The Big Aha

The Big Aha was a film proposal that I submitted to the National Film Board of Canada in March 2004. They did not decide to fund this project but I include the overview here in case you are interested in the topic itself. It’s also an example of how the collective thought field works. I had been brewing this film idea in my head for several years. A few months after I finally submitted it, I heard about “What the Bleep Do We Know”. When I read the film’s synopsis, I knew that we were tapping into the same cosmic thought vein.

I’ve noticed from interviews with filmmakers and first-hand accounts from many peers, that the average “brew time” for a film is about 7 to 10 years. Near the end of that period, they often encounter a sudden onslaught of similarly themed films that all come out at the same time. Most creators have encountered this phenomenon at some point in their careers.

Since we are all connected and we share the same collective thought field, we pull from the same pool of ideas and divine resources. Far from meaning that we lack originality or creativity, it simply means that we’re in this together. We can all contribute to each other’s growth by picking up different threads of the magic carpet. And it’s a pretty colorful tapestry that we are weaving.

Project Overview
March 2004

Working Title: Looking for the Big Aha: The Quest for Enlightenment

Wake up at 6am. Meditate til 7am (or til alarm clock goes off). Yoga at 8am – bring ‘loose’ pants this time. At work – remember to send healing thoughts to my boss during the sales meeting. After work – meet travel agent to plan for the Nepal Temple Trek – ask about the 2 for 1 special at the Buddhist retreat. (Do they serve vegan or just vegetarian food there?)

Therapy session with yet another NEW counselor at 6pm – ask her about releasing compulsive dissatisfaction. Meet Mom at 7pm for quick dinner. Remember to breathe. Go to the “Heal Your Childhood Wounds” seminar at 8pm. Turn off the cell phone, the landline, the fax and the computer by 10pm. Watch the world news at 11pm and then pray for world peace at 11:15pm. Finish reading “The Power of Now” tomorrow.

Does this sound familiar in any way? If so, you have probably already met an “enlightenment junkie”. Or perhaps you are one?

In any case, there is an undeniable hunger in the world today – a desire to heal and evolve to the next level as human beings. This movement towards greater consciousness in the world has been given many names – the Age of Aquarius, the Fifth Dimension, the Epoch of Peace or the New Age. Like a giant spiritual supermarket check-out counter, many are lining up to find the most effective way to salvation. Amidst this increasingly vast buffet of promised redemption and healing – how does one satisfy the deep-seated hunger that keeps gnawing from within?

While the East provides a cupboard full of ancient teachings and experiential techniques, the West has also caught on to the collective hunger with its own offerings of bestselling books, workshops and retreats, celebrated teachers and a cornucopia of spiritual practices.

It’s not surprising that this is happening – within each historical cycle there is always a period of spiritual cleansing that follows the accumulation of mentally and emotionally toxic times. In some way, we are all touched by some form of war – whether it is a battle from within or from without. After the recent decade of pain and trauma, many are desperately seeking the light at the end of the tunnel. But will the light be a Mac Truck or an Angel on a Harley?

This documentary takes a heartfelt look at the modern search for enlightenment. The term “Aha” refers to the moment of epiphany that has led so many to journey towards a better life or a better way of “being”. Epiphany is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.

Regardless of one’s religious or cultural background, there is a common thread that bonds us: our desire for inner peace. Whether we seek it through material means or through other kinds of achievement, we all wish to feel fulfilled. Whether we are atheist or God-loving, many of us are striving to find more joy in our lives. (Or to put it another way – to find relief from suffering.) Looking beyond institutions and religions – this film will explore the private paths that many of us are taking in our search for salvation. Some of us have experienced the mythical “Dark Night of the Soul” which helps to propel one out of their misery into a new state of aliveness. Close encounters with tragedy or death can also do the trick (near-death experiences are notorious for shifting a person’s mindset).

As we explore the spiritual thirst that is causing a major boom in all things “New Age” – we must also look at the addictive appetite which is both a symptom and purveyor of unfulfillment. As the Buddha advised – it is the attachment to our cravings that causes suffering. Whenever our collective desires have met with dissatisfaction, it has driven us to pseudo acts of nihilism as we blindly grope for the things we think we want.

Taking the figurative road to Mecca, we will meet a colorful cast of seekers and finders. Some of the characters are established healers and teachers that are known internationally, while others are privately doing the work that promises to transform their lives. As we examine this age-old quest, we encounter the big question that some of the crusaders are asking: Is Enlightenment a real and attainable goal? Or is it a Holy Grail that only exists as an impossible ideal or fantasy? Do we each have a chance to be the next Siddhartha?

The filmmaker’s background in the healing arts industry within British Columbia has led to many connections within the mystic community. With a sincere appreciation of the process, tempered by years of study, research and practice, the filmmaker aims to create a portrait as painted by the interviewees, about their search and what they have found. Without the use of expository narration, the documentary will allow the cast of characters to construct the story of their individual brushes with epiphany and enlightenment.

Possible candidates for interview include: Dr. Richard Jelusich – a renowned psychic healer, Dr. Peter Russell – the author of From Science to God (blending physics, psychology and philosophy), Faye Fitzgerald – a former social worker who has founded a modern school of shamanism, Bonnie Thorne – the chair and founder of Diamond Heart Foundation (which promotes spiritual well-being through holistic care), Mac McLaughlin – a former biker turned astrologer and columnist, Joseph Roberts – the publisher and senior editor of Common Ground magazine, Peace Pilgrim II – a spiritual activist who followed in the footsteps of the original Peace Pilgrim by divesting himself of all possessions (including his name) and walked throughout North America to speak about Peace, and Eckhart Tolle – author and modern mystic who spent a few years sitting in bliss on a park bench prior to his work as a globe-trotting teacher.

Teachers and practitioners of yoga, reiki and other healing modalities will also be interviewed. Organizations that exist in order to provide tools for exploring consciousness are also available to plum for nuggets of knowledge. At the Institute of Noetic Sciences (as founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell after his life-changing epiphany in space), there is cutting-edge research being done by senior scientists to look into the unexamined life – where science meets spirituality, physics meets metaphysics, and the heart meets the mind. Many of their findings are astounding in their implications, as they are beginning to reveal the truth behind many of the esoteric teachings of ancient traditions and mystics.

At Lightwork, a Vancouver-based centre for meditation and energy healing, even music projects are suffused with the energy of conscious awareness. Hollyhock, another BC-based operation, is world re-known for bringing in famous speakers and workshop leaders to its exquisite island retreat on Cortes Island. The West Coast Institute of Mystic Arts is yet another BC-based offering that has courses like Psychic Development 101 and The Corporate Mystic. Newly minted, it is already expanding at a cosmic pace. Inner Focus is a program that travels throughout the US and Canada to teach the principles behind energy healing and personal mastery. Banyan Books is a haven for finders and keepers of epiphanies – while Vancouver itself seems to attract all manner of spiritually-minded individuals.

Though the main inspiration for spiritual growth often seems to be suffering itself – it is merely the most common approach. For those who wish to try the road less traveled, there is the good news that enlightenment need not be time-based or pain-derived. In other words, there seems to be the option of dropping the long hours and hard work in exchange for ease, grace, miracles and immediate contentment. Some of the most ancient teachings promise that enlightenment is an immediate process because it is not part of the time-space continuum. Something that does not exist by definitions of time or distance, is infinite and eternal. From that concept, the teachings point to a transformation that can occur instantaneously – as miracles are known to happen. What better news for a world that thrives on promises of “Instant” anything?

Of course, the irony exists that our get-spiritually-rich-quick culture is also highly suspicious of teachings that promise such easy enlightenment. The maxim “No Pain No Gain” is particularly entrenched in our psyche when it comes to salvation. As many of us seek to re-educate ourselves and re-wire our consciousness, we find that this path requires us to transcend the limitations of our reason and intellect. The concept of faith has long been synonymous with spiritual steadfastness. However, there is a concept that takes us beyond the confines of faith itself: it is called “knowingness”. To know your divine source and be connected to it in present time is the ultimate pinnacle. Throughout history, there have been many individuals who claim to have reached this eternal state, this Samadhi or nirvana. Knowing implies transcendence of “belief” or “faith” – it is the next step.

Flipping through Oprah’s roster of celebrated teachers and guests, one can only guess if they practice what they preach. Still, there are many who claim to have met or have personally become masters. Are these the clever workings of a spin doctor, sensational journalism, delusions or deceptions? Those few brave souls who claim to have tasted fulfillment are catalysts for heated debate, for the seeker is often media-savvy and sometimes more cynical than the atheist who had stopped looking for salvation. If you claim to be enlightened, the throng of angry disbelievers mixes with the crowd of joyful followers. As illustrated in Richard Bach’s book “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”, all the gifts of a master will be tested by his reactions or lack thereof. For in all traditions, it is said that you cannot argue with an enlightened being…

In the end, it comes down to the individual and their intuition because Belief, Faith or Knowingness are private choices. We can only gleam what is true for ourselves and allow others to choose their own path. This is the basis for tolerance and acceptance of diversity. The energy of these twin principles will guide all the film’s interviews since the purpose is not to deconstruct the person’s faith, but to allow them breathing space to express their personal experiences.

The documentary’s overall approach is informal and the tone is actually lighthearted. Employing a mixture of compelling images, candid interviews, interesting locations with unconventional compositions, stylistic montages, effective use of stock footage, colorful graphic and sound design – the piece will have some of the energy of an Errol Morris-style portrait. Idiosyncratic elements will thoughtfully pepper the more traditional non-fiction narrative form – to help elucidate and navigate through this fundamentally human phenomenon. Most importantly – this is not an ideological essay, not an intellectual debate, not a philosophical deduction of what is true or false. It is a compassionate look at the resounding need for communion with the sacred and ultimately – with our higher selves. The target audience is anyone who has ever looked for healing, redemption, joy or deeper meaning in their lives.

Despite the profundity of the topic, underneath the duality of pain and pleasure lies an uplifting message. From the experiences of these characters, we begin to see the accessibility of the experience. The evidence points to the fact that we are all capable of reaching new heights in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development. Given some keys to understanding through the heart not the head, we can learn to bypass our old patterns of thinking and doing, to attain a new paradigm for being. As we describe the search for healing and explore the anatomy of a modern mystic – we inevitably run into the paradoxes that intertwine with the divine. (hence the saying “Divinity speaks in Paradox.”)

As Eckart Tolle advises, all words and images in this world of form are but signposts. They point to the way but they are not the way itself. For just as language is a map of consciousness but not the ultimate expression – this documentary is a map of the search and is not meant to be the answer itself.

~ little woo, 2004

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