Read an Excerpt
I walked into the Grand Ballroom, down the center aisle, lightly touched the wireless microphone nestled neatly into my sweater at the throat, cleared my voice, braced my shoulders, and climbed onto the makeshift stage.
I turned around and looked out into the faces of fifteen hundred people who had come to experience a weekend of spiritual investigation with me.
I would be standing on this stage for about eighteen hours, with no real idea of the emotional and spiritual needs and questions of the crowd until they spontaneously expressed themselves. Knowing from professional experience that every audience is different, I was still aware that this was no ordinary audience. This was a collective of individuals, every single one of whom had a story and a prior life and a particular need that had brought him or her to this place at this time. It was anybody’s guess what would happen. I stood before them, wondering what they would do.
As I looked out over the crowd I was suddenly stunned at the fact that my life had brought me to this point. In a timeless moment I flashed back to myself as a small girl of three, wearing a four-leaf-clover hat, with an apple clutched firmly in hand as I faced an audience to sing “An Apple for the Teacher.” Had I begun as a performer even then in order to perfect the craft of communication so that fifty years later I could attempt to make simple sense of complicated concepts of spirituality? Had it all been leading to this? I took a deep breath.
I’ve always known that I am basically a communicating performer—that is, someone more challenged on a stage than in the safe environment of a movie studio. I need personal contact with others. I need to know how I am doing. And now I needed to “feel” others who were on the same path as I was. The letters, phone calls, and interviews that had resulted from my books and my Out on a Limb miniseries were not sufficient now. I needed to go deeper, in myself as well as with others who also wanted to explore within themselves. I was hungry for an exchange that would be mutually helpful.
I studied their faces and reflected upon what had brought us all here. I was about to conduct a series of weekend seminars all across America, having chosen this method of communication because it was personal and because I wanted to give back some of the knowledge I had been privileged to gain from others much more evolved and educated than myself. I wanted to be with people who were working seriously on their own searches. I also secretly wanted to find out if it was really possible to communicate such esoteric concepts in a structured manner that would make pragmatic and logical sense. Could we, among us, bring spiritual questions down to Earth?
This very question has been responsible for my doubts, even fear, of having to give up my professional approach to presentation. By that I mean I always needed to feel prepared and well rehearsed before I appeared in front of people. I needed to learn a prepared text when I made a speech; I needed to know my lines before I sang a song or acted a scene. I had always carefully prepared my shows, with an orchestra, backup dancers, and all the highly skilled hoopla of costumes and lighting that are the building blocks of such a show. And even though, invariably, extemporaneous material arose out of the varying reactions of each audience, I was comfortable with ad-libbing in that situation because the spontaneity arose out of knowing what I was doing.
But here I would be on a bare stage with nothing to present but myself, the knowledge I had gleaned over the years, and my thoughts on esoteric, far-out concepts, based on strong personal experience.
And now, here I stood. I felt naked and vulnerable before the crowd of people, except for the twenty-five-page security blanket of a speech clutched in my hands. I looked out at them as they settled and hushed. Suddenly I knew I would lose this audience if I referred to that speech even once.
So I made a decision. After acknowledging their applause, I put the speech down on the table behind me. I took another deep breath, and stood, waiting. The room became very still, currents of silent energy hovering, waiting. With my eyes wide open, I meditated, asking for help. I knew I had guides and teachers. They might reside in an unseen dimension but they were nevertheless very real to me. I allowed myself to believe that I was aligning, with them and with a spiritual dimension that could see me through whatever was required to make pragmatic sense to everyone in the audience.
Many, many thoughts went through my mind in what was, in fact, a very brief time, but in that time, power seemed to flow into me and through me. I began to feel imbued with confidence. It was a glorious feeling. Not arrogant but richly confident.
Feeling relaxed, centered, and certain, somewhere in my being, that nothing could go wrong, I knew I would be able to keep a hard-edged grip on the esoteric material. I actually began to experience a new vibration of harmony in my body as well. My sense of urgency left me. With the relaxation came a feeling of humor, a lightness of heart. I felt no worry, no tension, as though I was floating in the warmth of friends. I thought of other situations in my life when I had been tense, anxious, and even downright terrified. If only I had known about meditating for help from a dimension of spirituality. It would have been so much easier and more productive.
More than anything else, I felt no sense of time, as though I would be living the entire weekend as a whole, that the clock would not matter at all, that I would be experiencing an inner time. Yet, I was aware that I would cover each area of material within reasonable time parameters, that I would call lunch breaks (and kidney breaks) at appropriate intervals, that I would pace myself and the people with me so that we would all gain from the experience. In short, I felt a new professional trust.
I would be able to extend the joy of live communication to include the mysteries of spiritual realms. Together we would pursue those dimensions and trust that our motivations were based on that ever-deepening quest to know self.
There have been a few times in my acting and performing career when I have felt such a keen sense of harmonious elation. These were times when the energy flow was so rich, so full, so total, that I could simply “go” with the security of what was happening, and completely surrender to the sheer joy of what I was doing.
That is exactly what happened at that first seminar, and, with variations, continued to happen through the year of seminars that followed.