Double Take

'When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you – George Harrison


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A Step Beyond (and my thoughts on the film Her) by Rowena J Ronson

A Step Beyond (and my thoughts on the film Her) by Rowena J Ronson

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There is something so inspiring about an excellent script beautifully portrayed by exceptional actors. When I know that one of my favourites is starring in a new film I get very excited at the prospect of losing myself in the characters and really being taken in and over. I saw that Joaquin Phoenix was the protagonist in Her in 2014, but only just had a chance to watch it – and he did not disappoint.

His vulnerability is so believable and appealing that I was mesmerised, even within the opening scenes. And this same energy was something of a parallel process within the film too.

To cut to the chase, as our technology encourages these days, a personalised program is created, an artificial intelligence, aptly named ‘OS’, or operating system. With the gender of your choice, she, in this case, speaks and interacts with you as if she were a person at the end of a phone. She can think, feel, communicate and learn but she doesn’t have a physical form and obviously is not human. This actually reminded me of modern relationships reliant on modern technology!

Also unlike a real person in a 21st-century relationship, with all the many distractions that fill our lives, the OS ‘operates’ by being 100% present all of the time. Dedicated to its ‘operator’, it becomes the closest friend you could imagine – one who listens and loves you unconditionally and only wants the best for you, but at the same time has no limitations, no stuckness and a boundless ability to evolve.

I could see the appeal of having this kind of connection. It seems almost cleaner and more real when compared with meeting someone through the same medium, a dating site on a computer, because on that forum we have no clue about the person’s history, their intentions and their ability to be present and connect deeply.

The film shows many scenes of people walking along the streets having their own conversations and experiences with their OS, and not connecting to others at all. But it was also interesting to see all of them smiling and seeming truly happy. Phoenix’s character Theo’s OS, Samantha (with Scarlett Johansson’s deliciously dulcet tones) develops her relationship with Theo while nurturing one with herself. She knows clearly that it is important to have her own needs met and so she role-models the perfect scenario where she is communicative, caring and supportive, and also really clear about her own personal development and what her needs are from life and from her relationship with Theo.

But what happens if we keep evolving and being open to the lessons we can learn from our experiences? What happens if we do not feel we are limited to just this lifetime and what we imagine this lifetime to be from our limited perspective? What would happen if we allow ourselves not to be limited? What journey could we go on then? What would it take to create that shift in paradigm?

The answers to these questions came for me in this film and I hope I have said enough for you to watch it and let me know what you think. I was not disappointed and I have woken this morning feeling my mind’s unlimited potential if allowed to tap into my higher self, my purpose and universal connectedness.

There was a message for me in the film about not being limited by relationships and the importance of developing the relationship with ourselves, and beyond, with the universe. Amy Adams’s character at one point in the film speaks of the socially acceptable temporary insanity of falling in love. I liked the way she phrased that and I am sure we can all relate to that amazing sensation of freedom when we surrender to our feelings and chemicals, when we can truly experience that open space within and our ability to connect with another and with ourselves.

Falling in love does feel like we have opened the door to another dimension. The film also illustrated the power of interdependence and how are relationships are real and beautiful, but in the spaces in between, when we are not connecting with people, we have the potential to connect with ourselves and with the universe.

Her is a thought-provoking piece which, because I was open to its resonance, has internally created a shift in my consciousness, and for that I am grateful.

From now on, I want to be open to the other dimensions that are clearly here but which we have trained ourselves not to see, and I am truly excited about the potential of this journey.


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Talking About Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Rowena J Ronson

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Talking About Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Rowena J Ronson

Issues of leadership, conflict and deceit came up for me as I watched the long anticipated sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Rise ended with the simultaneous escape of the apes into the Redwood forests of California with the virus, created in the scientists’ labs – ironically tested on these fine animals – spreading its deadly infection globally throughout the human race. I started watching Dawn holding my allegiance with the apes.

They seemed to be living a peaceful existence, in harmony with nature, and without the necessity for destroying the planet’s natural resources. Their needs were simple and in tune with their surroundings, their communication subtle and respectful. Conflicts were handled with ease and their leader, strong and compassionate.

In fact it was their leader, Caesar, who really captured my attention. He was a commanding and powerful autocrat who led his tribe with wisdom, fairness and integrity. And if his authority was questioned in any way, he would show his disapproval with his stance and emotions without reserve. I knew he listened to both his head and his heart, and therefore possessed an intuitive nature. and I felt I would be able to trust his decisions if I was a member of his team. I also suddenly had renewed respect for this authoritative choice of leadership. I questioned my more democratic style and the benefits of being open to new ideas.

The other interesting observation I had while watching the film was how my allegiance tended to shift from ape to man and back again. Once I really listened and could see the situation from the perspective of any particular aspect, I would then feel myself edging towards that side of the seesaw. Back and forth I went. Each time, my focus and aspirations were for the rise of the oppressed although in truth, both sides were oppressed and oppressor concurrently.

I find myself experiencing similar feelings watching the current propaganda spilling out across the world about the conflict in Israel and Gaza. The speeches, letters and articles full of opinions, perspectives and fabrications are compelling and manipulative by intention. It is nigh on impossible to see the wood from the trees or to feel real trust for whatever argument is being promoted, and indeed justified, at any one time.

In the age of innocence portrayed during the dawn of Dawn, Caesar said, ‘Ape must not kill ape’ and I wished for more peaceful times, where life was respected and being a member of one’s own race was experienced as an honour and a privilege. Russell Brand speaks of universal connectedness and asks us to question our paradigms in order to make subtle yet monumental shifts in our consciousness. I like his style.

And I would recommend watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for whatever lessons you might learn from the experience.


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Reflections on The Double by Rowena J Ronson

Unknown-1Reflections on The Double

by Rowena J Ronson

The Double (2013), directed by Richard Ayoade and written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky over 150 years ago, asks of us a very relevant question, even now. If you feel you are living the life of Pinocchio, and your wish is to be ‘a real boy’ (or girl), what ingredients would you use to create your own Double – the person you truly want to be?

Would the real you be more confident and push themselves forward in relationships or at work; would they make sure their voice was heard and allow themselves to be seen? Would they be a somebody whom people remember rather than a nobody whom people ignore? Would they stand up for themselves and not allow others to walk all over them? Would your Double be observed and admired by others, would they make each day count? Would their life have meaning, adventure, love and no regrets? Would they be happy?

And would you stop yourself there, or would you further potentise your Double to flip from assertion to aggression, from confident to arrogant, from pushing yourself forward to penetrating beyond other people’s boundaries as well? In having more respect for yourself, would you then lose the necessary respect one needs for others? Would you let go of your grasp on reality as you delude yourself about your own self-importance?

This rather unusual film got me thinking about the many possible lives we could lead in this lifetime if we make different choices in how we view ourselves and how we consequently behave. It also got me thinking about how we view others who seem to have a life that we wish we could have, if we only believed we could. Do we find ourselves inspired by those who have more confidence and a higher self-esteem or do we feel angry and envious?

Double Take welcomes your thoughts on this curious and deep-delving piece and asks you to reflect on what your own Double might look like inside and out….


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Reflections on Blue Jasmine (2013) by Rowena J Ronson

Crocodile Fears (RJR)Reflections on Blue Jasmine (2013) by Rowena J Ronson

I had been wanting to see Woody Allen’s latest offering for a long while, but it was only this week that I, at last, managed it. And it was well worth the wait, as the film, in every accomplished way, met the formidably glorious high standard of a WA great.

For me the theme was lack of integrity, and how we can be dishonest in so many ways. We can lie and cheat in business and life; we can live with someone who lies and cheats in every way imaginable and convince ourselves that it isn’t happening; we can pretend to escape from our old world and forget our past in the romantic delusion of a new relationship in order to cheat our desired future of the truth; we can be married and have an affair but not tell either partner the truth to satisfy our own needs. Blue Jasmine opens for us a story of such dishonesty and deception and shows how devastating the consequences can be, but still in that light-hearted Woody Allen way that marries tragedy with comedy in an ecstatic entwining.

The film got me thinking about the condoners in this world, the quiet ones who go along with dishonesty, turning a blind eye if the duplicity serves them too, living the lie themselves with concrete justification to counteract their own guilty consciences.

I quote Shakespeare: ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’ How many of us live by this adage in this day and age and do we do so congruently in all aspects of our lives? Double Take welcomes discussion on this topic.


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Reflections on ‘The Book Thief’ by Rowena J Ronson

UnknownI have not been so emotionally charged by a film in a long time, so full marks for The Book Thief (2014), as it delivered as powerful an impact as reading the book itself several years ago. Watching the Nazis burning books before their energy turned towards actually killing the Jews, was a reminder of that an inevitable precursor of the extermination of knowledge, freewill and self empowerment of the curious and questioning mind.

I write this sitting in my home which is filled wall to wall with books and I am grateful for these times of freedom, at least here in England, where I can read whatever I like, where I can live however I want, say what I feel like saying, and have complete control of my choices.

But I also wonder about the growing dark side that such liberty brings with her. Many now ‘live in the moment’ – that misused, manipulated aphorism, believing that there are no consequences for their actions. They over spend, over indulge, disrespect others and the planet and live a selfish existence, just because they can.

It seems to me that instead of the rationed, poverty stricken, controlled and fearful place where we resided in Europe 75 years ago, we have shifted so much the other way that now the excess is causing another kind of devastating destruction.

I encourage all to go and see The Book Thief and perhaps then reflect on how lucky we are to be free to read, and indeed write, whatever we wish, at least in this country and in these times. And to think further how to use that very same liberty and freedom of choice to care for ourselves, others and the planet with more thoughtfulness and consideration.


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August: Osage County

August: Osage County (2013)

august-osage-county-poster3-405x600Excited we were, my friend and I, to go and see what promised to be a rich and emotionally charged feast of ‘fucked up’ family dynamics portrayed by formidable and favoured actors. Unfortunately, our August trip to Osage County seemed heavy and humid, much like the Oklahoma weather they described, but the depth we desired left us wanting.

The actors – Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Sam Shepherd, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and more – did deliver artistic perfection, as we would have expected they would, and we certainly felt transported to the family home and the drama that ensued. The issue was more in the likability of the characters, and how the darkness of the film offered us no silver lining, no obvious lesson to take away to make positive our cinematic experience. We were just left withan unsettled dissatisfaction, a hopelessness, that wasn’t so easy to shift.

I guess it is all comes down to expectation. The trailer seemed to pull out the few comical aspects of the film, touted as ‘dark, hilarious and deeply touching’, which for me was misleading. I thought it would dispense a mix of depth and delving with a subtle helping of irony,but instead the film took a deep dive into darkness and the lighter tones were few and far between, bringing little Sunday afternoon relief from the heat.

Perhaps the film transmitted a parallel process. Each character in the family almost definitely felt the hopelessness we did, living the lives they were. So in that way, the film conveyed its message profoundly. And if I had had that expectation, then perhaps I would have felt less disappointment. And that clearly is my personal lesson to learn from Osage County.

Rowena J Ronson


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Autopsy, The Last Hours of Whitney Houston

Autopsy, The Last Hours of Whitney Houston

WHITNEYHOUSTON‘Her legacy will outlive us all’

I had only been talking about drugs and their impact on our bodily organs the other day, when I spotted a new documentary series on Channel 5, Autopsy. I knew it was one I couldn’t miss, especially the first, which was about Whitney Houston, as I grew up with her music, attended her concert in 2001, and we were of similar age. Like many I was touched, shocked and saddened by her death two years ago.

The programme started with a world renowned forensic pathologist introducing the coroner’s autopsy report and telling us that within its pages lies the story of Whitney’s life, as well as the crucial days and hours leading to her death. Throughout the programme he shows us how he has pieced together, by thoroughly examining the report and her body externally and internally, the unique set of circumstances that brought to an abrupt end, her life, unexpectedly and prematurely. He manages to answer the questions that need answering in order to lay the gossip, and Houston herself, to rest, and he does this by reading all the signs.

Addiction is a subject close to my heart as it comes in its many forms into my practice daily and is much more common than we think. Addicts have little support and are generally made to feel shame rather than encouraged to truly heal. The cards are stacked against them.

Whitney had been in LA for the 2012 Grammy Awards, the music industry’s most important night, where she was going to make her big comeback. She had apparently been sober for nine months post rehab. Things were looking up when she arrived in Beverley Hills, named the city of temptation for good reason, a week in advance of the annual pre awards party hosted and in her honour, by Clive Davis, her manager. A couple of days before the events she was celebrating her new record deal, and the extent of her partying and loss of control were observed by the press who were watching her closely.

Initially she seemed on good form, her voice was stronger than it had been on other unsuccessful comebacks. Evidentially she was benefitting from her recent break from smoking and drug abuse. She drank a lot but she managed to keep her drug relapse hidden from even those very close to her. A combination of cocaine and alcohol lead to her turning jealous and aggressive which of course was seen by all the tabloid newspapers when she left the nightclub.

The programme makers also managed to interview the actual drug dealer who supplied her with pens filled with cocaine – the pen trick – which, in full view, they deceptively swapped for cash while autograph signing during that short period of time. Without remorse he spoke of his role in her downfall for which he takes no responsibility. And I have mixed feelings as to whether he should. It is, after all, the entire system, not one individual, which feeds addiction and the devil within. The medical system also failed Whitney. The unethical and dangerous loophole of ‘doctor shopping’, which resulted in her receiving multiple prescriptions of highly addictive anti-anxiety meds from several sources, also contributed to her sedation, loss of control and awareness. And of course the media played their part in her downfall too, as well as of course Whitney herself.

There were several flashbacks to a heart breaking and very uncomfortable interview she had with Diane Sawyer ten years earlier, where her denial of the extent of a problem was evident, even to the point of her completely discounting that her behaviour was self destructive. She said she was not an addict, but she had a bad habit that could be broken. She said ‘I am not a person who wants to die, I am a person who has life and wants to live, and always have, and never mistake it for anything other than that.’ She was unfortunately deluded. Whitney felt that she was in control, and that put her in the most dangerous situation of all.

Whitney died in the bath. She drowned. Not because she slipped into an unconscious state from daytime drinking, as many may have wondered. She was preparing herself for her big comeback that night, and as the toxicology report showed, she had been taking prescribed medication that morning as she was feeling out of sorts from playing too hard in the days before. The more she took, the less aware she was of their impact. She prepared for herself a relaxing bath, she was said to be happy and on good form by then, and she smoked some freebase (crack) cocaine, her drug of choice, just before she climbed into the tub.

Had she been sober and dipped her toe in, her senses would have warned her that the bath was too hot. But her natural response to pain had been dampened down and so within a few seconds of standing in the water (the scalds to her legs reveal), she probably passed out from the shock to her system and the subsequent lowering of her blood pressure – what is known as a Jacuzzi faint. As a result, she fell forward and tragically drowned as a result, facilitated by her already chronic lung and heart degeneration. She was discovered a short while later by her assistant. It only took a few critical minutes for Whitney’s world to come to an end. And the party went ahead that night regardless.

The forensic pathologist explained the effect of her lifestyle on her bodily organs. Her perforated nasal septum from snorting cocaine, emphysema of her lungs from long term smoking which destroyed her remarkable singing voice, the furring and thinning of her arteries close to her heart from chronic smoking and drug abuse (including crack cocaine which she continually denied she used) and the enlargement of her liver from her alcohol binge that week and beyond.

And the programme gave me many answers but left me with an array of thoughts and some questions too. I wonder how we would all feel if we could have an ongoing insight into what impact our lifestyle has on our physical body. If we could see what sugar does to our system, for example. If we could actually observe, day-by-day, how our own diseases progress on an app on our phone or on our computer. If we could just tap in ‘liver’ or ‘lungs’ and keep a log of what we ingest and what impact it has, would we live differently, and would we change our lifestyle if we had evidence of the damage we were doing? We experience the damage all the time and our body sends out signs, but we are trained not to listen. We have a pain, we take a pain killer, and carry on. We push ourselves on all levels, way beyond our natural limits and our body responds to the disorder with disease.

Is there a way that we can learn from these tragedies that happen to a small proportion of the human population, a lesson that is common to all? And are we prepared to learn it before its too late? Is it not true that we all live in denial to some extent? What do you think?

Rowena J Ronson