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How To Get Your Ideal Job

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“Want to go out for a coffee?” a member of my yoga class asked after class one day.  “I’d like to discuss your one-woman show which I saw last weekend.” I was thrilled, of course, and agreed. To get acquainted, we discussed our favorite foreign films, particularly Pedro Almodovar.  Then we shifted gears to discussing my show, particularly one of the characters, Caroline Casey, who advocates for the rights of the disabled. He told me it inspired him to enter a contest designed to create an app to make it easier for disabled people to use public transportation around Philadelphia. “Would you believe that all the stops in center city are not necessarily wheelchair-accessible?” he asked. “With my app a person can know which stops are good ones to use because they are wheelchair accessible.” James was a fascinating thinker and unlike most conversations which start with the generic question “What do you do?” I finally got around to asking him that at the end of the hour.

“I’m between jobs” he told me, wistfully, “but I am ready to start working again. My last job was too consuming, and I have intentionally taken time off to reboot.”

“Can I give you some coaching for how to manifest your ideal job?” I asked. He nodded enthusiastically.

First I needed to decipher what sort of work he was accustomed to and the kind of job he wanted to create at this point in his career. He was clear about his goals which was a good start.

“Now all you need to do is write the following question I am going to share with you. You write it ten times a day for 21 days,” I told him “The affirmation is based on a similar one by the amazing Louise Hay, the author of “You Can Heal Your Life.” She is a self-help writer and is often considered the spiritual grandmother of today’s self-help authors.  Here is the affirmation: Why is it so easy for me to have a wonderful new position, one that uses all my talents and abilities, and allows me to express creatively in ways that are fulfilling to me. I work with and for people whom I love, and who love and respect me, in a wonderful location and earning great money?”

“Why 10 times a day for 21 days?” he asked.

“It takes that long for the mind to be able to recognize something which is actually already here. There was a study conducted on patients who had a deformity corrected on their faces. After the surgery they still believed they had the deformity. It took them three weeks before they could actually see their faces as they were. That is how the mind works. It takes us 21 days to be able to see clearly. In your case what you desire.”

“Why do you write it as a question?”

“Because our rational mind will debate with us whether or not something is possible. It doesn’t matter whether we genuinely want to have a great new job. If our affirmation is phrased as a statement, our critical mind will point out that it isn’t here yet, that we are affirming something that is in fact not true.  If we phrase it as a question, however, our unconscious goes to work on our own behalf, looking for ways to answer the question.”

“Why is it phrased ‘Why is it so easy…’?”

“Because when choosing whether we want something to be difficult or easy, might as well have it be easy.”

So my friend went and did this as directed. He manifested a job offer in two weeks! He was then offered an even better one soon after that! I believe that is the one he accepted. He really loves his new job. The only problem is due to his schedule change I never get to see him in my favorite yoga class or for a tea afterward anymore. I guess now I have to work on manifesting that.

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The Undeniable Yes

bradleywhitfordpaulandjoanne1  lauralinney

Ever since I was seven, I’d dreamt of being an actress. Now, here I was, 22 years old,  assisting at my first legit reading for a teleplay. To top that, my favorite acting professor  had gathered all of us players at the home of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman! The script was written as a vehicle for Ms. Woodward, but as I looked around the room I recognized other famous faces and tried to keep my cool. At a break I stood with Joanne Woodward and Laura Linney and Ms. Woodward admitted “When I first debuted in Picnic on Broadway I felt so awkward. I had no idea what to do with my hands.” I laughed on cue and stuck my own hands deep inside virtual pockets. I had no idea what to do with my entire self in that rarefied space, let alone my hands.

As we took a break I approached Bradley Whitford of West Wing fame (though this event took place several year before the series began.) Whitford had attended Wesleyan University as I had. He was infamous as both a student and also as an acting instructor. Still, I could not resist asking him for advice. After all we’d attended the same school. Maybe my timing was bad, maybe he was in a bad mood, or maybe he really meant it.  He looked at me closely and my bright shining face. “Don’t be an actress,” he told me. “They only cast the mom or the babe — and you are neither.”

Shocked, I retreated to the bathroom where Mr. Newman had framed a happy letter from a fan of his spaghetti sauce. Why did Whitford say that? Am I that unattractive? Why didn’t I talk back to him? Where did my voice go? Does an alma mater mean so very little? My mind kept spinning with questions, trying to process his dismissal.

I returned to the room where I delighted in reading stage directions and a few bit parts. I was still in heaven, though the edges of my skirt were tinged with my brush with hellfire. We finished the reading. There was a subsequent reading for the same project a few weeks later. Mr. Whitford was not invited to the other reading, so I never got the chance to challenge him about his comment. I tried to focus on what was most important: it was an honor to participate and to have met Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. I still consider that event one of the most magical and elevated moments of my life.

My mind, however, had hooked onto that awful pronouncement. “Don’t be an actress.” I continued to roll it over in my mind while I attended acting class, while I starred in a short play off-Broadway, while I worked with an acting coach who told me I wasn’t pretty. I kept thinking about this awful message. I couldn’t shake it until one day a friend of a friend of mine told me there was an opening at the Samuel Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row and asked if I knew of anyone who would want to rent it out?

This sparked me. I moved into high gear, gathering together pieces I had worked on at P.S. 122 and at the Dia Center for the Arts. I cobbled together an evening of work. I had it recorded by a client of mine that often shot for the PBS channel. In essence I created my first one-woman show in 1995, despite not having a clear plan or totally knowing what I was doing, and I was not a babe, and not yet a mother!

We can use the worst things people say to us as fuel. It’s not just the good things that inspire, but the challenges we face that can actually create a fire in our bellies to launch us into our bigger selves. Artistically, I don’t know if I would have been quite as desperate and as dissatisfied as I needed to be to take the leap of creating my first one-woman show had it not been for Bradley Whitford and what he said. I am now grateful for his comment (though still perplexed). Sometimes when people tell us no, but there is a stronger yes inside us, it does not matter who they are. Our undeniable yes overrides the background noise and becomes the most sacred roadmap to follow.

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“Ms. Blaine, am I a bad actress?”

woman-crying

The High School student blinks back tears.

“I know I did not do well with my monologue today. The other kids here are so good.   I don’t know if I should just stop trying.”

I am the resident acting instructor at the Kimmel Center’s Showstoppers program. As we headed into our last weeks before showtime, the pressure was on for the students to nab the remaining juicy roles. I looked at my sad student, moved closer, and held her hands.

“You are not a bad actress,” I told her.

She sighed, letting the chair support her for the first time.

“But you know what we look for in acting, right?”

“To be real?”

“Yes. Do you think what you did was true to the character?”

“No. I was trying too hard.”

“Exactly. It’s good that you know that. What you were doing is called “indicating.” That means we are showing the audience how something should be done, or how we should feel. But if we try too hard it comes across as forced, flat and empty which is not a very good choice. It’s not that you are not a good actress, it’s that it wasn’t your best performance.”

I locked eyes with her. “Why are you here acting with our program?”

“To show a different side of me. To be more than just a sweet girl princess type of character.”

“Okay, good. I’ll write a character just for you.”

She brightened. “Really Ms. Blaine?”

“Yes, if you promise to stop trying so hard and enjoy yourself. That’s all the audience is looking for. They want to experience a great story and you have to transmit it by making interesting choices. Promise me you will try.”

“Yes, Ms. Blaine. I feel so much better already. I know you probably can’t tell, but I feel just so much better. I am so glad I spoke up.”

“Me too. In fact you speaking up is a good start to being more truthful in life as well as onstage, which will make you the best actress you can be.”

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Collecting No’s

collecting no's

“I was looking to get a regular performing gig set up in Philadelphia,” I told my friend as we walked along South street back in 1999.  “So I spent the entire day on Saturday collecting no’s.”

“What do you mean?” She asked.

“Well in business I have heard that you need to reach out to 10 potential customers every day in order to get one who will sign up for what you’re selling. I have also heard that if you try to get 10 of those to say a flat out no, that it’s harder than you think and it becomes like a numbers game.”

“That’s funny,” she giggled.

“Yes,” I admitted. “I was determined to leave my materials with 10 places and I did. I don’t know if they will be interested or not, but I feel unattached to the outcome and just proud of myself for trying.”

“That’s great,” said my friend, who is a good friend.

“Why don’t you go into the Starbucks and try?” She suggested.

So we walked in to the Starbucks at 4th and south and I asked the barista if they ever had entertainment. She quickly deferred to her manager, Steve.

I stood there and pitched Steve on my talents as a comedian. “I do funny characters, and could just work for tips.”

“No, you can’t work for tips here,” Steve broke it to me. I was about to chalk it up to another no when he added “I can pay you to entertain the customers though.”

And there it was! A regular comedy gig in Philadelphia twice a month. I used the venue to develop and try out new material. I even got a feature in a newspaper about my performing there which led to a spot on the local ABC chat show. It was an ideal gig and a great transition to bigger venues which could sometimes be a cold impersonal environment such as a casino. After performing for strangers of all kinds I gained a stronger stage presence. I got better and better at that venue, and got paid to boot.

If we shift our focus to being unattached and just trying to get those no’s we can gain results that surpass expectation or anything we might have dreamed up for ourselves.

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Wynton Wisdom

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As I watched the segment on Wynton Marsalis, the master trumpeter, jazz innovator, and educator, part of the documentary series “Iconoclasts,” I was struck by a moment Marsalis recollected. As Wynton was leaving home to go off to college, packing just some tapes and a few possessions, his dad turned to him and asked “Are you okay now?” He meant with not a lot of material things. “Yes dad I’m okay,” he replied.

His dad said “Remember that, so when you have a lot you won’t be scared if you lose it because even if you do you will always be okay like you are now.”

Imagine if we could all be blessed with this sense of security and self-assured attitude! I love this story because his father is teaching him so many things all at once: to be grateful even when we don’t have much, to live in gratitude, don’t scare yourself, and trust the process because change is part and parcel of the creative process. We may have a lot or not a lot, but it’s the awareness that we are okay that means we can make our own music and march to our own beat.

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Straighten Up And Fly Right

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When we fly we stock up on movies for Lily who’s eight. For our most recent flight in April Michael chose The Horse Whisperer, a film which depicts an awful accident. A girl, played by a young Scarlett Johansson, goes horseback riding and she and her friend slam into each other, one horse goes down and the girl is crushed underneath. Once the horse is upright it wanders into the road only to be hit by an oncoming truck.

My daughter is scared shitless.  The girl, loses her leg, the horse’s chest is gaping open and its nose is torn. Yes, it’s a family film. It’s too scary, she tells me shaking. So we turn it off and put on an Adam Sandler movie, which only seems to scare me.

To add to her trauma, the news was on a lot that week with the story of the German plane whose copilot steered it into oblivion. With all this on her mind, Lily somehow manages to fall asleep.

So there we were.

35 minutes later Lily wakes with a start.

“We’re all going to die, we’re all going to die!!!!” she cries emphatically. She is certain. She is a great actress and she has everyone believing her too.

Anyway it’s that part of the flight where everyone is finally sleeping. And she is screaming “We’re all going to die.” So like any good mother I do my best to muffle her and shut her the fuck up. “Shhh shhhh shhhh!!!!” I cover her mouth. “We’re gonna die!!!” I try to reason with her, “you’re just having a nightmare”. “We’re gonna die!!!”  I shake her. I slap her. I slap my own child. It accomplishes nothing. “We’re gonna die.” I point to all the people on the plane.  “No one is dead, see?” Who knew I would ever say something like that as a way of comforting her?

“We’re all gonna die!!!!!!!!!”

The stewardess comes running down the aisle from 20 rows away. That is how loud Lily is.

“Is she okay?”

What the fuck? Does she look okay?

“No. She is having a nightmare.”

“Does she want some juice?”

What the fuck does that have to do with the fear that we are all going to die?

“How about some water?”

I picture this stewardess using this technique for a variety of emergency situations: “Oh, your arm is bleeding, how about some snacks? Oh you may have a fracture, don’t worry, this flight has complementary beverage service!”

Lily screams “We are all going to die!” I tell her “No, the plane is safe and we are all going to be fine.”

But the truth is we are all going to die. It’s something I think about about 20 times a day. Maybe Lily’s defenses have come down and now she’s thinking it too. And should I lie to her?

I tell the stewardess she had a nightmare, and all she needs is for me to hold her.

“Look,” I firmly grasp Lily. “You have woken up all these people!” I make her look at all the blinking exhausted eyes cast into our row. “This is a time to sleep and you’ve disturbed all these people.” This quiets her down. Shaming her silences her! And that basically is the teachable conscious parenting lesson. Shame is more powerful than anything to get your kids to straighten up and fly right.

I cradle my 8 year old, who will always be my baby. She settles down onto my lap again. She gets back to sleep, dozes deeply for the remaining two hours of the flight and I am left counting the minutes until I can run off the plane and escape the psychic pain of carrying the mortality alarm clock on board the flight.

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JENNIFER BLAINE PLAYS 1 WISECRACKING GRANDMA AND 7 FAMOUS FEMALE ACTIVISTS IN SOLO SHOW DIRTY JOKE – Performances at Annenberg Center on March 6 and 7 as part of Women’s History Month

JJF_9911.NEFJennifer Blaine, Philadelphia’s acclaimed solo performer, comedienne, and playwright “whose comic genius is like Lily Tomlin and Tracey Ullman” (Philadelphia Daily News) will perform her one-woman show Dirty Joke as part of the 2014-2015 By Local series at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. 

Performances will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, March 6 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, 2015 at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. Tickets are $20-30 and available at www.AnnenbergCenter.org or by calling 215-898-3900. The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts’ By Local Series spotlights artistic talent that thrives within the Philadelphia community.

Jennifer Blaine has performed with the likes of Chris Rock, George Carlin, and Joe Piscopo, and has brought her smart, irreverent humor to premier venues and festivals nationwide. Jennifer is renowned for her extraordinary ability to shift between characters across age and ethnicity; her shows are a balm for those craving some comedy, candor, and inspiration.

Jennifer is thrilled to bring Dirty Joke back to her hometown of Philadelphia, after premiering the show to sold-out audiences at the 2013 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. According to the Philadelphia City Paper in their review, “It’s comedy with a conscience…Blaine is warm and thoughtful, never pushy or pedantic, and of course there’s all those dirty jokes.” 

Dirty Joke centers on one of Jennifer’s most popular characters: Ruth, an elderly Jewish woman with a penchant for off-color humor. Ruth sings, dances, tells jokes, and makes light out of the dark moment in which she finds herself — struggling to hold onto her apartment. As Ruth convenes the first live “Superwoman Conference,” Jennifer portrays 7 real-life changemakers who have made a significant impact on our world:

  • Madeleine Albright: The first female U.S. Secretary of State, who advocated for democracy and human rights;
  • Arianna Huffington: Chair, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group and author of 14 books;
  • Kiran Bir Sethi: Pioneering Indian educator who founded the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, focused on engaging young people and making cities more child-friendly.
  • Majora Carter: Founder of Sustainable South Bronx who coined the term “Green The Ghetto,” and the recipient of the MacArthur “genius” Fellowship;
  • Cindy Sheehan: American anti-war activist who protested outside of President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch after her son was killed during the Iraq War;
  • Wangari Maathai: Nobel Prize-winning Kenyan activist who, as founder of the Green Belt Movement, planted millions of trees with women’s groups.

As Jennifer explains, “When I craft a character, I start from an inner sense of who the person is and what motivates them. I study their history, listen to them speak and zero in on their gestures, posture and gait. Then there comes that shift from being just a snippet of a person into a living, breathing tribute.”

Dirty Joke marks Jennifer’s fourth collaboration with director and fellow Wesleyan University graduate Vashti Dubois — who produced the critically acclaimed Philadelphia performance EvictionProof PeepShow Home. Vashti co-founded the Mumbo Jumbo Theatre Company in New York City, championing female artists of color such as playwrights Lynn Nottage and Adrienne Kennedy and actresses Lisa Gay Hamilton and Hazel Goodman.

It’s no coincidence that Jennifer’s latest show features a “Conference of Superwomen.” In addition to keeping a busy schedule as a solo performer and comedienne, Jennifer is the founder of The 5,000 Women Festival which showcases the creativity of women artists in all media. For more information about Jennifer Blaine and The 5,000 Women Festival, visit www.jenniferblaine.com.

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Linda Grace

rolfing

“So when did you break your tailbone?” Linda asks while palpating the lowermost reaches of my spine.  I flash to a possible moment, more than twenty years earlier when I’d fallen down a steep flight of steps in Amsterdam.  The pain at the time had been excruciating, but my parents tend to err on the conservative side when it comes to physical discomfort, so they didn’t take me to a doctor.  It wasn’t personal though. My Dad once shrugged off a bad cold for weeks, only to finally realize it was pneumonia. No one in my family ever realized that I’d broken my tailbone. Now it all made sense.

Linda Grace is my Rolfer. I have a long history of both practicing and patronizing the healing arts. I have been to brilliant massage therapists, chiropractors and shiatsu masters, but Linda has provided the most singular and reliable remedy for anything my family or I have ever thrown at her.

When my husband overdid it exercising and rest did nothing to resolve the anguish of his lower back, Linda even came to our home.  She asked him to walk around. When he howled as he tried to move, she stated matter-of-factly “I’m not touchin’ that.”  She recommended consulting orthopedic doctors, predicting (correctly) that it would heal on its own if given at least 7 weeks.  As she left, knowing how driven my husband is and that rest would be his best prescription she looked me in the eye and said “Good luck keepin’ him down.”

When our daughter, Lily, was tiny we decided to have Linda Grace work on her.  Linda would hold the infant patient, cradling her head to coax her neck to release tension, or working the insteps of her feet to give her greater mobility. There was nothing wrong with Lily but the transition to life from the womb can be a challenge for any of us and Lily benefitted from the magical touch. Thanks to Linda, with each visit there was more and more that was right.

I have referred countless friends and coaching clients to Linda. Whoever follows her advice sees amazing results. My friend had an issue with her sciatic nerve which cortisone shots and physical therapy would not resolve. After just 2 sessions with Linda she was completely healed. I am not overstating Linda’s powers.

Last month I was somewhat immobilized by a few false moves at yoga on Monday. Linda had me lay on my side. She worked around the iliac crest, attended to where my thoracic and lumbar spine meet, and completed the session by applying pressure and then friction to one of the insertion points for my psoas muscle. With her hand firmly inside my upper thigh I asked if she ever tried this move with anyone on the first date. “No, and with some people I wouldn’t ever dare to do it at all!”

Being the primary caregiver plus being a full time life coach and one-woman show, it’s hard for me to call out sick. Many of my responsibilities can not be done by someone else. Linda gives me back my time, my well-being, and best of all my self, so I can accomplish what needs to be done and go on with my life.

My profound gratitude for the incredible Linda Grace!!!!

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Two Heroines

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Two Heroines

For her birthday my 10 year old niece from Colorado asked her friends to donate to Doctors Without Borders instead of giving her a wrapped gift. And, if you’re wondering,   this was all her idea.

Coincidentally I happen to to coach someone who works for the French counterpart of this organization, médecins sans frontières, or MSF. I mentioned to my client that my niece had come up with this thoughtful gift which honors devotion, service, and the altruistic spirit. So my client asked if she could write a note of appreciation to my niece…

My client sent an amazing letter. She reported that she’s been in CAR (Central African Republic) and that she has an incredible team that assists her with distributing essential supplies. She did not mention that she spent last year continuing this work in the middle of a war in which 700,000 Muslims either fled or were massacred, some right in front of her, and that her staff chose to walk through the carnage everyday to get to the hospital and assist in saving lives. Hearing this I was profoundly inspired by their bravery.

My niece has since asked whether my client gets to choose which country in which is placed. I wonder how my client will field that one.

I am very touched by my niece’s kind-heartedness, thoughtful questions and generous gesture. I am also impressed by the fact that my client has devoted her life to helping heal the world. In my book they are both heroines.

Who are some heroines in your life?

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Jealousy As A Force For Good

green-eyed-monster

Yes, jealousy can be a force for good.  You heard me right!

Jealousy can be a fantastic way to energize, enliven, and motivate. We think of jealousy as being a base emotion and associated with unpalatable behavior, but jealousy can also be a way to tune in and figure out what we desire most. Once we know, we can think about how we are directing our energy and,  possibly, make new choices, ones help us reach the desired goal that gets us back on track.

For a half a year in my late 20’s I considered not acting anymore, just packing it in. I was new to Philadelphia, and, contrary to what I pictured in my mind,  no one was lining up, excited to host my one-woman show at any theatre. I had a favorable review of my one woman show in Timeout NY. I clutched the press clipping in my pocket folder as I banged on doors, yet failed to get a single appointment. No one was impressed or motivated to showcase me. I was pretty deflated.

Maybe I will just be a healer and forget about acting and writing, I mused to myself. So I tried to going that route. I promoted my coaching services and I was successful in finding clients who benefitted from my services, many of whom then referred me to their friends.

Then Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting. I loved the film, especially the writing, and I marveled at how these two friends had made this vehicle to showcase their talents.

I was undeniably jealous. They were not much older than me, they were talented, they were successful, and they had not given up on their dream. That’s when I first realized that jealousy is there to remind us when we really want something and must not give up on honoring that. That is a critical component to realizing what we want in life. One of those aha moments.

The trick is to decipher what the qualities are of the thing we are jealous about that deep down we wish we could have for ourselves. If we are willing to be flexible and have some of those qualities in another form, we stand a good chance of getting at least some of what we want and continuing to build from there. The painful part of jealousy when it hypnotizes us into believing we cannot have it. Once we change from this self defeating one, to a self-honoring one we can then take actions to actually realize our dreams.

I still get jealous, but now I know how to use it to be an energizing tool that actually works in my favor.

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