05 Nov Reading, Writing, and Kickstarithametic.
I have been told that blog posts should be short and to the point. Unfortunately, not all of my ideas fit that paradigm. I do understand that focused pieces often make more sense, but sometimes the writing itself sparks connections that explode off the page. This is particularly true for me right now because I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and thinking – and the connections are flowing.
Over the last couple of weeks our focus on “All the Rage”, our mind/body medicine doc that focuses on the work of Dr. John Sarno, has ramped up significantly. In addition to prepping for our big Kickstarter launch next month, I have been reading a great deal and shooting more interviews. A lot of what I am reading is connected to more esoteric and spiritual matters like Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and “The Power of Now”. I also have read several of Ram Dass’ books. This Monday I got Nicole Sachs’ book “The Meaning of Truth” in the mail. By Monday evening I’d finished that as well, and it’s a wild romp that jumps off the page (quite literally with tons of bolds and all caps!!).
All of these books circle around similar ideas, and all of these ideas relate back to the core meaning of Dr. Sarno’s work; namely, that in order to move forward, and not stay stuck in the past, we need to stop judging ourselves and others so harshly. In order to heal, we need to let go of the often invisible and unconscious thoughts that keep us trapped. Part of Dr. Sarno’s prescription is to journal because the process of writing often connects us to our less conscious thoughts. There’s a lot of science behind the idea that it improves our health. He also has 12 daily reminders that help people to think emotionally rather than physically.
Three years ago, when I was stuck on my office floor due to severe back pain, Dr. Arlene Fienblatt, one of the first therapists to work with Dr. Sarno, said to me, “All I can really tell you is to be good to yourself.” I am only now beginning to grasp what she meant. Reading and writing about emotions – not only my own – has helped me to make sense of it.
Last week we went to New York and shot interviews with Eric Sherman and Frances Andersen, two therapists who studied under Dr. Fienblatt, and who have worked very closely with Dr Sarno. They recently published the book “Pathways to Pain Relief”, and have started to work with groups of doctors, teaching them how to diagnose and treat mind body related pain. As we prep for the launch of our Kickstarter project, we have been thinking a great deal about the film and about helping people recognize the power of the mind body connection. The film itself will be the battering ram of this effort. However, all of the interviews that we have been gathering can’t possibly fit in a 90-minute film, so we will be working with many of them to create standalone pieces that we can share virally. In a sense, using them in this way is like planting seeds, so that when the film is complete, it will be so much easier for people to grasp. When the film goes out into the world, the website will serve as repository of stories and ideas that should help people on their own personal journeys. Here’s one clip of Dr. Sherman talking about a patient’s experience with a mind body approach to healing.
Last week I was in Nashville to shoot an interview with the golfer Ben Crane. Back in 2006, we shot one of Dr. Sarno’s lectures. I knew that a pro golfer was there, but Dr. Sarno is extremely protective of his patients’ privacy, so he never told me anyone’s name. A few years later, I saw an article in which Ben Crane talked about having seen Dr. Sarno, so we recently reached out to him to see if he’d be willing to talk with us. He was incredibly gracious and open and I’m excited to share the footage in the film and during our Kickstarter campaign.
In addition to interviewing the psychologists last week, I met with my friend Ava who runs a yoga studio in Brooklyn. I’ve known Ava for a decade, and in that time she has been on an amazing journey of self-discovery. In addition to opening her yoga studio, she runs retreats and brings in shamans and other spiritual guides from all over to talk about things like the power of the breath. We had an amazing discussion and as I left she gave me a book called E Squared by Pam Grout. I read a good bit of it on the plane.
I tend to do my best thinking and reading while stuck on a plane. Perhaps I should get a couple of plane seats and stick them in my office. I’ll strap myself in at 9 and land at noon to get something to eat. I can’t image how much more focused I’d be. “#1 New York Times Best Seller” is splashed across the front cover of Ms. Grout’s book, and the press touts the author as a science writer. These two notes helped to allay the cynicism that creeps into play when I’m confronted with ideas that challenge me. Still, the book certainly challenged me. Like “The Secret” and “Think and Grow Rich,” the stories in E Squared draw on the idea of energetic attraction, which tend to get may people’s skeptic radar fired up. I had to fight tooth and nail with my cynicism to make it through the first few chapters. I’m glad I did though.
I have always been attracted to ideas that deal with mysticism and the subconscious. When I was 7 or 8 I read a few books that dealt with reincarnation. I was filled with wonder by these ideas, but they also scared me. In addition, I read and re-read a book about subliminal images in advertising called “The Subliminal Seduction”. My parents didn’t exactly ridicule me for my interest, but they did find it amusing. I got the subtle cues and I pushed my less reality-grounded thoughts away.
I also recall feeling terrified in the supermarket around that same time when I came to the conclusion that there were people around me who could read my thoughts. I was 8 years old and looking through playboy on the magazine rack at the time, which might explain the terror part. However, it made perfect sense to me that our skulls did not create ironclad shields that could stop our thoughts from reaching others. In some sense, this idea is at the heart of E Squared, that our thoughts send out energy into the world. Negative thoughts attract negative energy, and positive ones create positive energy. I’d have been more cynical than I was if I hadn’t been seeing this in my own life over the past few months. Influenced by the ideas expressed in Tolle’s and Ram Dass’ books, I found myself shedding firmly established patterns of negative thought, and seeing somewhat miraculous changes. For one thing, the general “normal” anxiety that I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember had rapidly lifted. My relationships with my wife, kids, mother, and sister has improved dramatically as well.
While there is a part of me that is very cynical, I’ve never stopped being open to new ideas. I was a religious studies major in college because I was drawn to the ideas, but at the same time I kind of kept the spiritual part at arms length. However, this positive thinking binge has made it more possible for me to be open to ideas that are a bit harder to grasp. About a month ago I wrote about my experiments with EFT (Emotion Free Therapy). I’ve continued to practice it before I meditate and I think that it’s helped me to be more present when I do it. I also think the affirmations that are part of the EFT ritual have helped me to “be good to myself”, as Dr. Fienblatt suggested. I’m slowly learning to stop thinking things to death and simply be present. That’s really hard to do, but thankfully, I have enough first hand experience with the process, as well as indications of energetic communication, to help me stay on that path now. At the same time, I want to make clear that while Dr Sarno has not been embraced by the science community, he takes some pains to distance himself from “alternative medicine”, arguing that what he is doing is more scientific than most of the people practicing around him. I am quite sure that he would not embrace the ideas expressed in E Squared. However, one of the challenges that I have faced as both a patient and a character in our film, is figuring out what works for me. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to talk about spiritual ideas, or ideas related to energy, because I have repressed my own inclination towards these ideas for so long. However, I have also realized, that in order to truly heal, I must accept, and follow, the path that I am led towards.
One of the things that has held us back from finishing the film is that I simply had not healed, and we needed for me to heal fully to have a powerful ending. I am quickly nearing the end of this part of the journey and it is my hope that this film will help others to kickstart their own.