Did the Film Wanderlust (and my Life) Have to Go That Way?

February 26, 2012

(or) Why Stereotyping is as Ineffective in Films as it is in Life

I wrote a screenplay based on my experience at Spa Samui, a holistic health/detox spa in Thailand. Thus, I was excited to see the film Wanderlust, produced by Judd Apatow and starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston. I laughed a lot and enjoyed many moments. It’s one of those films where you are pretty sure where it’s headed, so I’m not too worried about spoilers (though stop now and read this after you see it if you want to keep the suspense).

The film starts by showing us two versions of the miserable life you get when you focus on stuff and status—first in a New York City micro-loft and then in a suburban Atlanta McMansion. When our heroes head to the commune, it seems like a welcome respite. We see all that’s good in the world about sharing, living off the land, minimalism, free love, and connecting to nature. Your typical viewer might think this is all too good to be true, and the film-makers don’t disappoint. Sure enough, we learn that the leader turns out to be a conniving fraud and that the founder sneaks off weekly to a diner to gorge himself on meat. This perpetuates the stereotype that nobody really likes being a vegan and that the ideal of communal living is only an ideal.

I could criticize the writers if only I didn’t use some of the same conventions in my own script. The fact is that there are many people living their bliss in cramped studios in the West Village and sprawling McMansions in suburbia just as there are many vegans who actually dig wheatgrass and don’t crave meat. In a film, in part because there is so little time, it’s often most convenient to go for the stereotype. Yet in doing so, it sells the film, and more importantly, its audience short.

When Jennifer Aniston’s character starts to evolve and come into her happiness on the commune, it’s a beautiful metamorphosis. For the first time in her life, she feels a sense of purpose and bliss. So why must it end? Why, in the front or back of our minds, are we thinking that you can’t actually live here? Where will you send the kids to school (even if you don’t have any)? What about your 401k? What will you eat on Thanksgiving? And how will you explain this to your friends and family living in the “real” world?

This hits so close to home for me because I lived a version of this fairy-tale. I left New York City in December of 2006 for a two-month vacation. After spending three weeks on the island of Koh Samui–twelve days of which I fasted–I came back to America, sold my half of my literary agency and moved back to Koh Samui. I was there for six months straight (and more than a year in all) and everything fell into place.

I wasn’t living in a commune. It was more of a little town that had everything from million-dollar homes to $6/night A-frame bungalows. It had all the great things you associate with a commune (nature, yoga, healthy food) and yet also had all the conveniences (wireless Internet, air conditioning, a thriving economy). I lived with a woman I loved (monogamously) in an amazing house that was a two-minute walk from a spa on the beach with a world-class restaurant, a steam room and an infrared sauna, a book and video library, and a great mix of travelers, businesspeople, students and healers.

With the exception of the bedroom and living room, which had doors that locked, our entire house was outside. There was no front door, and I always laughed about how anyone could steal our pots and pans. I would get a world-class massage almost daily for $9 and then drink a fresh coconut that had just been knocked off a tree. I got in the best health and shape of my life, honed my guitar skills, and made incredible friends. And while a part of me enjoyed it and savored it, a part of me never really believed this was my life.

Watching for the catch? So was I, if only because I never could have imagined that life could be this awesome. You may be looking for the hole in the story, thinking that this all sounds great if you have a trust fund (which I don’t). Even though I was on vacation, I met authors Hajjar Gibran and Jon Gabriel and sold their books to imprints of Simon & Schuster. I could have stayed and lived a country club existence on a tropical island on $900 a month and had plenty of chances to earn income. If I wanted to, I even could have put some of those commissions in a retirement account.

As for the healers and health practitioners, I learned they were human. Some of these hippy-dippy types drank, smoke and wolfed down cheeseburgers. This only made me love them more. While we typically portray people who are health-conscious as preachy and hypocritical, keep in mind that none of these people were teaching anything that they didn’t believe in. You may hold the stereotype that a yoga teacher shouldn’t smoke, eat meat or road-rage, but of the dozens I know, I still haven’t met one who holds out him or herself as perfect. In fact, I never felt more accepted and loved for who I was. Most of my friends didn’t even know my last name, much less where I went to college, and affection came based on personality, not pedigree.

I’m still trying to figure out why I gave it up all to come back to a more “conventional” life in America. Now that I reflect more on Wanderlust, it’s not the film-makers’ stereotyping that bothered me. It’s my own. I’m sure my friend Mark England would remind me that it’s all my own projection. And I would agree. Because just like most viewers of Wanderlust were likely thinking that living in bliss would be too good to be true—that you have to come back to earth and live in the real world—I thought the same thing. And sure enough, I came back down to the real world and haven’t felt that awesome since.

I’m ready to feel that way again. I’m headed to Costa Rica tonight, Northern California in late March, Thailand again in April and North Carolina in June. Who knows where I may find that bliss?

When I do, this time I will know that I am in the real world.

And since I’m the director of my own life, I don’t need to follow stereotypes for the sake of brevity or convention.

When I find that bliss, I can, and will, choose to live in it.

 



Acting As If

February 8, 2012

(or) Teaching What I Need to Learn

I’ve moved so many times that my mom loves to ask me if I knew where I was when I woke up. If I was feeling the blues from a dreary East Coast winter, I’d decide sunshine was my savior and pick up and move. Then when I was living in warm weather (take your pick: Phoenix, Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Diego, L.A., Florida, Louisiana, Thailand), I would feel disconnected from my family and friends and pick up and move again. On the downside, I’ve learned the hard way about the proverbial: wherever you go, there you are. On the upside, I’ve learned to trust my instincts and feel lucky that I’ve been able to explore so many places, deepening my understanding of the world and of myself.

If you’re familiar with my 5-step model, you know how much emphasis I place on awareness. By definition, we can’t see our own blind spots, which means it requires extra attention to spot our own patterns. Having a coach or trusted friends to check in with is another great resource.

Just a few days ago, I found myself in a funk and reverted to some old, familiar tools. Feeling stuck and disconnected in L.A., I pondered geographical solutions. Then I distracted myself with life’s logistics. I shopped online for the best flights and ran a cost-benefit analysis on extending the lease on my house and keeping or selling my car.

As I’m sure you’re aware, most people teach what they need to learn. I’m no different. The first step in the model that I teach “others” is to focus on feeling. I urge you to ask the question: how do I want to feel? With the help of my friend and co-workshop leader Mark England, I’ve taken this to this next level by adding the word because after describing that feeling. Then after doing John Kehoe’s Mind Power course, I added the layer to act as if you already feel that way. When you say I want to feel, there is longing and desire. When you say it as if it’s happening, you tap into that vibration and energetically start to live it.

As life tends to go, just as I was thinking about the idea as if, I spoke to my coach about the plans for my geographic solution. When I told her that it looks like my days in L.A. may be numbered, she suggested to act as if they were. Then it dawned on me that when we know something is coming to an end, we savor it more. Think about people who have a terminal disease like Randy Pausch. Or think about your summer camp or holiday romances that you knew had a finite time. There is an ease, a natural desire to live in the moment, unburdened by the future. That feeling is available to us all the time.

There have been several books on “Last Suppers” on death row. Whenever my mom indulges in a decadent meal, she’ll smile and say that there were people on the Titanic who passed up dessert. Of course that very statement points to the pragmatic side of why some of us “think” we can’t live every moment as if it’s our last. We may associate living for now with being destructive. We’ve been taught that our choices for food are either tasty and bad for our long-term health or unappetizing and good for the long-term. And therein for me lies both the disconnect and the answer. There are amazing foods that are both delicious and nutritious. For lunch I made organic sweet potato fries cooked in coconut oil. If I knew it was my last meal, I still would have chosen them over McDonald’s fries. Whether I knew I was going to die in an hour or in a century, I’d play basketball or guitar rather than go on a drug binge.

Sometimes we (read: me) need to be reminded of life’s sanctity. Acting as if can be a great tool for creating urgency and it did, indeed, propel me into action. I re-connected with three great friends over the past three days. I saw my friend and physical therapist Dr. Yvette Flores sing at the Viper Room. I savored my Improv class that much more and said yes to an invite to see a comedy show after. I’ve been wanting to visit a friend in Oregon and that trip is now on the books. My friend Adam and I have been talking for years about attending an NBA game and we’ve penciled in a date. I’ve felt bad that my godson has never been to L.A. and we haven’t bonded enough. He flies in from Boston in ten days.

Thankfully I recognized my patterns of seeking geographic solutions and distracting myself with logistics. When I started acting as if, suddenly it didn’t seem to matter so much where I live. Because after all, wherever I go, there I will be. And since the only certainty is that I am here now, I choose to feel grateful, happy, connected, and loved…simply because I can.


Direct Path to Success with Mark England and me this week only

September 7, 2011

After rave reviews from our emotional detox workshop, Mark England has extended his L.A. trip and we’re excited to work with you.

Our intention is to quickly get to the heart of exactly what you want and use tools to clear anything that may be holding you back.
We’re offering a “Direct Path to Success” package that includes the following:
1. A 75-minute session with Greg and Mark to clarify your goals, see where you are now, identify your challenges and discuss strategies for taking you to the next level.
2. A 75-minute session with Mark to re-program your software and belief systems and unblock anything that isn’t serving you. I’ve done it myself many times and it’s very powerful and liberating.
3. A 75-minute session with Greg to create a specific plan that incorporates the tools and techniques that you have learned into a practice.
Mark’s typical rate for 1 session is $240.
We’re offering this to ONLY 5 students now for a total of $175. First come, first serve.
To take advantage of this while Mark is still here, you’ll need to schedule your first appointment by next Wednesday, 9/14, at the latest.
You can reach Greg at 917-653-3247 or gregdinkin@gmail.com with questions.
More info on who we are what we do:
Five years ago, stressed-out, out-of-shape and unbalanced New Yorker Greg Dinkin arrived on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand to detox. Working with Mark England changed his life and produced the following results:

•  Lost 100 pounds.
•  Re-programmed his belief systems to align with his dreams.
•  Transitioned him into a new career path.
•  Found balance and peace living in L.A.

Mark England and Greg Dinkin focus on working with you to:
•  FEEL AWESOME.
•  Develop tools to re-program your software.
•  Detox limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering ones.
•  Use conscious speech + powerful words that align with your goals and mission.

Topics include:
•  A 5-Step Model for Loving Life
•  Emotional Detox
•  Meridian Line Tapping
•  Language Modeling & Clarification
•  Creating Empowering Belief Systems

Bios:

Mark England has been exploring and applying methods, philosophies, and techniques for Mental Liberation and Emotional Detoxification for almost a decade. His style has been heavily influenced by EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programing), Family Constellations, The Work of Byron Katie, and The Jedi Mind Sciences of John Kehoe. Mark loves to dance, laugh, free dive, and go on amazing adventures with amazing people. He holds a Master Degree in International Education and was a Sports Teacher in a previous life.

Greg Dinkin is a TED speaker, a champion poker player, an author, a salesman, a literary agent, a yogi, an entrepreneur, and above all, a teacher driven by finding the best process for success. By walking in the shoes of others and understanding how they think and learn, Greg is effective at making people better: better at business, health, sales, strategy, and life. Greg has an MBA and is a certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. He is the author of The Finance Doctor, The Poker MBA (Random House), and he collaborated with gambling legend Amarillo Slim on his memoir (HarperCollins).