Michael Beckwith Up Close & Personal
July 19, 2009 by The Dove
By Anna Darrah
What’s it like to spend a day in the life of one of America’s most well-known spiritual leaders? That is the subject of the new documentary, SPIRITUAL LIBERATION, which provides an up close and personal look into the life of Michael Bernard Beckwith. As the founder and spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Beckwith is an international speaker and teacher of meditation/affirmative prayer, and is the originator of the Life Vision process. His book, Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential, was recently awarded a Gold Nautilus book award.
The SPIRITUAL LIBERATION film, offered by www.SpiritualCinemaCircle.com, gives viewers an opportunity to take an intimate walk with Dr. Beckwith and witness how in his daily life he applies his own evolutionary teachings.
Anna: How did you find the filming process… was it fun?
Michael: Oh absolutely, it was definitely fun. I was working with a good buddy of mine, Mickey Willis, who is very artistic and creative. His experience as a director created a very spontaneous, in-the-moment atmosphere. We had a very short period of time to turn this around and went forward with no rehearsals, first takes most of the time. It was very dynamic and artistically beautiful as well.
Anna: One of the things that I really appreciated about the film was the going back and forth between the sermon and the conversation, and particularly through the dinner party.
Michael: Yes. The vision was to have a dinner in my home and have some of my friends and family discuss and share their experience of the morning talk I gave at Agape. And so, as you mentioned, it flows back and forth – from sanctuary to dining room table talk. It was a very sweet and very powerful thing for me to hear how they are integrating the teachings into their daily life, at the kitchen sink level, because that’s what matters – that there’s a practical practice that can affect their lives.
Anna: You’re so right, because for me as a viewer it was very powerful. What I took away from the DVD was that you were talking about “What is your purpose? Where are you right now? Are you living fully? Is there something that is asking to come through right now?” So what’s the main message you are hoping people receive from this film, and from your book?
Michael: You put it succinctly. People want to know about their purpose, why are they here on the planet. It’s the question that won’t go away, because the answer reveals that we are here to wake up, to discover our true nature. Additionally, there’s a spiritual mandate for us to discover our gifts, talents and capacities, to uncover them, to cultivate them, and to express them. That’s why we’re here, and at this particular time in our evolution, we have to go beyond the mere survival instinct and really begin to ask the deeper questions as to what’s trying to emerge in, through, and as our individual life. The next step is to open ourselves, to become receptive to the teachings and practices of a spiritual path that can not only meet us at our current level of consciousness, but support us in our evolutionary expansion.
Anna: It feels like collectively we’re on the edge of something huge. Do you have a sense of direction for the human species?
Michael: It absolutely feels as though the universe is projecting one massive evolutionary trigger for humanity to take a collective evolutionary leap. One reason I feel this way is because so many aspects of existence are involved – environmental, financial, health, personal and global relationships. Collectively, we’re being readied for this leap. As we watch the old systems breaking apart, as we admit they are obsolete, we make space for the new to enter. Paradoxically, these seeming opposites are happening simultaneously. Now some people would disagree and think that we’re either at the brink of Armageddon, or that we’re going to manifest heaven on Earth. Black-and-white solutions are not the deal because that’s too simplistic. The evolutionary spiral always goes upward, even though it may not appear so to our outer, superficial view. We’re talking about a process that takes some time – as President Obama frequently reminds us. It may unfold slowly, but it will unfold surely.
Anna: Do you have a sense of what’s going to evolve and what’s going to dissolve?
Michael: When we look at the decay of our stock market and the global economy, what appears to be dissolving is greed, the rampant materialism, the consumerism, that which drove economic systems up to this point. I think humanity is beginning to ask some different questions about values and principles. We will no longer look to the material forms of success, such as how the stock market is doing. It won’t be our barometer for success anymore. As I listen to individuals during my speaking engagements, I hear a new tonality of genuine interest in living life from the inside out rather than superficially, or accumulating more of that which cannot satisfy the inner spirit.
Anna: What role do you feel spiritual leaders such as yourself should play when it comes to politics and government?
Michael: Well, let’s do a quick review together. Visionary, progressive spiritual leaders have always been among us throughout history. They have spoken and continue to speak to more than what are traditionally political issues. They were abolitionists. They spoke for women’s rights. They spoke for the African Americans and other minorities. They are now speaking for gay marriage, reforming our prison systems, and stopping torture. So I would say that a genuine spiritual leader holds and conveys a vision of the highest possibilities for humankind, that he or she keeps high ideals at the forefront so that individuals remain encouraged that we live in a friendly universe that is constantly conspiring on our behalf, that cherishes humanity, and is constantly providing inspiration that speaks to our next stage of evolution. The role of a spiritual teacher is to consistently point to the limitless possibilities available to us. And if it rattles some people’s chains, so be it.
Anna: I come from a long line of Quakers, and for me personally, it’s a lot about ethics and morals, and what’s right.
Michael: Absolutely. And often times what’s political doesn’t bend towards what’s right, meaning in the highest interest of humankind. It bends toward what is politically expedient and motivated by how to get reelected.
Anna: The dinner conversation within the film makes it clear that even though you are incredibly specific it’s still up to each person’s individual interpretation and what’s unfolding within their lives.
Michael: Of course, it’s up to each individual to choose the principles and practices by which they will live, what they will apply in their lives. I specifically speak to evolution of the soul, of consciousness, the oneness with the Ineffable, which is our very life and wants us to be more than we ever thought we could be. We are not victims of circumstance or situations, and our past doesn’t have to be a prophecy of our future.
Anna: When you feel you need spiritual guidance, who or what do you turn to?
Michael: Well, there are certain practices that I do every day. Not like a regimented duty, obligation, or business contract with Spirit. It’s just an organic part of what I do in terms of waking up in gratitude, meditation, affirmative prayer, spiritual study, eating healthy food and exercise. I also have a long-term relationship with a licensed prayer practitioner to whom I turn to speak the word for me. Lissa Sprinkles and I have such a wonderful relationship that I generally don’t need to have any kind of long conversation with her. I can just call her up and say, “I’m about to do such and such. I’m working on this issue; I’m working on this plan. Can you hold this in a prayerful space for me.” She does, and I can feel it. Then Agape has a corps of over 300 licensed prayer practitioners who hold the highest vision for things I’m involved in and that Agape is doing. I’ll tap into those fields, those strong magnetic fields that lovingly support whatever it is I’m doing.
Anna: Wow, that’s quite an arsenal. That’s great.
Michael: Yeah, I wouldn’t leave home without it. [laughter]
Anna: How much time do you spend meditating?
Michael: Oh, I’d say about a half hour one time, half hour another, and that’s my minimum based on scheduling, appointments, traveling and all of that. Then when I can, I’ll take it down. and I’ll have some really rich moments of a half hour to two hours at a time.
Anna: How has your life been changing? It feels like from an outside perspective, like a lot is happening all at once for you.
Michael: It is. I’m still speaking at most of the services at Agape. I travel to outside organizations and do workshops, seminars, things like that, on Thursday and return on Saturday. This year I committed to myself to slow down a little bit. I love making friends, and I love going out, establishing community, and inspiring individuals to really hunger for awakened consciousness.
Anna: I think it’s incredible that you’re out taking the time to really connect with people in that way. It’s got to be making a huge difference on the planet.
Michael: My wife and I have so many friends on Facebook and receive many emails and letters. And these sincere seekers write the most beautiful letters and cards about how something I said changed their life or their perspective or helped them hold on or there was some healing. It’s quite rewarding.
Anna: Do you feel like you’re balancing things pretty well with your wife Rickie and that you both are still feeling creative?
Michael: Yes! We just wrote a song yesterday. [laughter] Music is just kind of part of our life. So yesterday we went to the piano and the song that we’re working on emerged and I can’t wait for it to be finished. So yes, the creativity is still there. Of course, it ebbs and flows depending on what’s going on with us, you know. And the beautiful thing about all of this is that 99 percent of the time she travels with me. When I got out to do a workshop or a presentation, Rickie comes with me. She’s a lightning rod for music.
Anna: Now that I’ve seen SPIRITUAL LIBERATION and heard the choir, do you have any plans to get it out to the world – for folks that don’t live in Los Angeles?
Michael: Absolutely. There’s a number of projects underway. I just got a PBS special that we’ll be filming in August. Pretty soon our website will be streaming a lot of the things we do live. In Europe our Sunday services are being aired in about 22 countries. We’re also visioning about having my own television show.
Anna: What kind of format is your TV show going to be?
Michael: The TV show is a combination let’s say Oprah meets Jay Leno. [laughter] But it will be Michael Beckwith-style. The Sound of Agape music will be highlighted with our house band, and Rickie and our singers doing music. We’ll have a specific topic and guests addressing whatever that subject is as well as questions and hands-on work with members of the audience. It won’t be religious, but it will be spiritually provocative.
Anna: What are some of your favorite spiritual or transformational feature films?
Michael: I really liked The Pursuit of Happyness that Will Smith starred in. I really appreciated that particular movie and the gentleman that was homeless who used all of his skills, imagination and willingness to transform his life. That was very powerful. I also liked Whale Rider and The Matrix.
Anna: If you were going to make another film, would you want to do a documentary or a feature?
Michael: Well, I think that I may want to go into more of a conversation around SPIRITUAL LIBERATION.
SPIRITUAL LIBERATION is available through the Spiritual Cinema Circle, a DVD service dedicated to films about love and compassion. You can receive this film for free (just pay a small shipping fee), along with the feature film OUTSOURCED, a romantic comedy feature about life in a “call center” in India that explores cultural differences, relationships and doing the right thing. The collection also has two great short films. To access your free trial, please visit www.joinscc.com
About Anna Darrah:
Anna Darrah is the Director of Acquisitions for the Spiritual Cinema Circle. Prior to joining Spiritual Cinema Circle, Anna was the Director of Events and Development for the Santa Fe Film Festival. She lives in Santa Fe, NM with her daughter.
Photo: Carl Studna