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Riddle The Self – Reveal The Self

Right Brain

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kitties, Clowns, Authority and Desire

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Freddie

Posted by Amanda Gray on January 19, 2014

Amanda Gray:

These are simply exquisite! I looooove KidddddEEEES!!!

Originally posted on Creative Splurges:

Just before Christmas my wife and I welcomed a new member to our family. No, not a baby. Not another new lens either – I’m not that far gone I’d consider a lens a new member of our family, not yet anyway. Courtesy of my sister-in-law’s cat, who had a litter back in November, we were given a little boy kitten a week before Christmas day. We’ve named him Freddie.

1/80, f/4, ISO 5000, 47mm

1/80, f/4, ISO 5000, 47mm

He’s settling in much faster than Rambow and Zelda did when we adopted them back in May. Even Cookie, our first cat and one notoriously bad at accepting animals, or people, or generally anyone who isn’t me or my wife, has warmed to him quicker than she did to the other two. I guess she must be getting used to this by now. Not that she looks particularly happy about this new development in her…

View original 949 more words

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Judgement, Control and Specialness

Posted by Amanda Gray on December 14, 2013

So… my improv class was excellent.  I learned a lot about improv, but, even greater, I used the situation to practice setting aside my inner judge.  I allowed no thoughts of wrongdoing by anyone, anyhow, even of myself.  Exclusively, I trusted every impulse to jump in, or stay out, what words came out of my mouth, how others reacted to me, how the games or scenes played out, or when the end of a scene arrived.  It was a great practice.  I simply never allowed my thoughts to linger upon negative or limiting ideas.  It allowed me to see how easily things went without constant weighing and analysis in my mind.  I’ve also been successful in extending the practice to the rest of my life now, as well.

I’ve also started looking at my anger.  One of the topics I could never address when I visited the Living Miracles Monastery was anger.  Back then, I couldn’t even admit to feeling it!  Now I see that I’ve been angry a lot, and sometimes, it’s even like a drilling jack hammer of attack thoughts that I can’t seem to turn off.  Looking deeper at the pattern, I see that it’s because I’ve been wanting to control other people.  Well, no kidding, Sherlock – of course that’s what an ego wants.  It’s chief modus operandi is to usurp the power of God!  Yet, by the desire to control, the underlying premise concludes that I don’t already have control and must GET it.  Which leads to the question: who’s dreaming this dream?  Of course, I’m doing this to myself.  The fear being that if I don’t control those people ‘out there’, they’ll hurt me – yet, if I decide not to use them to prove a belief that I’m weak and a victim – they CAN’T hurt me.  It all gets pretty twisted up in here!

Furthermore, I’m looking closer at my acting desire.  What is it for?  After my improv class, I see that there’s really no way to separate the acting from the actor and the root desire to be a special body.  This is important to see, because I must also see that even though I gave up my acting profession 10 years ago, I never gave up the desire for special attention.  I just moved the audience closer.  Now it’s my mom, or my friends, or my customers at the store.  I’m still – yes, no bones about it – CONSTANTLY, trying to USE them to get their attention and keep it, just so I can feel better about myself – so I can maintain a sense of ‘specialness’.

It’s interesting how this realization came about.  We have a customer at the store that we call ‘Our Favourite’.  But actually, we all hate her.  I quickly learned that if I help her, she’ll hijack me, make me lead her to every item on her shopping list, and even get me to carry out her three little bags of groceries before I can finally escape her. Along the way, she acts like she’s stupid and helpless, asks inane questions about the products, and, generally, impedes me from helping other customers.  She can be pleasant, but she can also be loud, demanding and has some kind of iron clad mental grip that I haven’t understood.  I learned that this customer makes me feel extremely angry, and rather than being able to extend my natural sense of helpfulness to her, instead, I feel obligated, hateful and, eventually, guilty.  She disturbs me so greatly, that, of course, I have to ask why.  What is it about her behaviour that I must hate and deny in my own behaviour?  I found myself using the word ‘vampire’ as I thought about her, and finally, this morning, I realized the lesson she was teaching.  She’s a vampire for attention!  Like ME!!!  And if I don’t get the attention I want, I become demanding and angry about it too.  She wants to control me to keep my attention and I don’t want to be controlled.  Does anyone???  AH-HA!

Well… ain’t that cute.  NOT!  That ‘control’ is a terrible burden to inflict upon my brothers and sisters.  And it keeps peace from my mind.  Do I want peace?  Then I must notice when I’m deliberately throwing it away.  And now that I’m wise to these particular antics, I can stop.  I want to stop.  No judgement – just go forward and ‘sin no more’.

With sincere thanks to ‘Our Favourite’ customer.

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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.

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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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Follow the White Rabbit

Posted by Amanda Gray on August 13, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC04120

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

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

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Reversing Effect & Cause – INTERACTIVE Video

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 22, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Course also says:

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

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

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

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

http://youtu.be/bHJe0IXS9Yw

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Inspiration

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 11, 2013

Where does inspiration come from?

Have you ever thought to ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are important questions.

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Three Miracles

Posted by Amanda Gray on March 8, 2013

While I’m still experiencing a general malaise toward creative writing, inspiration is still full blast for making short videos. I collaborated with a local band to create a music video, which then spawned three full versions, as I experimented with my new editing program, Sony Vegas. It’s about a light years advantage over the Win XP Movie Maker I was using before! I took some film at my birthday party in October and created a promo for the restaurant. And, recently, as I reviewed my last video blog, posted here about a year ago; and attempted to make another, which turned out poorly; I was inspired with a little story that I could easily perform and film myself. I dressed up, arranged scenes, filmed for a day, and now I’m into the, rather complex, edit, which is proving a delightful challenge! I look forward to posting the finished product here soon. Wait ’til you see! The project uses SO many of my skills and interests – I truly never imagined they could be combined into such a perfect package of unlimited JOY!

Today, I’m inspired to share three experiences from my visit to San Francisco at the end of November 2012. They were three lovely little miracles!

1) On my first day in San Francisco, I left my hostel at Fort Mason and wandered down to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was such a beautiful, sunny day and there were endless moments to capture on my new handycam. Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island were in the distance, and boats and swimmers were in the foreground. As I travelled along the waters edge, looking for my next vision of loveliness to put on film, I heard quick footsteps behind me. A thought came up in my mind, “He’s going to snatch my bag off my shoulder.” I turned quickly and looked the man full in the eye. “You better not be thinking what I think you’re thinking,” I chastised him in thought alone. He stopped suddenly and his face widened with shock. I’d evidently caught him at something. There was a short, narrow cement wall along the sidewalk near him, and he sat down, like a little boy who’s just been smacked. I paused, with my hand shading my eyes, pretending to look over the water, but keeping an eye on him, and thinking, “No, no punishment. I don’t need to punish you.” After a moment, the man stood up. I knew that all notions of theft had left him, and he simply passed behind me and carried on up the hill.

What’s especially interesting about this experience is that it confirms a specific lesson for me. Throughout my life, I had a terrible fear of danger coming up from behind. It was a common theme when I was at the monastery in Utah: mice attacking from behind my head, curtains being bumped into me by the wind, a bee stinging the back of my neck, etc. For me, it was like death was always lurking behind my right shoulder. At one point, I realized that even though I believed that my vision was limited by a body – with a front and a back, and one side of which is unprotected and vulnerable – spirit could NOT be limited this way. This incident proved that spirit could, indeed, watch my back. Wow!

2) The next day, when I left the hostel at Fort Mason, I encountered another man on the street. This guy was old and dirty, and loud and shouting. As I passed him, he said something derogatory about tourists. I paid him no mind. As I got to the bus stop, about 15 yards away, I turned my luggage to face him. Although his shouting did make me feel intimidated, I thought, “I’m not afraid of you.” My energy became defensive. “No,” I told myself, “Not to defend. Not to challenge him. But to be peaceful with him.” And so, then I was. A young man pulled up on my left side. He had a bicycle like mine at home, so I struck up a conversation with him. All the while, the loud street person was coming closer, trying to demand our attention. Some buses arrived on the street to my right, and one of them was mine. It was at that point that I noticed the street person had gotten quite close and I had to pass him directly to board the bus. Yet, I was completely unfazed – still totally secure and unafraid. Without incident, I boarded my bus, sat at the front, and watched placidly as the man shouted at me from behind the closed door.

A few days later, at the Adyashanti Retreat at Asilomar, Adya talked about a Buddhist deity called Manjushri. With a delicate hand, Manjushri wields a

Buddhist Deity, Manjushri

fiery sword of truth and cuts illusion clean away. This was the perfect description of my experience with the man on Fisherman’s Wharf and the man at the bus stop. What beautiful miracles provided to heal a couple of my most basic fears!

3) After the Adya retreat, I met a fellow that I only knew from Facebook. Ben struck me as an “enlightened” type, so I trusted, as I made arrangements to meet him, that it was by divine appointment. And it sure was! I expected, at first, because I was a dim-witted tourist, that he would travel downtown to meet me, but he defined such careful directions to Berkely, I decided on the adventure to get to his neighborhood.

First, I was misdirected by the clerk at the hostel, who said it would only take about 10 minutes on the BART. Wrong, because it was a weekend. Anyway, as I contemplated the system map at Powell station, a lovely girl, named Irene, asked where I wanted to go. She told me that I’d have to change trains to get to Berkely, but that she could show me where because she was going to the same stop. We travelled together and chatted. She even walked me all the way to my meeting place. By this time, I was more than 25 minutes late and was worried that my friend would already have given up on me. But he was there! (Late, himself too, as I found out later.)

“Bye, Irene. Thank you!” I waved, as my sweet BART gift carried on to her yoga class.

Ben and I fell right into step, electric essays filling the air between us as we strolled around Berkely. Honestly, I remember very little of the neighborhood because I was so engrossed in our exchange. We had smoothies and encountered a friendly squirrel. We met friends of his, shared an umbrella as we shared philosophy, and walked innumerable blocks. Eventually, we sat at a pizza place and shared a mushroom pizza. Our conversation slowed. I felt slightly awkward then, and breathless. I searched for something to say… but he tapped my hands on the outer edge of the table, “Stay with me,” he urged. My mind was tilting at an odd angle, but I righted it, and then stayed. Still. …and then gentle laughter bubbled up from within. His face filled with delight! We stayed together like that for a while, laughing and looking at this new, open place in our mind.

“It’s not even ‘nothing’,” I noticed.

He exclaimed, “Yes! Music to my ears!!”

“It’s just the laughter.”

On our way back to Berkely station, a blind woman asked us to help her cross the street. Ben took one side and I took the other. It was like the greatest joy in my life to be with that woman crossing the street in that moment. She thanked us for helping her and Ben thanked her for asking us to help.

As she carried on, I laughed and hugged Ben, “That’s IT too!” I cried, “It’s SO wonderful! Thank you!”

“Well, you did it.”

“Yeah. I guess I did.”

By divine appointment. Indeed. I now call it our “Mystic Pizza” moment. Wonderous, even as I remember.

God bless you all, readers.

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What is True?

Posted by Amanda Gray on December 30, 2012

“I have done this thing, and it is this I would undo.” I was just reading that line in the Course this morning. My lesson today is to see that I have been trying to make this body valuable, but that the only value the body has is its use – like a pointed stick pokes, or a hard rock hammers.

As the body ages, gets sick, becomes weaker and weaker, fatter and uglier, the stronger is my urge to prove it’s usefulness. Is it only the belief that I AM a body that must prove itself? If I’m not a body, what am I? If I don’t use this body or those other bodies ‘out there’ to punish and hang guilt upon, what are they for? If “I am only here to be truly helpful,” what is ‘truly’ helpful besides the doing of a body? The truth of this physical world – that this body is, ultimately, entirely expendable – is like choking a bitter pill down a dry throat. Anger yields to grief. And that is why we don’t want to see this awful truth. It hurts.

Yet, can this be the whole truth? The body must yield to spirit… grief must yield to love… mustn’t they?

And with this small light of hope I look into my mind and ask again, “What is true?”.

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