Host Abigail Wright gets to talk with her mentor, Josh Pais, actor, director, producer, and founder of Committed Impulse. They discuss how being present and increasing your tolerance for emotions and sensations can bring you joy, Josh's experience as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, 4 access points to staying present, and more.
To hear more about Josh's funniest moments as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, experiences working with other great actors (like Bruce Willis and Meryl Streep), technology in our culture, how Committed Impulse helped me heal from a major injury and changed my life, Josh's thoughts about chronic pain, addiction, and more, subscribe for the full version at http://patreon.com/peaceofpersistence.
Committed Impulse - http://committedimpulse.com/
Josh Pais on IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0656929/
Josh Pais, actor, director, producer, and founder of Committed Impulse, was raised by his parents, Abraham Pais - a theoretical physicist who worked with Albert Einstein, and Lila - a bohemian painter and poet. They’ve had a tremendous influence on what has become Committed Impulse. You pick your favorite actor, and chances are, Josh has worked with them, because he's acted in over a hundred movies and TV shows. Currently, he's playing Stu Feldman in the hit Showtime series, Ray Donovan, among other shows and films. He's also a Co-creator/Co-exec Producer of a TV series that Sony is producing called PAINT. Among other films in which you might have seen Josh, his first lead in a movie was when he played Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
After college, disenchanted with styles of acting that rely on sense memory, Josh sought out theatre companies with a strong physical component in their approach. He worked with members of Joe Chaikin’s (chaykin) Open Theatre and Shuji Terayama’s Avante-garde Theatre of Tokyo. He trained with Tadashi Suzuki and his company, and worked extensively with Gabrielle Roth (to name a few of his guides and mentors). On a quest to find a way to bring all of this physical aliveness to his work as an actor, he became a member of the Circle Rep Lab Company, where he started directing. He put a group of twelve actors together and began experimenting for a 14 month period, wanting the actors to be fully alive, very tuned into one another and completely spontaneous. Much of what unfolded during that exploration has evolved into the core training of Committed Impulse, a high-performance training for actors, artists, and entrepreneurs.
Josh has been fortunate to work consistently in movies and television throughout his career and owes everything to the principles he picked up along the way, all of which are utilized in his Committed Impulse classes and Online Program. Josh currently lives in New York City, Sag Harbor, and Venice, California.
To start, your parents sound amazing. Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing and how you discovered acting?
Josh grew up in the East Village, which, at the time, he describes as a vibrant, dangerous environment where everything was out in the open and nothing was hidden. A kind of third world drug culture, where heroin and acid were the drugs readily available around there when he was growing up. Although everything was completely raw and potentially unsafe for people visiting the neighborhood, those who lived in it had a sense of protection, because it was a very tight community. Josh's mom was a true artist, and they had performances in their house every two weeks. He took part in them at 9 or 10 years of age when it started, not thinking he wanted to become an actor. 30-40 people would come and perform with no judgment, and it was more of a celebration. His parents divorced when he was 3, and on his father's side of things, as much as his mother was an artist, his father was a scientist. A physicist who worked with Einstein, he was very interested in exploring the building blocks of the universe and how everything is constructed of atoms. He would tell Josh at a very young age things like “this table is made out of atoms, and this person is made out of atoms,” and it blew his mind as he pondered those things. Between the artistic side from his mother and the physical way of looking at things in his immediate environment, he took the best of both of his parents.
Tell me about being Raphael in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. You were the only actor of all the turtles to both voice your character and play him in the suit, right? What was that like for you?
Josh believes he was hired to do both because the physicality and the voice were so intertwined for him. Growing up in the East Village, he witnessed a lot of people who made themselves look bigger and more dangerous than they were, almost scooping their arms through the air. Although he'd never heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he thought that his character Raphael was trying to find his place in the world, and realized that the way people walked in his neighborhood where he was growing up seemed somewhat similar to how turtles arms move as they push through the ground. He put those two aspects together, and during the filming, they just couldn't see anyone else's voice being physically connected to the character that he had created.
In terms of the actual shooting, the costume weighed 70 pounds, and most of the time, they could barely see through a tiny slit. They trained for about 4 months in martial arts before shooting, and all of the turtles became very tuned into one another, which they had to use during the filming, because they couldn't rely fully on sight and had to had a real kinesthetic awareness of the space, especially during action sequences.
Without giving too much away for free, can you give us a bit of a primer or teaser for what Committed Impulse entails and how it was inspired?
Josh loves to give stuff away for free, so he tells us. One of the key components is increasing your tolerance for the full spectrum of who you are. When you put yourself on the line – that might be an audition (for an actor), or going on a date, or pitching your product – it's guaranteed that you're going to have an increase in body sensations. It could be in the form of anything – nervousness, fear, excitement, joy (like butterflies) – and it doesn't mean you're unprofessional, because it's human nature when you go further in the world. If you don't know what to do when you experience something like nervousness, it will happen, you'll try to suppress it, maybe with breathing or relaxation or some other technique, and you might be able to decrease that sensation by decreasing the information your body is offering. At that point, you signal to your mind that you're not going to feel, and your attention goes into your thoughts, which at that point tend to go toward a negative place (“I suck,” or “they don't like this,” etc.). The problem is, the more that any presenter is in their head, the more the audience is going to be in their heads. The more any presenter is present with what they're feeling and experiencing, the more alert and active the audience will be. We think it'll be a problem if the audience sees that we're nervous. Referring to his father, Josh asks, “What is nervousness?” and says that for most people, it's like a chaotic energy spinning around in their torso. When Josh has people just experience it without the drama that it's a bad thing, and breathe, and stay connected to what's in front of them (their audience), then that sensation is no longer an issue. When they stay with the sensation, it keeps them present, and then any sensation they fully feel will shift within 7-12 seconds.
Josh used to experience crippling anxiety during auditions and knew he had more to offer than what he was offering, and he created committed impulse as a way to crack the code. “If we can get over this idea that there's an ideal state to be in, then we can create, no matter what.” If you hold onto the idea that some sensations are good, than you're going to perceive that some sensations are bad, and when they do occur, everything will go haywire. So part of the work in classes and in the online course is helping people to feel comfortable with the full spectrum of themselves. Those who've worked with Josh for a while recognize things like anxiety and fear and realize they can create from that energy, from that fuel.
Do you have any habits or traits that contribute to your happiness or success?
He says practicing what he calls the four access points to presence is key and will pull you out of drama and despair. He practices them regularly. One is to actually see the details of your environment and what's in front of you. The second is to really feel the sensations in your body right now at this moment in time. Not about whether you like it or not, but any sensations you can access – like the feeling of your butt in the chair, or some tightness in your chest, and whatever emotions are associated with it. The third is to consciously breathe – not to exhale any feelings you don't want to feel, but to inhale and exhale consciously to wake up the information that's in your body. The fourth (my favorite) is to catch yourself when you go off into any kind of mental drama, like wondering what's going to happen in the future, or whether you screwed up the past or it was better, etc. In class, when that happens, we're taught to say, “I'm back,” out loud, whenever that happens, which trains us to come back to this moment. As you start to drift off, you visually start to see less, your breathing decreases, and you disconnect from your body. So – to reverse that, say, “I'm back,” take a breath, see what you actually see, and observe the charge – what the atoms are actually doing in your body at that moment. It's that simple. That's what opens up the creative channel, and things will come to you in ways they couldn't have using just a little part of your mind. “Your creativity's in your body. You stay in your body, you stay in your immediate environment, increase your tolerance for whatever's happening, and the world is yours.”
If there were one thing you'd like the world to see differently, what would it be?
All of the sensations in your body are just patterns of energy, not good or bad. By increasing our tolerance for those shifts of energy in our bodies, everything becomes more fun, easier, and will keep us out of our heads, where all the trouble starts.
What's the best way to get started in Committed Impulse, for anyone who's interested?
Go to the website, www.committedimpulse.com, where you can sign up for a free audio lesson that will cover some of the things we talked about here and more. After that, you can look at the online course, and you can see what live classes are available in New York and LA.
Do you have any other advice for us?
No. Go have some dark chocolate, drink a lot of water, and go for a walk.
Josh, thank you SO much for being here. You and your work have really made such a huge difference to me as an actor and singer and human... I can't begin to say how grateful I am for you and to have you on our show. Thank you.
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