Monday, September 30, 2013

Taking a More "Practical" Approach to My Spiritual Journey

This month, I have found myself in a variety of random conversations that centered in one way or another around religion, spirituality or folks' belief systems- religious or otherwise. As is my mindset, these events led me to question my own spirituality. I will be honest and acknowledge, I have not found any sense of connection with any particular religion but draw on what resonates for me from whatever religious texts "speak" to me. Hence, I see myself as a spiritual person.

A few years ago, I discovered a book called "Science of Mind" which in many, many ways interprets a spiritual viewpoint in sync with my beliefs. I decided, while I have read the book many times, I was not clear on if I was living it in my life or just fooling myself with my own spiritual self-delusion. I looked at the state of my life: love, career, personal adventures and found it wanting in all areas. I started asking what is the point of being "spiritual" if its impact on my life is just blah. I decided to become a seeker of "practical spirituality". By this I mean a sense of spiritual connectedness that leads to some practical, visible, verifiable positive results. My first step has been to delve deeper into Ernest Holmes' teachings which held the most promise for me and see if I could learn more.

Naturally, I went on-line and discovered a site called the Global Truth Network. They offer an approach to living the teachings of "Science of Mind" in your daily life. I figured, not a bad place to start exploring. I located a center in Los Angeles and to my surprise there is one in the NoHo Arts District which is only a few blocks from my apartment.  Isn't it funny how there are so many things going on around us of which we are completely clueless until the moment we are not?

So, having discovered the location, I looked at the local center's website, found the time of their Sunday Service and started my journey.  It felt a bit like one of those moments where you say, there is no such thing as "coincidence".  Part of their mission is enlightenment through entertainment. Sounds like a good sign for an actor, haha!  I think I may have found a new place to feed me on my spiritual journey that encompasses all sides of Who I am. I have always seen myself as a loner, not a "group-oriented" guy. This will be interesting. The Sunday service is held on a theater stage so I am definitely going to be testing my assumptions about spirituality as they bump up against all my assumptions of religious ettiquette programmed into my head from childhood.

I look forward to seeing where this road leads and what unexpected joys lie in the moment ahead.

I found this clip from the Rev. James Mellon, one of the Global Network co-founders which resonated with my thoughts today so I felt the impulse to share.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Getting A Little More Conscious Of What I Am "Taking In"

After my last post, I found myself repeatedly listening to this song which I have dubbed my current "Soundtrack of My Life" .

Aside from reflecting my peaceful state of mind, it strangely is reinforcing it. One thing I know about myself is that music is a powerful emotional influence. It immediately occurred to me that I might start more consciously using this ingrained habit to my benefit. Being more conscious of the songs I listen to may well help shape my state of mind and in turn my thoughts and actions.

It may be a bit tricky finding some good songs with positive uplifting lyrics in contrast to my usual attraction to R&B songs of "pain and surviving" like "Listen" (below) but it may be a good experiment to actually do and not just talk about doing.

Both of these songs create a strong emotional feeling but one is definitely more shall we say "confrontational" as opposed to "tranquilly uplifting." Both are good but I suppose it is a matter of what frame of mind do I want to reverberate in my subconscious.

I have my share of "bad habits". I  can't hurt to turn at least this habit into a more productive one.

We shall see!

"Resistance is Futile"

Can you tell I am a "Star Trek" Nerd from the title of this post? Haha. No. I am not talking about the "Borg" but an enemy far worse- my deeply rooted, carefully hidden, anger. Who'da thunk Mr. Happy was actually a "simmering pot of bottled up rage"?     

The biggest challenge I have been addressing over the last few weeks is getting real with my thoughts and their impact on my experience.

The subject arose in a discussion post on Blog Catologue about what brings meaning to your life. That discussion had me voicing my views freely and honestly.

Since then, I have been asking myself how am I doing with living my Life. Am I actually living it according to how I think I am or am I perhaps fooling even myself?

As days passed, I found myself surfing the web and came across a video in which a gentleman was speaking about this subject. He said folks are often dissatisfied with their current living situation and complain that my life is not going as I want it. He pointed out that it is impossible for your life to be anything other than what you have thought it into being. You made choice after choice that led you smack dab into your current life experience. He suggested if your life is not as you would like it to be, look at the choices you made that led you there. Look even further at the thoughts you allowed your mind to entertain that led you to the choices which then led to the experience. Simply put, align your thinking to the life you want.

Wow, That kinda makes a lot of sense. As I allowed myself to be conscious of if this was true in my own life, I found something surprising. I was buying into my own "bull". Underneath so many of my statements of positive expectation, there were one or two lurking thoughts that were quite self-defeating. I gradually saw as I tried to let those thoughts go, I resisted looking at where they were coming from. I just wanted the thoughts to stop.

As if taking on a life of their own, they grew and grew until I was pissed off! I was stuck, dwelling in anger at how I felt about how others treat me or how, I'm feeling trapped putting others' interests above mine. In the quiet of my apartment, with just Rusty and I around, my mind took me into mental arguments with folks in my life who were not anywhere around me but they sure felt like they were! 

I tried meditating and they pushed their way in. I took a shower, they invaded that space too!    

I picked up my copy of "Conversations with God" to get a little clarity or at least a moment of distraction. I cam across the line:

"What you resist, persists."

When you stop resisting, you stop giving your power away to that person, condition, or situation. My giving up "avoiding" and simply looking at why I was choosing to think/feel this way, was a bit of a revelation. I was afraid to make waves because I was lacking the confidence to simply say, "No." The anger allowed me to distract myself and shift blame. It was no longer my responsibility, I was being "forced" to do this or agree to that. When I looked right at my anger that seemed so out of control, I thought, "Wow". What a waste of time. 

How many times do we all agree to do something we don't want to do and instead of simply and politely declining, we "suffer" in silence, while mentally we are painting a picture of us as the " unappreciated hero"?

Forgive me if this is all mindless babble to whomever, may be reading. I am choosing to document this for later, when I find myself possibly having a "slip" into unending mental angry ranting, I want to re-read this post. Who knows how much time I will safe in the future.  Next time, I just have to remember that I wrote this post. Hopefully there won't be a next time but. I am a realist. :)

I have been learning alot about myself these days. Ingrained habits of negative thinking are just like weeds. If you aren't vigilant, they can take over what was once, and can be again, a beautiful garden.

Clearing out these pockets of anger, I know will make room for some positive transformation.

Life really is great when you think it is!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pet Parent Challenge: Fighting Rusty's Tartar Build up

Last weekend, when I was hanging out playing cards with my friends April and Jim, April looked at Rusty's teeth and as tactfully as possible told me they were getting a bit brown. Her sister's dog had some dental issues that deteriorated into a full blown problem and the dog is now walking around with some serious smelly breath. She gave some good advice. however, as she mentioned the potential expense neglecting Rusty's dental health could come my way, I decided to take action.

As, I am working a budget right now, my main focus is to see what at home steps I can take to get Rusty's teeth glistening white and healthy. Visiting the vet is the last step in this process until I exhaust all other options.  Still in my newbie stage as a pet parent, I am not willing to risk getting sucked into unnecessary treatment by a vet that could be handled beforehand naturally. Worse case scenario, there is an animal clinic a few blocks away but we went there only once for his shots last year.. I wouldn't say I have developed a relationship with the vets there but they seem caring.

In the meantime, my internet research has begun. April recommended dental sticks for Rusty called "Twisters" that are available at Petco. Of  course I dragged my butt over to my nearby Petco and they were not in stock at the moment.  I settled for two packs of Dingo's dental sticks which, as we speak Rusty is munching on at my feet.

Am I the only one overwhelmed by the numerous and costly array of pet products? I have an education ahead of me trying to learn what is best for Rusty. Simply feeding a quality dog food and a few good walks are far from enough in the grander scheme of things. It is not my personality to waste time buying on a salesperson's say so without knowing if they are right. In the mean time, I picked up a few simple rawhide bones and the dental sticks to get us started on our dental hygiene adventure!.

I learned that raw carrots are good for dogs and aid in tartar removal. So, I have begun adding to his Nutro Ultra dog kibble one raw carrot (chopped) a bit of lettuce, half an apple and a drizzle of coconut. The carrots,lettuce and apple provide more vitamin nutrition and help with scrubbing the teeth, while the virgin coconut oil help kill harmful bacteria in his mouth, strengthen his immune system and add shine to his coat.

I may be seeing things but I think I am seeing some improvement; small improvement but improvement nonetheless.

My next step, aside from monitoring progress, is to research brushing his teeth with a doggie brush and doggie toothpaste. This will be a major undertaking. It took us more than a year to get him "okay" with getting a bath. The tooth-brushing has the added burden of me getting over my fear of him continually biting me as I work on his teeth.  Yikes! I may start out with the groomers doing the heavy lifting on the "teeth cleaning until I get use to the concept. I can honestly say I never ever envisioned brushing a dog's teeth as something I would be learning to do in this lifetime. 

 I can't get that commercial out of my head about doggie dentures. Ha! That is not in Rusty's future if I can help it.

Pet Parent Responsibilities Come First

Well, I guess this is where the rubber meets the road. While, I have been pretty good at committing to my marathon training goals, I am finding certain pet parent priorities making the prospects of my doing the LA Marathon not seem realistic.

If I am being honest, the potential costs involved feel a bit irresponsible for me to consider when I am currently in the tightest budget I've ever gotten by on in years and I have my dog Rusty to care for. 

Keeping him healthy, happy and free of dental issues is a bit more important. Who knew 80% of dogs develop dental issues? A friend pointed out he was getting serious build up that could lead to expensive vet bills I simply cannot afford. If I don't get on top of it we are in trouble. So, that is where any excess funds have to be allocated. Ah, well. My boy Rusty's needs trump the marathon any day. Not a tremendous price to pay as a pet parent for all the love I get from this guy.  December marks two years with my first pet. There have been many challenges and many irreplaceable moments of joy.

Hopefully, I will continue to learn more about how to be a good guardian of my dog's health and well-being. I may not know what I am doing but I am figuring out what I can as we go along,  Vet bills are so expensive, I had no idea of that cost factor when I adopted but I will make it work somehow. I take the same stance I do with my own health. Preventative medicine is so much better than costly hospital bills for either of us.  

Here's hoping things make a turn in the direction of greater abundance for me and brighter teeth for Rusty.

I may need to consider setting up an online bank account to plan ahead for all these additional Vet costs I never knew were a reality for life with a dog.

Live and learn.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting To Know Me, Getting To Know All About Me

As an actor, it is practically a job requirement to understand why you do the things you do and feel the way you feel so you can bring the most "humanity" to whatever role you play. I'd say it is not a bad way for anyone to live. The challenge is, it is not much fun being relentlessly honest with oneself. Sometimes "ignorance" truly is bliss.

At present I am wrestling with the challenge of  letting go of my inner "control freak" and truly enjoying the moment.

Last week, when I was on set or in the recording studio, "living in the joy" was easy. Today, as time has passed since I wrapped, the joy of the experience is waning and the pressures of the day-to-day issues are saying "hello".  Don't get me wrong, I am in a good place mentally and emotionally. It's just that damned inner control freak that wants more, wants to see what I can do to book again and keep this joy going.

I am realizing that I have not discovered the right balance between living in the present while planning for the future. The two cannot be mutually exclusive, surely. I have found some assistance with my meditative practice. I admit, I have had to lower my expectations as to what I will get out of meditation. Over the last few months, too many evenings I sat to meditate and felt like I was somehow failing miserably. Often instead of letting thoughts calmly drift away, I got lost in the thought, digging deeper into instead of releasing. No, I have not YET reached a place of feeling that nirvana state that comes with a quieted mind. If it comes, it comes. I have settled for the relaxation and calmness I AM experiencing. Currently it has allowed me to stop mentally spinning on some fear or frustration after my meditation time. It creates a little space to see my reaction is just my reaction and not necessarily the truth of the situation. This is just enough calmness to allow me to make better life choices.

I have lived for many years with the "Fake It Til You Make It" mantra. While it has its merits, I am noticing that it can become a useful mental way of stuffing your fears in a closet and avoiding addressing them  for the sake of appearing positive- even to yourself. In my calmer state, I am noticing the fear I've been avoiding is not really that big of a deal so why not see it, address it's relevance that let it go?

Yes, slowly but surely, I am making progress in this adventure of self-discovery.  Looking at those "scary" dark places we all hide away is turning out to be not quite so scary but humorous that I found them scary in the first place.

I guess, I am learning what patience in practical terms feels like, haha. My expectations of magical transformation through meditation may not have been very realistic. I'm just happy it has not proven to be a waste of time and effort but a practical tool in my arsenal for understanding myself that slowly diminishes the need or desire for unnecessary mental self-drama.

I am committed to living in the joy of my experience daily. I just want to do it without living in self-delusion. It is not impossible. However, it is something that requires focus and diligence, at least until some of it becomes a habitual mental approach.

Life is great when you let it!   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Counting My Blessings Big and Small

This was a wonderful week of doing what I love! So, I auditioned on Friday evening, booked the acting job on Monday and wrapped last night.  I got to work with "playback" and using an "ear wig" which I discovered is the term for the small receiver I hide in my ear to connect me to the sound guy running "playback" of the music in my ear. Yes, you could say this was my singing debut but I will leave it there so as not to ruin the surprise. Haha!

I love learning new things as a working actor.  This time around, I had the opportunity to work with the show's composer at his studio in Santa Monica.   Like everyone else involved in the production of "Hart of Dixie" from casting to the assistant directors I interacted with, he was very kind and supportive.  It is a small role but to me any opportunity I get to act professionally is a victory and a blessing!

In this economic environment, it is a real challenge to get a job as an actor. More established actors are continuing to go up for roles they ordinarily wouldn't in order to make sure they earn enough work hours to qualify for health benefits. Thus,  those of us less established thespians need to be on our game and bring a little something extra to every audition in order to have a chance. I'm learning the less pressure I put on myself and the more I put in the work needed then allow myself to have fun regardless of the result, the better things turn out.  

The interesting aspect of this entire experience was actually the response I received from friends and fellow actors.

I share news with friends in the moment of excitement. This time around, I had this real awareness of folks asking questions with an undercurrent of evaluating and dare I say judgement. Generally speaking, actors are competitive. Even when happy for their fellow actors, some can't help wondering if they missed out on a role they feel they should have gone up for. They ask questions so they can decide if it is too small for them to be concerned about or not. Many do not even know they are doing it but, too often their lack of subtlety is hard to miss. I have reached the point as an actor where I can be happy for my friends and happy for myself. Competing with friends outside the audition room simply is a mind game I am done with. I am even ready to let go of the anxiety of worrying what others feel about the "relative value" they place on any role I land.  My focus is on living in the joy of the experience and letting go of the unnecessary drama of ego as much as I can.   

There have been a lot of emotional/mental ups and downs of this year: worrying about making ends meet; questioning myself and managing expectations of myself and others. Being on set, doing what I love reminded me that no matter what the future has in store, I intend to count every blessing big and small and experience the moment for the joy it contains.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Keeping Acting Career Alive!

I have had a rough summer. Looking for work, auditioning and all around just trying to stay afloat as an actor. I have been walking my own mental tightrope, doing my best to stay balanced and positive when funds are running low and bills keep on coming. It has taken a toll on my mind and emotions but my spirit has kept me going and things are definitely turning around.

Out of left field, I got an audition Friday afternoon for "Hart of Dixie" on the CW. I went in with the sole intention of having fun and I did then put it out of my mind and went on with my weekend.
I just got the news today I booked it and will be heading in this evening to get the ball rolling.

I'm a little shell shocked with joy but since I started this blog to chronicle my journey, it is nice to have something good to say. I know I know, it has been a while since my last post. Chalk it up to the summer blues.

Time to get back on track. One thing I have learned so far from my summer is that keeping the faith really does have its rewards when you move through the wallowing in depression period and truly surrender to the faith that things will always work themselves out.

I'm off for now. I look forward to getting back to posting.