Shirley MacLaine the Act of Life
an interview by Rev. Patrick J. Harbula & Lee Perry
It’s always exciting to interview a celebrity, but the prospect of interviewing Shirley MacLaine was especially so for me. There are strong similarities between Shirley’s path (s) and mine – trips to Peru, guidance from channeled entities, and the deep lessons learned through intimate relationships. Many people aware of the interview have said to me, “What is she like? Did she say anything new, or was it just the same old stuff?” Everything she said was “new” in the sense that she was right there with us in the moment. As she spoke she frequently shifted from talking about something into a present-tense mode indicative of “being there.” Perhaps her dramatic background has instilled in her a facility for getting into a role – more likely her facility for getting into the roles of life lead to her acting career. The important of the interview, for me, was less in what Shirley said than in the energetic experience of mentally/emotionally travelling with her for a while. As we left the interview Patrick said, “It’s really nice to see a tremendously successful person who’s not on an ego trip.” Exactly!
– Lee Perry
Lee: Many people teach that we each create our own reality, but the interpretations vary. Some say there is one grand reality but each person’s responses, beliefs or attitudes create their personal reality. If two people experience a similar situation, it might be Hell for one and Heaven for the other. But that says we create our own emotional reality, not our physical reality. Whereas, in your most recent book, “It’s All in the Playing,” you expressed the viewpoint of being the only person in the universe.
You are the only one perceiving in the universe. But, this business of it being Heaven for you and Hell for the other, the person experiencing the Hell is a mirror for you. There is part of you experiencing Hell. That’s very sociologically pragmatic to me. The world’s in a mess. If I’m perceiving someone to be hungry, abused, neglected and various and sundry other litanies of horrors out there, the first thing I do is go within myself and ask why that person is a mirror for my hunger, myself abuse, my rejection, or whatever it is. When I’ve assimilated the empathy with that other person, I’ll know what action to take. What I start with is that other person is basically me. The masters have been teaching this for centuries: you are the universe and the universe is you. Going within and seeing all that is surrounding you as a mirror – all the beauty and all the negativity – helps you center yourself as to what is the best path to help the hungry, the homeless, the abused, because you would have empathized with them first.
Patrick: In a sense, it’s not the individual creating his or her own reality, it’s going within to the core of the individual which is every individual, right? It’s that oneness that we all share?
Let’s use an analogy to the universe: the cosmos is a balloon. Blow the balloon up and put dots on it. One of those dots is you, and each other person is another one of those dots. When you expand the balloon, as the universe is expanding all the time, your dot becomes larger. What is the center of that balloon with dots? The center is the dot that is you. When you collapse the balloon, all the dots meld together.
So, you are everyone and everyone is you. That’s the way I have worked it lately, and it’s amazing how it can transform feelings of inaction, futility and helplessness. How we can help improve the world is the basis of this movement. The criticism leveled at most of us, more than any other, is that we are promoting self-centeredness to the exclusion of action for others. The only thing wrong with that is exclusion is inclusion. It’s indeed self-centeredness because if you’re not centered in yourself you are never going to help anybody else, and in being centered in yourself you include everybody else.
Lee: And that’s the God awareness: you think of yourself and, in that thought, you are aware that you are the universe.
Patrick: This is great! Speaking of creating your own reality, how would you like the world to be?
I can’t think of that. I can only think of how I would like my reality to be. I’ve had a couple of moments in my life where I felt myself to be in the center of total brilliant light. It was like….I was enveloped with Love. Then the moment went away. My ideal would be to live in that state all the time. I would not find that boring.
Lee: But, would that be a physical space?
No. That’s probably why I’m not afraid of dying. But I would like to achieve a more evolved level of accepting and loving others. That’s really what it’s all about. I have a hard time loving someone who is cruel to someone else. I have a hard time accepting someone who ignores poverty, homelessness or another person’s tragedy. I also have a hard time with people who expect to be victimized, therefore they are, and then they wail away, “Why me?”
Patrick: You mentioned the light, what about the shadow?
The whiter the light, the more obvious the shadow. First you learn to see the light. Then you learn to walk toward the light. Then you learn to walk into the light. And then you learn to become the light. Your shadows vary according to that process. I don’t know anyone who’s completely in the light; I’m sure not, I might have met Christ. I guess if you reach the point where you are totally in the light, then you make the decision whether you want to come back in a dharmic pattern to serve humanity, or whether you want to help from the unseen.
My sense of the ideal would probably be to shift my perception on negativity completely. Then I would have the opportunity to see if what I believe can occur in the physical – so far it has. When I shift my perception of something negative that is hurting my sensibility and see the beauty in it, it usually changes.
Patrick: So, we look for the beauty in the shadow.
Or expand the light so that there’s no room for the shadow. But you can’t expand the light from the outside to eliminate shadows around you, because wherever that light is cast, there will be a shadow by your physical being. The light has to come from the inside in order to eliminate shadow.
Patrick: There are some people who feel that much of the New Age material is to avoid the shadow, or to avoid one’s own pain.
Oh, I’ve never used it to avoid my pain. Well, pain is a choice in the first place. I think sometimes I’ve used it to avoid other people’s pain, because they make the choice to have the pain, and then I have to relate to it. But any pain I have is a choice I’ve made. So avoid it? You mean disinvent it? Yes, of course. Why have it? What good does pain do?
Patrick: As long as we’re not suppressing it in the process, right?
You can’t suppress something you invented. You just disinvent it. Something you choose to make up a feeling – I know this as an actress – if I choose to act a certain characteristic in a character, and at six o’clock I stop acting that characteristic, I am not suppressing it. I’m just moving away from focusing on it. Life is an act. We are all actors on this stage, as Shakespeare said, choosing how we act out our lives. I’ve done exercises like that. I’ve been very depressed and didn’t want to go to a party. I’ve decided to play the part of a woman who is very happy to go to this party. Within fifteen minutes I’m happy that I’m there. Then I can choose to go back to being depressed if I want to, or just stay being happy if I want to. That’s Free Will.
Patrick: I’ll go along with that, to an extent. Are you saying you don’t believe in suppression at all?
What do you mean by suppression?
Patrick: Using a technique to make the shadow disappear, but it’s not really disappearing, it’s just being suppressed.
Well, listen, you know it’s all an illusion. As a metaphysician you know that. This whole physical existence is an illusion, right down to the Buddhist principle.
Patrick: But there is an objective reality?
Well, they didn’t say so. I don’t think so. Jesus didn’t say so. Buddha didn’t say so. Lao Tse didn’t say so. Gandhi didn’t say so. “The only devils that exist are the ones rattling around in your own heart.” Gandhi. You can’t, as a metaphysician, be a little bit convinced. You either believe this or you don’t. Right?
Patrick: Just as there are different ways of interpreting what creating your own reality is, there are different ways of interpreting what is illusion and what is reality. I believe that what we experience is a reflection rather than an illusion.
No. This is being a little bit pregnant. This is like William O. Douglas, when they asked him, “How can you make these rulings on the U.S. Constitution so simply?” He said, “I just read it and believe it. It’s all written there.” You’re saying that you cut your beliefs to fit the fashion of your negativity, that at some points there isn’t an objective reality and other points there is.
Patrick: No. I’m saying there is always an objective reality, and that we create our own reality by how we interpret.
How we perceive.
Patrick: How we perceive. There’s an interesting phrase that I heard once: that each person’s reality is an individualized selective interpretation of a real thing.
What do you mean by real?
Patrick: That there is something that is real underlying what we see – an archetype.
That is real. This is the dream – that you can alter any way you want. Like you do at night, in the night dream, you can decide which way you want your dream to go. When you’re having a nightmare, wake up and decide to go back and change it. You can do the same thing in this dream. Which is what’s real. You can do the same thing in this dream. Which is what’s real. What you want it to be. We’re just new at the game, and new at the understanding of this metaphysical truth, meaning “beyond the physical” truth. We’re new at it, and sometimes even those of us who think we know what we’re talking about find it very difficult to stand on the streets of Calcutta and say that’s not an objective reality. But the people experiencing it are the ones who are teaching us that it’s truly illusion. It was all born there.
Patrick: How are your plans coming for the Ariel Center?
I’m thinking a lot about that. There are some wonderful centers around the country. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I want to keep furthering this work in the best way that I can. I want to help other people who are furthering the work. I’m not sure how I feel about having something revolve around me in one geographic location, when the beauty of all this is that it’s egalitarianly disbursed. So, I’m rethinking how I will put the energy back in.
With the spiritual centering home base in Colorado, we’ve been through a lot: geological reports, water rights, bringing in roads. As it began to become complicated, I thought, “What is the universe telling me here?” I was trying to be open to why there were complications. “Think about what you really want,” I say to myself. There’s no question that I want to put everything back into the work, but how? How? What is the best way? Maybe the answer is not to go into real estate and develop something I have to continually oversee, so that I can’t go and speak at someone else’s center, or do a seminar in someone else’s place, and be free and more unburdened.
When I did my seminars, I began to realize how easy it is to be a guru and what happens when people given away their power – and then say they’re doing it “because of something you suggested. I didn’t like that feeling.” I didn’t like the feeling of people making me a guru at all. That might happen also if I put up one special place with my high profile. Maybe it wouldn’t, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll use the energy and the financial resources to further the work in another way.
Patrick: You obviously had a vision of what a New Age Center can be. How do you see the importance of New Age centers and communities, in the scheme of the New Age evolution?
Well, maybe the solution isn’t limiting the view and the vision to New Age communities, but is bringing spiritual awareness to East Los Angeles. Maybe it’s beginning to create simple environmental structures – maybe domes – to inspire meditation. Maybe it’s creating a meditational structure to inspire people to go into it – in the most unlikely places – to find their own inner power. It’s almost like the New Age community doesn’t need this. The people who don’t believe they have any internal power at all are the ones who need this.
Lee: We have a friend who was suggesting setting up quiet places in shopping malls, with waterfalls and plants.
Or put meditation rooms in corporate structures. The converted don’t need to be converted. Nobody needs to be converted, but everybody needs to reduce stress. Everybody needs to find more peace within themselves.
Then there are the real holdouts that say “No, my creative process is coming from my turmoil. “That’s okay, too. I don’t want to go that way.
Lee: I certainly appreciate what you’re saying, and yet I feel greatly enlightened by my association with you. Through your books and coming here today, I feel more awake and remembering of who I am. Also, the Intergroup has quite a few members who hang around together a lot. It’s supportive and nourishing. I feel a need for that, too, though not exclusively.
Well, you always are there to support each other on the telephone and in a quick meeting, having dinner together and socializing but, you know, we change a room by showing up. And if we’re all showing up in each other’s rooms all the time, how much change are we affecting? What I’m saying is perhaps we should show up in stranger’s rooms.
It’s not going to be as comfortable because a lot of people don’t talk the language that we have shorthand with each other now. A lot of the world doesn’t know what karma means. “Meditating? It’s a waste of time.” “Chakras….you must be kidding. Prove it to me on some scientific laboratory machine. A great deal of the world still believes this stuff is selfish, self-aggrandizing, “self-centered,” and shuts out reality. That’s what happens when you start walking into these other living rooms –which is what I do all the time. That’s probably why I’ve begun to move off the idea of the cocoon-like comfort of just New Agers. I’m out in the world. I’m doing splits like nobody ever did with the way I’m in this material world and in the high world of competition and commerce and box office jangle and “you don’t get the job unless your picture makes….,” you know, all that stuff. “Hurry up and wait,” on the set. “You didn’t get that part right.” All my world plus what happens when people like us are together. So, I’m forever reminded that I can probably be more effective in the world that most needs it, which is not us.
Patrick: Going back to the mirror, both worlds are reflecting parts of us, and yet we all have both parts in us.
Yes, exactly. We’re all hurting toward this new millennium together. We’re stumbling, we’re falling, we’re lurching, we’re accelerating, we’re falling back – all together.
Patrick: And each person has a role.
Patrick: You went out on a limb, and probably opened doors for other people to come out with their beliefs that may have been somewhat different from the norm. Do you have any advice for or encouragement to people who have beliefs they hold dear but are afraid to express because of fear of rejection?
Then it’s not about the beliefs – it’s about the fear of rejection. But remember, from the time I was three, I’ve been in show business, which means you go up to bat to be rejected or to be accepted every single time. Okay. So, I am used to being up to bat and booed. Maybe I came into this lifetime to protect, or to perfect, my communication from a platform. When it came time for me to understand the giant truth, which is what I think we are dealing with now, I’d already been through that trial by fire. So maybe that was my role, to make it easier for others to see that nothing is going to happen to you if you are really coming from a genuine centered belief. Not only “not going to happen to you,” but it will enhance things. There’s one thing I can tell you, and I would really warn against this, if you hold spiritual beliefs and practice them, and someone wants to know about them and you deny them, you’re in BIG TROUBLE. You’re better off if you don’t have any spiritual beliefs.
Patrick: So there really wasn’t any apprehension for you?
Well, no. I had written two books first anyway. I had developed into a memoirist, that’s what I do. I can’t write a novel. I tried. It was so paltry, my publisher wondered if I had written the other books. Well, my life’s a fiction anyway. Between my second book and the delivery I was supposed to make of my third book (because I had a contract), I was going through transformation. I had nothing else on my mind. So I said to myself, “This is who I am now. This has changed my life. This has shifted everything: my dancing career, so-called singing career,” I even got to thinking I could sing all right. And I did sing better than I ever had, because I believed I did. My acting, my political activism, everything changed as a result of my metaphysical investigation and involvement. So when it came time to turn in the third book, I had to write about this. It was harder not to, than to take the risk of doing it.
Several of my friends, very close friends, tried to warn me against it. They said it would ruin my career and all that I’d worked for over the past twenty-five years. Our meeting turned into a spiritual seminar. One of those people was Bellah Abzug, who has executive-produced my new video tape on aligning the chakras. And the other was an English journalist and playright, Kathlene Tynan, who is writing a screenplay for me about soul mates. The third one was a guy. We don’t speak, because he really had trouble with it.
I haven’t lost any friends. My social parameters haven’t shifted as much as they’ve expanded. Everyone in the world’s a spiritual seeker whether they admit it or not. Everyone is a spiritual being whether they admit it or not. And if you are afraid of expressing it, and you find a way of just being yourself, relating to anything a flower, a traffic jam, a broken love affair, a disease, a rupture with your parents – they’re all spiritual issues. If you can find a way to very simply inter-relate with that kind of spiritual approach, you will find them opening up rather than ridiculing you. That’s what I’ve found.
Patrick: It all comes down to Love, doesn’t it?
Love, and trust that you have the divine energy inside you – and so does everyone else.
I’ve made the leap into doing a video on chakra alignment. I explain each of the seven chakras: the consciousness inherent in each of the centers and what physical organs they relate to in the gross anatomy. Then we do open-eyed meditations on each chakra, with wonderful visual effects, and a big, long, deep meditation at the end. Using that as the bridge the viewers begin to go within and find their hidden power.
Patrick: Does the video get into a healing aspect?
It’s a stress reduction tape.
Lee: That’s great. And you have a book coming out?
The new book is called Going Within and that also is a guide for inner transformation: how to meditate, how to visualize, how to use color, to visualize with sound, big hunks on the chakras, how to use crystals, and how to shift your perceptions. Like Einstein says, “We learned to do everything but change the way we think.”
Lee: How does one do that?
By going within and seeing that there’s a perfection that’s lovable in each one of us. If you don’t have that feeling of love within yourself, you’re not going to have it for anybody else.
Patrick: There are so many different styles of meditation. What’s the Shirley MacLaine style?
I do my Hatha Yoga for 25 postures. Then I align my chakras. And then, sitting in the lotus position, I don’t do anything. Sometimes the meditation allows things to flood in that I should have resolved. Sometimes it takes me away. Sometimes I’m very agitated because I can’t get with it at all.
Patrick: What do you do during those times?
Get more agitated. Sometimes I have to put it aside and come back. It’s hard in a Western society, really, if we don’t believe we can set aside time for this sort of going-withinness, and it seems like all the forces at work conspire against that private time.
Patrick: What type of visualization do you do for yourself?
Depending on what’s on my mind, I’ll make it up at the time. I’m very creative about all of that. I’ll shift the meditations to suit me at the moment.
I have been troubled recently that the legacy of the Reagan administration has been all this homelessness and hunger. I didn’t know what to do about it. I went through the exercises that the forty-four million hungry in this country are forty-four million aspects of me that are hungry. The people who are homeless – that are close to my apartment in New York and sleeping in subways on grates – are aspects of me. The more I accepted that they are all aspects of me, the clearer it became that I would have some solution to this, and it came. I started working with Dennis Weaver on L.I.F.E. (Love is Feeding Everyone)
Patrick: It’s a great organization.
It’s just fabulous. I hadn’t been able to focus on “Do I care more about Ethopia or about Armenia or Bangladesh or East L.A.?” I’m very clear now. I did it by going within myself and accepting that each of those people that flood my television screen every night are parts of me, and then I started figuring out how to pragmatically change it. It’s mysterious how it works. I can’t explain it, but it does. I had a friend who was addicted to coke – couldn’t get off it. She was ruining her life. I asked myself why I created her to be addicted to coke. I said, “I don’t want her to be addicted to coke,” and really turned over a new leaf in taking responsibility for that. Pretty soon she was off it. I was the one who shifted.
Lee: What exactly did you do to make that shift?
By taking responsibility for the fact that somehow, on some level, I was creating her in my dream for my learning process. I learned that lesson; I didn’t want her to be on drugs anymore. Now, maybe something else happened as a result of our being together. She got the fact that I wasn’t going to participate in the polarity dance with her anymore: “Please don’t do it. It’s terrible.” That’s the dance. I just decided. “I don’t want her to be that way in my reality anymore.” She got it and stopped. Instead of bonding by the co-dependency, you bond by the liberation.
Patrick: So you stepped out of your role?
…in her dream, yes.
Lee: What about the idea of parallel realities – that every possibility is being carried out in an infinity of self-created illusions?
They probably are, but I’m only seeing it from my perspective. Still, the center of that balloon is my dot. I am the center of the universe that I see. You are the center of the universe you see. I’m not going to change the universe until I transform my beliefs.
Patrick: We interviewed Dennis on the L.I.F.E. project. Do you want to give our readers an update on what L.I.F.E. is doing?
Twenty percent of the food in this country is wasted. We announced a deal today [mid-January] for the Hughes Markets to send their vans to the markets at the end of every day, to pick up the dated food, which is still packaged and still nutritious. It is then distributed to special agencies. L.I.F.E. feeds forty-four thousand people a day in this city alone.
There are ways to translate the inner transformation pragmatically to the outer transformation. And it’s not that it just happens, the specific way of doing it comes to you. Then, again, that is an experience in the physical. It will be an experience going to the markets; getting on the trucks; taking the food out; taking to the special agencies and letting them take it out, then, to feed the homeless. It’s not just that you say you want the homeless fed, so they’re fed. It’s the specific of the path along the way that is the learning process. It’s not only about the goal of feeding the homeless. My question to Dennis was – there we were with the television cameras and the television is saying “This is where you show up to get your food,” but not one of those homeless people have a television set or quarter to call – how do they know where to go? But the grapevine is pretty good.
Patrick: I have a non-New Age question for you, just for the fun of it. Who is your favorite leading man?
The one who is acting opposite me in the moment, totally in the moment.
Patrick: That’s a New Age answer! Is there a message in your heart you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m sensing that it’s important to be more disciplined about the inner work. Add a little moment of time each day and take that really seriously for the whole year because this is the year of renewal.
Don’t you feel the energy accelerating since January 1st? It behooves us all to take the time every day, preferably at the same time every day, to do that alignment – not from the fear that if you don’t things will fall apart, but more that you become bonded by the centeredness of doing than by not doing it. I think that’s really important.
Find that time and take it. Do it!
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