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Article - Sally on the Serious Side

Sally Kirklands Serious Side

By Douglas Eby
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Sally Kirkland has been acting since the time she attended an all-girls high school, where her skill and height led her to being cast in male leads. Upon graduation she became the youngest person to study at the Actors Studio in New York, and is now a lifetime member.

The Los Angeles Times called her performance in "Anna" (1987) one of the five best of the decade. In addition to an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her work in that film, she won Golden Globe Award, the L.A. Film Critics Award, the Independent Spirit Award and the Women in Film Award. A few of her other many starring roles include "Cold Feet,""Revenge," "JFK," and "Best of the Best." Her film "Cheatin' Hearts in which she stars and also executive produced, was picked by Robert Redford for the Sundance Film Festival. She considers her role as a mother in the TV movie "The Haunted: A True Story" one of the best of her career. Based on a true story, it helped bring to light the Catholic Church’s use of exorcism.

Talking about the housewife she portrayed in the film, Sally says,"When you go into a place and feel extremely bad vibrations, it may be you're not necessarily clairvoyant and can't see into the invisible realms and if you could, you would see entitles, dark forces battling light forces and that's what she was going through."Sally at times refers to herself as a warrior and started life having to fight to survive. She was born at 6 months weighing 4 pounds, not expected to live.

Acting is a passion for her, an enduring vocation and a place of spiritual practice, as she notes: "I always try to bring my soul and heart in all of the performances I do.And if you have pain in your life, you can transmute it into an artistic expression. In "Anna" I used an emotional recall of my own clinical death (near death) experience and brought light to the darkness. Similarly as my role of David's mother on "Roseanne" I try to bring light to a very dysfunctional mother. I have absolutely used the tragedy in my life and if you don't have a spiritual path, you can get lost in that, not being able to walk away from it. if you're playing the heavy, and you find the humanity and the light in the tragedy, it allows the audiences to find the light in themselves, even in the darkest moments."

Sally worked recently with Valerie Landsburg on a TV project to air in the fall called "Women," a series of erotic stories seen through the eye of women. And she is scheduled for a family film to be shot in Rumania called "Little Ghosts" directed by Linda Shayne. Sally is talking with other women producers, directors, actors and writers for potential future projects and is optimistic about women helping make films which have more positive social value, but she notes "it's disheartening to me that being a woman can't automatically warrant a spiritual or consciousness raising script. The problem if there is one,is that everybody has to pay their dues first. Like Ron Howard did a chase movie with Roger Corman before he was allowed to do SPLASH. By the same token, a lot of women directors are having to do chase scenes and violence in order to do what they really want to do. Unfortunately, commercial films right now are still action and all that stuff" Sally recalls that although she got "a whole bunch of erotic thrillers made in the blink of an eye," it took her three years to get her film "CHEATIN' HEARTS" made, because, she says, "There was no violence in it, no T&A per se." She is completing a two year Masters of Theology course in Practical Spirituality through Peace Theological Seminary (Update: Sally currently facilitates Forgiveness Workshops at the Siminary 323-737-4055). Sally notes she has been involved in a spiritual journey most of her life: "When I was a child, I was fantasizing and role playing all the time from seeing the church statues and religious paintings in the Metropolitan Museum, and thinking that when I grew up, I wanted to be Mary, Jesus, Saint Francis, Saint Theresa, or Saint Joan. My friends would say I was nuts and had delusions of grandeur, so then I changed it to 'I want to be a movie star' and that seemed to be acceptable, it was okay to want to grow up to be Shirley Maclaine or Jane Fonda or something." Sally recently was taped for a July Oprah Show, talking about her work with yoga and meditation, and she is part of a new book It Works For Me, a collection of interviews with 18 Celebrities talking about alternative health and spiritual practices.

In 1970 she became initiated by Swami Satchidananda, with the name Satya, which means 'Truth.' She taught on staff for the Integral Yoga Institute and says she "really loved the Bhagavad Gita and all the daily practices of Hinduism, the discipline and medatation and various forms of yoga." Sally was in the Century City Hospital in 1972 for a serious operation on her spine, so she called Swamiji and he flew in from San Francisco, and talked to the doctors and said, "She's a really good actress: if you tell her she's going to die, She’ll die, so why don't you tell her she’ll be fine."He was really opposed to the surgery. Furthermore she said, "Simultaneously my friend [actor] Raul Julia was on his way to Sai Baba in India, and I'd asked him if he got to him, to speak on my behalf. Sai Baba picked Raul out of a huge crowd and said 'Your friend Satya has a simple infection, she’ll be fine in a week or two. So Raul called me to tell me what had happened. Meanwhile, I had contributed to his life by getting him on the path of yoga and off drinking and smoking and what ever we were doing in the way of drugs back then, and he was very devoted to my vision of a yogic world." When she saw a picture of Sai Baba " with his arms around this American guy" Sally sought John- Roger out and says she


"Was profoundly moved by his ability to talk about all levels, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. He almost immediately became my teacher, in 1972, and he's been my teacher ever since. He embodies all religions; it's not about a religion, it's a path called, the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness. (MSIA) "


Sally notes MSIA offers Soul Awareness Discourses, Soul Awareness Tapes, Peace Awareness Training's, Spiritual Exercises, holy lands retreats and seminars, some of which she gives. She feels this "path relates to her other spiritual studies: "It’s an extension of what I learned in the Episcopalian Church and in Hinduism. We very much believe in soul-transcendence, that you don't have to worry about Hell, and you don't have to incarnate, incarnate, incarnate until you get it right; that you have the potential keys to get it right in this lifetime. I'd like to think that what I’ve been doing the last 24 years is completing karma with what I agreed to do, with the 'Karmic Board so to speak, and with God as I see God. And I am still learning every day I still stub my toe on silly things. This path has three principles that are so simple it seems simplistic but it's nothing that anyone can't do wherever you are: take care of yourself so you can take care of others; don't hurt yourself so you won't hurt others, and use everything for your growth and upliftment. If something seemingly tragic happens, there's always a way to look at it with altitude as opposed to attitude."

Sally works often with The Institute for Individual and World Peace (IIWP) in Santa Monica, which sponsors and supports many community service groups: the Heartfelt Service Project, Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, and many others, including the Carl Bean Hospice for AIDS patients. She recalls the invitation from another actor to help: "Awhile ago Edward James Olmos asked me to go on television telethons to raise money to build some hospices, and I was quite honored to do that. When a friend of mine, Rick Sherill, got AIDS I became his caretaker. I learned all the information I could , plugging into AIDS PROJECT L.A., Project Angel Food various doctors and dentists who were extending help. And I got so high. spiritually,because whatever aches and pains I thought I had in my body from this serious car crash I had nothing compared to what he was experiencing, so it gave me a chance to appreciate and really understand the word 'gratitude' for what I had going for me when I saw the pain he was going through.'

But mostly I try and treat each day as an opportunity to help somebody in some way.

A minister of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, Sally notes "We basically do service out in the world: We don't necessarily give a sermon every Sunday (Update Heartfelt Service). In my case, I try to get spiritual Sound bites out into the media, teach transformational acting and give work-shops and seminars all over the world. But mostly I try and treat each day as an opportunity. We would give seminars here at my apartment, and people would come. It was for Rick, but it was for all of us, too.We'd play audio tapes of John-Roger, or I would speak, or other seminar leaders who are authorized to do that, and meditate, together and pray together, and 'Put things in the Light' - that's what we call it - for the highest good of all concerned." Sally also does volunteer work with Project Nightlight which provides companions to people who are dying: "I love being able to bring in the Christ action, be it Jesus, Moses, Allah, Buddha, Krishna - whatever works for people. At least they feel the spirit, and they feel the loving, and that's the whole key . nobody passes over alone." And she works with Educare, which helps underprivileged kids "I teach stand-up comedy, theater games, emotional recall and healing of memories, psychodrama with these young kids mostly black and Hispanic, a lot of whom don't have parents. Many times I'll go on talk shows and I'll show footage of me teaching the kids, so it'll give other teachers the idea of how they can work with kids to give them more self esteem, and express themselves.


Sally Kirkland has a passion for acting and the spiritual life. They have proven to be a good balance in her personal life, for her audiences and those she serves.

- Article published by: NEW PERSPECTIVE - A JOURNAL OF CONSCIOUS LIVING Aug./Sept 1996

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