Sunday, September 21, 2014

Simply Authentic...Your Soul Voice is Calling. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway: Part 1

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway: Part 1

Did you know it took Thomas Edison over 10,000 tries before he created the incandescent lamp? I love Edison’s story, a man who never gave up.

I have not failed. I have successfully discovered over 1200 ideas that do not work.

 –Thomas Edison

If you feel like you’re the only person who doesn’t have a clue how to realize your dreams, if you suffer from self-doubt, want to give up, feel like a failure…trust me—you’re not alone.

Barbara Stanny interviewed hundreds of women in writing her books Secrets of Six Figure Women and Overcoming Underearning and found a consistent theme for high earners, ranging in income from $100,000 to over seven million dollars annually. Every single one of them experienced fear and self-doubt.

The moral of the story? Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Authentically Yours,


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Simply Authentic...Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Craft of Acting

The Craft of Acting

I was first on stage when I was in fifth grade. I played a “very lively orphan” named Harriet in our elementary school operetta Sunny of Sunnyside in Clark, South Dakota. If I remember correctly, I had one line. Possibly two. I do remember I wore a blue jumper, and underneath a polyester white and blue shirt with a collar. I guess that was my first costume. I would later – at age 40 – come on stage in a purple cat suit with gold buckles and transparent sleeves, a curly red wig, and chunky gold high-heeled sandals to play a Texan ex-Yam Queen.   

I sang and played instruments (piano, clarinet, bells in marching band) all through school and was in more plays, musicals and singing groups than I can list here without boring you to the point of drizzling drool. Which about sums up the level of my acting ability at that time.

After one show in college, I didn’t get onstage again until I was living in Salem, Oregon and newly married. As an adult, I have studied with two wonderful teachers (three if you count private coaching for a monologue), most recently completing Nancy McDonald’s ( wonderful Professional Actor’s Class at Lakewood Theatre in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

I honestly don’t remember what drove me to Jo Dodge’s acting class at the Pentacle Theatre; I think we received Chemeketa Community College’s class schedule in the mail, I read through it, and thought an acting class looked interesting. And it was affordable.

I felt completely at home in that first class, much like I did in my first voice class with Linda Brice (but that’s another story for another time.) Ultimately, I took something like 12 terms of acting classes from Jo…mainly because it was like cheap therapy and I enjoyed it so much, difficult and challenging though it was…and somewhere along the way I learned how to act.
Let me make a distinct distinction. By “how to act” I don’t mean “this is how you should act!” a term many of us heard way too often growing up. I mean I learned how to become emotionally open and vulnerable in front of a whole bunch of people I don’t know.

Even if you have no desire to act or be on stage, I’ll bet you have certain movies, plays or performances you enjoy watching, possibly over and over again. I certainly do. Those favorites touch you emotionally…through laughter, tears, a facepalm moment of OMG—we all do this stupid shit, feeling at one with the music, completely identifying with a character or scenario, feeling like someone punched you in the gut because it’s so real…because the people who were “performing” felt emotions you identify with. I believe I can say unequivocally if the actor doesn’t feel something, the audience won’t either.

If you think this is easy (as in, I could make 10 or 20 million dollars a movie, too – if I looked like Charlize Theron or James Franco)…think again! Try it! Go to an acting class or workshop, find a script at the library, and be presented with the task of slipping into another character and feeling what that person feels with all their history, their relationships, their hopes, fears and dreams.
Consider, for example, becoming a plumber who made a good living until his wife of 45 years died of cancer and he was left with an empty bed and a mountain of bills. What about a pianist who lived with fear of rejection and desire for perfection all her life until she had a wrist injury which kept her away from her instrument? Perhaps an 11 year old heterosexual boy who watched his older sister coming out as a lesbian, and how his parents reacted? The crazy aunt whose mission in life seemed to be to make everybody around her laugh?

I find the process humbling, creative, expansive, healing and uplifting. And…the skills can be translated to “real life.”

First of all, many of us worry too much about things that will never even happen or plan for things we really can’t control. We’d be better off getting into our hearts and bodies—experiencing what we’re feeling before responding, than spending so much time in our heads trying to figure out what to do, how to react, or mentally creating worrisome scenarios that don’t exist.  

Here are the five “ingredients” – the primary tools in an actor’s toolkit – as taught to me by Jo Dodge.

-Who am I?

-Where am I?

-What do I want (and why do I want it?)

-What is the relationship?

-The conflict?

The WHO is pretty obvious. You’re that plumber, the pianist, the boy, the crazy aunt, with all of the rich history of that character.

*The more you can identify with the inner workings and motivations of a character, the better actor you will be. The more you can do the same in interacting with another person in your life – ie, walk a mile in their moccasins – the more effective you will be in communication.

The WHERE is important because you are going to behave much differently in a crowded restaurant than you are in your bedroom by yourself, on a plane going down with an engine on fire than on the swing on your sister’s front porch.

*If you always behave exactly the same way whether in a restaurant, your bedroom, a crashing plane, or your sister’s porch…well…there is reason for concern. J  

What do I WANT (and why do I want it?) can be more challenging. This is the motivating force that drives what you say and do, in character, on stage. Jo always said you need a strong want; if it’s not strong enough, find another right away.  And it can’t be a “don’t want.” (I don’t want to go to work today. I don’t want you to get your driver’s license yet.) And for purposes of improv, on stage, it should be what do you want in the next five minutes, not a month or a year from now.

*If you don’t want to go to work today, what do you want to do today? Seriously? In an ideal version of the highest and grandest vision of yourself, how would you spend today? And the next day, and the next? And why?

RELATIONSHIP.  A man walks onstage. He picks up an envelope on the table, opens it, and pulls out a piece of paper with a lot of numbers in a column and a total below a bold line. Also on the table is a framed photograph of a lovely, smiling woman who appears to be in her late 60’s. The man sits down at the table and puts down the paper, upside down, with shaking hands. He picks up the framed photo, looks at it, and begins to cry.

We have a relationship here with noone else on stage but the man, and not a word spoken. You can see this is the plumber mentioned above.   

*It is easy for any of us to get so caught up in what we want that we forget what is important to the other person in the relationship, be it our partner, parent, child, sibling, co-worker or client.


There is no interesting book, play or movie without conflict. Being born means we will experience conflict, which probably started—if not in the womb—when our parents had differing ideas on how to approach our crying in the middle of the might when our diapers were wet. Fred wants to go to the 3D horror movie at the new cinemaplex while his girlfriend Paula wants to stay home, make beer cheese soup and watch GHOST on DVD. Again. Your aunt wants to plant marigolds; your uncle is all for ghost peppers. You want to take a weekend for gallery hopping; your partner wants to plan a trip for nearby B & B’s that boast haunting (while I’m on the ghost kick.)

*Yep, it’s inevitable. Conflict. How do you deal with it? Do you listen and feel before responding (rather than reacting?) Do you know what you want? Do you know what the other party wants? It sure helps if you both do, and you can communicate clearly without belittling or badgering each other.

Cheers to knowing who you are, where you are, what you want, how to develop the relationship despite conflict, and the same of the people with whom you choose to interact! And please enjoy the next movie or play you go to – applaud the actors madly and passionately.

Authentically Yours,


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Simply Authentic...Your Soul Voice is Calling. Follow Your Own Dream

Follow Your Own Dream

THE LAKE HOUSE (Warner Brothers, 2006) is one of my all time favorite movies, and very possibly my favorite romantic movie. At least I can’t think of any I like better. In it, there is a scene in which Kate (Sandra Bullock’s character) shares with Alex (Keanu Reeves’ character) that her father – who whisked her away from a would-be singing career with a musician boyfriend when she was just 16 – had a dream of her becoming a doctor, and eventually her father’s dreams became her own.

If you ask me, a parent dreaming of their child becoming a medical practitioner is probably preferable to persuading him or her towards…say…involvement in organized crime or a terrorist group. And I certainly admire anyone who has the wherewithal to make it through medical school. All the same, I would rather see every parent encouraging their children to explore the most authentic dreams in the deepest recesses of the child’s heart and soul.

I read two things today (I am writing this September 3, 2014) by two different writers who approach this topic in radically different ways. To me, they are both well-written excerpts which speak to the same overriding philosophy. I want to share them both with you.

The Unwatched Space

             I tried so hard to please that I never realized no one is watching.

I imagined, like everyone else at school, that my parents were sitting just out of view like those quiet doctors behind clean mirrors, watching and reprimanding my every move. As I reached adulthood, the habit continued. I walked around constantly troubled by what others must be thinking of what I was or was not doing. In this, we are burdened with the seeds of self-conscious. From this, we trouble our spontaneity and the possibility of joy by watching ourselves too closely, nervously unsure if this or that is a mistake.

It is from the burden of others watching and judging that the need to achieve gets exaggerated into the want for fame. I remember at different times fantasizing the future gathering like an audience, ready to marvel at how much I had done with so little. It didn’t even matter for what this attention might come. Just let some form of watchfulness be approving, and I would know relief.

It wasn’t till I woke bleeding after surgery, with all those mothlike angels breathing against me, that I realized that the audience was gone. I cried way inside, not because I had just had a rib removed and not because I was in the midst of battling cancer. I cried because I had not only been physically opened, but also opened beneath my sense of being watched. Somehow the unwatched space was given air. Though I could explain it to no one, my sobs were sobs of relief, the water of a de-shelled spirit soaking ground.

Years have passed, and I wait long hours in the sun to see the birch fall of its own weight into the lake, and it seems to punctuate God’s mime. Nothing said about it. Now the audience of watchers is gone and I can feel life happen in its quiet, vibrant way without anything interfering. Now, sometimes at night, when the dog is asleep and the owl is beginning to stare into what no one ever sees, I stand on the deck and feel the honey of night spill off the stars, feel it coat the earth, the trees, the minds of children half asleep, feel the stillness evaporate all notions of fame into the unwatched space that waits for light. In this undistorted silence, the presence of God is a kiss. It is here in this unwatched space that peace begins.

– Mark Nepo, THE BOOK OF AWAKENING. Conari Imprint, Red wheel/Weiser, Boston, MA 2000

Barbara Stanny’s Weekly Words of Wealth

Is Becoming Your True Self a Scary Thought?

Ultimately, Financial Success is an Act of Individuation.
            Individuation is a psychological task we should’ve undertaken as adolescents, but which few of us (especially women) have actually completed.

Individuation means distinguishing what’s true for us from what’s been artificially imposed—by our family or society as a whole—then letting go of what no longer serves us.

What we think we are supposed to be—all the shoulds, oughts, musts—too often gets in the way of what we actually could be.

I invite you to ponder this: What values, goals, beliefs have I absorbed from my family that no longer suit me? Then consider how these may be standing in the way of your utmost success.

Warmly, Barbara.

Let go of the perceived watchers. Embrace your individuation. Follow your own dream.

Authentically Yours,