Sunday, August 23, 2009

IONS at the Movies: Ideas and Tools to Change the World (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1 of this two-part series on the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), my friend Janet Walden introduced us to this unique and transformative organization. Founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell, IONS brings within our reach the world’s greatest thinkers on the leading edge of merging science and spirituality.

Now we’re taking it to the movies! Janet is about to share with us how she and her friends bring these ideas home in the most wonderful way, by creating an inspirational video circle on a monthly basis.

Joyce: Janet, tell us how you created the movie-viewing group with your local IONS community here in the Sacramento Area.

Janet: Along with my two dear friends, Bob and Carolyn Blackstone, I shared an interest in being inspired by the many wonderful speakers we had heard at various conferences over the years. These leaders are people who are making a difference, have a vision of a better world, and are exploring the unknown of human capacities and the interconnection of science and spirit. So, we decided to look through our video collections and start watching and discussing some of them.

Our interest in these inspirational movies was strong enough that,to this day, we three would be watching films together once a month —even if no one else participated!

But it has turned out to be much more than that. As we are all active members of SacIONS, we decided to let others in SacIONS know when we were getting together to watch the videos. Then we got a little more organized and also started listing which films we were watching. Next, we wrote and included our descriptions of the films and why we thought they were fascinating or inspiring.

We chose Sunday afternoons, and I said I would host and make popcorn. (Popcorn at the movies, right?) Here’s where we are today:

~ We have 10 to 20 people joining in our discussion circle each month.

~ We are a very informal, drop-in group – no RSVP’s.

~ People have started bringing all manner of delicious food, so we eat very well!

~ Together as a group, we discuss and then select the videos we will screen; and the person who recommends each film we choose writes a description for us.

~ We have an email list of everyone who is interested in our group, and once a month, I send out the upcoming dates and films we will be screening.

~ We usually watch two or three films in an afternoon. After each film (and sometimes during) we share our perceptions, questions, and personal stories relating to the topic. These discussions are informal and free flowing. Sometimes they are short, sometimes long. Although we advertise our session times as 2:30 to 5 p.m., we often run late, and sometimes we have to hold one movie over to the next month because we run out of time.

Joyce: What are your top five favorite inspirational movies, seen at the IONS group? Tell us a little about them--how to access them--and we’ll link to additional information.

Janet: This is a very tough question! We have been operating for several years now, and have seen many fine films!

Early on, we had several films recommended to us from the
Spiritual Cinema Circle. One in particular stands out as a favorite of mine: Ryan’s Well. It is a very inspiring story of a young boy who learns in school about the need for clean water in Africa, and becomes very active in raising money and helping a particular village. There is no way a mundane description such as this can do justice to this wonderful, little documentary film!

Many of my favorites, although coming from a variety of sources, have one similarity: They feature the lives and work of individuals who are making a huge, positive difference in the world. Some examples are: Hafsat Abiola and Lynne Twist on
Living a Committed Life, a keynote address at the 2007 IONS conference; Bill Strickland’s keynote address at the International Conference on Business & Consciousness in 2008; and several recipients of the IONS Temple Awards for Creative Altruism, including Wayne Muller of Bread for the Journey and Stan Brock of Remote Area Medical. While I’m on the topic of great presentations at IONS conferences, all IONS films can be obtained from Conference Recording Service in Berkeley, CA; and Bill Strickland’s keynote was recorded by The Message Company in Santa Fe.

Another film that impressed me was a biography of Nicholas Roerich called
Messenger of Beauty. Roerich lived from 1874 to 1947 and painted over 6,000 pictures of extraordinary beauty. It is available through The Nicholas Roerich Museum and from The Theosophical Society in America. carries a complementary art book.

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: We are the environment. There is no distinction.
~ David Suzuki

We have also screened some wonderful presentations from scientists, such as Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe. The full three-hour film series is linked here on PBS. You can watch it free. (If you want a shorter taste and preview, here’s a 10-minute YouTube video, Elegant Universe -- Can String Theory detect God? ). I also recommend the work of David Suzuki. (Big ditto from Joyce, especially his environmental documentary, Suzuki Speaks.) Other favorites of mine include the PBS shows featuring green architect William McDonough.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another great source for several fine films we have viewed—the
Earth Cinema Circle. Among my favorites in this category are: Kilowatt Ours, a documentary made by a young man who investigated where our electricity comes from, and Coffee to Go, which explores where our coffee originates and the path it travels. This film inspired us to begin purchasing fair trade coffee to serve at the Video Circle.

Joyce: This recap is exciting to hear—and it’s even more exciting to watch the actual films when I attend the Video Circles. I want our readers to know how they can start one, too! Please tell us.

Janet: It’s really easy and fun to sponsor the Video Discussion Circle. Because it’s very informal and everyone contributes, it doesn’t involve much work at all. It does need a shepherd, which is my role. I make sure our dates get selected well in advance and that we gather and publish our film descriptions in a monthly email.

I think we are a popular and successful group because everyone enjoys the learning and inspiration we gain from the films and from each other through our discussions.

Joyce: Janet, in wrapping up these movie reviews of this unique film genre-- and also our two-part series on IONS-- I have to say that just like Edgar Mitchell’s epiphanies from the higher vantage point of the Moon, IONS has continued to offer me the perspective from On High. It is one of the few organizations I have returned to, on an ongoing basis, in my own personal spiritual quest.

Thank you for bringing your time, talent, and evolutionary energy to Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. I hope you’ll come back anytime you discover something you think would be of interest our readers. I’ll definitely be asking!


Janet Walden is the President & CEO of the
Center for Collaborative Solutions , a non-profit organization with a mission and a passion for unleashing the power of people working together. Janet can be reached at



Eileen Williams said...

Dear Joyce,

This is another great post with fascinating information. I LOVE the idea of viewing inspirational videos as a group and then sharing your reactions and insights. By doing this, you must get even more out of the messages they provide.
When I have time, later today, I'm going to check several of your recommendations out-- especially the 10 minute YouTube video. That one sounds amazing.
Thanks for always inspiring us!

Joyce Mason said...

You're so welcome, Eileen! I have forwarded your comment to Janet. I know she'll appreciate how much you see the potential of our local IONS inspirational Sunday movies. Love your feedback!