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Archive for the ‘Creative Expression’ Category

Early Childhood Progress Report

Posted by Amanda Gray on August 9, 2014

Alright… movin’ on…

Here I am, in this paradise city they call Vancouver, British Columbia, surrounded by massive luscious gorgeousness of every kind; a boundless shining city offering more opportunity than I dare fathom with my pretty little head.  And in this new cornucopia of plenty, I’m conducting a serious reassessment (sigh… again???) about who I am, and whittling down what I really want to do with the narrowing years of my life.  I’m carefully weeding out extraneous self concepts and interests where my motivation is limited, or where the realities become severely diminished at my age.  For example: I’m not going to be a Rock Star.  I can’t even play an instrument.  I tried.  I’m terrible.  Please, give it up, Amanda… your time is OVER… please, just… STOP.  And, as much as my intentions have been earnest to relearn some computer programming, after applying myself to a course of study on two separate occasions, and both times experiencing my interest completely vanish shortly along, I have to concede that this activity doesn’t float my boat as much as I might wish it did.  Curses!  Foiled again!

It’s quickly becoming a precarious position, as I attempt to reconcile myself with the genuine motivations of my heart, and yet, secure an actual paying position.  I’ve always been interested in many things.  I’ve amassed a vast wealth of experience in applying myself to many functions and roles.  And, because I’m smart and resourceful, I’m capable of doing exceedingly well at these many things too.  But I’ve been like a canon that fires balls in all directions.  It’s really not the most useful contraption!  And employers don’t like it, because they can’t easily classify me into a tiny, miniscule, microscopic box.  So, I have to learn to fire my canon in ONE direction.   There’s some job ads I look at and think, “Yeah, I could do that, and I’d probably enjoy it too,” and I apply.  No problem.  And there’s other job ads, things I could definitely do, but, my heart recoils into the bitter cage of my chest, and I feel like I’d rather kill myself than apply!  Crap!  I mean, I NEED A JOB!!!  This is getting REAL here, people!!  I can’t continue to be this picky… can I????  Not for long, as my financial condition is fast transforming into a stuttering, stumbling, black-blooded zombie – no pulse, no life, no hope!  ACK, BLECK, &%%$** slobber **&*%^^%$, GLOOT!!!

This morning I came across some report cards from my early childhood.  Hmmm…  what did others say about my young, most natural, being?  Might they reveal some clues as to my most dear personal leanings?  I’ve transcribed the reports completely, for posterity, but I’ll highlight the most positive points in red.  Also, note that I was called ‘Ann’ back then.

Edmonton Public Schools

Early Childhood Progress Report

School – Delton

Grade – 01

Principal – G. E. Eliasson

Teacher – Miss J. Hawkins

First Report Date – Nov 20, 1975 Second Report Date – March 12, 1976 Third Report Date – June 23, 1976
Social and Emotional Development: Ann is a cooperative and capable student.  She behaves responsibly towards school rules and gets along well with others.  Ann puts forth a commendable effort on all her projects.  [Yes, of course.  I still do.  Potential employers: please read.] Social and Emotional Development: Ann continues to show persistence in her work habits.  She participates actively and has made commendable progress.  Ann is developing good work habits. [Potential employers: please read.] Social and Emotional Development:  Ann has been a capable and cooperative student.  She has put forth her best effort throughout the year.  Ann has been an asset to our class.  Good luck to her in her grade two year.
Language Arts – Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing:  Ann is developing good speaking and listening skills.  She has made very good progress in the reading program.  Her printing is neatly done. Language Arts – Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing:  Ann enjoys reading.  She has learned her sounds and basic vocabulary well.  Her oral reading could be more fluent.  Ann continues to work carefully on her written projects. Language Arts – Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing:  Ann has made commendable progress in word attack skills and reading comprehension.  Her oral reading has good expression.  She can use her spelling vocabulary to compose simple stories.  [Expression… yup.  Still true.]
Mathematics:  Ann is learning the numbers to thirty.  She is developing a good problem solving ability.  [All the better to computer program with, my dear!] Mathematics: Ann knows her numbers to 100.  She is learning her basic facts to 8.  We are now practicing the counting of money.  [Yay – money!] Mathematics:  Ann works quickly and accurately with numbers.  She has had no difficulties in the grade one arithmetic program.
Social Studies – Science – Health:  Ann is a very good participant in group activities.  [Collaboration is important to me.] Social Studies – Science – Health:  Ann shows much initiative in her independent projects.  She enjoys group work but could show more maturity when working with others.  [Note that I was an only child.] Social Studies – Science – Health:  [Blank]
Physical Education:  Ann participates willingly.  She is a good sport during these activities. Physical Education:  Satisfactory participation. Physical Education:   Satisfactory progress.
Art – Drama – Music:  Ann has made very good progress.  She enjoys these subjects and puts forth her best work.  [Naturally.] Art – Drama – Music:  Satisfactory work. Art – Drama – Music:  Satisfactory progress.

 

Edmonton Public Schools

Early Childhood Progress Report

School – Delton Elementary

Grade – 02

Principal – G. E. Eliasson

Teacher – Mrs. M. Kaastrup  [I called her Mrs. Ketchup!]

First Report Date – November 26, 1976 Second Report Date – March 11, 1977 Third Report Date – June 30, 1977
Social and Emotional Development: Ann is becoming much more responsive to reason while still maintaining that great sense of individualism she possesses.  She has proven herself capable of producing very neat and presentable work when she so chooses.  Although, Ann accepts the responsibility for completing her assignments, she should concentrate on using her free time more constructively and minimizing the tendency to socialize.  [Haha!  Nothing ever changes!] Social and Emotional Development: Ann’s vivacious and enthusiastic disposition are most refreshing.  She possesses the courage to speak her mind.  Ann is very pleased with her increased effort to respect the rules of the classroom more conscientiously in the past few weeks. Social and Emotional Development:  Lately Ann has taken considerable more pride in the appearance of her work.  She has also displayed better judgement as to which projects should have priority at a given time.  Her greater willingness to co-operate has been much appreciated, not to mention her vitality.
Language Arts – Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing:  Ann is developing an effective speaking vocabulary.  She shows determination in reading a library book.  Her recall of sounds is acceptable but when attacking a word she is not always as conscious of the letters involved causing her to say ‘was’ for ‘has’, or ‘his’ for ‘this’, or ‘cops’ for ‘cop’.  Ann could improve the accuracy of her comprehension by attending to details. Language Arts – Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing:  Ann takes great pleasure in reading expressively.  She has made great strides in distinguishing the long and short vowel sounds.  As well she has become much more accurate in word attack and less inclined to confuse words similar in structure (example – went for want).  Her comprehension skills and ability to follow written directions are maturing very acceptably.  Ann is capable of producing printing of a fine quality when she chooses to exert the effort; however frequently she does not take enough care with slant. Language Arts – Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing:  Since the beginning of the term Ann has made a marked improvement in her accuracy in word attack through the development of very respectable decoding skills as well as greater concentration.  Her ability to make inferences and read critically are up to par.  She can capably interpret literal meaning.  Ann’s effective use expression makes her oral reading pleasant to listen to.  As of late, Ann has improved her printing considerably.  She delights in new words. [YES!]
Mathematics:  Ann capably handles ordering series of numbers, supplying numbers missing in a sequence & counting by fives & tens to 100.  Her rate of recall for addition facts to 10 is acceptable. Mathematics:  Ann has mastered the properties of addition and subtraction studied, the concepts covered in hundreds, tens and ones, as well as the types of problems she has encountered.  She can readily tell time on the hour and the half.  Ann could make an effort to increase her rate of recall for addition facts to 18 (example 5+8=13, 7+9=16 etc.) Mathematics:  Ann has a sound grasp of the concepts covered in grade two mathematics.  Encourage Ann to form the habit of starting in the ones column when adding or subtracting 2 or 3 digit numbers as this will be essential for success in grade three when she will be confronted with ‘borrowing’ and ‘carrying’.  Her accuracy of recall for facts to 18 is good, but she should strive to increase her rate. [I still, most naturally, add & subtract backwards.  And, yes, in grade three I was completely lambasted in math!]
Social Studies – Science – Health:  Ann has developed an acceptable understanding of the concepts of change that result in various forms of life with the advance of fall.  Although she was active in the related projects, her enthusiasm for becoming involved in discussions tended to fluctuate from day to day.  Science: Ann participates well in class activities.  She does, however, find it difficult to remember the task at hand.  She has an excellent knowledge of living/not living, symmetry, names of shapes, measurement and negative numbers. Social Studies – Science – Health:  Ann has done excellent work in our units on information, magnets and balance scales.  She did good work with our weather, volume, measurement, color change and graph units.  In Social Studies Ann has been studying People and Their Feelings. [I imagine I enjoyed that.] As well she has had the opportunity to gain greater experience in co-operating as a group member, still thinking for herself, but at the same time, respecting other people’s opinions. Social Studies – Science – Health:  Ann showed great enthusiasm in our units on shadows, angles, time and area.  She has a good knowledge of those concepts.  Ann gained some experience in written and oral reporting in connection with the unit on Fables.  She enjoyed writing book reports on fables she had studied on her own.  Ann could have accepted more responsibility for bringing in material on the Supermarkets so that she could have participated more effectively in the unit.
Physical Education:  Ann enjoys participating in phys ed.  She has been active in solving tasks in gymnastics as well as refining her skill in handling balls. Physical Education:  Ann has developed reasonably good control in dribbling balls. She has applied herself diligently in solving tasks in gymnastics and obviously has much increased body awareness as is evidenced in the various combination of body parts she uses in travelling and balancing.  Ann should make an effort to develop more sportsmanship with regard to who her partner is. Physical Education:  Ann delighted in communicating ideas through body movements.  [Oh, yes, always love expressing IDEAS!]  She developed considerable skill in the paddle bat activities.  As well Ann has been involved in track and field events.
Art – Drama – Music:  Ann displays a tendency to overlap colors both while painting and crayoning which in many cases makes her work more realistic.  As well she enjoys experimenting with the development of various textural effects in both mediums.  [I still LOVE color and texture!!] Art – Drama – Music: Ann is in her element when she can be involved in art projects.  She is beginning to depict more detail in her work and to use facial features to convey emotion.  In modelling Ann showed an awareness of the great textural possibilities.  In drama, Ann is most expressive and a natural at providing appropriate dialogue.  Music – Ann appears to enjoy music.  She is progressing very well. Art – Drama – Music:  Ann continues to plan her work ever more consciously utilizing more realistic proportions, and introducing more than one baseline where she deems necessary.  Music – Excellent.

 

SUMMARY:

Hasn’t it been said that we learn everything we need to by Grade 2?  Or something like that?  I wonder if this would get me a job if I transcribed these reports word-for-word on my resume?  LOL!

It’s no surprise that I had lots of interest in reading, speaking, art, drama and music.  I enjoyed being independent, studying on my own, and communicating ideas.  I enjoyed working with color, shading and texture.  These qualities are all still applicable for me.  So, it must be true that people rarely change much over a lifetime.  I thought I did, but perhaps I’ve just become more conscious of traits that have always been.

There’s a couple more reports that are relevant to this discussion.  These are from my teenage acting classes:

 

The Citadel Theatre Drama Classes

Final Report

Age Group: 13 – 14 Beginners

General Remarks: An outgoing and exuberant girl.  A natural ‘clown’ but must learn to discipline herself and concentrate.

Attitude: Good – very interested – as she gets older she will I think understand what I have tried to tell her all the season – the importance of discipline in the art.

Ability: A natural performer – if interested enough will develop well.

Recommendation: Advanced class next season.

 

Citadel Theatre School Student Evaluation

Class/Level: 2B

Voice:  You have the ability to achieve great heights Amanda.  Very insightful and moving work was accomplished.  I am so sorry you have decided to side-step an acting career, I know you’d be successful.

Improvisation: A good talent. Watch the trap of being caught impressing the class – work for yourself – develop knowledge and understanding.  Term 1 was unfocused and more work in term 2 would have allowed greater benefits.  Keep up the journey!

Movement:  You actually made some remarkable progress in movement, Amanda!  You move well when you allow yourself to do so, because you seem to have convinced yourself that you can’t do it!!  That makes you undermine your own work with lack of focus & concentration – but you DO have the ability!!  Hope you use it in the future.

 

SUMMARY:

A natural CLOWN – haha – no JOKE!!  It’s true – but humour can also be used as a defense, or to ‘people please’ (impressing the class) – so I have to be conscious when it’s going that way.  It’s also interesting to note that while my participation in phys ed was completely normal in Grades 1 and 2, I installed a block about it by my teen years.  And you’d think that all that good work with balls and dribbling in Grade 2 would have made it easier to learn to juggle – but it didn’t!  So… boo… whatever.

Today, I was considering applying for Cirque du Soleil (they’re auditioning in town soon), but because their shows are so physical, I don’t consider it a realistic path.  As much as I’m happy to stretch myself into more physical expression as much as I can, and while I’m generally relaxed with facial and upper body movement… I’m not likely to roll on the floor, do somersaults, go to an aerobics class, or shovel gravel anytime soon.  And that’s just how it is.  I think I’m more interested in expressing myself with words and ideas.  Or with color and texture!  🙂

I have a fondness for thinking of myself as an ‘actor’.  This is a self concept I’m pretty attached to.  Yet, several times in my life, apparently including my Citadel 2B class, I decided to ‘side-step’ an acting career.  As much as it calls me, it also seems to repel me.  My recent 12 year gap from acting has impacted greatly.  Even while I dip my toes in the possibility by doing some background film work, overall,  it’s not coming easily or naturally.  Ultimately, I feel like I lost my best chance, and now I’m too old and fat, and it’s too late.  And now I’m afraid in ways I never was before.  Like when I do improv – I’m good, and relaxed, and I’m in it — and then, suddenly, a wall comes down in my mind and I get totally shy!  I’m letting go of the limited idea that the only work I’ll be happy with is ‘acting’.  I could happily communicate in many occupations.  In fact, everything I do in this world can accurately be called acting.  We all take on various roles in our lives: parent, teacher, mother, child, etc.  Grocery store clerk, blackjack dealer, blogger, data manager, etc.  And I’m pretty sure my ego is simply attracted to the role of ‘actor’ as a method of ‘specialness’.  Fame as a method of world domination – lol – no, but of being ‘loved’.  It’s the ‘seek but do not find’ routine.  And, this, I have to weed out.

EDITED:  Yet, here’s where I’m most deeply conflicted.  It feels like this is the very thing my heart most wants.  ARGGGGGG!  Again, when I go back to my earliest childhood, I pretended at characters all the time.  Coloring, Barbie’s, and acting out characters.  So what if everyone on the planet wants to be an actor too.  So what if my ego has come in and bastardized an entirely natural drive.  So what if it’s so obviously an attempt at making a body ‘special’.  But I CAN’T STOP MYSELF!!!!  No matter how much I try to surrender the desire, it comes back.  And here’s something I learned about desires that won’t go away – sometimes you just have to LIVE THEM OUT.  Allow them to EXPRESS.  The only way out is THROUGH.

So… maybe I can’t get a job.  Maybe I can just do what I want.  *BOINK*  *blink*  *blink*  I tried doing some of the audition they want for Cirque du Soleil in my mirror last night… and it surprised me.  And inspired me.  Hmmmm….

A few days ago, I was watching Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  He was interviewing Jon Stewart and he asked, “Do you think actors can play comedians?”  The both agreed that they couldn’t.  And I see their point.  There’s people who can be funny (like me, once in a while, usually by accident) and then there’s FUN-NY PEO-PLE.  They’re a particular breed.  They think in an entirely particular way.  And if you’re not on that level, well, you’re not.  So that’s another one of those things I’m weeding out – I’m, clearly, not going to be a comedian.  Or a clown.  For real – it’s an unnatural stretch.  I’m glad I took the clown class, and there’s lots that I’ll be keeping forefront in my mind (like playing!), but clowning’s not going to be my whole thing.  I always get excited about stuff at the beginning, like it’s finally the thing that’ll save my life, finally DEFINE WHAT I AM, but then it never does.  I have to quit looking for that.  It’s not going to happen.

So, OK.  Weeding out and weeding out.  Eventually, I’ll have a direction to aim my cannon.  Then, look out!

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Right Brain

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 23, 2014

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Sufferin’ Subterranean Subconscious Subterfuge!  Digging a little further under the surface of some of life’s little goings ons, I’m starting to think about the concept of ‘work’ vs. ‘play’.  About a year ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to ‘work’ anymore – I was only ever going to ‘play’.  It’s all a matter of thought anyway, so why shouldn’t I simply decide for what I really want?  Well, that was all well and good, and I proceeded, in general, to live accordingly, yet now I see that I’ve had an underlying belief system that has been surreptitiously objecting.

I see it from my experience at the Living Miracles Monastery in Utah, when I got a terrible migraine headache that prevented me from joining in a much desired project to paint the tipi.  I simply couldn’t allow myself to enjoy the project.  In essence, I punished myself for my creative desire.

I also see it from my recent clown workshop.  The first two days were excellent and full-on, but the final two days were difficult because I was in a lot of resistance.  Particularly, I was resistant to moving my body, to open-heartedly playing with the group – and even more specifically – joining freely with the (in my opinion) more physically rambunctious boys.  Instead of saying, “yes” to the experience, I began to say “no.”

I also see it from my recent firing at work.  Particularly, since starting, I kept a fundamental attitude of ‘play’.  It made the day go by more pleasantly to maintain this attitude, and, particularly when I felt most down or resistant, I made concerted efforts to change my mind as soon as possible.  One of the other mental adjustments I was practicing regularly was to speak freely with my customers – even if I was feeling angry, tired, sick – all the entirely human qualities a customer service person isn’t supposed to share.  After some experimentation, I learned that people would allow me to say anything as long as my intention was relaxed, open and sharing – and I learned that limits only occurred if my intention slipped to attack, judgement or punishment.  As I learned this, I began to share myself more and more freely – and, especially as I began to know people more personally –I tentatively shared my sense of humour – which, at times, could be obtusely abstract, playfully teasing, or confusingly deadpan.  I was learning about it for myself along the way, as well, and it would surprise me at times, as much as it might surprise the customer.  So, it wasn’t entirely a shock to hear that some customers didn’t understand my humour and complained to the boss.  I now think it’s particularly interesting that I was ‘judged’ and  ‘punished’ (losing my job) for expressing myself more freely, openly and honestly – and just as I was genuinely allowing my sense of humour to come out and play.

This all leads me to a realization that I must still hold a deeper belief about personal self-expression; a belief that I must repress my natural expression for fear of being misunderstood, judged and punished.  I must have fears about playing openly with others, and sharing my stranger – but also more unique and interesting – quirks.  I can also see how this connects to my early childhood experience when, in the exuberance and excitement of playing with some older boys, it got me into life-threatening trouble.  I bet I decided then that ‘play’ – right brain, creative, abstract – was bad or dangerous, and I abandoned it, completely, in favour of the serious, safe, logical, fact based left brain.  I think most of us do it.  As adults, we decide that life is about ‘work’ and we forget about the joy, light and freedom of our curious, lively, foolish inner child.  We forget our child’s easy laughter and the ability to accept others however they are in every moment.  We begin to think our ‘judgement’ will protect us.  We begin to ‘juice’ our grievances and let our thoughts linger on the ‘injustices’ we face.  We begin to believe that other people are ‘against’ us – that they’re only there to present obstacles to our desires – and that the only way to get what we want is to manipulate, force or remove these obstacle-people.  We think that if we could just remove everybody, perhaps we’ll finally get the peace and freedom we feel entitled to.

But it’s a lie.  A pretty convincing set of concepts, I’ll give it that, but entirely, a grievous, pitiful lie.  The left brain is extremely limited.  It can only give us what it ‘knows,’ which means it’s always bound by the past.  Only the right brain, the open aspect of mind that’s ‘unknown,’ can truly extend us into the infinite.

I expressed in my last post ( Kitties, Clowns, Authority and Desire ), that I LOVE my kitty clown, Zephyr.  What I realized in clown class, and what I’m accessing in that character, is my natural right brain creativity that feels SOOOOO FREE!!  It’s powerful because it’s the true self I always wanted to express, or, at least, it’s the denied and repressed part of myself that’s required for complete mental equilibrium.  My deepest desires and passions are linked in there too and, of course, as these passions awaken, they’ll probably drag out a few demons from the arcane depths too.

Which is fine.  It’s worth it.  I’m going there.  Nothing can stop me – except ME.  And, like A Course in Miracles says, “Truth will correct all errors in my mind.”  And so it will.  AMEN!

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Kitties, Clowns, Authority and Desire

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 16, 2014

Strangeness is afoot.  I guess life can be like that. 

I took a four-day Intro to Clown Workshop with the simply divine teacher, Jan Henderson, a few weeks ago.  I had a few pre-conceived ideas about what my clown would be like, and a few things I thought I’d explore in my clown character, but – here’s the thing about clowning – you can’t know in advance how your personal clown will appear!  Mine – surprise! – showed up as a cat!  What a marvellous adventure I had in that class!  There’s an element of serendipity in the birth of a new clown, and when you’re really listening carefully to your own gentle, innocent, intuitive voice within, clown miracles happen!  Such a fantastic, luminous magnificence in every clown that was born that weekend.  We were all very clearly defined in entirely unanticipated, but entirely perfect, ways.  Everyone was adorable – including ME!  I never thought of myself as “cute” before 2014-02-23 15.18.34– but, it was true, as my cat-clown-character, I WAS SOOOOO CUTE!!

Well, since then, the ‘cat’s been out of the bag’… (sorry!)… and my life has taken some surprising turns.  I’ve been putting a lot of focus on exploring my new cat-clown.  Her name is Zephyr (defined as: a gentle westerly wind) and, beyond any explanation my rational mind can make for it, ‘she’ does seem to have a ‘will’ of her own.  I can come up with ideas for her, but once the nose goes on, I can’t anticipate her actions or make her do something she doesn’t want to.  I feel like I’ve just begun to know this marvellous, crazy little kitty and it’s thrilling – to my bones – to discover her!  I’m passionate about her!  In fact, I LOVE her!!  And I want her to LIVE!!

Like I said, it makes no sense to my rational mind.  A CLOWN???  That’s what I want to DO???  NO!!  REALLY???  But… yes.  I can’t help it.  I don’t even know what it means, or what it looks like, but yes.  YES.  Wholeheartedly – YES!!!  Somewhere inside of me, it’s what I’ve ALWAYS wanted!

Then things started to change at my job.  Almost imperceptibly, with little shifts I can’t innumerate, a deadly virus took hold of the place.  I no longer felt like I was allowed to be myself there.  I awoke in trepidation each scheduled work day, and walked around on eggshells.  On a break, I found myself wondering how I could get myself fired – quickly, but without any formal charges (haha!).  I heard from a customer, the same day, that she was hired part time – on a hush hush basis – and I suggested that perhaps she was replacing me – adding – “I can only hope!” 

Apparently, my mind is much stronger than I think, and my desire… was fulfilled.  Shucks, ultimately, I didn’t even have to DO anything – I’d already succeeded!  A litany of minuscule mistakes were cited – nothing that amounted to more than a hill of beans, in my humble opinion – but, surprise!  I got my wish!  I was hurt, yes, but, at the same time, I couldn’t get out of there faster.  I’m FREEEEEEEEE!!!!!

The relief I feel is astounding.  I was making such great efforts to conform to expectations – when I never truly knew what any of the expectations were.  Now I see that conforming is not for me.  It never was.  It never will be.  How that looks in this world of ‘jobs’ and ‘paycheques’ and ‘bosses’ – I have no idea.  How I go forward from here… I don’t know.

What I’m most interested in now is something along the lines of ‘embracing my CRAZY’.2014-02-23 15.18.46  Letting all the crazy things I gotta say just come out of my mouth with no judgement, and doing all the crazy things I never had the guts to do before.  When I think of all the times people laughed at something I did on stage, I was always doing something physical – clown gags!  In all my attempts to be the ‘serious’ drama girl, the ‘Shakespeare’ girl, the ‘spiritual’ girl – I was always simply denying the delightful life of my inner FOOL!  In all my attempts to reject and project ‘crazy’ onto the outside screen – my inner crazy was there all the time, inviting me to give in to its GENIUS.

Let’s face it, folks, this is the truth:  we’re all just bumbling idiots in this game of life.  Most of us think we’ve got it all figured out: we follow all the rules because we desperately want to be those ‘good’ little girls and boys we imagine; we project our ‘mistakes’ onto others because we can’t face our own ‘terrible’ imperfections; and we pretend we have the authority to make others bend to our will and do things we most prefer them to.  And we’re shattered when somebody shows up that we can’t manipulate.  HA!  This is what I’ve learned: If I let others be free to do whatever they do, without judgement, it’s a gift I give to MYSELF!  And the ‘authority’ I fear is just as much of a bumbling idiot as everyone else; scrambling around for tiny morsels of acceptance and inclusion – but always terrified that they’re not worthy of it.  They’re not any better than me, or wiser.  They don’t know something more than I do.  Because, kids, none of us know ANYTHING!!!  The ONLY authority is ME – MY choice over MY life in this moment, NOW.  And not knowing, in any way, how it’ll turn out – but hopeful that, if I do what I most want now, the outcome will be something along the lines of what I want (consciously or unconsciously, at least) later.  That’s it.

And now I think I know what Thomas Edison felt like; his mind filled with a flood of creative fire that couldn’t be quenched.  I’ve been so creatively energized lately – with creations of all varieties spilling out of me at record pace.  No wonder I didn’t want to go to work – what I’m doing at home is so much more, infinitely, fulfilling.  Here’s something else I’ve learned recently: you can’t get rid of desires by sublimating them.  That’s not what The Buddha did to become enlightened.  I tried denying my desires for ten years – and it only hurt me.  At the same time, I also know the danger of desires running rampant – they’re a bottomless bucket.  So what else did The Buddha say…  ummm… something about the MIDDLE way?  Haha.  Yes.  That’s what I’m shooting for now.  Some desires just have to be lived through.  Lived though?  What FOR? 

… for joy and happiness.  That’s right, kids.  FOR JOY and HAPPINESS.  Whose joy and happiness?  MINE.  Does it sound selfish?  It does – but that’s because I can’t live by what someone else wants – even if I know exactly what that is.  We’ll never succeed at that game – because everyone’s responsible for their OWN happiness.  We can’t choose it for someone else – but we CAN choose it for ourselves, right now.  And that’s exceptionally good news!

Peace and love, holy brothers and sisters – darling crazy fools – every last one of ya!

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Follow the White Rabbit

Posted by Amanda Gray on August 13, 2013

So I finally have the job situation I always dreamed about – working 3 days a week, at something generally enjoyable (customer service) – and having 4 days off – to do whatever I want.  Yes, I finally have the perfect work/life balance situation… but what have I done with my 4 days off every week for the past 2 months?  Nothing.  All inspiration has completely dried up!

So, my left brain has done what it’s always done: tried to fill the perceived lack.  It frantically sought for an activity to inspire and fill my free time.  First, I thought I’d make another short film, but I couldn’t come up with any interesting ideas.  So then I looked to the past: I bought a book and downloaded some software, hoping to resurrect my computer programming skills from 13 years ago.  Yet, the ambition has been sporadic.  I dug out my cooking books from when I was a professional pastry cook 19 years ago.  I examined the recipes, thinking that I might rent a kitchen and make some cakes to sell.  But that ambition dried up too.

Then I was invited to guest teach a drama class at the local school.  Again I picked a few books from the bookshelf, dusted them off, and resurrected my professional acting skills from 21 years ago.

The day I spent with the kids was amazing.  First, I spent a couple of hours trying, with difficulty, to motivate, a very unmotivated, group of teenagers.  I did my best, and enjoyed the experience with them, for what it was.  Still, at that point, when I might have felt disappointed with the outcome, I was asked to present my acting exercises again with a larger group of, far more motivated and energetic, junior high kids.  Later, when I considered the two, highly contrasting, experiences, I could see how the aperture of life – energy, experimentation, and joy – that the younger group displayed with abundance, can close down in our teen years – just as we start to feel self-conscious and begin to judge ourselves (and everything else).

I can now see how the teenage period of life can magnify a fear of expressing.  For most, it’s a fear of judgement, or rejection by others.  What if I say the wrong thing?  What if I hurt someone’s feelings?  What if they misunderstand me?  And mostly, in my life, I’ve preempted my self expression right off the bat – just blocked it, entirely.  When I look within, I find nothing… just a solid black wall… so I believe that I have nothing important or valuable to express.  As I became habitual in my disregard for my own creative imagination, and established a belief in creative poverty, I spent my life searching for a specific form (i.e. “acting”) that could restore it.  Always regurgitating someone else’s ideas and words, yet desperately wanting to create something unique – and express my true self.  Yet, I felt that I couldn’t: What can I say if I don’t have anything to say?  On the other hand, if I don’t value my own ideas, who will?

– Now I see why I developed a major migraine at the monastery last year when I was helping to paint the tipi.  I became sick as a denial of my creative expression.

– Now I see why I couldn’t stay to participate in the Strawberry Fields Music Festival.  Because I was jealous of the ones who could openly express themselves.

– Now I see why I had to meet Ben when I went to San Francisco.  He’s FULL ON expression, all the time!  And because I could see my greatest desire in him – to express without fear – I loved him and was able to join with him in the spirit of that love.

Furthermore, as I’ve continued to inquire into my desire to express, I’ve used the population at large as an experiment group.  One day, my question was: How honest can I really be with my customers at work?  All day long, I allowed myself to say whatever was on my mind – even if it was, in my opinion, rather rude, and, in the past, I would’ve censored it.  Surprisingly, I learned that people could take all kinds of honesty – and even seemed to appreciate it – as long as it was said with an attitude of humour, a tease, or a wink-wink, nudge-nudge.  Then, it didn’t come across as rude, it was funny instead, and a shared ‘truth-joke’ between us.  My experiment failed only when my statements were fuelled with a sour attitude, a judgement of the other person, or anger used to defend and attack.  Then I was belittling, or patronizing, and it was no fun at all.  I judged myself most harshly when I made the mistake, felt horribly guilty, and expected to be punished.  I wasn’t punished, thank God, but I had to move quickly into forgiveness to restore the situation, and I learned that no one is ever fooled with the underlying intention – particularly myself.  Acting shmackting!

And I started to ask: what does it really mean to express myself?  Does it require a particular form?  If I’m walking, talking, moving, thinking, drawing, singing, working, doing dishes or shovelling shit – am I not always expressing myself???  I listened to an Adyashanti radio show where Mukti (his wife, also a spiritual teacher) said, “We meditate to express ourselves.”  I had never thought of meditation in this way before!  Could I be ‘expressing myself’ in meditation?  Well… not if it’s only FEAR that’s allowed!  That’s the nothing – the black wall – that I’ve experienced within.  I’ve been afraid of myself!!!  I’m blocking myself!!!  From what I really want!!!  ARRRRRGH!!!

– Now I see why I kept manifesting painful pimples around my mouth.  I felt guilty that I wasn’t participating in the ego story: that I be an actor (or artist, or rock star, etc.) – and then I’ll be great and famous – and then people will love me – and then I’ll feel loved and be happy.  I was fixated on a particular and preferred, but also very limited, ‘form’ of expression – and when I participated in activities that haven’t perfectly matched that form, I felt guilty and punished myself with pimples.  I felt envious of the creative expression of others (also in particular forms)… and punished myself with pimples.  The bottom line, of course, is that I’ve been denying expression that could’ve been going on all the time, regardless of form.  Also, I’ve been more interested in ‘getting’ a particular outcome (ultimately, love) than I’ve been in the expression itself.  Which – paradoxically – can only come from a natural extension of our truth – being LOVE.  Haha!  Twisted!

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What if… I open my mind… and remove all limited ideas of a particular form or activity for my life?  What if I allow my burning desire to express, allow it to arise from the depths of my guts, and ask it how IT wants to move?  In THIS moment?

What if I follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole?

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Reversing Effect & Cause – INTERACTIVE Video

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 22, 2013

Here’s my latest video creation – an INTERACTIVE video.  YOU choose how you want the story to go!

I began with an interest in exploring cause and effect ideas from A Course in Miracles.  It was, simply, the topic that was showing up with the inspiration for a film.  I also wanted the project to be light, fun and easy to video.  The interactive aspect arose because I’ve always loved old school text adventure games, like Zork, and  the next generation graphic interface games, such as Myst.  For EVER, I’ve wanted to create something along those lines.

In my last post, I said that the project encompassed more sides of my abilities than I ever thought possible.   The plot, acting, filming, editing… sure… but then, as the simple 4 part story expanded to 22 parts (ACK!), I referred to my past programming experience to flow chart the scenes.  It’s been a long time since I put on my programmers thinking cap!  But it was SO MUCH FUN!  I forgot how much I love solving logic problems!

I don’t claim to have ‘figured out’ the ACIM passages I contemplated for the film.  I looked long and hard at:

  • Chapter 2: The Separation and the Atonement, VII. Cause and Effect, and
  • Chapter 28: the Undoing of Fear, II. Reversing Effect and Cause

I got a few extra tips from David Hoffmeister and Adyashanti along the way too.  (I love how the dream witnesses to whatever’s bouncing around in consciousness.  It was apropos for the project, that’s for sure!)

As far as I can understand the theory:  the ego view is that there’s something that happens out in the world that’s interpreted as a ’cause’, and then a correlating reaction – emotions, thoughts, etc. –  that would be the ‘effect’.  Reversing the ego viewpoint for the Holy Spirit view would recognize the ’cause’ as the MIND (fear thoughts or love thoughts) and the ‘effect’ as the witness (to fear or love) that’s projected out to the world.   So this is the understanding I worked with in the film.

The Course also says:

Actually, ‘Cause’ is a term properly belonging to God, and His ‘Effect’ is His Son. 

This is, currently, outside of my experience.  I include this quote in the film, because it’s such a clear, absolute statement, and somewhat startling to the ego, but I doubt one could develop much of a story around it.   That, or it would be a very different film from the one I made.  Haha!

So, here it is!  Click the link below, watch, click your choices in each section, and enjoy the journey!  (And keep an eye out for the hidden Easter egg too!)

Oh, one other thing – you can’t use the links from your tablet or phone – they only work on your PC or laptop. Sorry!

http://youtu.be/bHJe0IXS9Yw

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Inspiration

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 11, 2013

Where does inspiration come from?

Have you ever thought to ask?

Yesterday, I rearranged a few things in the store where I work.  Inspiration struck me an hour before the end of my shift, and even as I finished the arrangement, I knew the idea wasn’t entirely complete.  Perhaps my co-worker would add to it and make it better.  Or perhaps we could discuss the idea the next day and discover where to go with it.  Yet, as I walked home, I felt that it was more likely the changes would be disapproved and my work would be changed back.  It was just a question of how long it would take.

This morning I arrived for my shift and it was already reversed.  My idea didn’t even live a day before it was killed!  Squashed like a bug before it even had a chance to breathe!  AAARGH!

It was funny, because I knew it would happen.  Yet, at the same time, I was angry and hurt.  I blamed my co-worker.  I wanted to point out how, regularly, I’d compliment her ideas, and even when I didn’t entirely appreciate her contribution, I wouldn’t consider invalidating her creativity by (how RUDE!) reversing her work!  Still, as a student of A Course in Miracles, I eventually opened my mind and asked to see the situation differently.

Since it was an ‘idea’ that I thought was rejected, I asked, is the idea MINE?  Do I POSSESS this thing called an ‘idea’?  Where did the idea come from?  Did I make it?  The idea came from inspiration… where does ‘inspiration’ come from?  Did I make that?

I had to laugh.  No, of course I don’t make inspiration.  God makes inspiration.  That’s why God is Cause and why I’m an effect.  I receive inspiration and act on it.  Is it up to me what happens after I act on an inspiration?  Does it matter if my co-worker dislikes it?  Is it up to me what the outcome is?  Do I know what God planned when the inspiration was given?  Do I think I’m ‘specially’ valued by God (the Authority) when an inspiration is bestowed upon me?  Do I think I’m devalued if a ‘special’ inspiration is bestowed upon someone else?

By invalidating my idea, I felt that my co-worker was invalidating ‘me’.  That I’m not welcome to participate in the store and that she doesn’t care about me.   Hmmm… this thought of “others not caring about me” has been a common theme lately, particularly when it’s an ‘authority’ (she’s an elder) who doesn’t seem to care.

If I want an authority figure to care, what I really want is for the ultimate Authority, God, to care.  And to SHOW me He cares.  How?  By treating me SPECIAL.  I want to be loved SPECIALLY.  Could an all loving God love anyone SPECIALLY?   My studies say that God loves all EQUALLY.   Yet my mind – being what the personal mind is, swinging always between extremes – thinks, “Well, if You won’t love me specially, then I must be totally unlovable.”

… and thus, I create a witness to my belief who will treat me carelessly (my co-worker).  So I can justify my unlovable belief and be RIGHT.  So I can make someone else the bad guy.  What?  Who me?  No, I didn’t think of myself as unlovable – it was HER!

The co-worker’s rejection of my idea, as a rejection of ‘me’, is much like how I’ve rejected my Self.  Specifically, the parts of my Self that I don’t like… like ideas I’ve had in the past that were BAD ideas.  Am I an idea?  How can I expect to be a whole, lovable being, if I’m constantly dividing myself into parts!?  This part’s good, and lovable, but this part’s bad, and unlovable.  Geesh!  Nuts!

Also, if I think others aren’t caring about me, am I caring about them?  Is one lovable, while another one isn’t?  Is one only lovable when they do something particular to show me they’re worthy of my appreciation?  By what standard do I judge that?

These are important questions.

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Puttin’ it on the Table

Posted by Amanda Gray on May 7, 2011

I imagine that my life is like a table.  It’s a grand, long table, laden, as if with a glorious feast.  The feast includes all the various ingredients of my experience.  There are little spice shakers on the table, like my salty thoughts and peppery feelings.  There are the more robust dishes of my past experiences, like my formal education, my relationships, where I’ve lived, and jobs I’ve held.  There are elegant plates of my esteemed spiritual teachers and stacks of tasty books about enlightenment.  There are bowls of adventures and cute anecdotes and epic dramas.  Like juicy fruits, there are pets, movies, novels, and TV shows.  There are golden singing pastas of beauty and there are ugly, squeaky monsters of raw liver.  The ingredients I appreciate the most are closest to the place at which I sit, and the ingredients I value less are on the far side.

I look over this vast, overwhelming table and wonder how to include others at the feast.  I walk a very fine line as I consider what ingredients to introduce to you.  What makes the most appealing arrangement of dishes?  I don’t want to take anything entirely off the table.  I don’t want to make hard and fast rules that will limit our conversation.  Nor do I want to regurgitate what another is saying, or has said, somewhere else.  This task is about expressing my own, unique voice.  What is my unique voice?  Does it defy definition?  Is it something that can only be found in the expression itself?  What is it that wants to express?  I have to take care that I don’t generalize and merely skim the surface of the expression, and yet, while asking deeply esoteric questions, I must also be careful that I don’t get stuck in a merry-go-round of impenetrable concepts.

One word forward and three words back… conga line!  Oh no, now I’m mixing metaphors.  It makes me think of that scene in Beetlejuice where everyone is mechanically dancing to the Banana Boat song in the dining room.  Once they stop resisting, they enjoy themselves.  It’s a good reminder for me to lighten up, have fun and just let it happen.  Well, it’s not easy, but OK.  Daaaay – O!

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