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Posts Tagged ‘Self’

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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Giving Myself Permission

Posted by Amanda Gray on October 27, 2013

It happened while I was watching the movie Flowers of War.  A scene with Christian Bale, dressed as a Catholic priest, telling a prostitute that he loves her, all of her, even, what might be considered, her shameful history.  Apparently, it was what I needed to hear too.  My heart filled with tenderness and love for these people – these actors – who I suddenly understood.  They might be wearing costumes, have various sets of ideas upon which they acted, but, beneath these affectations, there was a core that was – or at least, could be – REAL.  I saw that the actors power lay not in the affectations of personality, in the form of their bodies, or, even in the words they spoke, but in the very LIFE that flowed through them, and in the transmission of universal truth: the greatest unconditional love and acceptance – beyond any of our mere human imagining.

In that moment, I knew that I loved myself in this way, and I remembered that I once was, and could be again, that kind of actor.  I just had to give myself permission.  Whew!  A burden that I barely knew I was carrying, suddenly fell off.  I realized that I was holding an idea that, as an actor, I was fake, a liar, and a manipulator that merely used acting to get attention.  It may have been true in my past, when I was an actor-beggar: empty within, my hands reaching, folded like a cup, and begging anyone who passed to see me, recognize me… LOVE me!  But, like an addiction, no amount of attention was ever enough.  Thus my odyssey to depart entirely from the actor’s profession and ‘find myself’.

And so, thirteen years later, but suddenly, in an instant, I knew I was FOUND.  No longer empty, I was FULL inside – there WAS something REAL within – and, whatever this ‘energy’ was, it wanted to EXTEND itself.  What had changed?  I had simply forgiven myself.  I had never been fake, or a liar.  I had simply been wearing the clothes of illusion, as we all do in this human drama.  Yet, even as the clothes change, the ideas of ourselves shift, the conditions of our lives weather, what we truly ARE stays the same.  It’s the foundation, the rock, that can be trusted and built upon.

So, I began to gather myself for a comeback. Yes, I could be an actor again, and pursue this creative activity that I had always loved.  As much as I had tried, I could never truly deny this part of myself anyway, and it was only painful to suppress.  And, yes, I could, and wanted to, share this gift, this inner wealth and joy, with others.  I gave myself full permission and began to read plays, learn new monologues, lose weight, exercise, and practice singing.  I signed up for an improv class (starting next month).  I contacted a few agents.  I had a ton of renewed energy.  I truly valued myself again. My life had new meaning.

And it still does – it’s not in the past tense – but – I can’t just leave it alone and let it happen, I have to keep questioning it – am I falling into an ego trap?  Am I still just trying to use this ‘costume’ to get attention, to be different and special?

Then I started to notice what’s been inspiring me more recently: Russell Brand in various YouTube videos: unscripted words and ideas flowing out of his mouth like grand tapestries, his mind constantly exploding like a nuclear reactor!  And he’s much like my friend, Benjamin Smyth, in San Francisco – full on, no holds barred, anyplace and anytime, EXPRESSION! And also like David Bowie in his early years – an alien, a man from Mars – a shifting, diaphanous mystery! And they’re all much like the improvisers that I know and love (and still regularly dream about) in my home town. Ultimately, these people don’t require a script, or a stage, or a film set, or permission from anyone to express themselves – they just DO.  And they DO like they couldn’t stop themselves if they tried!

And I’ve been experimenting with these ideas in my own life – wherever I find myself: what if I just opened my mind and my

Kabuki Warrior

A creative disguise!

mouth and just SAID whatever was there?  Without editing myself?  Without judging it before it even has a chance?  And, what I’m learning is that amazing things are coming out – silly things – funny things – shocking things – but they’re all a thrill to witness and, surprise surprise, that others seem to really enjoy them too!  They’re not offended.  They don’t hate me.  They don’t want to kill me.  And I’m learning that my ideas aren’t insipid or meaningless, in fact, in the natural flow, they don’t ‘belong’ to ‘me’ at all!

In college, my classmates presented me with the “Story for All Occasions” award.  I’m sure they meant well, but I felt ashamed by it, ashamed of my predilection to incessantly talk about myself.  And so, I began to hold the idea that my natural expression was wrong, too excessive, or that there was nothing good or important in it.  Ultimately, I began to believe that I “had nothing to say.”  I began to move further and further away from natural expression:  I stopped doing improv and decided that I could only perform with a script; I stopped performing on stage and decided I could only do film; I stopped acting entirely and decided I had nothing creative to offer.  See, stepping back and closing off with greater and greater amounts of self editing.

Today I see that I don’t have to edit anymore, and I won’t.  That I don’t need a particular place or form, or anyone else’s permission to be and express myself. I don’t even have to call myself an ‘actor’.  There’s no difference between a stage, or a grocery store, or a street corner – I can BE what I am, fully, without conceit, and without shame, anywhere and anytime.  LIFE lives though me right NOW!  And it’s beautiful and magnificent and unfathomable – and rude, and loud, and shocking, and funny, and mischievous, and loving – and anything else that can (or can’t) be imagined!  And it’s ALL OK!!!  What it isn’t – is boring or predictable!

And that’s, most definitely, what I want, cherish and LOVE most!  Full on.  All in.  AMEN.

________________________________________________________

Post Script:  I notice that this post is almost exactly like the last (Follow the White Rabbit).   Strange.  Early onset Alzheimers?   A manifestation of ‘expression’ anxiety?  I don’t know.  I’ll just forgive myself for the silly repetition.  It begs the question: How can I be truly expressive if I’m merely regurgitating the past?

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Acceleration

Posted by Amanda Gray on April 19, 2012

Zippy! Zoom!

It’s a common idea among spiritual students, at least the ones in my circle, that a retreat begins the moment one commits to it.  This has certainly been the case before I’ve gone on retreats in the past and it’s been particularly noticeable for the past few months since I decided to attend a retreat that will begin in two weeks.  My lessons have accelerated and deepened.  There haven’t been the kind of startling revelations that usually inspire me to write a blog post, but it’s more like I’m swimming in this gentle pool of ideas that are shifting, swirling, inviting, welcoming.

The first thing that’s been going on is that I’m looking closer at my sleeping dreams and my waking dreams, and rather than examining the details of a particular dream, I’m considering the activity of dreaming as a whole.  One of the things I learned early on about my night dreams, is that when I was lucid, I seemed to have the capacity to “change the channel” of the dream, but I had no control of what would occur on the next “channel”, nor was I able (except once) to stop dreaming and wake up.  This is similar to my experience in waking dreams (the ‘real’ world) in that I can make a decision to change my life situation – a new place to live, a new job, a bigger house, a different boyfriend, etc. – but I can’t predict the outcome of that decision, nor, no matter how much I try, can I stop the dream from continuing.  Every time I open my eyes from a sleeping dream, a waking dream begins.  Therefore, dreaming, as a whole, is an activity that seems to proceed outside of my control.

This morning, upon waking from my sleeping dream, a thought arose: I’m still believing that I’m the hero of the dream.  Usually, my sleeping dreams revolve around the central character of “me”.  I might be an observer of the dream, like watching a movie where the activities of the characters have no effect on the “me” character, or I might be a participant in the dream, where the activities strongly affect the “me” and provoke the “me” to feel things and act in various ways.  There’s almost always a sense of urgency in the dreams in which the “me” is a participant, and fear is often the central emotion.  Sometimes, the observer “me” is outside of the body I would normally recognize as myself. 

Comparing this experience with my waking dreams, it’s very similar.  In the ‘real’ world, I identify myself with this body – mostly inside this body, but, on occasion, outside it – and the activities in my life situation provoke various feelings and actions. I can choose to stand back and observe the world or I can get involved as a participant.  In both dreams, waking or sleeping, I’m the hero.  No matter what happens to the other characters in the dream, I only care what happens to the “me” character.  I want only positive situations and pleasurable feelings to happen to the “me” character, and I act defensively if negative situations, or uncomfortable feelings, are happening to the “me”.

Which brings me to another idea that’s been shifting around in my consciousness: competition.  I never considered myself a particularly competitive person.  I’m not interested in sports or games, nor do I care who wins or loses in these types of situations.  Yet, if two pieces of pie were being served in a restaurant and I received a tiny piece, while someone else received a gigantic piece, I would be steaming mad!  If someone buds in front of me in a line, I would openly complain and verbally attack them.  Why is this?  Because I feel attached to this particular body, as the hero of the story, and I compete with others to ensure this body’s (perceived) gains and defend against its (perceived) losses.  The competitive feelings arise when I’m making a comparison of two things and perceive that something unfair is occurring.  If, instead, I realize that this body is no different from that body, that both are meaningless forms in a meaningless dream, then all impulse to separate, individuate, and compete is meaningless too.

Which then brings me to the idea: I must think I can create myself.  A few weeks ago, I was thinking about the beginning of my spiritual search 10 years ago when I completely abandoned my acting career. For some reason, at the time, I decided that acting and spirituality were incompatible and I totally tossed the baby out with the bath water.  For 10 years, while I focused on the self-concept of “spiritual seeker”, I rejected the self-concept of “actor”.   So I realized that there was a huge, for lack of a better way to express it, actor “energy” that I had been repressing.  I can’t help but notice that the repression of this energy in my waking life merely pushed it to express itself regularly in my sleeping dreams (see A Night at the Improv).  Reclaiming the actor energy, I experienced a strong desire to act again… specifically, to do improv.  Shortly following, I received a very clear instruction to put together an improv workshop in my town and invite one of my improv friends to come and teach it. 

I immediately set about all the preparations – renting a space at the school, placing advertisements in the local paper, hanging up posters – and the workshop is supposed to take place two days from today… except that… no students have called to register.  Huh.  Well.  That’s disappointing.  Why would spirit instruct me to set up this workshop, if it’s not beneficial for others to participate in?  Was I mistaken with the instruction?  Finally I asked spirit to help me see the situation differently. 

I realized that I was just attaching myself to self-concept again and that I needed to see beyond the borders of ALL self-concept.  A self-concept reflects the desire to create oneself in a particular image.  Which means that I must first believe that I CAN create myself… attaching myself to this particular body, defining what I want it to do, and then creating a situation that will satisfy whatever objective I defined.  Creating self also means I must assume the boundaries and limitations of my specificity, as it excludes other possibilities.  What happens if I take off all the boundaries?  What happens if I don’t call myself a “spiritual seeker,” or an “actor,” or a “body,” or even think of myself as the “hero” of the story?

Was the workshop arranged solely for the purpose of my awakening?  Was it a dream arranged only so I could recognize my faulty idea of self?  So I could see that I’m not inside the “idea” of “me”… or even “inside” the “me” character… or even “inside” a dream?

The dream continues… but if I’m not the hero of the dream, what am I?

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How do I Live an Authentic Life?

Posted by Amanda Gray on July 6, 2011

A Course in Miracles, Text, page 550:

Nothing you undertake with certain purpose and high resolve and happy confidence, holding your brother’s hand and keeping up to Heaven’s song, is difficult to do. But it is hard indeed to wander off, alone and miserable, down a road that leads to nothing and that has no purpose.

The past ten years of my life has been primarily characterized by a single goal of enlightenment, and it’s ‘process’ of separating the meaningful from the meaningless, the truth from illusion. I live for this work. I love this work. In the quote above: Nothing you undertake with certain purpose and high resolve and happy confidence, holding your brother’s hand and keeping up to Heaven’s song, is difficult to do. That’s how I feel when I’m meditating, or when I’m contemplating/praying about a stressful event from my day, or when I’m at a spiritual group meeting, or when I’m attending a retreat. Essentially, when I feel closest to spirit. The second part of the quote has characterized, pretty much, the rest of my life: But it is hard indeed to wander off, alone and miserable, down a road that leads to nothing and that has no purpose. Certainly, I’ve lived enough for three lifetimes, but it’s been, almost entirely, dissatisfying! I’ve done everything I can think of to do. Do, do, do. Learn, learn, learn. For what? I’m in the same place. I never ‘went’ anywhere. I never ‘got’ anything.

While the ego does an amazing job of substitution, it’s incapable of real and lasting love, peace or joy. Its selfishness, greed, hatred, and destruction are its only foundations, built entirely on shaky ground, but while these qualities are cherished, they can block the truth of the underlying Self. I have chased egoic illusions in the world, thinking that I could find the truth in the ‘right’ job, or the ‘right’ teaching, live in the ‘right’ place, or that the ‘right’ person could give me the ‘right’ answer. There has been no purpose to these wanderings and they have always ended painfully, just to shift again to a new, but similarly unsatisfactory situation. Will I continue to believe there’s someone out there who can tell me how to BE? That’s crazy!

I will not go one more step forward in the world to mis-create more suffering for myself and others. I will stop now and do the consciousness work that must be done. I feel that I’m at a major juncture and the choices I make now are crucial. I can continue with meaninglessness – taking ‘safe’ jobs and barely scraping by in poverty, mediocrity, and apathy – or I can, for the first time in ten years, define what is meaningful to me. If I’m ever going to take the risk of being myself, now is a very good time. If I set a true, meaningful goal now, then I can move forward with complete certainty. I’ll be able to disregard all thoughts of ‘getting’ something from the world and from others, and focus instead on what I have to give to them. I’m asking: what is my gift of true giving? How do I live an authentic life? How may I serve?

Adyashanti often asks his students, “What do you know that you don’t really want to know?” Right now, I would answer that I suspect I’ll go back on stage. I’m afraid of it, though, and when I think about performing, I feel a kind of ‘evil temptation’ with it. A mischievous smile will play at the corner of my lips, and it’s somehow associated with ‘acting’ and with ‘lies’.The Compassionate Samurai

I’ve been reading the book, The Compassionate Samurai by Brian Klemmer.

This stood out on page 83:

A person may become accustomed to telling people what he thinks they want to hear. When he does this, he’s really hiding. He’s not only hiding the total truth, but he’s also hiding a piece of himself that he really doesn’t want others to know.

Yes, that’s what comes from that ‘actor’ self – the ‘evil temptation’ to lie about myself – yet another part of me must have been aware of the lie and allowed it. If my higher self never stepped in to ‘save me’, it’s only because I never invited it to. Anyway, whatever’s being held back, it’s something that’s ‘bigger’ than the little egoic me, bigger than I’m comfortable with.

I quit acting ten years ago because I didn’t want to play a part anymore. I wanted to be myself. This time, I won’t go on stage hiding behind a role, promoting a fantasy, or speaking the words of another, I’ll be my Self and I’ll share the true gifts of my unique being. How? I don’t know. It’s not challenging to come up with ideas, I have a million, but what’s challenging is to pick one and stick to it. I often lose the motivation for an idea when I think about how much work is involved. Or how much I’d have to do by myself. Or how much it’ll cost. Sometimes I just hit this wall of “I can’t”. It’s almost like, if it’s something I really want… I can’t. Why can’t I? What am I so inspired by that I won’t lose motivation or energy for it overnight? What’s truly worth doing?

I recognize that, recently, my desire for spirit – to know myself, truth and God – has made me neglect and eschew my practical responsibilities. I’ve attempted to separate spirit from the world, but, yeah, I know it’s a mistake. Although I might wish it to be, enlightenment is not an ‘escape’ from the world. It’s true that in spiritual work, it’s necessary to surrender attachments and desires, but it’s also necessary to surrender resistances, and as long as I’m resisting mundane worldly experience – the action of love in the world – I’m missing half of the story. I’m missing “the forest for the trees.” I’ve been obtusely fixated on finding the ‘right’ tree (job). What qualities would make a ‘right’ tree anyway? The type of tree, or the shape of its boughs, or the colour of its foliage? Will the ‘right’ tree make me perfectly happy? No, I just set myself up for failure as I immediately focus on what’s wrong with each tree. Darting from tree to tree, I’m confused by the content of myriad details, and I miss the context of the fantastic forest around me – of wildlife, plants, flowers, insects, and rainbows. I put undue pressure on myself to find the ‘right’ tree, when I might just need to lean against a tree that’s right, for right now, and enjoy the moment in the woods.

I also see that I’ve got to quit trying to be perfect all the time. This is probably why I’ve been regularly haunted by a feeling of ‘impending doom’ at work. The doom is when everyone finds out that I’m a fake, that I’m not perfect, and that I’m pretending to be interested what I’m doing. I’ve taken work for the past ten years, almost solely on the basis of it being ‘safe’. Well, that’s over, I can’t choose that way anymore. I can’t force interest anymore. I’m no longer motivated by money, or position, or by being liked; I’m only motivated by something within me that says, “Yeah, this looks like fun. I want to participate in this game with these people.”

On page 71 of The Compassionate Samurai, Brian says:

When you live with death in mind, you’re not trying to preserve your life and simply survive, because you know it’s a lost cause. You play full-out because you don’t have anything to lose.

That’s a massive paradigm shift for me! Yes, I have merely tried to preserve my life, doing as little as I can, playing it safe. I used death as an excuse: if I’m only going to die anyway, why bother doing anything? But Brian clearly explains that death doesn’t have to be an excuse for a living death, it can be the reason for a full, passionate life.

Fascinating. These have all been awesome lessons.

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Big Secrets and Professional Help

Posted by Amanda Gray on June 29, 2011

Yesterday, I went to a psychiatrist. I finally admitted to myself that I’m stuck, terrified, living, pretty much, like I’m dead, and that I need serious, professional help. The more I try to think about my life, the more the thoughts spin in predictable loops and result in further confusion, indecision, resistance and anxiety.

The psychiatrist, Pat, was nice enough. She warned me that she might say some things I wouldn’t like, and while I was sure that I wanted that, she did succeed in challenging me in a way I didn’t expect. I explained to her that I’m particularly frustrated in my work experience, and that I keep finding myself in jobs that press all my anxiety buttons and eventually lead to my resignation. I told her that I would prefer to stay unemployed at this time in order to figure out what I really want to do. She suggested that any job would be better than no job. I didn’t like that. Any job? Inflict my insanity upon poor, defenceless employers and co-workers? So far, I’ve been good at quitting with notice before any major disaster, but taking a job while I’m so stressed could easily lead to being fired. That wouldn’t be helpful. True, it isn’t necessary to project the past onto the future, but without a plan or a goal up front, before I act, just sets me up for the same old story. The cycle starts and ends with me. That’s where I’m willing and ready to address the problem. But to take any job… well, that’s what I’ve already done for 10 years and I’m confident that it’s not working for me or anyone else. More accurately, any job, I can take… a job – a LIFE – that I might want and care about… well, that’s why I need a psychiatrist. On the other hand, perhaps a solid ‘Suck it up, Princess,’ is more applicable than I’d prefer to admit.

Ah, now you see, this is why I shouldn’t think too much. I swing too wildly between extremes! My Course in Miracles lesson had good advice about that this morning: Lesson 4: This thought about _____ does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this room, [on this street, out this window, etc.]. Whew. Ok. That helps.

Interestingly, the night before my psychiatrist appointment, I realized that there’s a deep ego need to get ‘the right answer’. So, in my session with Pat, I noticed that I kept making statements followed by asking her, “Right?” She was great; she never fell into the game. Is there ever a ‘right’ answer? Can another person, whatever their credentials or enlightenment, ever give the ‘right’ answer to me? Truly, a psychiatrist isn’t supposed to give answers, they’re supposed to help one find the answers for themselves.

Pat gave me an assignment that I didn’t like initially as well. She wants me to write an essay about who I am, right now. I balked, “Yeah, well, the short answer is that I don’t know.” She suggested that I might need to return to the dreams and desires I had in adolescence. Like my desire to get famous? Ha! That was a retarded motivation then, and it would be an even more retarded motivation now. Finally, I conceded that there were a few interests I developed more recently, and that I could write about. Yes, I can admit, while there may be deep holes in what I know about who I am right now, there are a few things I’m clear about. I see that the ego likes to make blanket statements like “I know” or “I don’t know,” keeping to extreme points of view, but it’s more balanced and reasonable to admit that I know some things and I don’t know other things.

So, I’ll write the essay. I’ll write from a stream of consciousness instead of thinking about it too much. Funny, I would never have imagined that a simple writing assignment could rattle me. I used to be so good at feeling the fear and doing it anyway! After all, in my teens, I skydived – not just once – but three times! I used to be fearless! I used to be enthusiastic and ALIVE! What’s happened to me???

This morning, I watched a highly inspiring TEDxSinCity video. It’s by a white South-African man, Bruce Muzik, who tells his big secret to the world – that he’s a racist. He says that it’s the secrets we hold onto that limit us, and that when we reveal our secrets, we release ourselves back to life, to ALIVEness. I agree with him, and I had to consider: Do I have any secrets? What would I still keep hidden from others? Is there something I’m still ashamed of?

Well… there is something that I was hoping to share with the psychiatrist yesterday, but she seemed more interested in staying firmly in the present. Perhaps that’s appropriate to her function – or for our first session, anyway. I’ve spoken about my big secret, in general terms, with my Mom and a few close friends, but I’m not sure I revealed the details that I’m most ashamed of. It’s also possible that writing about it won’t be enough, because it has to do with my mouth and speaking. Must I yet speak the details aloud?

Last week, it arose that I feared and felt ashamed about my ‘mistakes’ – mistakes I made in the past, as well as mistakes I fear to make in the future. I also saw that this was how I most commonly judged others, based on what I perceived to be their ‘mistakes’. It’s also related to the ‘looming disaster’ that I think will happen at work. What if I make a mistake that can’t be fixed, one that I’ll have to feel guilty about – forever? Yes, I have experience with that kind of mistake and that kind of guilt. There’s a particular mistake that comes to mind. One that I made when I was a child.

I’m getting a bit of a headache. Do I dare tell you? How do I put it delicately? Will you hate me? Will you be disgusted with me? Could you love and forgive me, even though I haven’t been able to love and forgive myself?

I was nine years old. It happened in the summer, between grades 6 and 7. My parents dropped me off to stay the weekend with a classmate, Joanne. Joanne had two older brothers who were about 16 and 17 years old, and, for whatever reason, Joanne and I were left alone in their custody. I’m sure there were adults around, at some point, but I don’t remember them.

The memories I did retain, and further memories that I recovered a few years ago, are jumbled. I don’t know the order of events, but I know that, at first, I was a willing participant. A child’s normal curiosity. A child’s normal innocence and trust. We played hide and seek. We played rock music and danced. They asked me questions and paid a lot of attention to me. I felt powerful and sexy.

I thought we were having fun. The enormity of my mistake became clear when I entered the boy’s basement bedroom and saw the younger boy sitting on the bed, holding a jack-knife, threateningly. He ordered me to take off my clothes. “No.” I answered defiantly, but a knot of fear twisted in my gut. Oops.

I was forced to give the older boy a blow job. I still feel the knife blade pressed up under my arm. “Don’t use your teeth,” the younger boy instructed. I still feel the pain in my jaw as I became tired and pulled away. “No, no, you can’t stop!” they insisted. I still remember the rancid smell of his crotch as I closed my eyes and submitted. I still remember my shock and surprise as he exploded in my mouth. They laughed as I spit out his spunk with disgust, “I didn’t know it would do that!” I complained. My chin was a sticky mess and they didn’t let me wash it off. It irritated and itched as it dried.

There were other tortures, far worse ones.  There was, at least, a whole day and a whole night of entertainments in their exclusive company. I’m sure that most are better left unremembered and untold. Yet, I’ve told you the ‘secret’. The secret of my dirty, disgusting mouth.

On the second day, the younger boy threatened me again, “Don’t you ever tell anyone about this!” I shook my head, crying, “No, I won’t. I won’t say anything.” I kept my promise to him. Even when he was charged with rape later the same year and my Mom asked if anything had happened while I was there. I said no. I lied to her. I kept my promise to him, though, through my whole life, particularly in ways that couldn’t be anticipated. Perhaps it’s why I’ve always preferred to write about myself instead of speaking aloud. It’s also perhaps why I’m particularly inarticulate if I’m asked to defend myself. My facial expression is often tight-lipped, and I’ve recently developed a relentless circle of acne around my mouth – a constant reminder of my ‘dirty’ face. Also recently, I discovered that I’m allergic to dairy. Hmmm… yes, milk, yoghurt and cheese are similar to the consistency of spunk. Dairy, as a symbol, isn’t lost on me either: denial of pleasure (dairy is a pleasure food), denial of nurturing (mother’s milk), and, by extension, denial of self-love.

If I was subconsciously keeping the promise I made that day, you might very well ask how I performed as an actress and spoke before large audiences on a regular basis. Yes, well, I was always fine if I was playing a part or speaking from a script. Speaking for myself – no, that was my limitation. As much as I was subconsciously compelled to keep silent, I was also compelled by the opposite extreme, to be heard. Also, I had repressed the trauma throughout those years. My more recent commitment to the Self and its full realization brought those memories to the surface, along with the concomitant fear, guilt, shame, hurt, and various bizarre physical maladies, in order to be expressed, accepted, forgiven and released. It sucks, but that’s how it works. When it’s at the worst, I remember that it’s what I knowingly signed up for, and I’m grateful to finally shed it.  It has no control when it’s in the open.  It has ALL control when it’s kept hidden.

My grade 6 class photo is of a thin, beautiful, sparkling eyed, and broadly beaming girl. In grade 7, she’s fat, with reddish cheeks, and a tight, closed mouth. The light has gone out of her eyes. I found a diary entry from that time that could be related: “The more I think about you-know-what, the more I hate myself.” A lifelong suffering of migraine headaches, including sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting, began around the same time. My regular punishment and crucifixion, inflicted by subconscious guilt and self-hatred.

So that’s it. That’s my biggest, most shameful secret. Was it helpful to reveal it? Well, my body is now warm with kundalini energy, and I feel somewhat relieved. My forehead and neck still feel a bit tight, but not painful. It wasn’t so bad to tell. In writing, anyway.

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A Night at the Improv

Posted by Amanda Gray on June 8, 2011

Act I

I’ve been on retreat as much as possible this week. On Monday, June 6, I experienced a lot of generalized anxiety throughout the day, although it abated in meditation. As I got into bed that night, I addressed the anxiety. I asked it:

What are you afraid of?

It answered:

I’m afraid of myself.

Hmmm… that didn’t make any sense to me. Perhaps I heard wrong, or asked the wrong question. I tried asking different questions, but I was only getting confused, so I gave up and went to sleep. Around two in the morning, I woke suddenly with the thought:

…because I did it to myself.

Then I understood (speaking as the fear/ego):

I’m afraid of myself because I did this to myself – but I don’t know how I did it and I don’t know how to stop doing it.

I got up, wrote in my diary for a while, and went back to bed.

Act II

In the morning, I woke from a significant dream:

  1. It’s afternoon, and I’m visiting the Varscona Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta. I meet The Improviser Guy and we chat for a bit. Suddenly, he has a big idea and asks if he could use me in his improv skit that evening. I agree. He says that we need a third person, and runs off. He returns shortly with another talented actor, I’ll call him ‘George’, who asks me why we chose him to work with. I tell him enthusiastically, “You were hand picked, baby!”
  2. It’s evening and the actors are gathering at the theatre for the Improv show. I meet The Improv Guy downstairs and sit next to him at a long table. I whisper something in his ear. His wife suddenly comes around the corner. She lunges in, sits down almost on top of me, and asks jealously, “Do you even know who his two favourite teachers from school were?” I genuinely want to assure her that I have no designs, whatsoever, on her husband. I reply, “No, I have no idea. Really, I never listened to a word he said when we went out.” The Improv Guy is completely unconcerned with the interaction between his wife and I.
  3. It’s time for the show, and the actors line up backstage in order of their skits. I stand anxiously with The Improv Guy. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any improv and I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it. I ask The Improv Guy how he wants to start. He says, “Just go onstage and walk around. Walk like you’ve been walking forever. Then I’ll come out.”
  4. There’s a family of guinea pigs backstage. They’re more like guinea ‘teddy bears’. The mom is taking care of her babies, licking them. I pet the mom guinea.

Interpretation:

  1. I’m at the improv. This means that I’m surrendering the idea that I should have some sort of script for my waking life and I’m willing to get involved in the moment-to-moment ‘improvisation’ of the journey again. ‘George’ is someone I did improv with, once upon a time. I had difficulty working with him, and I found myself regularly blocking his suggestions onstage. It was this experience, partially, at least, that led to a loss of confidence in my improv abilities. Ohhh… wait, I remember now… I was also angry with this guy for making me uncomfortable to attend the improv as an audience member. I haven’t attended a Theatre sports show since. So, it’s a forgiveness issue, and that’s why he was ‘hand picked’ for the ‘dream team’. (Sigh… letting that go now.)
  2. I understand that The Improv Guy character represents the ‘Holy Spirit’. The ‘me’ character in the dream is willing to work with him, so it means I’m interested and willing to work with the HS in my waking life. I understand that the wife character represents my ‘Shadow’ or ‘ego’ side. The ‘me’ character doesn’t have any meaningful relationship to the wife, so it indicates that, while I’m not preoccupied with the shadow-ego of my consciousness, I’m still sensitive to its various difficulties. The attitude shown here is one of compassion. In my experience, a dream shadow is usually annoying to the dream ‘me’ character, so it’s curious that this wasn’t the case in this dream. The shadow-wife thinks she loves the HS-husband, but really, she just wants to own and control him. She’s totally terrified of losing him and she immediately jumps to conclusions and projects guilt. It’s my understanding that a dream shadow character generally shows up to indicate aspects of self that have been repressed. So, I gather that there’s a desire to possess the HS and use it for selfish/narcissistic ends – or fears that it could happen. The dream puts the shadow-ego and the HS in a married relationship, which indicates a move in consciousness toward whole being. (The wife asks about ‘teachers’, but I’m not getting any specific understanding about that bit.)
  3. So, here’s the ‘me’, about to go onstage with The Improv Guy-Holy Spirit. I’m completely willing to go forward, even though he’s giving me very little guidance, I’m facing the complete unknown, and I’m worried that I’m not as capable as he thinks I am. I’m willing to face my fear and do it anyway! Gung HO! I’m also willing to play the ‘straight’ role, allowing the HS to swoop in, land all the punch lines, and get all the glory (indeed, as it should be). I’m told to ‘walk like I’ve been walking forever’. Well, that pretty much sums up most of my existence to this point, now, doesn’t it? Ha ha. Funny guy.
  4. About that guinea family… well, it was later discovered to be prophetic. During my day, I visited a pet store and, completely unexpectedly, got to pet some guinea pigs (one that was the exact colour of the one in the dream – reddish-brown) as well as petting a mom cat and her brand new litter of kittens. Awe! (Dreams have a tendency to moosh things together in weird ways.) But, see, that’s the thing with prophetic dreams, at least the ones I have – I don’t know they’re prophetic until the event plays out, and it’s usually rather meaningless anyway. So what’s the point of them? Hmmm… perhaps that’s a good question to pose to spirit.

So that’s an example of the way in which dreams can provide information into the development of conscious awareness. I didn’t make any effort to remember the dream, or to analyze it intellectually, I simply asked the HS to show the meaning to me. I sincerely love the truth and anytime I’m allowed to glimpse it, in whatever way, I’m extremely grateful and happy.

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My 2K Worth

Posted by Amanda Gray on May 23, 2011

After re-reading an old diary, I found my thoughts returning to old patterns.  Patterns that would try to convince me that I’m the same weak-willed, negative, depressed person I was back then.  I started to think about all the ways I used to give away my power:

  • I don’t know what I want, so I’ll just want whatever you want.
  • I can’t decide, so I’ll let you decide.
  • I’m afraid of control, so I’ll let you be in control (but I’ll hate you for it).
  • I can’t count on myself, so I better not let anyone else count on me.
  • I’ve been irresponsible in the past, so I better not accept any responsibility now, or I’ll just mess things up.
  • I’m not valuable and I have nothing of value to give.

The most influential woman in the world today is Lady Gaga.  But how does an ordinary girl become a Lady Gaga?  She tells us: I’m a Superstar and I was born this way, baby!  Ultimately, she believes in her Self!  She knows her own power.  She throws her Self into the ring, tangles with all those big music industry cats, and comes out the winner, because when a person knows what they really are – their immense power and strength – NO ONE can take it away.

Weak patterns of thinking (a.k.a. programming or ego) might convince me that I have to follow a limited social role, such as, women can’t be powerful, or a man must be in charge.  I might believe that how I dress defines what I am.  I’m taught to follow the rules and I don’t question them because I think they’re intended to provide reasonable boundaries of social order.  Yet, there are many rules I accept that have no purpose but to keep me limited and weak.  I MUST question these!

If I believe I’m weak and powerless, I’ll project that belief on the world, and the world will return every justification I need to keep believing it.  If I give my power to the world, the world will have all power over me.  If I think I only have 2 cents worth of value to give, then that’s all I’ll ever receive.

Lady Gaga tells her fans to believe in themselves.  Every shiny pair of eyes that look up to her really use her only as a ‘placeholder’ for their own power, beauty, and talent.  Just until they’re ready to remember that it was always theirs and take it back.

I own my power now, but I don’t own it alone.  It can’t be used selfishly.  True power can’t exist in a vacuum.   Power of the Self is only powerful when it’s shared with the whole of the Self.  And that means all the Superstars, everywhere, baby!  Put your paws up!

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Spiritual Teachers: Marc Baur

Posted by Amanda Gray on May 22, 2011

In the winter of 1999, I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia.  I was there to ‘get serious’ about my acting career.  It had been nine years since I’d completed a two year Musical Theatre Program and I had done very little performing in that time.  I decided that, in Vancouver, it was possible for an actor to make an actual living at their craft, even if it meant doing a lot of film extra work.  I considered extra work, somewhat, below my talent, but I was tired of taking random jobs to make a living, instead of doing what I really wanted to do, and did best.  So, after nine years of procrastination, I was finally ready to take my shot at the ‘big time’.

At this juncture, it’s important to note that I had almost no religious upbringing.  I went to church a few times as a child, but just enough to learn that I had a strong, innate, resistance to Christianity.  Rote rituals seemed entirely foolish to me.  Even basic Christian language, words like God, Jesus, or saviour, were intensely resisted.  I simply couldn’t trust people who claimed to know something about God because they read a book (the Bible).  Early on, I decided: since I didn’t know, myself, if there was a heaven or a hell, a God or a Devil, I would simply be good, to be on the safe side.  Still, I was never far away from the subject of spirituality in one way or another.  As a teen, I briefly explored Wicca and other occult teachings, but since they were equally focused on rituals, I quickly decided against them.  Spiritually speaking, I was drawn, most, and for a long period of time, to channelled material.  First, during my teen occult phase, to a book (that I – not such a ‘good’ girl at all – stole from a bookstore) about an entity contacted through a Ouija board, called Messages From Michael.  The material was far too esoteric for me at the time, but I eventually read it through, as well as the rest of the series by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro in my early 20’s.  Just previous to my move to Vancouver, I discovered the Kryon channelling.  I read the entire series and met the channel, Lee Carroll, twice in person.

So, there I was, spiritually fortified, and following my dream in heaven-on-Earth gorgeous, Vancouver, B.C.  The world was my oyster and I was the shiny pearl at it’s very heart!  I didn’t think I needed to learn anything further about acting, but a prospective talent agent encouraged me to take some classes.  Since my definitive objective was to work in the film industry, I conceded that some technique would help me shed my overly dramatic theatre style and make me more marketable.  I soon attended my first class in a small, run-down office building near West Broadway and Arbutus Street: the Marc Baur Studio.

On Wednesday, February 9, 2000, I wrote in my diary:

Went to Marc’s class.  It was a super experience. I did an exercise that was an important key for learning not to scatter my energies so much.  I learned that where I think I am is truly where I am, where acting is concerned.

What?  Oh dear.  I think I meant that I could believe that I was, indeed, a talented actor, and ready for a successful film career.

And, yes, I was successful.  I went to many auditions, got some unpaid independent film roles, and hung out frequently in the audience at the Vicki Gabereau show.  I also did a few paid gigs, as an extra, almost immediately, but it wasn’t consistent.  In order to have free day time for auditions, and a job to pay the bills, I worked a few night audit shifts every week at a colourful Granville gay hotel.  Within a few months, I procured fancy new resume shots, signed with a reputable talent agent, and I was thrilled that my career was going along, tickity-boo.

In October, I started a ‘Being Real’ class with Marc Baur.  On Wednesday the 18th, I write about the first class in my diary:

For 4 hours we did vulnerability exercises and, while it was exhausting, it was a terrific learning experience.  Marc had brought pumpkin pie and I had 3 slices!  After class, a bunch of us went out to a pub down the street and had wings, fries and gabbed.  I had a really good night!

Excellent.  Ah, but little did I know that I was headed for a big ‘Being Real’ crash’ola.  On October 25th, I wrote:

Class was ok.  I was too tired though.  I almost fell asleep during the first scene presented and then was way too nervous when I did my monologue.  I had a good ‘therapy’ session though.  I did an ‘I’m afraid that…’ exercise and cried a lot.  It was cathartic and felt really good to release.

November 1st was pivotal.  I wrote:

I really wanted to be lazy, but Marc said I should do a cold read scene with Bob.  Well, that turned out to be a major surprise.  All my life I’ve been missing the boat in my acting – all of the sudden, I got ON the boat!  I learned how to find the emotional backbone of a scene, first, before intellectualizing it.  BRILLIANT!  It was also easy, effortless and real.  I could trust it, moment to moment.

After class, Bob, Marco, Rick and Elizabeth and I went to Subeez for nachos and gabbed.  They helped me see some things about myself.  Cool.

I remember, specifically, at Subeez, Bob pointed out, “You’re looking for recognition.” 

The same night, around 3 am, as I sat down for a break at work, I considered it.  Why was I looking for recognition?  And, why was it, that no matter how much recognition I got, it was never enough?  I was always seeking for more, and more, and more.  Like an addict.  Did it have something to do with my childhood? Yes, I was always an attention hog as a kid, but inside, I felt acutely invisible.  In fact, I could still feel it.  It was like I had a huge hole inside me, and that, for all these years, I had been running around, trying to fill it with attention from others.  In a shocking epiphany that would completely re-direct my life, I realized that, even if I became wildly famous, no amount of attention would ever fill that gaping maw within.  No matter how many people said, “Amanda, you’re awesome and the whole world loves you,” if I couldn’t believe it myself, if I couldn’t love myself, it would be useless.

The ‘Being Real’ therapy exercises effectively pulled a lot of my crap out of hiding.  In an ‘I feel’ exercise, I learned how to be intimate and connect with another human being.  In an ‘I’m afraid’ exercise, I learned that there were deep feelings of unworthiness and rage that I could never entirely stuff behind an actor’s mask.  By interaction with Marc and my classmates, I learned that there were also real qualities within me – under all the shocking and embarrassing qualities that I would rather have ignored – qualities of light and beauty.   

My teacher, Marc Baur, may not have considered himself a ‘spiritual’ teacher.  At the time, I wouldn’t have described him that way.  Yet, Marc was exceptional in his ability to fully accept and embrace the wide variety of personalities in his care.  He saw through to something brighter and more profound in each student, even if the student didn’t recognize it in themselves.  I’m sure that as Marc has witnessed individuals developing greater personal and spiritual depth through his class exercises over the years, he can’t be immune to the greater implications.  Perhaps he now also perceives his role through a broader lens, as I do. 

I touched Grace through those acting exercises, but I wasn’t ready to fully receive Grace.  I was being asked for more than I could, then, have given.  Frankly, it scared me, shitless.  I continued with the class into the new year, but I had less and less energy for it. 

Eventually, I lost all energy for everything.  I was turning and turning, within a box in my mind that was squeezing, smaller and smaller, but I could find no way out.  Unbeknownst to me, a clinical depression was setting in.  I didn’t want to be an actor anymore.  All I wanted… was to disappear.

(See Spiritual Teachers: The Ojibway for Part 2 of this series.)

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Hello Self!

Posted by Amanda Gray on May 5, 2011

I have spent the majority of my life hating and being ashamed of myself.  Mostly, I was ashamed by my body and it’s flaws.  Yet, I was also often embarrassed to speak up for myself.  Deep down, I knew that, by speaking, I was lying and betraying.  What was I lying about?  Who was I betraying?

I didn’t speak up because I truly believed I had nothing to say.  That was a smoke screen.  An excuse.  If I have nothing to say, then, conveniently, I don’t have to speak.  I can hide away in my hidey hole and be a lazy lump.  I can envy everyone else out there, having fun and doing the things I wished I was doing.  Why didn’t I speak?  In short, because I was afraid.

Afraid of saying something wrong.  Afraid people would be mad at me.  Afraid of being judged.  Afraid that too much time had gone by and it was too late.  Afraid that no one would listen.  Afraid that I was unworthy.  Unworthy of what?  Life.  So I was living like a dead person instead.  Quite literally, a zombie.

Yes, I had lied.  Yes, I was a betrayer.  I had lived my life in this way for so long that I was no longer conscious of it, and no longer conscious of the deep guilt and shame that it engendered.  A heavy burden, but trapped in my subconscious mind, where the programs could be played over and over, yet safe where the source could never be discovered.  What was I lying about?  My Self.  Who was I betraying?  My Self. 

I put on roles that others asked of me, and then blamed them for being controlling.  I took jobs I didn’t want, thinking that I had to.  I sold my Self out in these and in many other ways.  Yet, deep down, I knew what I was doing, I was just too cowardly to face it.

So what changed?  I was holding a belief system that I had no control of my life.  That, somehow, I wasn’t allowed to choose my course.  That I was just stuck here in a rudderless boat, adrift on a cold, lonely, cruel ocean.  I believed that all the suffering I experienced was because everyone else, and everything in the world, had power over me.  I didn’t think that by avoiding choice, I was, ultimately, choosing my suffering.  “I’m powerless.  I’m a victim. The world is a bad place, full of bad people.”  Yadda yadda yadda.

Oh, it’s so twisted, isn’t it?  (And funny, as I allow myself to speak, to suddenly find that I do have things to say.)  The power of my Self was present within me all along, I was merely in denial of it.

 Hello, Self!  It’s nice to finally meet you.

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