Words of Wisdom

Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium: and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly of the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

A Misfit Finding Peace of Mind

Although I was introduced to yoga back in 1999 while attending theatre school in New York, I, like with so many things, fell off the wagon and stepped away from my practice for five years. In 2006 I started going back to yoga, fell in love with it, and now I am a lifer.

From the age of 7 yrs old I trained as a classical ballet dancer and spent my formative years in the studio taking classes, rehearsing, performing, touring, and spending summers away training.When I came back to yoga, I had quit dancing for close to ten years, and found that my body ached so badly to move in the same way that I had all those years through dancing. I was mentally and emotionally thankful.

I am someone who has always felt like I didn’t fit in, that I was weird, and that something was wrong with me. A misfit. I have spent so much time since my youth searching for ways to fit in and to be accepted, always trying to find a place where I belonged in the world. I never thought I was enough or that what I had to offer was of value.

I, like everyone else, has a story and that story has made me who I am today. When I found my home at a yoga studio I began to learn that who I am is someone who is important and who’s ideas and thoughts are of value. I have now been teaching at that yoga studio for four years.Throughout this time I have struggled to find balance. How can I be a powerful woman who not only questions herself, but her spirituality, as she heads out from the safety of a yogic womb to life, to work, and to love? Is my talent enough? Am I going to book this audition? When I am having a bad day or week, feeling uninspired, how do I hold myself accountable when others depend on me for guidance?Although I have had glimpses of stillness through my yoga and meditation practice, from walking my dog, to performing on stage, the question always arises-‘How do I get back there?’ I am a yoga teacher, yes, but I am also a human being who is an actress, a friend, a sister, and a daughter. I make mistakes, I say the wrong things sometimes, and I can be just as ugly as I am beautiful.

What I am tryng to get at, is that through all of the years of therapy I have been through, the sweat lodges in the forests of Amazon Jungles, and always looking to the wrong people to confirm something that only one person can confirm, which is me…It doesn’t matter how many fabulous pieces of clothing I buy, or how much acupuncture I do. The only thing that has brought me peace of mind, through to my soul, is yoga.  But how I carry that through… I have no idea.  I am in an industry that contradicts what saves me. On a daily basis I am judged more from how I look, and how I come across when I enter the room, as opposed to the talent I possess.  It is my passion, as crazy as it may sound, just like yoga is, and somehow through this I am going to find the balance, and what that looks like…I have no idea.  But I am tired of having conversations with so many of my friends, mentors, colleagues who are full of hopelessness and despair about an industry that should purely be about the form of art.  It’s not about the strut in the high heels, it’s about the contentment of the foot in the heels, and the contentment in the heart and the mind of the woman entering that audition room.

An Introduction

What religion represents for your neighbour is what boxing represents for Muhammad Ali. What acting meant to Audrey Hepburn was what writing symbolized to Sylvia Plath. How Pete Sampras honed his tennis game, Martha Graham did with her graceful precision through her dance career. What a symphony was to Beethoven, a four-inch heel is to Manolo Blahnik. For Martin Scorsese, the dance of creating and directing a film is what acting and yoga is for me. Whether I am on my mat or on screen, I take my mantras, my prayers, my craziness, my drama, my compassion, love, and abundance out in to the world. Sometimes I’m a little too reckless, not to mention klutzy, but I am trying to figure out my life in my own way, I just get sloppy sometimes.

There is a Sanskrit phrase I learned, ‘Tat tvam asi.’ It means pure, free, love. This is what I am working towards, I think we all are. A lot of the time I don’t feel pure, I definitely don’t feel free, and as for love, well, as Pat Benatar said, “Love is a battlefield.” I have had glimpses of stillness, of freedom, and unconditional love but as soon as I realize I’m there, I lose it. I spend so much time trying to figure out how to get back there. So how do we get back there? Given our circumstances, or when love and fear lay as the biggest doubt in our minds?

Maybe life is about the journey but when I’m rocking four-inch stilettos in to an audition and the director tells me to walk in a sexy way I have no idea what he means by that. The truth is today I am feeling bloated from last night’s carb binge, I’m wearing spanx, can barely breathe, and I’d rather cry than think about how to walk sexy for a non-speaking principal role in an independent feature. The alien has invaded my face; I am anything but present.  I begin to move like a slow moving statue and proceed to get my heel caught in the crevice of the hardwood floor ending with me collapsed on the ground. The wonderful performance I did in the privacy of my home turned in to the worst performance of the year by an unknown actress.

The audition obviously a disaster, the silence in the room wouldn’t survive a ninja chop – and my high-pitched laughter after collapsing didn’t help either. As I board the streetcar, feeling hopeless, tears falling, wishing I could go home, lay in fetal position with a glass of red wine and listen to morbid music, I instead have to go teach yoga. I have to be accountable because there are about twenty people depending on me to do so. I begin to question myself wondering how am I going to teach let alone inspire anyone today when I am a such a mess. The predictions that my agent is going to call and drop me is already happening in my head, and the visions that my students are suddenly going to turn on me like they have been infected by the zombie virus are a-plenty.

I’ve got fifteen minutes to pull myself together, mourning my life and career will have to wait until later. Remembering that all I have to give is who I am, and even though I feel everything but those things it is my affirmation, my mantra for the next two hours.
I arrive at the studio, I take a deep breath, and I greet my students. Forcing myself to be present is the only way through this. I take another deep breath, and from there I somehow spew out an unplanned speech.

Somehow, as much as I try to make plans to be perfect in my life, whether by making a gourmet dinner for a friend, or by performing an academy-award winning audition, that perfectly executed plan always goes out the window. I feel like I have failed. Yet, by surprise, that meal I so carefully prepared was the best meal that my friend has ever had. That audition that I thought was so horrific, I ended up booking.

It may not have been my version of perfect, but it’s ‘my’ perfect because it came from my heart. I brought the most important thing in to the room, which is me. Not someone else’s version of me.

Through the ups and downs of the swiveling roads in my mind, with the doubts and fears of my heart, here is, From Yoga to High Heels. You, me, and guest bloggers will be sharing stories about how we find peace and take it with us through the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re going in to the trenches people, and it’s going to get mucky, but in the end let us hope that we may be as lotus flowers sitting on muddy water.

Written By

Jessica Hinkson