Saturday, September 11, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

INSPIRED: My 2010 summer started off with a bang. I got to lead the fifth Nia Immersion retreat hosted by fellow Nia teacher, Lynn Peebles. We slept in her historic home and played in her inspiring healing movement center, Studio 208, in Cornwall-On-Hudson, NY. The weather was gorgeous on the summer solstice as we spent the weekend dancing, experiencing, exploring and learning more about Nia and ourselves. Among other things, we threw a Friday Night Nia Dance Party. During the Immersion, we danced a Free Dance Playshop and did the Bond Girls routine. We self-healed with Nia Five Stages and experienced emotional healing through the Trance Vision routine. One of the truly memorable aspects of these retreats is in the evenings is in Lynn’s kitchen when we all cook dinner together. Dinnertimes were the backbone of some of the deepest and most intimate conversations of the weekend. I always look forward to these retreats and they always serve to motive and inspire me and make me a better Nia student and teacher.
TRANSFORMING: I turned 44 this summer. (June 15) Ever since I was a kid, I had this feeling that 88 was my magic number. Double infinity. such symmetry. The same, whether upside down, mirror image, frontwards or backwards. I have recently wondered if this was meant to be my lifespan. If that’s the case, then here I am, right smack in the middle. I’m not about to buy a Corvette or anything, but I have been in the mood to take stock, evaluate and redefine my purpose in life. So, is this a midlife crisis? I don’t think so; because I’ve done this at least five times before. I think it’s more like another seven to ten year cycle coming to an end.

RAPIDLY REPRODUCING: Part of the inspiration to take stock was this summer’s introduction to the world of skin cancer. In June, I finally found out that the little bump on my neck was squamous cell carcinoma and the ‘age spot’ on my face was actinic keratosis. They removed the former, leaving a giant crater wound in my neck for six weeks, and for the age spot, and some other spots that we now look at suspiciously, I’m going to undergo topical chemotherapy with Imiquimod. I apply the cream to certain spots on my face. The imiquimod reacts to rapidly reproducing skin cells (ie skin cancer) and destroys them. The end result is what looks like a rash on my face anywhere there were precancerous cells. I saved $800 over the price at Duane Reade by filling the prescription through a Canadian pharmacy online. The downside of that is that it takes a long time to clear the prescription and to ship medications internationally through the mail. I’m still waiting for my imiquimod and am looking forward to the adventure.

RETIRING: This news sparked something that had already been brewing and this was to retire from show business. For a long time, I had been aware of how much of an actor’s life is spent in stressful situations and I felt like it was harmful to my health to continually put myself in these situations. I struggled with this because the art of acting is such a joy. I love rehearsing and performing, but that’s only about 10% of the business. The rest of the business always made me sick with nerves and anxiety, but I overlooked it. The acting itself was worth the struggle of the business.

Much like the death of both of my parents about six years ago sparked a whole new outlook on life, so did my confrontation with cancer. When my parents died, I made a vow not to spend another day filled with stressful situations. I would only act if it were to come relatively easily. I had agents and I had connections with theater companies so I could keep busy enough without auditioning or by auditioning for and working with people I was already comfortable with. And now, this has gone a step further. With my new life perspective, I don’t see myself acting as a business any longer. I’ve told all of my agents to “book me out” which basically means ‘don’t call me anymore’.

CREATING: Since my ’09 shoulder injury, I have been reintroduced to my first passion, which is helping people live healthy lives in fit bodies. Through my own journey of rehabilitation, I created JAG Energy Flow, which helps people get into the best shape of their lives. My approach was from the ground, up. I was reduced from being able to do 200 pushups, to being unable to push half of my body off the ground even once. And within just a few months progressively increasing intensity and sophistication I brought myself back to great shape.
In trying to support two different careers, acting and fitness, I wasn’t able to give my complete attention to either. I’ve cancelled classes and rescheduled workshops because of acting gigs, and I’ve turned down acting gigs or tours because of commitments I’d made in fitness. But this summer, with my newfound passion for rehab and fitness, it became easy to finally say ‘acting is just a hobby for me.’ I love the stage and the camera, and the art of acting, and I even like having my picture taken and used in magazine ads for drugs I don’t approve of, but I can finally now turn my back on that and focus on my fitness business.

Case in point, I was able to focus enough to finally fulfill one of my long time dreams: To combine both of my lives and teach fitness to actors. My Fitness for Actors program was born this summer thanks to the wonderful people at Magnet Theater allowing me to use their space. The success of the Fitness for Actors program has encouraged me to create a new way of teaching my stuff. I loved having the same people in class week after week so that we could really focus on creating an appropriately challenging progression for each one of them. This is the way I prefer to work. Having a class with an open door seems to stagnate the class as a whole. There is no way to move forward if someone new is always showing up. This inspiration will lead to the creation of JAG's Body Shop. This will be a course of study. Each student will learn their own proper body mechanics and what they need to do to achieve their goals. Rather than a weekly class with no direction, this will include goals, personalization and a supportive group atmosphere. The student will learn how to get a complete, full body workout without a gym or any equipment. They'll also learn a yoga series they can practice on their own, and a full stretching routine. It combines the great things about class room fitness, with all of the personal attention of a personal trainer. The cost is a bit more than your typical classes, but the value compares favorably to getting a personal trainer and having a gym membership. My goal is to launch this program in late 2010. More details to follow.

MOVING: So, I moved to New York back in 2000 in order to pursue a career in acting. I gave up a great career as a fitness trainer and massage therapist, to follow a dream. So now that I’ve stopped chasing the star, I’m wondering what I’m doing here in New York? Haven’t I been here long enough? I also made another huge life changing decision this summer. New York has been a wild ride, but its time has come. My current plan is to drive across the country in spring 2011 with everything I own in a Penske truck. Bye-bye, Big Apple. Hello Emerald City. Even though I was born in Santa Barbara and lived there, or in nearby LA or Ventura, for my first 27 years, I never felt “at home” anywhere as much as I felt in Seattle. So, I’m starting my life over again. I love doing that.

BODY TUNING: Another exciting and very important thing that I did this summer was to grab a fantastic opportunity to study under an amazing physical therapist. This genius approach to body work is hailed by everyone who experiences it. I had only one session with Shmuel, back when my shoulder was still in pain, and I immediately knew he was something special. One day in July I saw an email from him in my inbox. It said that he had come to the realization that he needed to pass on his special technique of Body Work to someone eager to learn and practice it. To this day, only Shmuel and Glenn Black, who trained with Shmuel decades ago, are able to call themselves Body Tuners. I have been blogging extensively about my experience with Shmuel, so I won’t go into it here, but I will say that it promises to be a keystone in the creation of my new life. I plan to go to Seattle and put together a program that take JAG's Body Shop another step further and incorporates Body Tuning along with all of the other things included in JAG's Body Shop: Energy Flow, Nia, Yoga Tune Up®, Deep Stretching, Nia Five Stages and Yoga. It is going to be something incredible, but it’s still in the works.

As I write this, there are still actually two more weeks of summer. Given the way this summer has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if something else pretty fairly major happens between now and the Autumnal equinox. If that happens, I’ll write a supplementary blog entry, but for now let this suffice as an account of...

What I Did Last Summer
by Jason Alan Griffin
age 44

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