She's just made her first video and it has sold more than 100,000 copies in seven weeks. Her latest book is at the top of the best-selling nonfiction lists, and she stars in a major movie scheduled for release in the fall. Her chakras are aligned, her feet--attached to those famous legs--are on the ground, and her Higher Self has never been higher.
But something seems to be bothering Shirley MacLaine. It's sort of . . . well, it's this whole Shirley MacLaine thing .
The actress/author/metaphysician began to revise her thinking about her guiding spirit role in the New Age after giving a series of much-publicized seminars a couple of years ago. Suddenly, the barrier between messenger and masses wasn't there anymore. MacLaine was face to face with her followers. And she realized many of them were literally \o7 following\f7 her.
"I noticed there were groupies," MacLaine remembered in a recent interview. "I'd travel from city to city to give these seminars and I'd start seeing the same people show up. Finally, I told them to stop coming--they were missing the point."
After years of trying to get the world to take her seriously as an explorer of the metaphysical realm--through writing about everything from channeling to out-of-body experiences--MacLaine says she realized that a lot of people at the seminars were taking her too seriously. "I feel very comfortable with people trusting me. I \o7 don't\f7 feel comfortable with people asking me to do it for them. Or saying they 'couldn't do it without me.'
"We spend too much time in this culture giving outside authority the privilege of telling us what to do. Because it's all about the work within yourself--being disciplined and attending to your own stuff."
"I was getting the feeling that . . . "--she pauses and pulls on the sleeve of an oversized white sweater--"there was too much interest revolving around me when the real point of this work is to revolve around yourself, to take it home and do your own work."
Thus the new book, "Going Within: A Guide for Inner Transformation"--a look at several New Age self-improvement techniques that's considerably less autobiographical than her previous literary works. "It's already her most successful hard-cover book in terms of best-seller status," says Bantam Vice President Stuart Applebaum. "It's No. 1 on both the New York Times and Publishers Weekly nonfiction lists."
And thus the new video, Vestron's "Shirley MacLaine's Inner Workout."
"A lot of video store managers weren't prepared for how big this tape would be," says Jeff Peisch, vice president of non-theatrical programming at Vestron. "The success shows how people have a need for this in their lives. It's opened up a whole new genre in videocassettes."
"The video came out of the seminars," MacLaine says. "We worked for those two days (of each seminar) all day long on these inner techniques of relaxation, stress reduction--clearing out emotional problems, working with the \o7 chakra\f7 system. And so many people said: 'You should do a video, or put it down on paper, at least, so that we can take it home with us."'
And just what is the \o7 chakra \f7 system? As MacLaine explains at the beginning of the video, \o7 chakras \f7 are seven "wheels of light" that lie within each person, running from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Each chakra has its own corresponding color and note on the musical scale, and each is believed to be the seat of a certain aspect of the human soul. You can meditate on the red "base \o7 chakra\f7 " to get "grounded" and in touch with the Earth. Or on the yellow "heart \o7 chakra\f7 " to increase feelings of love, the blue "throat \o7 chakra\f7 " to aid expression, and so forth.
"We have so much 'bugaboo' judgment attached to meditation," MacLaine says. "I think we're afraid of it in the West. Even though doctors and psychiatrists are recommending it now as a stress-reduction technique, people just don't have the feeling they can do it successfully. So I wanted to do a video where I would guide the viewer to then take over from there. And I didn't see anything better to initiate the viewer with than the \o7 chakra \f7 system. It's the most important thing you can learn about your own inner consciousness, your inner technology."
Oddly enough, the person who talked MacLaine into doing a video, negotiated the deal with Vestron and served as executive producer was Bella Abzug, a longtime friend who, as she puts it herself, often "challenges"MacLaine's metaphysical interests.
"Bella encouraged me (to make the video)," says MacLaine. "She's the one who made the deals, and she went and talked to the people at Vestron and said: 'You ought to look into this.' You know why? Because her husband passed away two years ago. It was devastating for her. And she got more out of the meditations at my seminars than almost anybody."