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Episode 63: The Edge of Every Day - Sandra Bargman

Sandra Bargman is a creative soul, intuitive communicator, and energetic servant.

It started when she was three years old, marched into her family kitchen, hands on her hips and announced that she was here on “a mission!” Every career choice she has made has ultimately rested on the ancient Greek maxim of “Know Thyself,” the directive that is at the heart of every artistic, spiritual and leadership journey.

She hold a BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University in drama and music and has had a happy 30+ year career as a professional actor, director, teacher and presentation coach. She has performed on the stages of Broadway national tours, the clubs and cabaret rooms of NYC, off-Broadway, regional theatres and beyond.

Her spiritual life called her further inward, and in 2007, she was ordained as an Inter-spiritual Minister from The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies. She hold an advanced certification from One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in Spiritual Counseling. Unaffiliated with any single religious tradition, she has helped clients of all faiths and traditions (including none) in pursuing deeper self- understanding in their personal quest to ’Know Thyself.”

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leader is the term that we need to lean into.

If you want to be a great leader, you have to know yourself. Charity, isn’t that the first place we start? Who are you? We always do that. That’s where we always start. And I give full credit to Mrs. Creative. Over there, um, for her genius and all that she does. She’s taught me so much. I’ll be happy to accept the term genius, but I’ll just say my training.

Ah, little both, little both. Sandra, I got a chance to talk to you about that journey from being an artist, theater artist, which is also so close to the spiritual. Those who have made their careers in theater know how close that is. is to the spiritual and, and your, uh, shift into, I think you’ve always been a spiritual leader, I’ll say, but your shift to being intentional about becoming an interfaith, inter-spiritual minister.

Can you talk a little bit about that journey for us? Well, I, you know, I popped out of the womb singing and dancing and acting and, and I was also the kid in the corner that had the antenna. that could read the energy of the room. And I was always very curious about churches and about other cultures and things of the spirit.

I mean, I was curious as a little kid, and I could see energy, and I was speaking with entities and, you know, so it was very much a part of my life. I think what was lifted up in my family was my entertainment and my performing. And I think that my mother probably lived a little vicariously through that.

Um, and so that was really, um, supported where the other was. I think I would hesitate to say was scary because I don’t think I walked around spewing it to them all the time. But I just don’t think that it was necessarily really on their radar to see those gifts as a child and to also lift them up.

So, you know, I chose, you know, theater and, and that was my first, I went to college for it, that I did it all through, um, my childhood, and my parents were really wonderful about getting me into school systems where that was very supported. So I had a really rich young life as a performer and then went to college conservatory for it and then moved to New York and had it.

But concurrent with all that was also my deep spiritual journey and questions and curiosity. And so I was reading all the books from a young age and asking all the questions and attending things and going to other people’s churches and things. And it really started to In a big way to emerge, uh, in my mid-thirties, where I was really connecting with a sense of wanting a service and wanting to share more of that side of who I was that, that I, I hesitate to say this because I don’t want to sound like I, I, I’m not, I’m not in love with the entertainment world, but I started to get bored with that community.

And she’s just like, yeah, I, I understand that. Um, and, and I just, I wanted to share this other side of me. So I was on tour doing, um, uh, Cinderella with Eartha Kitt as, as, uh, the fairy godmother, which was a blast. Um, I was in the step family, and one of the women in the cast was a life coach. And she was emerging as a life coach, and that was just coming on the scene every, you know, life coaching.

And so I had never heard of it, never met anyone who did it. She said, you would be fabulous as a life coach. And so I just started looking into it and, and, and started taking courses and getting some certification. But again, it wasn’t really the depth that I wanted. It felt at the time more like to do listing like goal setting and to do listing. It didn’t have the depth or the expansiveness that I was looking for. So I was one day, I was on that internet, and I was looking at a coach’s website, and up in the corner, there’s the word interfaith minister. And like, boom, my head exploded, the light bulb went off, and within a week, I had located in Manhattan, um, an interfaith seminary, um, and had enrolled and was accepted and, and went, you know, started my seminary journey at that time.

My first question for you is, as you think about, I mean, I’m fascinated that you’re on a website and you see, interfaith minister, and you’re like, I’m going to check this out, right? And within a week, you go down that path. How do you feel you described in our, in our brief conversation prior to get on here is, you know, the only thing in life that we know is constant is change.

That’s it. That’s all we know, as much as in life, we want to predict and we want to plan. Life is a shit show. And guess what? Get on board. Get on board. Enjoy the ride. And, you know, maybe life would be a little more fun if we just accepted that. Yeah, truly. Except we’re not hardwired to do that. Right. Sad but true.

Right. So I’m curious, through that journey, where, where do you find yourself? I mean, you talked about, yeah, you do a wedding. I mean, people think about that stuff all the time. But I really want to know, like, how… How are you really utilizing this gift to, to make a difference, which seems so, ugh, but or to help people understand life’s shitshow, right?

Like how are you taking that gift you’ve already, you have, and you’ve continued to invest in your creativity and your interest and your desire to better understand So, how are you taking that to… Well, that’s a great question, and, oh God, where to begin with all of that. Um, I just had a Jehovah’s Witness come to my, my house recently up in the Catskills and, and, and, and he asked me kind of something similar, because I said, you know, I, I told him, I said, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re here because you want to have a conversation, but there’s proselytizing.

And he’s like, no, I’m inviting, and I said, okay. Yes, I get you’re inviting, but there’s some proselytizing, and he said, well, how am I, how else am I going to get people there? How did he knew that at that point in the conversation that I was a minister interfaith minister inter-spiritual minister? He said, well, how do you do it?

And I said, well, I like to think that I model that in the world. My press, the way that I move through the world in every moment, I’m modeling kindness. I’m modeling curiosity. I’m modeling, hopefully not judgmentality, judgment. Um, although sometimes I break that.

Because perfection is overrated. Didn’t you just say that? Amen. But, um, that’s one of the ways, but I think it shows up in the work that I do is that I’m, I’m vocal about my curiosity, and I’m vocal about my questions. And I ask, I engage people at every turn, all of the work that I do. You know, I call myself a this, and I call myself a that.

And I say, I have three different tracks, but it’s all the same work. It’s exactly the same work. You know, it’s just has a different resume and a different title, but it’s the same way of being. I engage with people, and my natural inclination is to help them to set down the mask. And to get real and to that, that is, you know, my husband tells me you walk into a room, and half the room adores you, and half the room hates you, and you haven’t even opened your mouth.

And so there’s an energy of vibration that I think is that is what I do is that I call people forward. To be real, and it doesn’t have to be pretty. I’m not asking you to be pretty. I’m just asking you to be real. And that’s what The Edge of Every Day is all about. The podcast that’s based on the solo show.

And it was me exploring those questions. And, and who are we? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? All of those questions that I asked myself from when I was a little kid, and I marched. Into that kitchen and said, I’m here on a mission. How do you get comfortable with this idea that so JRT and I very recently and we’re in a situation where you can sense the energy of people who are like, oh, you’re my people. I can tell you’re my people, and then other people are like, you’re not my people. Just go over there, and we’re comfortable with it.

We know we can be a lot. We’ve been told especially together. We know together we can be a lot, but that’s what we are. That’s who we are. How do you navigate that, that edge of every day, that space between they love you, they hate you? And there’s not really any in between. How do you manage the, they don’t even know you, and they don’t like your energy or who you are, what you bring in?

Well, you know, I had to go through years of feeling very vulnerable about that and not understanding. Why? Why is that? I’m like the nicest person I know, but I’m also very intense, and that sounds like somebody I know. Yeah, and I am too much. You know, we were all told we were too much, right? Like too loud, too sensitive to this, to that, you know, and it’s, it’s, uh, and this is in, I have a chapter in a friend’s book, On the Shoulders of Mighty Women, by Leslie Michaels – shout out.

And, um, and, and I talk about it, it’s called anger and the reluctant leader. Um, you know, the whole, when you have a big point of view at some point in time. You’ve got to come to terms with the fact that not everyone’s going to be on board with you, and it’s the same with energy, and I think with sensing the energy and intensity, I think at one point, I think it was just age.

It was all the internal work and finally coming to an age where you’re like, you know what, it’s okay. It’s really okay if I’m too much for that group of people. I’m fine with that. But I wasn’t always fine with it. I had to learn through time and experimentation. And I did my own version, like every woman on the face of the planet, of whittling myself down to make myself, you know, palatable for those people that would find it too, too much.

But also this, I talk about this in my counseling and in my coaching. It’s, it’s not really, it’s not, oh, well, I, I’ve whittled myself down to make them comfortable with me. No, no, no. I’ve whittled myself down to make myself comfortable because I, then I don’t see their response to the full me. Oh, that’s good, Sandra.

Which is the thing. I don’t want to see that reaction. Well, once. You get that. Then you’re like, Oh, okay. Yeah. You’re going to see that. And guess what? It’s okay. You’re going to live to tell the story. In fact, you’re going to flourish. And that’s presence. And that is presence. Absolutely.

Hallelujah moment right there. Um, and the number of, based on that phenomenal analogy there, is the number of women who whittle themselves down, who never choose to come back to their true self. They stay in that, the whittled, I make up my own language, the whittled spot, right? And then they never really get to see people to react to who they are, even if sometimes it’s not positive. Y

eah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s stories they’ve decided to believe about themselves and who they have to be. Yeah. Well, hey, I mean, you know, that’s a full conversation right there. I mean, it’s in my family. The women in my own family have done that. Um, and I understand the programming and the socialization and the, and I know that it’s, it’s, it takes work, but there’s the phrase, it, it does take work. It takes that know thyself internal work to, to come to a point, you know, but yeah. You guys know this.

I mean, you, you do internal work, and some of the contracts you have with people get blown up, you know, and, uh, it may challenge my marriage. It may challenge my work life. It may challenge my relationship with my mother or my whomever. Um, so, a lot of people make the choice. This, of course, makes me think of, I just read and watched Deconstructing Karen, the movie, and read White Women, and it, the, the, the long leash, the longest leash is the, is a comfortable place.

For some people who have given away the parts of themselves. Yes, it’s funny you mentioned judgment earlier, too, in this Deconstructing Karen. JRT made a face because we, you know, when you get on the socials, or you put yourself out there digitally for anyone, strangers to see you, you open yourself up to things.

And that can be scary or not. I mean, depending upon your personality, but we got, we got a comment. We might have said this before. We got a comment. Someone was like, oh, the Karens have a podcast. And we were like, oh, we’re so not the Karens, but okay. Okay. Point taken. Is it, is it the way we dress? It certainly isn’t what we’re talking about.

Um, but we’re like, okay, now we’ve arrived. We have some haters and some judgment on just our looks. And we will be the Karens because we know that that means that we’re now in a space where anybody can judge us. Exactly. Exactly. And that’s it. When you have a big point of view, get ready. Yeah, and you guys have a big P.O.V. A big P.O.V. Oh. Watch the license tag. All right. Keep going.

JRT, I know you want to ask, I know it’s off our beaten path. I know you want to ask Sandra about the energy she feels about people and what she sees, do you want to get into that, or don’t you? I do. I think we should dive into it. If she’s comfortable with it, are you comfortable with it?

Sure. Let’s go. Yeah. How do you, as someone that can feel energy of different people, how do you manage it? Because that can rock your world. Mmm. With feeling it and the, maybe you’re feeling the negative energy totally, you know what I mean? So I’m just curious. Yeah. Well, I, I, it’s, it’s a very similar answer is that I didn’t always manage it.

Well, I didn’t realize always what was happening. Um, I would get feedback, and I would in the variety of ways that I get feedback, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to pay attention. Um, I would listen to the words and not the energy and bypass the information that I was getting energetically. But, you know, as you know, again, know thyself and with aging and really being present and learning from what you did wrong.

Or the mistakes that you made, the good, the fabulous mistakes that we all need to make in this lifetime. Um, it showed me how to manage it. So, you know, I, when I get into a situation where I’m sensing really negative energy, I just leave. Um, you know, it’s, it’s, I. Knock on wood, have never been put in a position where it’s, where I’ve felt my life threatened or anything.

But, but you know, I manage it in a way that I don’t, you know, I don’t, if, I just leave or, or I don’t engage. Um, I’ve come to a point where I can see the flags. When someone is trying to engage with me in a negative way or to get me to take the bait. Energetically, I just won’t engage. I just can keep my boundaries.

I can keep my energy. You know, I don’t let my energy leak out. I don’t try to impress. I don’t try to. I just keep my boundaries and don’t engage. That’s how I manage it. I think that’s great advice. Yes. Yes. Very hard to, very hard lesson as you just said, but. Very hard lesson. Well, and particularly again, I think for women, you know, we want to like, over-explain.

We want to be nice. We want to like all of those things. People please. People pleasing is, is a protection. It is to people please is used to feel safe. When, in fact, they’re giving all of the energy out, breaking all of their boundaries, allowing everything to leak out, and all the negative to leak in. And it is…

It is not giving you the thing that the safety that you think you’re going to get that you probably got when you were a child, which is how you learned it. But, um, but as an adult, no, people-pleasing is not the way to go. Another hard one, lesson for the ladies. Not the truth. Yeah. So let’s lean in a little bit here to a story about a time that you felt like a powerful speaker.

Do you have one of those? Oh, I totally, well, it’s a story. The story I have first is when I watched a powerful speaker. And it was a, um, an amazing moment for me that where things shifted. So when I was in my second year of seminary, I, I, we were learning sermons, you know, your first year, you’re learning about all the different faith traditions, and you’re learning ritual and this and that.

And, uh, of which I, I had a healthy knowledge of already, but the second year we’re working on sermons, and there’s a variety of people in the class and, uh, with different backgrounds, different ages, et cetera, et cetera. And because I am somebody who’s, I’m an Aries. And so I’m always like, somebody wants to go first.

It’s me. And I, okay, I’ll, I’ll jump in. I’ll do it. I’ll be the guinea pig, whatever. Well, I knew that part of my medicine in seminary was to not be that person and to sit with the discomfort of, no, you don’t, again, that’s kind of attached to people pleasing, you don’t have to jump in, you can be quiet, you can sit with that stillness, while other people are testing their internal, oh, should I step forward?

So I, you know, so to my point, this person, who I would say was one of the shyest in the class, was the first person to give her sermon. And it had to be 20 minutes. I mean, it was like a big deal for her. Well, it was fabulous. Oh, we were weeping and laughing, and she was marvelous. And it was like a new human being.

It was fantastic. And afterwards I ran up, and I hugged her and congratulated her and just, you know, wiping my eyes. It was just glorious. Well, and, and she turned to me when I congratulated her, and she said, oh wow, coming from you, that’s like a big compliment. You’re so good in front of the audience and just such a natural.

And I’m like, well, well, well, stop, stop, stop. No, I am very good on stage in front of a lot of people, but I hide behind a script and a role and a fabulous costume and fantastic shoes. I, this, that, that is not. My voice, like you just shared that, and it was so huge to me, and this gets back to something that we, you and I were talking about JRT about my, my whole life.

It was, I had a preternatural ability to communicate, and my father kind of put it down, and so it was a turning point for me to kind of go, Oh, this is you, this is you need to be sharing your voice. And, and at that point, that’s when I, I started to really get into the speaking mode, get into the, the sharing my own voice on stage.

And, and I told that story in a, uh, a speaking event, um, at a, uh, unity gathering and, and it was a very powerful moment because so many people. could relate to feeling as though they had to hide behind a mask and they couldn’t share who they are and their voice, their truth in the world. I love that. And so many actors, it’s funny to me because a lot of actors become directors.

And as soon as you put directors on a stage, even if they’re great actors, many of them if they have to address an audience as the director of a show, many of them. It’s my own personal fascination with this. They’ll stutter and stumble and over-talk, and I just think like you need training, but I know they don’t need training because they’re incredible Union Broadway actors and film, but as soon as you take the role, memorized lines, then they get like, oh, famously was like, no, I can’t sing as myself. I have to sing as a role.

Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. And I get it. I get it. The vulnerability of that. Yeah. Thank you so much for that story, JRT. Why don’t you ask the what on earth? Okay, I’m ready. You know, life is full of humor, right?

We’ve said it several times. I’ve made this podcast now bad by saying shitshow several times. But, you know, there’s just times in your life, whether it’s happened to you or to others, you just go, What the hell? What on earth? Right? Put it explicitly. Make it explicit, JRT. Right? So you just look at it and go…

This is an unbelievable moment of like, bias, maybe someone else. Like, do you have one? I have a what on earth moment. It happened to me recently. And because it’s just so uppermost for me right now, because again, I’m going to reference Deconstructing Karen and White Women. So I live in Harlem. I went down, I was going to a rehearsal in Brooklyn.

We were doing a cabaret show, and I had to take the train to Brooklyn. This particular train station, there are benches, metal benches, that have, um, just these railings in between. And they’re, they don’t have backs. So there’s four different seats, uh, on there. And you can sit directionally facing either way.

Well, there was one seat open, and I sat down in it. And this girl comes… This very young, very white, very blonde girl comes and sits down. There’s a gentleman, an African American gentleman next to me, and he’s a little forward. And she sits down on the itty bitty little bit of bench that’s left and sits down.

And he’s like, What? What? What? What? And, and she won’t get up. And, and he’s like, get up! And I finally turned to her, and I said, these are single seats. What are you doing? Why are you doing this? They just get up and give him his space. And, and she doesn’t. And finally enough yelling ensues, and she gets up, and she walks like maybe 10 feet away. Meanwhile, I’m like, oh my lord, this was bizarre, absolutely bizarre. So anyway, then this gentleman starts screaming at the top of his lungs, I hate white people. Oh. And, and, and that’s, and that’s exactly the, the, the reaction I had. And I just, and this is the white fragility, white woman thing that flitted through my head.

Wait a second, I just stood up. Like, I’m, like, I’m special for that. I had that fleeting little moment internally, like, wow, there it is. Sandra, there it is. That’s the work. And I just, you know, I didn’t say a word, of course. Cause yeah, of course, he does. Um, I, I just had to sit with that, that whole scene was so like, wow.

You mean you were going like, well, I’m a white person, and I stood up for the situation, and then you checked yourself like, totally. Oh, he’s right. So it doesn’t matter what I did. He’s right. Yes. Oh my, full-on like, oh, this like a white savior that I just fricking read about. Like, wow. Yeah, was quite something.

And it was brilliant. And it was, was that the right thing to do from what you’re reading just to just not, I mean, if it was your, your instinct was to say something to him, like, hold on a minute, I helped out. That was your instinct, but you, do you feel the right thing to do was just to stay silent and let it play out?

Oh, it totally felt like, I mean, he was, you know, the, this and the trains were coming, and it was not an engagement moment, but, but, but for me to sit in the realization was the right thing, you know, maybe next time if, if I find myself in that, uh, maybe next time I’ll speak to it, but it, no, it didn’t feel like, and, and I, and honestly didn’t have to.

I mean, energetically, it felt, no, this is, this is for you to take a look at and just be present to all of the emotion that you just felt that regard, irregardless of what just occurred. That’s the internal work. You know, I can’t control him blowing up. I can’t control his experience. I can’t control hers.

But I sure as well can, like, be blown away by my own reaction, and, and to notice it, and, and I think that that’s the power of these, that’s the work here, that, that Regina and Saira are talking about is, you don’t have to be defensive about this, you just have to be, admit it. Like learn about it, ask questions and be okay to not be perfect.

I think as you’re growing and learning, you’re going to stumble and get things wrong. Sometimes it’s inside your head with your instinct and you stop yourself. And sometimes you say something out loud, and you go, wow, that was the wrong thing to say, but you, you tried something and. That’s, that’s always been my thought with, uh, with inclusivity work is just start somewhere and know that you’re going to get things wrong and you’re going to be okay with, with that and you’re going to grow from it.

Let’s share your website. So it’s Sandra S A N D R A B A R G M A for those who are listening in. Despite where we all are on our journey, I think a lot of the words you said today we can’t hear enough. You know, I think we’ve heard him at different phases. And as we always say, we continue to grow based on this, and we continue to grow, and we continue to change.

We can continue to experience this. But, you know, for me, I think the most important visual that you shared today was the little, the whittling down and, and, and, and just the number of women that Jen and I, um, you know, in general, I don’t want to talk about our business. I’m talking in general, right? And you look at them, and you’re like, you’re not giving yourself permission to come back.

You’re not giving yourself permission to show who you truly are. And I think that’s the beauty of having women support women because I think there are days, and there’s our moments. Where each one of us whittled down for just a few minutes, and then Jen’s like, get your ass back up here. There is no diddle-daddling today.

And I think that’s an important, very, uh, what you said was very important today. And I hope it resonates with a lot of our listeners. Me too. It’s it’s an enormous thing. And I think probably you noticed this in your work. I do in mine where where where you also the playfulness of an actor that can come in with the presentation and the communications work that you guys do that.

I do that. The playfulness of it of an actor in expanding on that, bringing that whittling back up to where it wants to be, that the permission that actors give themselves to try on all these fun, different things and to, you know, one of the things I hear from the people I work with is sometimes, you know, well, that’s not, that’s really not me.

It’s not me. And I’m like, why isn’t it you? Have you tried it? And this is not to say I want to force people into an inauthentic kind of thing, but there are, you can try something on like an actor does and be playful about it. That may feel fantastic and may feel like it actually is you, but it’s the playfulness that gives the permission that brings people back out.

The curiosity you talk about before and the learning about yourself to say, no, not that. Yes. It’s that, that choice that so many choices, and then you get to decide even if the decision is none of those. Right. But, but you don’t get a chance to say that. If you don’t try, it is, it is interesting. I’m in a, you know, I’m in a similar space.

So when someone goes, Oh, wait, you’re a performer, you’re a director, you’re going to direct me to be a, no, we’re going to find who you are in this full circle. Well, that’s amazing. We’re so glad to know you. Thank you so much for being here today with us. We’re. I’m going to move you back into the green room, but we just want to say thank you.

We’ll see you in New York. Yay. I can’t wait. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you both. We’re honored to know you.


Jen V. & JRT

Jen Vellenga and Jennifer Rettele-Thomas are the co-founders of Voice First World®, a communication and executive coaching company. They train executives and leaders on the Presence Paradigm™, a communication technique created from Jen V’s decades of training actors to perform authentically, with presence, on stages, on audio, and video. If you want to learn more about how to speak and lead confidently, book a discovery call at

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Jen has been magical in helping me to identify my voice and my VOICE! The ways that she has holistically addressed my strengths and my areas of improvement have all made me feel so much more confident.

-Cate R.
Politician, Chicago, IL