Soul of the American Actor Interview

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What gives you the greatest blessings each day?

What gives me the greatest joy is the freedom that I have created a life for myself that has wonderful people in it. I’m not confined to any kind of job that’s routine or boring to me. For many years I performed in arenas that weren’t all that supportive, doing private parties, weddings, blues bars, where people didn’t get what I did.

I have gotten to a point in my life where I never take anything for granted. When I come out on stage now, audiences sing with me. They know the words to my songs. And I’m in so many different places every week: I do women’s keynote talks, travel to many different places, and I have the freedom now to create my own work. It’s really a blessing.  And where I live in northern California, I’m surrounded by nature.

Who were some of the influences on your life when you were young when you were deciding what you were going to do with your life?

Well I did not come from a musical family. I was a competitive swimmer; I’m still on a swim team. I just got out of a pool.

I lived in Laurel Canyon at fifteen years old.  I had the blessing that the singer Carole King moved in two doors down from where we lived and I became a baby sitter for her children. She was my biggest influence. I had no training in music, no role model and she became the role model.

When she remodeled her house, she had a recording studio in her home and I wound up getting her piano for a year. So now there was a piano in my bedroom and I began to write songs.

I also understand you were a big fan of Carol Burnett growing up.

I was a fanatic of Carol Burnett. I would take a bus every Friday after school to the CBS Television Studios to watch her tape her shows. At the beginning of her show, she would always ask if there was anyone in the audience who had any questions or comments. As if I was possessed I told her one day I’d like to challenge her to a Tarzan Calling Contest. And I was ready because I had practiced it over and over. I went up on stage, took a deep breath, and let out my best Tarzan call. The crowd went wild, as did Carol Burnett. I was hooked on stage performing, and I also realized that I could “go for it!”

One of the greatest challenges we face every day is ‘living in the moment’ and enjoying it as much as we can.

Yes – it’s a daily spiritual practice for me personally. It’s all about coming back to center. I do it with my music – and my main thing is swimming; it completely grounds me. I swim four days a week. It’s like my meditation, breathing and moving my body that way, and being in nature. I have to be in nature. The feeling, that connection, to be present in the world. When I have to sit at the computer for hours, I have to make sure I take time to get away.

Being in nature it calms me, it brings me back to my body. I live right near the ocean, and I’m breathing into such wonderful air. I look at it as if I have cobwebs in my mind, I have to take a vacuum and get out all the cobwebs. Being in nature I can get in touch with my spirit and my inner voice. What I’m working on in my mind can be jumbled, and nature slows down the pace of the monkey mind. I can hear myself again, what it is I can do.

I think one of my mottos is: Just show up! Just keep showing up to life with a “Yes” every day. There’s a concept I teach in all my workshops: What is it you have passion for in your life? You can go for your dreams. It may not necessarily be a clear path but if you keep doing things that take your forward on your path, you’re going for your dreams.

When I went for my dreams to be a professional singer, along the way I wondered if I could do it. I knew what didn’t fulfill me, but once jobs came along they showed me I had to keep showing up and trying things. Not everything has to be perfect. Experiment and see if something you do is right for you and you’ll find your true passion.

I would love to hear you talk a little about loving kindness.

I’m actually doing a talk about it in Reno soon. It’s a Buddhist way, to be kind to yourself then you can live from that kind of loving heart. You can give loving kindness to people but it always starts with you first and then to the world. It’s really does start by being kind, being gentle and loving with ourselves. I have found this with myself and I share it at women’s retreats I lead. We can be kinder to other people. Why is it okay to say degrading things about ourselves, to think that way, or that we have to be perfect? My mission statement, and what I say in my keynote talks, is to be gentle to ourselves. We can lighten up on ourselves, and we can give joy to ourselves and to others.

You’ve also been giving workshops for quite a while.

Everything I do in my workshops is like a big container for all of us to work on our issues. They’re really about being here and now, and what we’re all exploring, all the issues, the ideas it takes if you want to have a loving life. In all my workshops, I grow so much from doing them. The women in my workshops are so inspiring to me.

During your over 30 years as a performing recording artist I’m sure you’ve learned to deal with all the challenges that come with creating a new album and putting it all together.

There is a lot to it. I don’t think people really have an idea what it takes financially and in many other ways to produce your own CD, to write your own songs. It’s really a huge thing including the deadlines and lifelines.

I look at it like a rope.  You’re holding a five foot rope, and if there’s no deadline, then there’s a big sag in it, but with a deadline you pull it taut and that straight line is now energetic energy and that’s how it gets done. It’s always taking one small step at a time.

I wrote a song about that, that I can get closer to my goal if I look at all the things that need to be done. It’s one step in front of the next. A key word in my life is balance. Sometimes I’m great at it, and other times I’m terrible at it; I can get stressed so I take that small step again and get balanced.

How have you learned to deal with the “inner voice,” that inner critic that somehow wants to intrude?

I believe we all have it. It could be said it’s your ego, your learned response, what you heard from your parents. You’ve embodied it into this voice about what you’re doing wrong.

What I found is an important piece, especially for performers, is that I truly believe the inner critic is there to guide you and show you where you’re headed. It’s there to protect you. We can’t allow it to run our lives, but you can let it work with you. Let it say what it needs to say and then you choose who you give the power to or how to voice it so you know what is true about yourself.

Confidence is another part of it. I call it lifting weights of your life. If you have to lift fifty pounds, if you did it every day you’d get more comfortable, and your muscles would be able to handle that weight. It’s the same thing. If you do it all the time your critic becomes less, and then it means I’m stretching and growing – great!

Each day can present different challenges, particular ups and downs. Your songs have a way of reminding people, and for me personally, about bringing harmony and peace into the soul. How have you learned to deal with the realities of life while maintaining your positive energies?

I don’t think I’m living a life with a blind eye to the realities of the world. With the philosophy of new thought, you get to choose every day how to focus your energy. I can choose the positive things in life to focus on and say my affirmations, while still have a reality of the world. I don’t have to focus on ‘walking through the valley of death,’ and I think that’s what my songs are about.

When people have had a hard day, I think my songs – for example, a jingle, like “All is Well,” “I’m So Grateful, or “I’m So Blessed” — can bring you back to center.

It’s a spiritual practice. In all my women retreats, before I do anything or welcome people into the workshop, we’re chanting and sing together with movements. Having that kind of spiritual feeling gets people into their bodies so they’re present and completely available.

My songs are life-affirming, but I am a big advocate to feel what you’re feeling. We can look at the positive parts of life while still feeling all the feelings we’re feeling. You don’t just put a band-aid on and move on. We have to go through the natural process of feeling, and then I can decide to stay in that place or I can raise myself up and learn a lesson.

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I love the affirmations that keep playing in my head in a joyful upbeat way even when I am not listening to the music. You are helping me to reprogram my negative beliefs with fun upbeat affirmations that are truly changing the way I feel about myself.

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