribal culture that in order to survive was all about being part of the pack.
No one wants to be cast out. No one wants to be shunned. No one wants to be alone.
But I’ve discovered that sharing our stories (and the feelings that come with them) – even if in so doing, you momentarily feel as if you’re alone or alienated or out there by yourself – not only liberate us from the judgments we often have about ourselves, but also heal us by the simple act of sharing. They’re not acts of singularity. They’re acts of the collective, because we all come from the same tribe. We collectively need to express in order to heal and learn and grow. By both sharing and receiving.
So do it. Don’t wait for the perfect way to say something or the right occasion or giving yourself a default or an out-clause if you don’t like how — or with whom — it’s being expressed.
The perfection lies in the moment because you’re actually feeling. And the tragedy of life is to let those moments go without fully sharing.
Give it away. And what you’ll discover is that you’re not an over-sharer at all.
You’re simply part of the tribe.
I had a student I was teaching in Australia recently who had a watershed moment in his acting.
And it did create a watershed. Being vulnerable might do that to you.
He realized that he’s been “acting” – meaning self-generating – rather than simply being – and allowing himself to be affected in the work.
He realized that it’s safer to put on a “character” – if even ever so subtly – than to face the truth that if you allow yourself to be in the work totally and committedly, it might mean that you – yourself – can be rejected for it.
In other words, there’s no hiding.
So he tried to protect himself by “pretending.” But all that does is create artificiality in his work.
Light bulb: You will be rejected. For sure. Lots of times. For being who you are. That’s the risk you take being fully invested in your own life.
In love. In acting. In dancing. In putting yourself out there. In painting. In singing. In all forms of creating.
You are constantly revealing who you are and giving a part of yourself away in everything you do – and that might mean that some people just won’t get you or like you or be interested in you or respond to you.
So what? You’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for yourself. And when you really start to live in that truth you won’t care anymore what other people think because there’s no greater gift than giving of yourself with the risk that in doing so you might be rejected.
That’s called life. And it’s why we’re here.
It also leads to another conversation I had with a New York actor. He said he was scared of failure.
No he’s not. We fail every day. Every way. Along the way. Our lives are littered with failures. So we’re not really scared to fail.
We’re afraid of being seen. Because being seen – just as this Aussie actor realized – carries with it the risk of rejection and not doing it “right” and being imperfect and showing people who we really are and consequently people not liking us.
What we’re really scared of is our success. How powerful we can be – and also how magnificent and beautiful and competent and talented we already are. It’s our birthright.
We’re scared of success because counter-intuitively, it means, once again, with success comes the possibility that we may get rejected or not liked on a grand scale. It means putting our private selves out there in a very public way. It means stepping into a new you – and a whole new paradigm – that our egos are invested in keeping from us.
Success = Overcoming the dialogues in our heads that tell us all the reasons we aren’t – and can’t be – a success.
That’s success right there. Facing our destructive dialogues to prove otherwise. And to step into the possibility that it is better to attempt, to risk, to be seen, to fail than to not be seen at all.
What would the world be like if you weren’t seen at all? Ask yourself that.
It would be a very sad place.
We need you.
Remember that the next time you think you’re scared to fail.
Nobody talks about this because I think we often feel we’re supposed to have the same feelings for something that we had when we first stumbled upon it. When something’s brand new it’s intoxicating and captivating and joy-filled. It’s almost like innocence because the discovery of things within that thing seem never-ending.
But things change. And so will our feelings about them. And they should.
First off, acting is fun. It should be a celebration of joy and expression of the human spirit to create and play and be wildly abandoned and free in the moment. We need to remember this.
Shakespeare had it right when he said, “The play’s the thing.”
But sometimes, the business side of acting – it is show business after all – can really get you down. Womp. Womp.
It’s okay to have contrary thoughts about the business. To not want to act anymore. To feel like there’s no point. To lose your passion. To want to pull your hair out.
Our relationship to acting is like any kind of relationship. It’s a living, breathing, evolving thing. Like our relationships with our friends or parents or lovers or siblings. They change; ebb and flow, contract and expand.
They’re alive. So is our relationship with acting because it’s really a relationship with Self. And that’s constantly transforming.
Your Self is the vehicle through which your acting is expressed – so it’s naturally going to go through moments where you wonder if this is all you signed up for. Or if it’s really fulfilling you like it did when you were 19. Or if it’s even worth the amount of time and effort you put in.
I can say unequivocally, yes, it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not also a load of other things too. It can be challenging and maddening and scary, and it takes time and tests one’s faith and patience, and can be inexplicably odd and unfair.
When you’re not feeling as enthusiastic about it as, say . . . Kristen Wiig’s Target Lady character is about all things Target (!) – try not to let it trigger your preconditioned left-brain stuff that already has very strong opinions about who you aren’t. That part of our brain is already conditioned to tell us that we’re not that successful or attractive or talented or capable. So when we go through phases where things get crunchy it’s important to change the dialogues in our head and remember that this phase is part of our process. And it too shall pass.
Just allow it. It’s hard – to allow. Because we’re control freaks and don’t like things to be untidy, unresolved or undefinable. But if you just breathe and allow yourself to be where you are (which is exactly where you need to be!) you’ll get unstuck and move through to the next phase.
And when that happens, your feelings about creating will transform as well. Perhaps to a deeper respect and love for who you are, what you’ve overcome and what you’re capable of doing.
And that, in a way, is a different kind of innocence waiting to be discovered.
We’re so obsessed with the climax in our culture that we forget that it’s all about the foreplay. So we live for the climax – only to discover two things.
1). Sometimes the climax just isn’t that good. Womp. Womp.
2). It’s never the answer.
Part of what being here and having this physical experience is about, is having wonderful desires that show up in the physical: a beautiful marriage, a Hollywood premiere, a house in the Hills, a lead on our own TV show.
But we get so consumed with going for these “Events” that we forget that most of our lives are made up of all the stuff in between the Events. So we end up wasting so much time waiting for what we think is our real life – when will our real life begin? – when it’s happening all the time. Actually more than all the time – it’s almost all of it.
We have to live the minutiae in between the Events as if they were the Events themselves!
Because they really are. If most of our lives are being spent there – how do we start to live our lives more in what we casually brain-drain dismiss as the mundane?
First, it’s not easy. When you’re standing in line at the grocery store in the 12-items-or-less-lane and the person in front of you has 50 items (!) and you’re reading the covers of those glossy magazines talking about other peoples’ exciting life “Events” and you think to yourself, “This can’t be my life Event here!” But it is.
It’s not easy when you get the call from your agent that you didn’t get the job. Again.
It’s not easy when you come home to find out your boyfriend has moved out.
But essentially all of these moments are Event moments they just aren’t being lived that way. But also, they lead us to other Event moments of our lives. Without them there is no future Event. If we can learn to appreciate them a little more – a few things happen.
We get happier. We stop living for the future. We become less stressed because we let go of control. We let things unfold naturally. We wake up. We stop taking things so seriously. We realize that getting “the stuff” is great but all the stuff we experience along the way is also joyful.
Then we begin to realize our entire life is the Event. Just as it is. Not necessarily as a lead-up to something else.
Student, Shailene Woodley taught me a lesson about this the other night at a Divergent screening the night before the film’s premiere. I said to her, “Oh my gosh Shai, I’m so excited for you!” And then thinking about the next night’s opening I screamed, “It’s all going to be so exciting for you!”
She looked me squarely in the eyes and laughed, “Tony, it already is exciting.”
Every moment is the Event.
You’re good enough.
Just as you are right now at this moment.
You’re good enough as you are without having to change anything.
You’re good enough for love.
To have an amazing career.
To have happiness and full self-expression.
To experience the most amazing relationship.
You’re good enough in the body that you currently have.
The weight that you are.
The age that you have turned.
To be the lead on your own TV series.
Or to work with Meryl Streep.
Part of being good enough is to simply love and accept yourself for who you are – and where you are – flaws and all. Not because of the things you accomplish or how you look or how successful you are. But just by being alive. It’s extraordinary to simply be alive.
But you don’t wake up saying to yourself, “I’m extraordinary.”
Part of that has to do with our own self-worth. We don’t see ourselves in relation to who we already are. We generally see ourselves in relation to what we haven’t yet accomplished, what we haven’t succeeded at, what we struggle with and where we fail.
So we don’t see our own extraordinariness just by being. By showing up in our own lives and being brave enough to live our dreams and do the best we can is extraordinary.
We are worth so much more than we often give ourselves credit. To that end, find a symbol in your life of something that represents how much you are worth. It might be shocking to discover that you hold onto things because you don’t think you deserve better. You might think that’s all you’ll ever get, so you hold on. Or you wonder, “Why even bother?” Or you control because it’s scary to let go. It could be an old pair of shoes you don’t throw away. It could be an outdated belief. It might be a car you never clean because you already think it’s crappy. It could be your hairstyle or the pair of glasses you wear. It might be the resolution you never keep. It could be a boyfriend or girlfriend.
What if you realized that thing – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – might represent how you really see yourself? But the truth is you’re bigger than that. You’re worth so much more than that. Let it go and create the space for something that represents your real worth to come into your life.
When you do, you’ll realize “I am good enough.”