August 2010 Update
I'm still alive. The shamanic journey had such a powerful impact on me that I expected the hospital to tell me immediately that my lungs had been cured. It didn't happen that way. Tests showed my lungs remained at 60 percent function for about six months after the shamanic journey. But, gradually, they improved. Eventually I could walk up stairs, even run. I felt better and better. In March this year, they tested and discovered my lungs were up to 94 percent.
The hospital consultants can't explain my "spontaneous remission." The links between our brain and our body are manifold. My next film will explore how some doctors achieve particularly good results by analyzing and learning how to work with these electrochemical brain/body connections. Case study by case study, they are building a solid body of evidence.
Two years have now passed since that first shamanic journey. Did I journey to the land of the dead? With the help of Claudia Goncalves, I have returned several times to a shamanic trance state, allowing me access to parts of my brain I do not normally use. I have also begun to work with Sandra Ingerman, a marine biologist who discovered she could make more effective changes to polluted water by working with energy. She has photographed the resulting structural changes to water molecules.
I look both forward and backward now that the film has been completed. In looking backward, I think of the 17th-century Iroquois native Americans described, with despair, by a Jesuit priest as beginning every day discussing their dreams rather than planning how to get ahead. When one of them had a fearful dream, he would ask people in the community to enact it with him. The aim was to keep the same energy flow that had existed in the dream, but to substitute a less severe outcome. For instance, if someone dreamed his legs had been broken in an attack, his friends would simulate the attack but only bruise his legs. I wondered whether I was doing something similar with this film. Was I going through the experience of facing my own imminent death and sharing it with the community by making a film about it?
There is a lot of space for the audience in the film. My aim was to be as accurate as possible in portraying the events of that year, so that even if I did not understand an image or an event, members of the audience could bring their own experiences and perceptions and interpret it themselves. Some things only made sense to me later. I have discovered more of the symbolism of the snake, for instance. I have looked further into Carl Jung's notion of adumbratio, the shadow that impending death casts over the psyche. I am coming to a clearer understanding of our connections to each other and the Earth. I actively engage with the process used by the Earth, animals and other people to interact without relying on spoken language.
I go forward from the film by working with audiences after screenings. I offer a space for audience members to tell their own stories, and I offer an opportunity to engage with the fears in those stories. I am just back from the north of Scotland, where the film set a new record for a cinema audience. Universal Hall was packed, and the next day we held a workshop. Kathy White, one of the participants, described the event:
My experience of watching this film was profound. There was a depth created through the simple story — perhaps through the range of the film, from the everydayness of life with kids, to the scientific explanations of dreams, to the mystery beyond dreams, life itself. Because of the spaciousness in the film, the poetry in the images, I found myself more and more drawn into the film. There was space for me.
In an odd way I was perhaps even more aware than usual that I was watching a screen. The screen was playing out something about me. I was drawn into a participatory role, actively witnessing and engaging with themes and issues that are both universal and deeply mine.
What Amy then offered felt profoundly new. Not only did she make a film that many people found transformative, but because of the talk and two-hour workshop the next day, I was able to ground my engagement. I had a very profound experience in the workshop. Two days later, I am still in the midst of transformation. Some of the answers I and others in the audience found and expressed in an open forum made this experience a completely different paradigm of cinema.
Cinema is a young art form. Storytelling, on the other hand, is many thousands of years old. And perhaps even older are the prehistoric cave paintings deep in the limestone caves of France — evidence of artists creating and lighting images to bring us into contact with the real and the imagined. I stand in this tradition, aware of the thousands of generations before us — those who used flame and pigment, those who spun magic with words. I want to take cinema to a place both profoundly intimate and located in a community, a place as old as a depiction of a mammoth gleaming on a rock wall and as new as the digital pulse.