In the summer of 2003, I met with Sam Christensen for the very first and only time. This event had all the markings of a cherished meeting with the Great and powerful Oz. He was a formidable presence, and walking into his office was like walking into his heart. It was an extension of him. I had heard about his classes for quite some time. There was a general buzz in the actor circles that I traveled in about his work and particularly his program called the Image Process. The program’s promise was that it could help with clarity, confidence and finding your niche; what actor didn’t want that?
After another uncomfortable dry spell of work, I found my way to his studio and enrolled. For the next several weeks, I, along with an eclectic tribe of curious cats who wanted to unravel the riddle of their true essence, would meet at his studio in North Hollywood. Shepherded by two of his teachers we would spend hours answering questions that were designed to reveal our true nature. These were sideways questions like” under what situation would you or would you not eat a tomato?” It was an amusing and slightly mystical Labyrinth of self-discovery and it relied heavily on your traveling companions to tell you what they saw when they peeked past your words and into your being.
Then there were lists of descriptive words and word searches all designed to gather a personal vocabulary to help the individual recognize their special sauce and their strong cards.
This was the early frontier of what would come to be called personal branding.
From this list of words, and with the help of our classmates, we would design personal logos. These logos were not so much to try and sell ourselves but to see ourselves. A few of mine were.
“I am the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“My favorite math involves a baker’s dozen.”
“Well sometimes I do vacuum in the nude why do you ask?”
The major takeaway for me was that most people, aside from seeing me as attractive and caring, also saw me as dependable, stable, intelligent, and sincere. This last grouping of words was what I would call my blind spot. I had never really considered myself a dependable person; in fact, I had imagined quite the opposite, that I was unpredictable and scattered. This was a wake-up call, and it was a shift if ever so slight that would cause me to lean into my essence, embody and honor this part of me. It was not a week later with this new awareness that I began booking jobs again. This time the roles were doctors, insurance agents, and teachers, characters who needed to be dependable and stable.
As the class , and all the questions, and wordplay and revelations, drew to a close, we were
was taken upstairs to meet with the king of the castle Sam Christensen himself. He was surely one of the most present and relaxed people I had ever met. He spoke about his work and how we could best use it. I can’t remember if he spoke to each of us students directly but I will never forget what he said to me personally. As I knelt by his knee like a cat visits the king he shared about the hero’s journey and our own personal elixir and then he looked me straight in the eyes took a breath and said, “You, my dear are here to help people wake up from nightmares.”
At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. I was not sure exactly what I wanted my personal elixir to be, but I was sure that I was not interested in waking people from nightmares. I was pretty confused about what that even meant.
That was 20 years ago, today I heard the news that Sam Christensen past. I imagine the impact of his work and his ways that ripples throughout the creative community of Los Angeles and beyond. It’s funny to think of how well he could look into the potential that lived within the being and see their possibility, and more amusing still is that today as a spiritual life coach and minister, I understand my mission more than I ever could have imagined. Yes, Sam, you are correct, waking people from nightmares in not on my business card, but it is in effect what I do.
If you have had a great teacher in your life, be sure to thank them before you don’t get the chance. For one way I know to truly wake up from at nightmares is to consciously live your life In gratitude and love. Thank you, Sam Christensen, for helping me find my way.