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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Judgment Is Fun... Right?!


How often do you judge others?  Be honest, and I will too… pretty often.  In fact, the world we’re brought up in today almost encourages judgment.  Everyone has an opinion about someone’s style, work ethic, beliefs, lifestyle, and choices.    

But what are these judgments really saying?  Nothing.  Nothing at all really because there are just opinions and opinions are not facts.  “When you judge others, you do no define them, you define yourself as someone who needs to judge (Dr. Wayne Dyer).”  When I read this a light bulb instantly went off!  Who am I to judge anyone?  I’m just as flawed as the next person trying to figure out this life on earth.  And it’s true, judgment on a person does not change who they are… mostly it just separates you from ever having a connection to them.  Who knows what kinds of amazing relationships I could be blocking by keeping people away with judgment.  Everyone has the choice to live their life in the way they see fit and it’s not our place to say whether that is right or wrong. 

But this also applies to judgment passed on us from others.  Again, we can’t control what others think, feel, or put on us.  However, we can control the way we respond and receive feedback.  Ultimately, if you feel you’re being judged you have to know deep down that what they’re saying really doesn’t matter.  So many people constantly try to dictate where you life should go, what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, and so on.  But only you know what’s best for you.  Only you have the guide of your emotions telling you whether or not you’re headed in the right direction.  And if you feel good then that’s all that matters.  Nothing else matters but feeling good- today- not tomorrow… right now!  When people throw judgment into your field you have to view them as opinions and that’s all. 

I’ve been thinking about why I judge people and the answer is simple… to feed my own ego.  It almost always comes down to the ego.  You feel better when you “think” you are above someone.  But do you really feel better at the end of the day or does your ego?  Because they are two separate entities.  Your ego masks everything true about you by seeking the approval of others and weighing your worth on accomplishments, accolades, and achievements.  Your ego must prove to everyone else how important you are… trust me, I know all about the ego.  What about proving to yourself how important you are?  Well, if we can make others feel less about themselves then surely we will feel more powerful, right?!  Of course, most people don’t consciously think this way but subconsciously that is what we’re really doing.

You see, our ego is counterintuitive because feeding it actually makes you starved like an insatiable thirst that can’t be quenched. Our ego- always without a doubt- separates us from love, abundance, and self-respect.  There’s no fulfillment to filling your ego, just constant ravenous hunger.  When you have self-respect for yourself you don’t need an ego that always has to win because you have already won.  You don’t need to seek the approval of others because you approve of yourself.  You know that the Universe, which we are all connected to, loves you no matter what.  You aren’t hungry… you’re full. 

That’s why when we judge ourselves and others we are basically saying, “Everything is WRONG in the world!  God is wrong!”  But is it?  Or is that just how we choose to perceive it? Perception is everything… would it be so terrible to perceive everyone like they are capable of great feats.  Imagine if everyone was instilled with this belief, with this mindset, or we saw the infinite possibilities in everyone.  Envision others treating you this way and you can feel how this effect would be contagious.  Spread encouragement, hope, and joy and that’s what you’ll receive back in your life because you know that judgment is worthless.  

This is something I know I definitely need to work on but by being consciously aware of my judgments towards others I’m slowly chipping away at my own ego.  I want to see the best in everyone, to encourage people’s dreams, motivations, and desires.  In the end, that’s all that matters.  And when I’m living in a state of non-judgment I have an easier time of not letting judgment affect my own life. 

Have you felt judged recently?  Or passed the judgment unknowingly?  I’d love to hear in the comments. 

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 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?” – Matthew

“People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves.”  Albert Camus


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let Out Your Song

Here's a little poem I wrote last night... how does it speak to you?  

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A Heroes journey through the foot hills,
Past the lilacs and daffodils
A wanderer with a goal
To find his missing soul.
No burning expectation
Just quiet deliberation.
Mindful opulence,
Blissful presence.
Childlike wonderment.
Pure bewilderment.

Sends out his vibration across the land
Thoughts bring objects to his hand.
Mountains move, the world then bends.
His visions cleared, the earth sends
What he was seeking all along,
Once he let out his song.
The note soars past mortar and brick
Reaching minds faster than quick.
To the sound of his voice calling within.
Finally trusting himself to begin.

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How can you let out your song today?  I would love to hear... 

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."  -Lou Holtz





Saturday, December 1, 2012

Power of an Idea... MPOW!



Everything in life starts as an idea.  A small thought that continues to fester in the mind until it must be released.  A seed so small that if planted could grow into a tiny plant or a rain forest.  Everyone has these inspired ideas but many refuse to plant the seed.  Look around you… ideas are everywhere.  The chair you sit on, the computer you’re reading this from, the electricity that’s powering your place.  Ideas are all around and there are truly remarkable when you think that it all started with a thought in someone’s head.  Well, yesterday I had the distinct privilege of seeing one of those tiny ideas manifest into something incredible. 
About four years ago when I was a senior at the University of Michigan I happened to stumble into an outreach program for inner city kids in Detroit.  I had no intention of participating; in fact I had no idea it was even going on!  I walked in that day dressed in sweatpants and a wife-beater ready to do a yoga class, or so I thought; instead, I stumbled into a room full of elementary school kids running around like wild animals.
Immediately one of my professors approached, “Oh, Alex!  I’m so glad you came!  You can help lead one of the groups…” 
Huh?!  “Oh yeah, right… that’s why I’m here…” the lie was probably more than obvious but I jumped right in.  I can’t even remember what happened that day because I was so thrown off guard and probably pissed that I wasn’t going to work out!  All I knew was that forty inner city school students from Detroit were staring at me and the six other volunteers.  Alright, let’s do this!  The idea was simple, “sharing the positive powers of the performing arts to inspire the urban youth of Detroit (http://www.mpow.net).”  Again, an idea.  An idea that had no idea what it would amount to or how much it would impact the lives of others, just an idea with a mission.
Four years later, I witnessed the power of an idea come to life with The Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop.  The seed, planted by Ashley Park, Laura Reed, and Linda Goodrich, grew into a beautiful rainforest where over 110 kids got to swing from the trees.  Four years ago, there were about 40 kids involved cramped into a rehearsal space, now an entire three stories of a giant building were given to the organization, and that rehearsal space was strictly the lunch area catered by Cottage Inn Pizza and Trader Joes.  The six or so volunteers from four years ago had multiplied into a hundred students from every discipline of the School of Music.  If you weren’t apart of MPOW, you knew it, and you were missing out.  And how could you not want to partake?
The 110 kids were bused in from Detroit where they were greeted by a herd of cheering students forming a tunnel like they were football stars running onto the field.  Their field was a majestic performance room where the game began with a dance troupe, a band, clowns, singers, classical chamber musicians, jazz ensembles, one woman shows, and even a boy band number set to One Directions, “What Makes You Beautiful.”  And it was beautiful… kids were crying, cheering, and smiling from ear to ear.  Then, all of the kids broke off into smaller groups where they learned how to make films, dance, sing, act, communicate, interact, and explore their creativity!  I was shocked to say the least and they were too.
An entire community of STUDENTS made this all happen… again, students!  There was hardly any faculty supervision, illustrating the power of community and that anyone can make a difference.  Many of the students from Detroit had never stepped on a college campus, let alone been exposed to anything artistic.  Some of them just wanted a free lunch.  Some of them just wanted a chance to break out of their shell.  Regardless of what they wanted, they all left with something, as did every person involved with the event.  This is what it’s all about, using our gifts to help others, and we all have gifts that can truly change peoples lives.  After MPOWs event some kid is going to go home and have an idea after an idea that was inspired by someone else’s idea.  If any one of those kids start planting their own seeds who knows what will grow from their gardens.  

How did MPOW affect you yesterday?  Do you have a seed waiting to be planted?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!   
Footage from yesterday:

2011 MPOW Event:
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 "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." - Albert Einstein
"If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself." - Rollo May

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Drive Past "How."


Why do we sometimes become numb in the wake of our greatest opportunities?  When our desires start manifesting often it can be scary or overwhelming.  Suddenly our minds start racing with endless scenarios, routes, and roadblocks that don’t even exist.  We immediately start panicking and exhausting our peace over the very thing that should be bringing us bliss.  But why?  Well, if you’re like me maybe you’re caught up in the “how” of it all. 
So often when we have some giant venture approaching we become paralyzed by the daunting question, “how?”  How am I ever going to get this done? How am I ever going to find the time?  HOW!!  Well, first off, by not asking “how” is how you’ll get it done.  When we ask “how” constantly we’re not trusting in what we’ve set out for ourselves, or more importantly what our desires are revealing to us.  No one ever knows how anything is going to get done because the how is unimportant.  The “do” is… the action of making it happen.  Sounds so simple but it’s hard to put into practice. 
Think of driving in the dark.  When you’re driving home from work late at night you know that home is the final destination.  Now, before you get in the car you don’t stop and think, “how the hell am I going to get home!? It’s so dark!”  You just start driving.  Your headlights can only reveal so much road before you… your headlights can’t see 20 miles ahead of your car, but you continue to journey home taking the road one mile at a time.  You know where you’re headed and yes you can’t see the path in front of you, but your headlights reveal more and more of the road as you go.  You are driving!   
We have to be drivers!  Once you start driving you find that it’s not nearly as bad as you thought.  But we have to be willing to start the car and go.  Throw the car in reverse, put your foot on the pedal… easy!  See, we don’t even think about it, we just do.  We venture out into the darkness knowing we will reach our destination.  Our headlights will reveal the way home one-mile at a time.  Why can’t our work of manifesting our desires be the same way?  You know what you want… that’s what matters.  If you know what you want in your life, that’s where you start.  The drive to that destination will be revealed one mile at a time.  Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture or the “how,” just focus on the first thing in front of you.  Inevitably that will lead somewhere else which will lead somewhere else, and so on. 
Know what you want and start building it one task at a time.  There is no “how” or “when” because everything will be revealed in good time if you are in line with your desires.  Just like Rihanna said, “Baby, you got the keys.  Now shut up and drive!”  Oh yeah, I went there!  Maybe it won’t be as scary as you thought, or maybe it’s more terrifying than you ever imagined!  Either way you’ll have learned something and will forever be changed.  How can you take action today towards your greatest opportunity?  I’d love to hear in the comments.
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“The best way out is always through” - Robert Frost
“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” -William B. Sprague


Monday, November 26, 2012

“Feel the Fear and Do It Anyways.”


My journey in Columbus has ended.  THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED to see such sport, and everyone from cast, crew, to audiences alike shared in the poignant hilarity.  When I left New York to do this show, an inkling to re-focus my energy into something different kept nudging me.  Obviously I’m still an actor and writer but something was calling while I was in Columbus and visiting Ann Arbor.  People were thrown in my path offering new routes to where I’m ultimately headed... as if the Universe was whispering, “Listen...” So, I did.    

And sooooo… drum roll please haha… I’m going to be back in Ann Arbor for the next 6 months or so to produce my show MY OTHER VOICE.  While I was visiting Ann Arbor during my weeks off I kept having these chance encounters with different key individuals in the artistic and health industry in and around Michigan.  Specifically, a big health movement that’s going on called, “Get Healthy Michigan” (http://gethealthymichigan.com).  This movement is one that I’m very passionate about: holistic approaches, energy healing practices, nutritional advisement, and learning how to shy away from pharmaceuticals. People are sick, suffering, and confused… yet, there are healing practices out there that many are unaware of and it’s time to reveal them.  I became immersed with the build up of energy around this topic but was stuck as to how I could help.  Then chance meetings with key professors at Michigan also started to nudge me in a different direction.  Well, two days later I get a call from the man running all of this asking if I wanted to help by producing my play in Ann Arbor.  He had seen MY OTHER VOICE in Columbus and thought it was a great way to inspire a movement.  But wait!?  I’m supposed to go back to New York!  I can’t just go to Ann Arbor!  My play has to be done in New York!  New York, New York, New York…   

My fears started protesting immediately: fear of embarking on something new, fear of making the “right” choice, and fear of failing.  So for about two days my mind went to war, weighing all the pros and cons, the logistics, and all around feasibility.  But my heart was telling me to go… my soul was crying out, go Alex… face the fear!  And when my pre-determined notions of New York started to dissipate I realized it was not only the perfect timing but also made perfect sense. 

I have an amazing community in Ann Arbor full of artistic people who are willing to help, the story is set here, the local Hospital is a great springboard, and ultimately I’m doing everything I’ve always wanted… writing, acting, performing… just not in New York, or not yet.  I haven’t really written about this but as most of you know my voice is what used to define me.  Everyday my thoughts were consumed with singing, and honestly they still are.  But a giant shift happened when I lost it all and I went from a narcissistic performer to one who now realizes that everyone in this world is blessed with certain gifts, and those gifts should be used to better humanity.   Somewhere along the way I lost that clarity, then when I lost my voice, I started to believe all the Doctors who were saying, “you may never sing again.”  Again, fear.  But then I reminded myself of the power of the mind, shifted my focus, and started telling myself, I can singI will sing for other people.  Once my mind committed to the affirmation, my body began to respond.  Of course it’s a process, but I am singing again! 

So not only will I be here producing the world premiere of MY OTHER VOICE but I’ll also be joining the class of 2013 for the Senior Showcase this year.  I’ll finally have the chance to showcase in New York and will also have a wonderful show that’s been produced as well.  Now, I’m not expecting the Showcase to dramatically change my life, it’s not about that… it’s about accomplishing something that was taken away from me.  It’s about moving past Doctors telling me I’d never sing again and proving once and for all that you can do anything you put your mind to.  The expectations are unimportant, but the clarity, focus and peace of mind are.  

So Ann Arbor, here I come… Again!  But this time not as a selfish student only concerned with himself: instead, as a vehicle of hope, inspiration, and knowledge.    

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From Susan Jeffers, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyways:” 

“Truth 1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
Truth 2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
Truth 3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out… and do it.
Truth 4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
Truth 5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Give the Gift of Presence


“Tweet, tweet, ring, ding, buzzzzzzzz… buzzzzz…”  The symphony of Smartphones begins.  Today is another day where we’re constantly barraged with information, constant connection, and opportunity.  If you don’t have a smartphone you’re behind the times.  I remember when I first got my sleek iPhone I kept saying, “How did I ever live without this?”   They have everything you could ever want: your camera, music library, gps, phone, alarm clock, calendar, reminders, email… anything you can think of.  Amazing, right?!  Of course it is!  We are living in an age where tasks get done at lighting speed.  An age where communication is best received over email, phone calls are vanishing, and face to face interactions are rare.  There’s too much to do!  Thankfully our smartphones help us get it all done. 

And I’m absolutely thankful for my smartphone.  But I also find myself missing out on life sometimes.  By being connected to everything I’m actually not connecting to anything.  Just the other day I was having lunch with a teacher I hadn’t seen in a couple months and halfway through I realized we were both checking our phone with every little buzz and jungle. 

“Tell me about your students!?” I ask.  Buzz….  My eyes quickly dart to the screen without hesitation. 

“They’re great…. Project… learning a lot,” I hear her reply. 

“Uh huh, that’s great!”  I respond.  Send! “What’s the project about?”  …Then comes the realization that I wasn’t listening at all.  How could I?  How can anyone be in two places at once?  It’s impossible.  But wait, that person who texted needs a response!  If I don’t send that email right away the opportunity may pass!  Well, yeah, but I have to take this call!  I get it, I really do.  And that’s what’s so difficult, balancing responsibilities while staying present in the moment.  So how do we do it?

First, by being aware.  The greatest gift you can give anyone is your presence… period.  And don’t they deserve it?  Well, you do too.  You see when we’re constantly worried about the future, or answering so and so immediately, we’re never truly living in the present moment.  Sure, we’re “focused” on the person before us, but our mind is somewhere else.  Our mind is focused on the million things we have to accomplish, the people who are waiting to hear from us, the pins on pinterest; meanwhile, life is passing before our eyes, or before our smartphones. 

This summer when I was in Cape Cod my friends and I decided to have ONE day where we hid our phones and all the clocks.  We made a vow that we would disconnect from the world… a smartphone fast.  What’s so hard about that?!   The day started and we had no idea what time is was… the day ended and still we had no idea what time it was.  The only thing we did know is that we had been absolutely present in every given moment.  Our thoughts seemed to live in peace.  We connected to each other in ways we hadn’t before.  We were forced to have real human interactions.  In the end, we were more than grateful that we buried our smartphones. 

Now, that was on a Sunday, and when Monday rolled around we started the rat race again.  You can’t bury your smartphone and become invisible to the world around you.  But can we have a better sense of awareness?  Can we give the gift of our presence to someone?  By thinking, “The little buzz, phone call, and tweet can wait,” you’re actually saying, “You are important to me!”  Nothing is more important than the person before you or the life around you.  Take it in and you’ll find yourself more alive than ever… present to receive life’s presents. 

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Whenever you meet anyone, no matter how briefly, do you acknowledge their being by giving them your full attention? Or do you reduce them to a means to an end, a mere function or role? A moment of attention is enough. You are no longer acting out a script, you become real."

-Eckhart Tolle


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grace...



Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  On days like this we are constantly reminded to be grateful.  This got me thinking… what if everyday was a reminder?  Is that such a hard concept to imagine?  I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately and have found, truth be told, living in a state of grace can be difficult.  I’m the first to admit that I can be pretty damn selfish.  Often caught up in my own ambition, desires, and motivations: practically unaware of life around me.  Ultimately, this leads to frustration, overwhelming thoughts, and lack of purpose.  

That’s why on days like Thanksgiving we have a unique opportunity to come back to what really matters… fabulous friends, flattering family, fatty foods (go ahead, cheat), fortified faith, faulty falsettos (insert as many f’ word as you see fit)… The list is endless and everyones remains unique.  No matter what our circumstance or our “perceived” lack we always have the opportunity to be grateful.  And when we remind ourselves of this grace we begin to realize that there are more important things than ourselves.  

Here’s a little practice I’ve been trying every day that may or may not work for you.  A while ago my girlfriend gave me a small wooden carving from Jamaica as a gift.  Obviously the gesture was enough to make me grateful but I decided to take it a step further.  I attached the wooden token to my keys and now every time I touch the token I say one thing that I’m grateful for.   Every time my fingers run across the etching I immediately think, “I’m grateful for (      ),” no matter where I am or what I’m doing.   Surprisingly, every time I do this energy is restored, worries begin to vanish, and the perspective of my environment changes.  A grateful token can be anything: a penny, a poster, a pan, a picture, a paperclip (oof… a little alliteration happy today)… ANYTHING.  Try coming up with one of your own and see what happens when you have to interact with it every day. 

What are you grateful for today?  Can we try and be grateful everyday?  Take the challenge with me! 
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"Gratitude is heaven itself." - William Blake