How do you tap into the power of creation? A great teacher doesn’t just tell you, they show you and Jocelyn Jones is one of those great teachers. A legendary acting teacher, coach, and artistic advisor to the stars, she’s served as a confidential creative consultant on some of the highest-grossing pictures of all time.
In her new book, Artist: Awakening the Spirit Within, she shares the memories and lessons that shaped her both spiritually and as a world-class teacher, proving beyond question that the same creative process she offers actors can help you discover and manifest a life in coherence with your own heart.
Whether you’re an actor looking to elevate your craft or just a fellow human traveler pursuing your dreams, the book shows you step-by-step how to awaken your higher self and move confidently in a life you were born to live.
Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Jocelyn Jones, author of Artist: Awaking the Spirit Within. Jocelyn, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Jocelyn Jones: Thank you, Drew, I’m very happy to be here.
Drew Appelbaum: Help kick this off for us, can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
Jocelyn Jones: Well, yes. That’s always an interesting question for me. I’m going to take you back a little bit because my life in art has been affected from the way I was raised. My father was an actor and my mother was a photographer and my stepfather was a writer and I grew up in one of the many artist communities scattered along the Hudson River in New York. I mentioned this because that particular community was populated by some of the most influential artists of our time.
There were actors and dancers and painters and writers and really, artists at the top of their field breaking bread at our dinner table. From a very young age, I found myself studying them and influenced by them. After I left home, I started out as an actress, which I enjoyed but in my 30s, I developed a very strong desire to teach. Teaching led to consulting, consulting led to writing. I always stumble a little with answering the basic question of, “What is it that you do?” but I think, first and foremost, I identify as a teacher and now, a writer.
Drew Appelbaum: You’ve been teaching for a long time, so why was now the time to share the stories in the book? Were you inspired by something out there? Did you have an “aha moment” did enough people tell you, you need to write this down?
Jocelyn Jones: Well, there are a lot of “aha moments”. I believe in “aha moments,” I live for “aha moments” but I think, you know, what happened with this book is it was around the time that my mother was dying. I took a year off, I wanted to see her out and I wanted to be there for her as best as I could and then, it took a while to handle her affairs after she passed. In that process, it took about a year and my world changed completely as I had known it. I stopped teaching.
I’ve been teaching for 30 years and I had to sell our family home, I found myself without direction for the first time in many, many years and I felt like I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how long it will take to sell the house, I didn’t know how long it would take to empty it, I didn’t know if I would go back to teaching again. I didn’t know anything and I was tired and I was grieving and I was very uncomfortable not knowing but you know, the thing is about not knowing is, at some point, you have to let that go and trust and when you do that, guidance shows up.
I had this one thing I felt I knew, I had a very strong desire to have a little place in the city. I had grown up in New York and I wanted to keep some roots there so my husband and I decided to trust this crazy impulse of mine and lease a little studio apartment on the Upper Westside right by the park and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what for, I didn’t know how much time I would actually spend there, I live in Los Angeles but I took a leap of faith because the impulse moved to me.
It was visceral and that’s what I train actors too and we’ll talk more about that and sure enough, that’s where this book began. That’s where it was born and it was in that apartment and so the apartment became about becoming a writer.
Drew Appelbaum: A lot of authors, when they say, “Okay, I’m going to write this book” they’ll put pen to paper, a lot of times they’ll have an idea of what you think the book is going to be but then you come across some major breakthroughs and learnings and pivots along the way. On your writing journey, did you find yourself having any major breakthroughs or learnings or pivoting on the story you thought you were going to tell?
Jocelyn Jones: Yes, I knew I wanted to write something but I wasn’t quite sure what it was and I didn’t want to write another acting book. I mean, we have a lot of really wonderful acting books out there and then one day, it occurred to me that the same techniques and the same creative processes that I offer actors, I looked and I thought, you know, these can help anyone who is looking to connect to inspiration, who is looking to connect to a more artful joyous life, who is looking to have that connection within themselves, where they can listen to their higher consciousness, really, and create the life they came here to live. It all comes from one source.
That’s where I started and then I thought, this is pretty lofty stuff, teachers that come from on high, that come from that kind of altitude that I feel are kind of usurping the actor’s power sometimes. I thought, “Well, how do I make this not so preachy even though these are my experiences?” and I found that if I wrote a memoir and I shared the stories in my life that led me to learn what I learned, that helped me fashion a key from those lessons to give to my students that that might be a format for the work and I could pass on.
Many of the same things I give to actors but for a general public to help raise consciousness a little.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s dig into that. What was going on in your life and in your past that you feel like you needed to find a connection to your own inner spirit?
Jocelyn Jones: Well, you know, I was not a happy child and my parents were lovely, they were artists, very involved. I came from a generation where some of the parents kind of put you on the planet and said, “There you go, good luck” and didn’t pay much attention to their children. I mean, I had a roof over my head, I had a beautiful upbringing. I never was worried about food or anything but I didn’t feel a connection to my parents. I didn’t feel a connection to teachers, I didn’t feel like I was seen but I had guidance.
I loved nature, I spent much of my time in the woods and with trees in the gardens and these were my friends, these are living entities and I was very happy and felt well-cared for by nature. Nature just made sense to me and then, one day, I was by the river, I was throwing stones, you know how you skip stones in the river? I kind of was having this conversation with myself and saying, you know, why doesn’t anybody see me? I was feeling sorry for myself, who can I trust, I thought. Is there anybody to trust?
The weeping willows on the river, they hang so low and reach out for the water and the wind comes up, I’m always feeling I’m consorting with the wind, you know? The wind picked up and blew these beautiful weeps from the willow and landed on my shoulder and I felt like trust us, you can trust me, you can trust trees, it really came, trees. After that, I realized, I can communicate here, I can ask questions, I can get answers. I can connect with this part of myself.
I talk about that in the book because once you have that connection to yourself, just you and you, it’s the most personal thing you can have and once you have that connection, you never feel lonely again.
Drew Appelbaum: What to you does waking up or awakening the spirit mean? Is it always a connection to nature or is it other things as well?
Jocelyn Jones: Well, I think, nature is the most accessible version of spirit. You can’t miss it. You go outside and you look at the sky, it’s a miracle. You walk — all you have to do is be there and look at nature and she’ll move in you. Most people are affected by nature, very few people are not affected by nature.
Waking up to the spirit within is really about one singular connection. Some people call it source, some people call it inspiration, some people call it the news, some people call it God, some people call it spirit, some people – I call it impulse. It all comes from the same source and I believe we’re on an evolutionary track to begin to move forward with our own counsel, our own personal counsel from that source within us, which actually brings us closer together. If we connect to that source personally in ourselves and not listen to somebody else’s dogma. I don’t tell people what to think, I tell them how to listen to themselves.
Drew Appelbaum: When you start this journey for yourself, is this something that you really should be doing alone? Is this something you should sort of seek out a group or maybe a partner to help you along the way or doing it together?
Jocelyn Jones: No, definitely not. I don’t think so. We don’t do things alone. I think this healthy place that we’re going has to do with self-reliance and we have to become more confident with self-reliance, with autonomy really. We need to trust in our own counsel and we have to parent ourselves. We have to heal ourselves, we have to take care of that connection between us and us, otherwise, we are blown away by the influencers and the salespeople and the media 24/7. You know, it’s all such a distraction that we can’t hear. We just become bystanders, we just become consumers. We don’t have a sense of creating life.
Drew Appelbaum: Is this process different for creatives and artists or as you mentioned before and as you mentioned in the book, are we all artists in some way?
Jocelyn Jones: Yeah, I do believe that. I mean, here’s the thing, living is a creative process. I mean, if we want it to be because life is either happening to you because of what you think and feel you’re projecting, or if they’re happening to your life because you choose to practice living in the present moment and making conscious choices. I would say this book is for anyone who wants to create their own life with guidance from their higher self.
The trick is to break free from thinking so much. We think-think-think all the time where thinking is the ego’s favorite pastime. You know the whole, “I think therefore I am”? It is a message from the personality but the personality is just something we craft to ground ourselves in this third dimension and play the game of life. It’s not that ego is a bad thing, it’s just it’s not the only thing. It’s the smaller self that has gotten away with claiming way too much territory.
Drew Appelbaum: I want to ask you about living in the moment.
Jocelyn Jones: Yeah, okay.
Drew Appelbaum: Naturally going there and living in the moment is a term that everybody knows.
Jocelyn Jones: Yes.
Finding The Autonomy Within Yourself and Validating What’s Already There
Drew Appelbaum: It’s really hard to do in a world where everything is just bite-sized and at your fingertips, so how can folks really take that step back, take a breath and learn to look around and appreciate their surroundings and situations more?
Jocelyn Jones: Well, there is a lot of exercises in the book about that. They are all variations on things that have been around for a long time. Meditation, the reason meditation is good is because it helps you separate a little bit from your thinking. Even if it is for a split second, you begin to see, “Oh, I’m the observer and I am observing my thoughts.” Observation, when we observe, most of the time we’re observing with judgment and we’re observing from the ego.
We are going like, “Oh I see this and so I pack that away because I know now. I’ve seen this, now I know that that’s how that goes.” But objective observation — which is a whole exercise and something that actors, I’ve spent a lot of time with actors on observation because if you can observe without judgment and begin to see things as they are, you have to slow down to that and you slow down to that.
You begin to observe things as they are, you will land in the present moment. If you go outside and lie under a tree and look up at the sky through the branches and take in the leaves and take in the space between the leaves and take in the sky beyond the branches, you will land in the present moment. There are exercises you can do that will help you find it and then it’s a matter of practicing mindfulness to stay there.
You know, we do things like we wash dishes, we think about something else. We make coffee, we think about something else. We are always multitasking, we’re always saving time as if we could save time. You can’t save time, so when you make the coffee, if you smell the beans, if you feel the cup, if you are grateful for running water, which is a miracle, you know that will put you in the present moment.
Drew Appelbaum: Like appreciating the moment you’re in and living in the moment also has to do with letting go of the past and it’s a huge part of your rebirth. Do you have any techniques or suggestions about folks or for folks who are struggling to move past the past?
Jocelyn Jones: Yeah, you know that’s a big one. When we think about the past, we’re usually stuck in something in the past that’s very emotional to us. Emotions are a tricky business. They overwhelm us and our emotions we think we are — they are bigger than us. We can’t control it, it’s overwhelming for us but you know, you can observe your emotions. “Wow, this really hurts. I am crying, I can’t get over this. Why did they do it?”
There is a lot of thinking that goes on with the past overwhelming, “Why did this happen to me? Why me? I trusted, I was betrayed.” All these thoughts come up. If we can create a little separation and just look at it like actors, for instance, more than one actor has fallen into a puddle of tears and then run to the mirror to look at it. What does this look like? The person is crying, the artist wants to observe that part of life.
We are bigger than our emotions, we are much bigger. Our emotions are just another piece of equipment and when we can observe them and get just the tiniest sliver of distance from them, we see, “Oh, this is another part of the equipment. This is sensory.” This is like the miracle of seeing or tasting or touching. It’s the miracle of emotions, we use them to experience life. The spirit uses emotion to experience life but we’re not our emotions.
To get over the past, you have to enter the present. You have to let go. You have to let go and you have to want to let go. To let go, you have to want to let go and when you go, “Okay, I’m done with this. Enough of this already,” you know? You’ll begin to practice things that will give you a little separation. It’s not going to be 100%, we have a dark and a light to us.
Drew Appelbaum: You mentioned it earlier and you know a lot of what we talked about in the book; it’s not you’re going to read the book and be an expert at it.
Jocelyn Jones: Right.
Drew Appelbaum: You do provide exercises along the way, so can you tell us what you ask of readers and what they can expect if they put some time and perform the exercises in the book?
Jocelyn Jones: Well, I’m all about autonomy. I don’t expect things from people and I don’t want to tell them what to expect. It is about stimulating something in the reader. The reader, I think the person who picks up this book will be looking for it or it will find them, you know? There will be a connection and they will read the material and go, “I know that.” You know as a teacher, you can’t teach anybody anything they don’t already know or they wouldn’t recognize it.
Most of the time, don’t you have this experience when you learn something you get that “aha moment.” That aha moment is, “Oh right, I know that. I knew that, yes.” It’s a validation. Great teaching is validation of what’s already there, so I want to touch those parts in people that are already there and help guide them to their own autonomy and if they want that, then these exercises will help them to find it.
It’s a practice, it’s all a practice. It’s never going to be — I had an actor call me, they were quite upset and we talked through some reasons for their upset and afterward, this actor always says afterward to me, “Yes, but I am doing this that you say and I am doing that and I am meditating and I’m doing my joy list. I am doing things that make me happy, I am writing gratitude ever night,” she tells me.
I go, “Well, of course, you are. That’s wonderful but it is never going to be 100%.” We have a dark side and a light side. We have our past, we have our weaknesses and we have our practice and our practice just helps us to move forward. The more we practice, the more we can move forward in a way that we want to but no, it’s never going to be 100% and there is no taking away all the pain in the world nor should we.
Everything is made up of dark and light pressing against each other, we’re just at a time in history where we have to choose what’s right, you know? We’re in a time in history where we’ve lost our proclivity to do the right thing, to be kind to others, simple things, just be kind to each other. Tell the truth even when it’s inconvenient, do the right thing. Everybody knows how to do the right thing.
It’s going to take each individual desiring, wanting to make a change in their own life, and find this autonomy for themselves. What are we here to do? In what way would you like to contribute because we all need to contribute?
Drew Appelbaum: If you had to choose that a reader could take away only one thing from the book, it’s a tough question, what would you want that one thing to be?
Jocelyn Jones: Autonomy, self-reliance, being able to listen to your own heart knowing what’s true for yourself, something that no one can take away from you, having that connection to spirit, source, intuition, it is whatever you want to call it. It’s your soul, it’s you and you. It’s your personality versus your soul and the personality has carried on for way too long. It’s time for the soul to speak.
Drew Appelbaum: Well, Jocelyn, we just touched on the surface of the book here. There is so much more inside but I just want to say that writing this book to just help folks make more positive changes and explore what’s really inside of them, and just being so vulnerable telling your own story is no small feat. So congratulations on having your book published.
Jocelyn Jones: Thank you very much, Drew. It’s been a great pleasure to talk to you and thank you for asking such interesting questions and for your kindness. I appreciate it.
Drew Appelbaum: I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Artist, and you can find it on Amazon. Jocelyn, besides checking out the book, where else can people connect with you?
Jocelyn Jones: I have a website, jocelynjonesstudio.com, and you can take a look at that and you can write me there.
Drew Appelbaum: Very well Jocelyn, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today, and best of luck with your new book.
Jocelyn Jones: Thank you, Drew, it was a complete pleasure.
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