Friday, May 15, 2009

American Idol, Wishing, and Life Lessons 

As I write this, the contestants in season eight of American Idol have been whittled down to the final two: Adam Lambert and Kris Allen.  Now, both are very sweet and talented fellows, and by the time Danny Gokey (#3) was gone, I was ready to be done with seeing and hearing him, although he is also a talented fellow.  I wish Danny well but did have an aversion to something about him, for which I don’t quite have proper words that would also be ladylike.

I would like to see Adam win.  Not as much as I wanted to see Barack Obama win, but with the same sense of rightness.  Adam’s rendition of Mad World was soul stirring for me, and I love that he is gay and confident and relishes his own flamboyant, lovely, wild self, not to mention his amazing vocals that range from explosive to tender, with a theatrical actor’s ability to play many roles with sincerity.  Adam Lambert reminds me of one of my childhood favorites, David Bowie, who also pushed past many limits but still remained somehow relatable, relevant, and musically great.  At age 15, I even cut my hair similar to Bowie’s and dyed it bright red.

My wanting Adam to win American Idol brings up an analogous life lesson.  Sometimes we want something in life – whether to get the guy or girl, or the job, house, have the child, win the award, and so on.  That want for an outer circumstance is like wanting Adam (or Kris) to win – focusing on a specific desire you would like to have fulfilled in a specific way.  

But if you go deeper, beneath the obvious news headline surface, what is it that you really want?  Do you want Adam or Kris to win and then make a bad CD? No, of course not.  What is it that we really want when hoping for a specific outcome in American Idol, or within any arena of life?  We may be praying, affirming, and using various laws of attraction to move the universe into giving us an apparent desired outcome, but really, what we want is deeper than that specific outcome.  

What we really want if we’re an Adam Lambert fan is for him to be successful, making great music that we’ll be able to enjoy for years to come.  If for whatever reason – karmic or contractual – Adam would make better music as the runner up rather than the crowned idol, well then that is probably what we would more deeply want.  Look at the publicity the runner up to Miss America 2009 received in contrast to the winner due to the controversy of her response to Perez Hilton’s question – hers may not necessarily be the kind of publicity those who support Adam Lambert might want, but it is publicity nonetheless, and Carrie Prejean has certainly taken full advantage of the spotlight, while very few people remember who won the Miss America contest this year.

In life also, what we really want is often different from the outer potential symptoms of that deeper want.  Let’s say you want to get a specific person to fall in love with you, but what you really are looking for is the powerful love that comes from being with the right person.  If that specific person is also the right person, well then you’re in luck.  But if they’re not, then you may spend all your effort, intention, and energy to create the outer circumstance you want but without the inner happiness you thought would accompany it.  

You want to get that apartment or house, but what you really want is to be in a place that will give you peace, beauty, safety, and happiness.  You pray clear to the bones to get that job, but really, you would be happy to not get it if only you knew of the even greater opportunities waiting beyond that disappointment. 

So as we watch the upcoming finale, regardless of who we hope will be the American Idol 2009, let’s also use this opportunity to practice keeping a deeper vision as Ryan Seacrest takes us from dramatic commercial break to dramatic announcement music.  Then we can also use the same deeper view to focus on the more essential qualities behind our intentions, wishes, and desires – qualities like happiness, peacefulness, wisdom, service, and love.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards, Rielle Hunter, and the Gambling of Our Country and World 

This John Edwards/Elizabeth Edwards/Rielle Hunter affair/cover-up story has been significant not only because it is salacious and filled with sure-to-be ongoing twists and turns, deception, lust and all those other topics that entertain the dark corners of the human psyche.

The main reason this story has been newsworthy and disturbing to many –- especially those who were looking for positive changes for our beloved, young, and recently plundered United States of America in 2008 –- is because John Edwards and his wife, and Rielle and anyone else who allowed or supported his deceptions, gambled the well-being of this country in a shockingly irresponsible way that goes beyond the simple narcissism and egotism that John has claimed. And as much compassion and positive feelings as I might have toward Elizabeth Edwards, she was a knowing part of a deception that could have caused significant harm to our country and the world.

Knowing how people in today's society think and feel about affairs, cheating, and lying, Edwards took the chance and created the possibility of his being the democratic nominee, knowing that surely (the tabloids had already been rumbling with it) this career-ending honeycomb of dishonesty would come out at the last minute, destroying his campaign and most likely allowing for more destruction of this country and, through it’s impact, the world.

This gambling of the well-being of his country and the world is a greed and arrogance beyond what most would imagine possible in someone with such a pretty face and gentle demeanor, although John did look more like a scared country bumpkin kid defending himself to the school principal in last year's half-hearted confession on Nightline, which reminded me of an episode of Supernanny with a child who had to be taught not to lie. The only time I’d seen, and in this case personally experienced, someone with a capacity to lie and create webs of deception with such ease was back in the early 1990’s, when I had the misfortune of getting to know Suze Orman. From my experiences with Suze, I can understand and relate to the quandary of not wanting to speak badly about someone or be the one to reveal their lies and deception, but at the same time feeling responsible for being honest and making available information that would help people to make educated decisions about whether to trust and implement relationship advice from an unethical and damaging person like Suze Orman, or in this case, whether to support and vote for a dishonest and apparently unethical John Edwards.

When I arrived in Hollywood in 1989 after a decade of dedicated spiritual life in a monastic ashram, I found waiting for me karmic connections with many who were or would become celebrities. In a dramatic shift from monastic life, I had many visits and chats with Arnold Schwarzenegger, including a couple hours spent chatting and drinking peppermint schnapps with him on Thanksgiving evening. I lived in a small studio cottage with a then struggling Italian actress, now billionaire, and even gave Michael Eisner half of my sandwich once when he was hungry (in spite of the 50 million dollars in stock options that he’d reportedly earned that year).

I’ve had a Forrest Gump-like record of having helped to start or uplift the careers of many regular folks and celebrities, including Simon Cowell and Charlie Rose. I also spent a lot of time and resources helping to start Suze Orman’s career at a time when she was unknown and deeply in debt -- one of my few regrets in life, although I also believe that everything is ultimately perfect from within the larger universal perspectives.

And I knew Rielle Hunter, John Edwards' mistress. We’d met through the Santa Monica meditation center and hung out here and there over a few years. I edited a demo reel for Rielle with a few acting scenes she’d performed to help her try to get more work. Rielle was a fairly nice person, as I recall, if a bit self-absorbed, which was not out of place in Beverly Hills. She was just beginning to open up to spiritual ideas and practices, so wasn't yet claiming to be enlightened or asking reporters about their astrological signs, or dissing Elizabeth Edwards for not giving off "good energy." At the time, her name was Lisa, but she wanted to change it to something that would be pronounced “real,” as in authentic. In one discussion, we were trying to figure out which spelling of the name would work best, and she eventually settled on “Rielle.” So, note to all you newscasters and television shows who are calling her “Riley” or “Rile.” Unless she’s changed the pronunciation since its original creation, the correct reading of her name would be “Re-al.”

Now, what we need to learn from this John Edwards/Rielle Hunter story is to become more intuitive and discerning about where and how we place our trust. This isn’t a call to become more distrustful of people, but to watch and learn what it looks like when someone is being dishonest so that we’ll be better able to discern deceptive statements and actions from others in the future. Tapping into our intuitive faculties and subconscious perceptions allows us all to make better decisions individually and collectively.

When you watch and read stories about this and other scandals, don’t just indulge yourself in the lowest level of thumbs up, thumbs down man-eating lion gladiator genetic residue from our ancestral histories. Look for all the richness of lessons that exist in any well-explored life event. Notice the karmic connections and the bouncing back of judgments against the one who is judging. This is one value of our gossip-laden society -– the abundant opportunities we have to learn life lessons vicariously through the sagas, errors, and triumphs of others, whether on the news, American Idol, Survivor, or Judge Judy.

While wishing everyone well always, watch these reality scenarios with an appreciation for their clues about the nature of life, karma, and human nature. Uncover the lessons and contemplate how compassion, arrogance, fear, grace, and other elements of life come together as this incredible, vast pagentry of circumstances and experiences that is life on earth as we know it.

Sharon Janis is a filmmaker, musician, and author of Spirituality For Dummies, Never to Return: A Modern Quest For Eternal Truth, Secrets of Spiritual Happiness, Breakthrough Consciousness, and other works. Through Night Lotus Productions, she offers an extensive website of noncommercial and free multimedia spiritual resources at

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