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Jim Carrey and friends opt for consciousness-raising over Lakers

June 5, 2009 | 11:14 am

Some might say that spirituality and Hollywood go together like sensitivity and pro wrestling.

But that’s just the kind of habitual/stereotypical thinking that more than 500 entertainment industry types vowed to vanquish at a conference Thursday night as they came together for the first meeting of the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment (GATE).

Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and movie star/seeker Jim Carrey headlined the more-than-three-hour session at an auditorium on the Fox lot in Century City. Along with singer Melissa Etheridge and several other speakers, they urged their colleagues in film, television, music and other media to transcend the tawdry and mundane with higher-minded fair.

It must have been important to those packed into the meeting. They missed the Lakers' opening championship-round game to be there.

Producer John Raatz, who formed the organization, said the time is ripe in the entertainment industry for an “up-leveling of consciousness” that, in turn, would lead to more work delving into the spiritual and divine.

Many attending the session and pledging to join in future work follow the teachings of Tolle, the best-selling author of “The Power of Now” and other books. The German-born Tolle echoes the Buddhist view that most of humanity is captive to the mind and obsessive thinking, patterns that can be broken through meditation and other techniques.

Participants said they hoped their own spiritual practices would free them from the mundane and prurient and lead them to projects with high aspirations, like combating hunger. HBO executive Scott Carlin told the gathering -- which included Garry Shandling, Billy Zane and Jackson Browne -- that audiences were yearning “for the sense of being nourished deeply.”

When he took the stage near the end of the evening, Carrey both embraced and satirized his nascent guru role. In a short film clip introducing his appearance, he cast a beatific gaze on the audience, delivering the message: “I’m Jim Carrey and I’ve come to free the world from sin.”

The actor said he had become locked in his own thoughts in part because of a childhood spent trying to entertain his terribly ill mother. Later in life he had the epiphany that most suffering came from fixating on one's own thoughts, while “heaven” could be found all around, by living in the present moment.

After making that breakthrough, Carrey said, “I want to take as many people with me as I can.”

Tolle’s remarks closed the evening. While he encouraged GATE to do more, the teacher said he had already found transcendent moments — ones that could help people “get out of the box of their minds” — in a fair number of films.

He cited “Groundhog Day,” “Titanic,” “The Horse Whisperer” and “American Beauty” as movies that incorporated important spiritual themes such as impermanence, stillness and the beauty of everyday things.

Yes, Tolle said, film can raise consciousness, if only for a moment.

--James Rainey

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