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Shaking Hands with Demons

“Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.”

This famous quote from the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass might sound harsh to some. It might even send some into a head shaking, eye rolling scoff. ‘Why would I want to suffer? I don’t deserve to suffer- I’ve worked too hard in my life.’

But Ram Dass isn’t suggesting we not enjoy our lives. He’s simply reminding us that the discomfort of grief, embarrassment, guilt, longing and empathy are states of being that we are actually hard wired to handle. In fact- they are experiences that we all require in order to authentically be in the world.

But, alas! The beauty of Instagram allows our head to stay down as we encounter the homeless man asking for money. The glorification of busy-ness and exhaustion rewards us the chance to blatantly ignore our unresolved problems. Today’s fluffy world of ‘self-help’ often drops the requirement for actual self-analyzation, and sugar coats the psyche with misconceptions- including but not limited to the idea that being calm, comfortable and smiley are always to do with self change and growth.

But by putting blinders up on a daily basis, we take ourselves out of a “wide-angle” view of life. And doing so is dangerous. Because something ignored does not disappear. In fact: things (or people) disregarded as real, even in the presence of their reality, tend to become 10X stronger. Try ignoring a person that is directly next to you for an entire day, non stop. The physical and psychic tension that compounds from pretending what’s real is not, is at best a disservice to all involved, and at worse- a grave mistake. Even the brief moments of deliberate disassociation from what we dislike still add up- and leave us walking blindfolded without a guide through life. Because the things we choose not to look at will still be there, affecting us. And to look the other way does not save us- it just takes away our handle on the situation.

The famous actor and playwright Sam Shepard has said of getting to know the dark, interstitial matter of his own human nature- “Catharsis is getting rid of something. I’m not looking to get rid of it, I’m looking to find it. I’m not doing this in order to vent demons. I want to shake hands with them.” Shepard is sharing with us the importance of getting to know all aspects of ourselves. Because, how long would we be able to falsely believe that ignoring our demons and overcoming them, are synonymous actions? We can only mask the rugged topography of our inner landscape with layers of fluff, for so long. Easy outs like overworking, over drinking and frenzied hobbies built on capitalistic ego allow us to deny that the demons in us are even present at all. But they are- we all have sunlit skies and murky waters, and it’s important to get to know both- because doing so allows us to see all that is real.. without judgement. Having to manage the: anger, disgust, mortification, vulnerability and discomfort of looking at ourselves fully, like being with another’s suffering- serves as an important element of our own self evolution.

To see suffering in another is to understand it could be us. To truly see the poor and hungry is to recognize our own fragility. To stop being “too busy” to heal our relationships is to have to look at our role in the wound. To really be with what’s true is to feel responsibility to it. And the newsflash is- that’s the bottom line. We do have a collective responsibility to recognize the suffering in our world- and we each have an individual responsibility to take a deep look inside our own dark waters.

In my life, I have done some very high-profile things. I’ve performed on some of the most famous stages in the world. I’ve been on the cover of a magazine. I’ve been the star in films. I’ve traveled the world and have at times, made lots of money. But the accomplishments that have made me feel like I am finally beginning to ‘get’ this whole being a human on planet earth thing- are the moments where I am helping people. A pre-natal yoga client gets back pain relief and anxiety reduction from our sessions. Another client recovering from addiction and depression finds a renewed sense of vitality in her body. A client discovering the memory of childhood abuse learns to consciously release her body’s reaction to the trauma, 3 decades later. It’s not just their overcoming something that’s fulfilling, though. It’s the process of me being with their suffering, and their willingness to be with their truth, that allows both of us the “AHA” moment.

For a short period of time, I worked with elderly people in a retirement facility, many of whom were chronically ill or dying. On many levels, it felt like new schooling in the art of vulnerability. To look into the eyes of a man with Parkinson’s who had been a successful mechanic his whole life- and listen to him say he’s sorry because he’s just urinated in his bed, or to sit and hold hands with a dying woman one third my size as she waits for her son to visit yet says ‘will never come’- is vulnerability. Because in each of their stories, I recognized- is us. Each and every one of us is a beautiful encasement of skin and bones and memories and traumas, and each of us will lose our capacity to function well, and we’ll long for and need the help of another. And then we’ll go. And this is life. And why would we want to miss out on all of it’s depth while we’re here? The good and the difficult. Why would we skip out on knowing all that is real?

“Choose what is”, a mentor once said to me. As in- if we, on a moment to moment basis, accept what may be out of our control, our tolerance for it can strengthen and our capacity to see the value in the experience becomes suddenly available. Something as small as a traffic jam goes from maddening to relaxing, and something like being with human suffering goes from distressing and nauseating to being an experience we have the power to hold. And we do-have the power. And the strength. To be with our deep waters.. to really see, and look into our own- and then into one another’s.

After all, we are all sharing the same sea.

Being faced with hard facts about the sick and dying can be difficult. But take a look at the sheer empowerment that can come from taking action towards healing in the face of chronic illness and loss, in this brave story:

“AN ACTIVE PROCESS”
PRODUCED BY WAKING STUDIOS

Jessica Cadden Osborne is an actor, writer, producer and director now based in Maine. Follow www.jessicacaddenosborne.com for updates.

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All of Me, All of You

We’ve been there or we know someone who has. One half of a relationship feels neglected, unseen, stifled or unfulfilled, and feels they cannot say it. So instead- they might suffer, break loyalty to their other half or, escape the situation entirely.

There’s a lot of vulnerability in the act of saying how we really feel to our partner, parent, sibling or friend. Speaking Out is an act of bravery and risk, and it comes with the cost of revealing our deepest needs. But this courageous act of dissolving pretense and honouring what’s real for us (with respect for both ourselves and others) is an integral part of growth.

We live in an age where, when we cannot fulfill a need we have within a partnership- we turn to the next most readily available thing. Example A: A man feels sexually unfulfilled in a relationship and instead of speaking out how he’d like to be intimate, he turns to media and porn. Meanwhile, his partner feels the exact same way and, also keeping it to themselves, turns to online dating and cheating to resolve their inner conflict. Both persons pursue managing their ‘unfair’ situation by looking externally for a fix. Yet, there were never any speakings out within the partnership to get clear that in fact, both parties felt the same way.

What would have happened if the couple in Example A did Speak Out? They’d have to get back to the work; some good elbow grease to get back to a place where communication is open and both parties can feel liberated and safe in their sexual experience. Or, perhaps there’s an agreement that the relationship needs to end. Regardless- the cat’s pulled outta the bag and what’s really going on ends up in plain sight, thanks to the absence of pretense, lying, and good old fashioned bullshit.

That feeling of not ‘getting what we want’ in life has been addressed by philosophies for ages. Yoga teaches us that the Universe is within ourselves and that, outside of our karmic debts and our pursuits of Dharma (our purpose), we can rest easy in that we are already everything that we need.

But we all know damn well that our desires, our goals, our love and our need to connect are banging down the door everyday to be seen, heard, acknowledged and believed. So, consider doing this to get to a half way point between ignoring your inner voices and, misusing their message by running off to a new state and leaving all your toiled problems behind:

Just include all of you. Include all of yourself in everything you do.

I am a teacher, writer, actress; I’m a good friend and a healer, a physical mover and a mindful yogi. I am also a Wild Woman. I am a fierce protector. I am a product of trauma. I have struggled with addiction and depression. I have lied and abused from a place of woundedness, and I have changed people’s lives from a place of healing. I over drink wine though I always try not to. I run races. I am an athlete. I live a life of chronic pain. I love people so much. I isolate myself. I am a sexual Goddess. I am a Little Girl. I am the CEO of my life, and a powerful one, though the haze of past traumas sometimes masks opportunities that are right in front of me. I am a Star, a Clown, a Witch and a Creator. And none of these things are actually contradictory to one other, because they are all my Truth. They are all me.

So what should we all do with the knowledge of all of our Selves? Heal. Self Parent. Seek support. Learn life’s tools with grace and then act from a place of integrity and respect rather than disarray and victimization. And- Speak Out. Do not swallow your Truth. Let the voices within you be heard. Let your Selves be heard and be known.

My intimate partner knows my Little Girl and my Wound as much as he knows my Goddess and my Wild Woman. Until he met them all, he could not possibly know me. And if he can’t know me, he cannot possibly be my partner. By sharing, connecting and Speaking Out from a place of respect for each other and acceptance and love for ourselves, he and I are able to navigate the stresses of our everyday lives.

Moral of the story? It’s not just a great John Legend song. If there is room for all of me, and I also accept all of you, only then can there be clarity and fulfillment within a pact. But here we are, back to the challenge of vulnerability. Can we all get to a place of letting all our Selves ask for what they need? I think I can guarantee nothing but freedom in the beauty of accepting this challenge.

‘It’s to do with knowing and being known’ -Tom Stoppard, The Real Thing

Jessica Cadden Osborne is an NYC based actress, writer, teacher and filmmaker with a sincere desire to spread the Truth.

Speaking Out isn’t easy. But when we hold back sharing what we really need in a relationship, can we end up deceiving ourselves with notions of what we really want? Check out John and Sandra’s continued path of connection, vulnerability and laughs:

Seeing You See Me, Seeing You

The scenario:

Two strangers- Jane, and John. An airport waiting area. Jane sees John. Jane sits near John. Jane looks at John with an unwavering gaze- out of some mix of curiosity, intrigue and a desire to connect. John catches Jane looking and decides to meet her gaze with a steady eye contact, interested in both her motives and her as a human being. Jane realizes John is now watching her observe him. She sees that John sees her, seeing him. John is under the microscope of harmless observation. Jane is also being observed by John. Yet, there’s another aspect to Jane’s experience. Her desire to look at John and her willingness to be seen in her need call for quite a bit of courage and, a whole lot of vulnerability.

Realistically?

These two would have never seen one another at all because their heads would have been down, scrolling through instagram.

The big question:

What would it be like to keep our heads up from time to time, allowing for such vulnerable opportunities?

In Indian and Yogic Philosophy, the term Maya is associated with how we see things. Through our senses, we each, individually, have a unique experience of other people, places and events. Maya is our perceived experience, turned into reality by our psyches. Yet in this philosophy, Maya is often referred to as illusion. In other words, how we see it is just how we see it, but perhaps- not the truth. Our history of experience in our bodies, subtly alive in our cells and subconscious, is always shading what we see; affecting what we do. Samskaras, another Sanskrit term, are thought to be the mental pathways that are ingrained in us after we go through something. So, even though you’re no longer thinking about that time little Suzy pushed you down and smushed your cake at your 7th birthday party, subconsciously- every year when you blow out the candles, you’re ready to throw an elbow. And of course from there, all the deep disappointments and real traumas in our lives have the potential to inform our decisions and color our current world in a way that keeps us on guard and persuades us to avoid vulnerability.

But think about it-

How amazing would it be to make one choice a day that really required us to put ourselves out there, in spite of our wounds, fears and cynicism? Through a research survey I conducted on vulnerability, I learned that a lot of us feel the same exact way about showing up with our mask off. Folks agreed it feels scary to be totally honest and unguarded. One person wrote, ‘Vulnerability is showing up as you are, not how you want to be’. I found that profound. Because without an agenda or an instagram tint, it’s just us. And when we show up emotionally naked, so to speak, the subject of vulnerability really turns into a question of, ‘am I enough?’.

My two cents?

We’re talking chicken and egg stuff here. When we feel insecure, we tend to build up the facade. Yet, the inauthenticity of the mask, on an energetic level, will always get to us. So we end up feeling worse off than when we started. Jane must have felt some level of insecurity within the vulnerability of seeing and being seen, and letting John know she wanted to view him. But she stuck with it. She decided her interest in John and her need for connection were more powerful and more important than the mask. Ralph Blum states it best in his translation of the Nordic Rune Eihwaz: ‘..even more than we are doers, we are deciders. Once the decision is clear, the doing becomes effortless, for then the universe supports and empowers our action…through inconvenience and discomfort, growth is promoted.’

The take away:

It pays to be a little uncomfortable. It’s a beautiful part of life to have to go through the squirmy, awkward, red faced moments with one another. The situations that require us to leap empty handed into the void with nothing but a deep breath and some courage on our side, are gifts. We can, I think, trust that when we make brave decisions within these vulnerable scenarios, there will always be something learned; something grown. Something new.

In one of my favorite plays, The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard, the character Henry has an unforgettable monologue about ‘knowing and being known’. First given to me by the late and great acting teacher Sam Christensen, the monologue and Sam’s teachings inspired me to begin to approach acting and, my life, in such a way that bore real truth. It’s my hope for us all that, with compassion for ourselves as a vehicle for moving forward, we can embrace our wounds and fears and dive deep into what can be none other than the absolutely fulfilling world of deep and real; authentic and true connection.*

“It’s to do with knowing and being known. I remember how it stopped seeming odd that in biblical Greek, knowing was used for making love. Whosit knew so-and-so. Carnal knowledge. It’s what lovers trust each other with. Knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face. Every other version of oneself is on offer to the public. We share our vivacity, grief, sulks, anger, joy . . . we hand it out to anybody who happens to be standing around, to friends and family with a momentary sense of indecency perhaps, to strangers without hesitation. Our lovers share us with the passing trade. But in pairs we insist that we give ourselves to each other. What selves? What’s left? What else is there that hasn’t been dealt out like a deck of cards? Carnal knowledge. Personal, final, uncompromised. Knowing, being known. I revere that. Having that is being rich, you can be generous about what’s shared – she walks, she talks, she laughs, she lends a sympathetic ear, she kicks off her shoes and dances on the tables, she’s everybody’s and it don’t mean a thing, let them eat cake; knowledge is something else, the undealt card, and while it’s held it makes you free-and-easy and nice to know, and when it’s gone everything is pain.” -The Real Thing

Jessica Cadden Osborne is an NYC based actress, writer, teacher and filmmaker with a sincere desire to spread the Truth.

Vulnerability in intimate relationships is no easy road. Get a taste of that hilariously painful and utterly sweet predicament here:

John and Sandra struggle to find common ground. Will they be able to get past their own fears, and approach love with vulnerability?