Filmmaking & Hikes

Taking last weeks post a step further and applying the practice of meditation to filmmaking…

I’m entering preproduction on my feature film Lez Bomb. The idea of making a movie seems monumental. Everything it entails becomes a monstrous to-do list that’s both overwhelming and off-putting. When we approach it as such, it looks like an impossible journey.

But let’s compare it to hiking. I have the tendency to look up a mountain and feel instantaneously overwhelmed. Yes, there’s a sense of adventure. But once that initial awe wears thin, I start thinking about the energy it requires, questioning if it’s the ideal temperature, I start question everything, I think about all the other things in life I need to attend to instead of this hike such as work, phone calls, etc. The story’s endless and it’s off running. Until – I bring the mind back to take the first step upwards. Then another step upwards with space to admire the surrounding scenery. With each step and each breathe, the journey continues and before I know it, I’m at the top of the mountain.

When we create space between our thoughts through a practice like meditation, we’re able able to identify when our minds gone off running. We’re empowered with the ability and control to pull it back to the present, where’s there’s a single task in front of us. All we need to do is conquer that single task.

Embarking on this movie once seemed impossible. Now I see it broken into tasks. I’ll attempt to tackle each task as they come, and deal with the ups and downs as they present themselves instead of mentally fabricating all the what-ifs around scenarios that aren’t reality. Step back and take cues from your surroundings. Like a hike, the path presents itself once we return to the present, look at what’s in front of us, and see the directions pointing us where we’re trying to go. What once seemed a monstrous feat becomes a slow climb upwards, step by step, and before you know it you’re at the foot of a waterfall.

Blog link in bio. Slowing things down with @aineod8 on yesterday's #hikingadventures

A post shared by Jenna Laurenzo (@jennalaurenzo) on

Playlist I’m currently writing to: Writing Jams

Book I’m currently reading: The Hidden Messages in Water

Food I’m currently experimenting with: Vegan Sushi

 

Meditation & Clouds

A sequence of text messages from friends about “being present” got me thinking how that term’s thrown around often without tangible tools to help one arrive at a state in which you’re actually present and not talking about it.

If we take the “woo woo” out of the conversation and look at the practicality in our everyday lives, meditation’s an invaluable tool. Meditation provides the opportunity to clearly see the thoughts as they pass before the forefront of the mind, creating space to choose which thoughts are entertained. The majority of actions we take are determined by habits, not spontaneity or intellect. By creating space between thoughts, and choosing which thoughts to engage, we’re given time to carefully observe the thought and decide the most informed way to act.

When meditation has come up in conversation, I’ve often seen family, friends, acquaintances have tried it, it didn’t work, so they stopped. Instruction to “clear one’s head” isn’t necessarily useful. And approaching the mat with the expectation to experience something is set up to fail. The best instruction I was given was “go to the mat, practice every day and stop asking so many questions.” While questions are good, they’re often an excuse and procrastination masking itself as a question.

Go to the mat, sit in silence, watch thoughts as they pass. When you’ve found yourself latched to a thought and off on a tangent, return to the breath without judgement. “But what should happen?” Listen, if I told you the directions from my home to the Statue of Liberty – does that mean you wouldn’t go? Or would you go, probably notice different things, and have your own experience? We all arrive places a different route, with experiences shaded by the set of lens through which we perceive.

Playlist I’m currently writing to: Writing Jams.

Coffee drink I’m currently obsessed with: Mushroom Coffee.

Book I’m currently reading: The Obstacle is the Way.

Girl Night Stand

Girl Night Stand

The internet has been a crazy landscape these past two weeks for one of my projects. About a week ago we released my short film GIRL NIGHT STAND on After Ellen and had some incredible feedback. Everyone loves an awkward one night stand. Sexuality aside, those confusing emotions are universal. It’s the universality I’m interested in exploring. At the core, we’re all humans trying our best. And through comedy, an audience can be united in laughter.

After another featured article on Bustle, and then getting featured on Elle.be, I have to say – I’m just floored.  I’m beside myself with gratitude for the amazing support I’ve received from complete strangers helping and encouraging my feature Lez Bomb and the Lez Bomb team’s endeavor to get the film made.

Girl Night Stand from Jenna Laurenzo on Vimeo.

As most things in my life – this adventure started in a yoga class. I was deeply conflicted about directing Lez Bomb. Instead of focusing on my breathing and my practice on the mat, I was mentally going back and forth about whether or not I should direct the feature. I had gone through many conversations with potential directors, and there was always some reason that got in the way. I finally had to ask myself – should I just direct the piece myself? I had written and produced so much content in the past, and I had directed before.  But a feature?! My feature.  That’s scary.

My yoga teacher asked us all to grab two blocks and then asked us to kick up into handstand on the blocks.  I found myself afraid of kicking up.  But why? We were against the wall. Then I realized I didn’t want to fall – in front of who? The teacher? The class? “Oh my God, I’m afraid of falling! I’m afraid of failing!” I kicked up into handstand on those two blocks – successfully. I just sucked it up and mustered up the courage – who the hell cares if I fall?! And that’s how I decided to direct my feature. And short. I realized I was the only one holding myself back.

Thankfully I found two blocks, a handstand, and a little boost of courage. I’m terrified of directing an entire feature.  But sometimes we just need to confront fears – especially when they are self created, and kick upside down to gain new perspective.

#Hiking and #handstand. Happy fall day. @aineod8

A post shared by Jenna Laurenzo (@jennalaurenzo) on

Reflective Run

Definitely the happiest runner at the #NYCHalfMarathon Go @jennalaurenzo !

A photo posted by Aine O’ Dwyer (@aineod8) on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:11am PDT

It’s March! How did that happen? I’m going to write about running again…

After the Philadelphia half marathon, my fiancé entered us into the lottery for NYC’s half marathon.  Well, I got picked. Solo. Running through Times Square was an amazing experience. The lights, the cheering people – it’s all a bundle of inspiration that ignites the spirit to push further.  I hope to do a full marathon one day.

254765_187777114_XLarge

With the solo time I was able to go into deep reflection over the past year.   January marked the ten year anniversary of wave day:

I can’t help celebrating life recalling that memory.  While the experience was scary, I wouldn’t trade having faced fear head on.  The reality is, we create so much drama for ourselves.  But having been on a ship that near capsized, it helps keep the “drama” in perspective.  Thank you Semester at Sea for teaching me what “high stakes” really means.  I try to keep life grounded, and bring the high stakes to my writing.  It’s a worthwhile challenge.

Within the year I got engaged, bought a condo, met Radhanath Swami a handful of times, studied with my yoga teacher, lived in a LA for a few months, developed a stint of Alopecia (what?!), grew that hair back, blamed LA for the hair loss, got over that, wrote a ton, and ran two half marathons with a lot to reflect on.  The second of which I never stopped running.  Those neon pink shoes kept a continuous pace pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles.  It was a personal victory.  As all trial, tribulation, success and triumph should be.  We all have our own mountain to climb.  Fulfillment lies in the ability to bring our personal peak performance inspired by experiences and people who teach us along the way.

#NYCHalfMarathon inspiration from @aineod8 #SavasanaTime.

A post shared by Jenna Laurenzo (@jennalaurenzo) on

I couldn’t help but smile through the race.  Gratitude inspired each step.  It’s been a hell of a year and I knew pancakes awaited me after the finish line.

Ride the Wave

 

SURFvenice_Jul202014_3665During a yoga class, recently, I found myself asking why the hell I was putting myself through anguish after we had been holding a posture for what felt like eternity.  “Why did I willingly show up for this hell?!”  But once the drama in my head calmed down, a thought bubbled up to the surface: Because it’s good for you.  That same weekend a friend of mine took me surfing for the first time.  It was a whole lot of falling before I finally stood up.  When exhaustion set in and a giant wave smacked me in the face, again I asked myself “What the hell am I doing!?”  But after regrouping and sitting on the board looking out into the ocean I thought, “This is a learning experience.  I’m game to play with the waves.”

SURFvenice_Jul202014_3797

Often enough we relish in the drama.  Our patience is tested, our minds start to yell, and then our emotions join the party.  Before we know it we’re distracting ourselves with so many fantastically developed narratives about what’s going on instead of sitting in what’s actually going on.  Sitting in a posture for a extended period of time allows us to confront ourselves, head on.  Once the muscles start aching and sweats falling in the eyes, we come face to face with our threshold and are given a choice.  Do I flee from the posture by either jumping out of the pose and/or distracting myself with a novel worth of thoughts?  Or do I hold steady and allow the sensation to keep me engaged in the present moment to explore and find a way to find ease within that moment?

I was forced to write 7 drafts of a single script within a week.  My patience was tested and I literally wanted to punch someone.  But my mom said something pretty wise: “Sweetie, at least with each new draft it gets better.”  It was true.  The story and comedy came to life in a more focused and specific way with each new draft.  And now the final script is exactly what it should be [of course there will always be tweaking]. The excessive rewriting gave me the opportunity to stick with the process through the frustration and eliminate all that didn’t best serve the execution of telling the story.

Each day we have the opportunity to practice staying present through the waves of sensation we find ourselves riding.  Through the waves we’re given an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and then we can move on, hopefully a little lighter, slowly removing those storylines and tangents that don’t best serve the story we’re trying to tell.

SURFvenice_Jul202014_3621

Don’t flee from the wave.  Ride it! Maybe even fall a little.  Every time you stand back up you’re bringing newfound knowledge.  When fatigue’s set in, remember beneath the wave there’s an all pervading calm we can always return to.

SURFvenice_Jul202014_3634

Divine Intervention

I definitely believe in magic.  Now, before you roll those eyes…hold up and hear me out!  Every day little AND big miracles happen all around us, but sometimes the busyness of our lives gets in the way of us seeing those miracles.  Once my fiancé and I got into a legit fight over the fact that I believe in Santa.  This seriously happened.  I wasn’t trying to spell out the logistics it would take for a heavy set man dressed in red to traverse the globe in a single night on a sled pulled by reindeer to deliver gifts…although I’m in love with everything about this image…I was saying that when millions and millions of us believe in something, that something takes on a force of it’s own and I have faith in that force and the spirit it entails.

About 3 years ago I read the book The Journey Home, by Radhanath Swami.  Go and buy the book, it’s a page turner…miracle after miracle.  It’s about an American teenager who left his home in Chicago, went to Europe and traveled on foot to India and found his Guru.  After I finished the book, I was on a mission…”I will meet this man.”

Shortly after, I met my fiancé…a random acquaintance had come into her life and befriend her for a short while…long enough to slap me on the back in a bar and say “My friend thinks you’re cute.”  My fiancé never saw that girl again after the night we met.  After a few months of dating I told her she needed to read The Journey Home.  She humored me and did AND loved it!  Within that first year of us dating, knowing I love cooking and was wildly fascinated with Ayurveda, she signed us up for an Ayurvedic cooking class down in the East Village at Bhagavat Life.  I loved the introductory course so much I decided to take one of their hands-on, four week classes.  Shortly after, I asked if there was any opportunity to work in the kitchen a few hours a week as a way of learning.  I’d give a little time and gain a world of knowledge.

I found out Radhanath Swami was speaking at Jivamukti, which is where I bought his book.  I couldn’t make the lecture, but my fiancé went.  I was frantically on my way to  bhagavat life, running late per usual, and as I opened the door to the building…there was Radhanath Swami, on his was to Jivamukti.  He was talking to a devotee and I was somewhat star struck and didn’t want to interrupt.  I turned back to him and he had already turned my way with a giant grin.  It was a brief exchanged filled with promise.

This past February for my birthday, my fiancé gave me the greatest present.  She knew I desperately want to converse with this Swami and so she surprised me with a trip to the Bahamas for his Bhakti Retreat, where I learned that Bhagavat Life is actually located in the NYC Bhakti Center.  I finally had the chance to converse with him!  3 years and a handful of synchronistic moments later, I stood before him in awe.

Meeting a Swami brings out some childlike awe.

A post shared by Jenna Laurenzo (@jennalaurenzo) on

And here’s the part that gets even all the more magical…I flew down on Thursday, found myself on my computer a bit too much Friday…and it crashed Saturday.  I decided it must be a sign that I should be doing more meditating and less of everything else for the brief period I was on Paradise Island.

One more #satsang pic because it's #magical. #sunrisesalutations

A post shared by Jenna Laurenzo (@jennalaurenzo) on

Over the course of the week, I kept randomly bumping into the Swami and getting the conversation I had wanted for three years!  The last night after the final satsang he approached me, “My friend, I have a gift for you.”  He opened his hand and there was a grape.  My fiancé loved the story and kindly told me, “There are three people who will understand the significance of that grape.  Me and your parents.”  She knew I’d be talking of this grape with so much enthusiasm and wanted to prepare me for glazed over eyes.  But here I am, having faith that you’ll understand the magic within that moment.  Such a small gift offers a world of inspiration.

The next day…yesterday…I left the Bahamas.  I got to the airport ridiculously early and had a thought.  I opened my computer, and it miraculously turned on.  Now, I had called apple from the Bahamas in a state of panic last Saturday.  I had done everything for a solid hour and nothing.  And there it was in the airport, working and mocking me.  Divine intervention.  Sometimes when we don’t listen to that inner voice saying put the computer and busyness away, divine intervention kicks in, slaps us on the back, and leaves us with no choice but to sing and meditate.

I bumped into the Swami in the airport.  “Something amazing happened!” I said like a 3 year old.  He looked at me with a giant grin; “Please, tell me your story.”  I told him about the computer crashing and such and with a knowing look he gently said, “Magic is raining down upon you.”  He realized he was going in the wrong direction.  “If I had not been going in the wrong direction, I would not have bumped into you.”  And then he turned away and was gone.

I wanted to share the story and hopefully inspire some faith in a little magic.  I’m not asking you to believe in Santa, although go right ahead! I’m just sharing to remind you that magic is always raining down upon all of us.  Sometimes the busyness just gets in the way of us taking notice that there’s an entire tree within just a little seed.  Worlds of potential can come to fruition with just a sprinkle of inspired water…so ride that wave.

#Satsang @noopurshukla I know you'll enjoy my morning wake up.

A post shared by Jenna Laurenzo (@jennalaurenzo) on

Water with Lemon Production & Play

Photo by Cory Schwartz © 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I watched my WATER WITH LEMON pilot script come to life over the weekend.  The amount of work that it takes to write, raise money, cast talent, lock down crew, coordinate schedules and so on, is pure insanity.  It’s 9 months of labor for the birth of a frantic, monster baby, you can only hope will rock everyone’s world with laughter.

Oh yes, this is me and Paul Calderon who played POPS.

Photo by Cory Schwartz © 2012

The production process has a million moving variables, none of which you can hold too tightly.  The pre production process is filled with highs of excitement followed by lows of disappointment when those highs fall through.  In terms of a spiritual practice, the process is an ideal microcosm to work with.  But really, what process isn’t?

It’s important to find the sense of “play.”  In yoga class a few weeks ago, the teacher went on and on about animals and how scientist are confused why they “play;” there’s no future reward in it.  They wrestle, tackle, and laugh with one another for what seems to be for just the pure joy of the moment.

Through pre production, production, and then post, it’s hard to find this sense of play and joy within the moment.  It all feels like it’s for some promised reward in the future.  But that reward is a moving target, it’s non-specific, and it’s not actually promised.  There’s a potential, yes, but there’s no definite.  So why not play?  Drop the anxiety, anticipation, regret and such.  Just enjoy the process.

When my stress level went through the roof, the best advice came from my girlfriend who I bamboozled into sitting in the background as an extra.  She text, “make the best of this.” So simple.  Hard to remember at times.  But we should really make the best of every moment, dropping the past, forgetting the future, and finding the play within each moment.