Nearly twenty years ago I made my way up to the Big Apple with clichéd bright eyes, big dreams and a bit of talent to back it all up. What I failed to take with me was something that took these past two decades to cultivate. Something, that had I understood the value of back then, my career and life trajectory would have been quite different. That something? Focus.
Being focused wasn’t easy twenty years ago as I learned quickly during my time in New York and my inability to be present for the absurd abundance of goodness and career grace that came my way (oh to have a Time Machine to return me to then with what I know now). Similarly, being focused in today's hyper-connected world is about as easy as that whole Biblical camel-getting-through-the-eye-of-a-needle parable. My attention is pulled moment by moment in every possible direction even directions I have no interest in but sometimes can't avoid gazing toward because of all the flash and sparkle. Or, in the case of reality television: all the lip-gloss and the crazy.
When I was teaching yoga on a more consistent schedule, one of my favorite class themes was “Intention vs. Goal”. Often on our yoga mats, and in our lives, we are so intent on what the end game or the goal is that we lose ourselves in the achievement of it. In yoga it’s the pose and getting to the fullest expression of the pose as soon as possible so it can get ‘checked off a list’ of did that one, got up there, asana-d the heck outta (insert name of pose here) and the goal achieved, move on to the next and the next and the next. All along missing the fullness offered by the practice of yoga.
For actors, there is often the goal of celebrity and I have no problem with that as a life goal whatsoever. It's just not for me. My intention is to be a working actor, to be someone who gets to explore other worlds, other lives, other experiences, and expose them through the lens of my experiences, world and life. It happens in so many random ways from the stage to audiobooks, to television, to wacky hosting gigs and on it goes. Celebrity can happen along the way, but nowadays far too many people are calling themselves actors and/or artists when in truth they are only attention-seekers or fame-grabbers.
In my day-to-day life as an actor "Career Goals" have morphed into "Daily Intentions" and the idea of being a celebrity has beautifully transformed into being more about what I celebrate - ya know, like nailing that long line of dialogue while walking the exact number of steps to hit my mark so I'm in focus and the story moves on along!
The power of intention deeply roots me in the present moment. The now. Not the then. Not the when. Goals are fabulous and I don’t want to degrade the value of having goals, but goals are future, they are out there in front, something that will happen someday, not something that is happening right now in this moment. Placing my attention on what is my intention brings into focus all that is here and now and available to me.
I’ll be returning to New York next month and while I am keenly aware there is no such thing as a Genie in a Bottle I can rub to tell me the outcome, I do see the reflection in the mirror of a stable and grounded woman who has come full circle since her last dance down Broadway with a heart full of gratitude for knowing the necessity of attention, intention, and focus.
From Mark Nepo’s book The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life:
“The confusion between giving attention and getting attention is so great that we often want to be well-known rather than well-knowing. We often want to be great rather than true. We often long for celebrity while secretly aching for something to celebrate.”