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On Awareness and Creative Expression

an interview with Jennifer Lehman

by Douglas Eby

Jennifer Lehman is a film acting teacher and consultant, and scriptwriter.

"You need to move away from your ego to stay in a creative state" she says. "Anytime you're shifting the focus back to yourself, you're shutting down creative potential. It's difficult to achieve a consistent openness, letting things flow through you, without your own judgments, your own personal history, or how you think it should be, interfering with that. 

"Our thinking mind is different than our feeling mind, and if we start thinking, we shut down creative expression - for actors, anyway."

Lehman thinks a creative experience "is a very full experience, multidimensional. But if you're making a mental choice about something, then your experience becomes limited to only that. A creative experience has many layers all at the same time. If you're trying to juggle a bunch of ideas, it's going to limit your availability to feeling states.

"Creative living is life at a higher state of being than we operate on every day, although I'm finding you can live in that altered state without it making you crazy. But we're walking every day on a pretty low level of energy, and we also have a lot of conditioning that places a burden on the energy. 

"You can see in a cold reading that when people work full-bore with their energy, the words fly off the page - it's like the pages disappear. One student just commented that she didn't know how she got a whole paragraph with one glance - but that's an altered state, an expanded state of awareness."

She relates the linear mind or ego to the police department motto 'To Serve and Protect' -- "But when you're in a creative state like acting, it's not about protection - it's about revealing and risk-taking," she notes. "It takes tremendous courage to do that, and if the mind steps in, it's there to pull you back from that experience: 'Whoa, wait a minute, we're getting into the danger zone here!'

"Exceptional acting performance is about being willing to stay right there with the emotional heat - 'on the stove' - without becoming self-indulgent. As soon as you're 'on the stove' it's not about hopping off as fast as you can, or staying there, 'frying', but knowing when to get off, and that's an intuitive thing. 

"We have our emotional hot zones, and good acting is being able to walk through the fire, like Jessica Lange and Gena Rowlands can do so brilliantly. These are two consummate actresses who are very willing to be on that hot stove and not get consumed and turned to ash.

"They still keep a presence. There is a fear about being in that place, but if you're still in a creative state, a perfection occurs. Something else will happen. If you really have your awareness attuned and your trust there, something will take you from the heat to another emotional place, and you would not have reached there had you said 'I'm going to stay on this stove no matter what'.

She thinks actors, and other people as well, "need a very safe environment to explore and face the obstacles to their creative expression before they can take it out there into the world. The obstacles have to do with the question 'Am I enough?' and all the stuff that goes around that."

Lehman says she appreciates what Marianne Williamson wrote in her book "A Return To Love" : 

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 

"Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. 

"We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

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   related Talent Development Resources pages:

The Inner Actor. front page.....

The Inner Actor blog
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