Finding Your Kumare

kumareWe watch lots of movies, both on the big screen and at home. Just this past weekend we watched “Admissions” with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd (not a fave with the teen boys) and “Olympus has Fallen” with Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, and Angela Bassett. (Two thumbs up on that one–Morgan makes a great Speaker of the House.) Those were our “big screens.” At home, we watched “Kumare,” which we streamed through my laptop off Gaiam TV. As a writer, I drink up story in all formats. As a student of life, the more the story makes me think and grow in some way, the better.

That’s what this documentary by Vikram Gandhi did. Made me think. It stuck with me in a way the other two commercial films didn’t. As the tagline says, it’s the true story of Vikram, born and raised in New Jersey, who puts on the accent and affect of a guru from India. He pulls together some doctrine out of his core beliefs that he calls Kumare. He makes up some yoga moves and gives names to exercises like the “blue light meditation.” His goal? Upset by all the false prophets he saw in India, then carried over to the USA, he wanted to explore how easy it would be to start a false religion, taking the “act as if” concept to a new level.

While it starts out an experiment, what we witness is Vikram really honing more clearly on his core identity. We watch as he becomes the guru who he is pretending to be, as he connects with his core disciples in a way he isn’t able to do as Vikram. During the course of the film, he becomes his alter ego, so much so that he is unable to unveil his true identity to his followers when he is supposed to. It takes him leaving them, spending some time depressed, then coming back to them later and spilling his experiment. He sets that part up by saying they need not look outside themselves to find the best part of who they are because their true guru is inside them waiting to be discovered.

A few of his followers were not amused and no longer talk to Vikram. The others, however, see the value he gave them under any guise–namely, confidence in their own ability to tap into their inner guru.

Who is your inner guru? What is the message you would share if you only had one? Why are you here on this planet? Thanks, Vikram, for encouraging me to think in a world that really enjoys a good follower.

The Hardest Part of Writing

writers-writeEvery year, the Oscars are something I look forward to–an event, really. It’s not a dress-up, get fancy thing for me, but rather a jammy/mud mask extravaganza I started over 23 years ago when my oldest son was 2. We’d sit right in front of the TV and clap. We’d fill out ballots. We’d stay up late because back then they hadn’t moved it to 5 p.m. PT. (This year, sadly, we were  separated by miles–but did manage to close it out with rapid texting!)

Normally, the group eulogy was when I’d restore snacks. This year, I listened, because of what the various artists were saying in their clips. Nora Ephron’s words stuck with me most: “The hardest part of being a writer is writing.” (She’s the “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Julie & Julia” screenwriter who has wrote in nearly every medium possible. I love that.)

So simple, yet so poignant, her words. Ask any writer and they’ll tell you as soon as they say, “I’m a writer” the other person–doesn’t matter who–says, “I’ve been thinking about/have written/once wrote/am going to write a book.”  Lots of people like the idea of having authored a book. Many even like it so much they hire a ghost writer to write it and put their name on it. Fewer still find an easy slip into the writing process, and can muster the regular discipline it takes to finish a novel, or learn how to write a screenplay, or try their hand at essays instead of poetry just for the love of playing with words. Just for the joy of creatively expressing the story that one sees in his head. Just for the fun of painting with letters.

It makes sense. It’s hard to find the time. When I first started writing seriously, I remember my cousin Sharon Weil (screenwriter, novelist and all around awesome person) saying, “Everything needs to serve the writing.”

And, yet, what happens is we sneak the writing in. We tuck it in around soccer practices, basketball practices, Yoga classes, dinner-making, dinner buying for the making, trips, dog walking, showers. (As I type this right now, it’s 5:00 p.m. and I have yet to take a shower before taking my son out to a 7:30 – 9 p.m. practice where I plan to smuggle my laptop into a hopefully quiet corner of the bleachers and work on my current thriller.) I remember reading a whole book on this topic of working about five years ago called Writer Mama. (Idea after idea on sneaking it in–or at least that’s my takeaway.)

I appreciate this when I hear this from other writers because it makes me feel more part of a tribe than I do when I’m struggling to find the time. I know it’s just part of the writing landscape that is one more mountain to cross in the life of a writer.

Now–the thriller or Costco? That’s the decision I’ll have to face.