Wednesday, January 8, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club Q&A with 'My Death: A Personal Guidebook' Jeremy Kagan

PUYB Virtual Book Club Q&A with 'My Death: A Personal Guidebook' Jeremy Kagan

Jeremy Kagan is here at the book club today to talk about his new memoir, My Death: A Personal Guidebook!

Jeremy Kagan is an internationally recognized director/writer/producer of feature films and television and a tenured professor. Some of his feature credits include the box-office hits HEROES, the political thriller THE BIG FIX, THE CHOSEN (2 time Grand Prize winner),and THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN (Gold Prize Moscow Film Festival). Among his many television shows are KATHERINE: the Making of an American Revolutionary and HBO’s CONSPIRACY: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 8 (ACE Award for Best Dramatic Special). His film ROSWELL,THE UFO CONSPIRACY garnered a Golden Globe nomination and he directed the pilot for the hit series DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN. Other television films include, for Showtime COLOR OF JUSTICE about racism and BOBBIE’S GIRL about a lesbian couple andCROWNHEIGHTS about the 1991 riots, which won the Humanitas Award for “affirming the dignity of every person.” Kagan has won an EMMY for Dramatic Series Directing and directed “West Wing” and Spielberg’s ”Taken.” He has made films for The Doe Fund which is the most successful program in America helping the homeless and for The Bioneers which organizes leaders in ecology and social justice, and TreePeople.

Professor Kagan teaches graduate courses at USC in directing and has created the Change Making Media Lab, which has made projects on cancer prevention, obesity and ADHD. Kagan has served as the Artistic Director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute and is on the National Board of the Directors Guild and Chairperson of its Special Projects. His books DIRECTORS CLOSE UP, Vol. 1 & 2, are published by Scarecrow Press. A Graduate Fellow of the American Film Institute, he has an M.F.A. from NYU and a B.A. from Harvard University. He has taught master seminars on filmmaking in Hong Kong, Hamburg, Hanoi, France, Lebanon, Israel, Ireland and India.

His latest book is My Death: A Personal Guidebook.

You can visit Jeremy Kagan’s website at

Thanks for coming to the book club, Jeremy!  I have to admit – your book so intrigued me.  Would you like to start off by telling us just what an out of body experience is like?

Jeremy:  I expect that OBEs are similar in some ways and different in others depending on the pre-conditioning of the person.  What you believe now effects what you will experience.  What was true for me is that I knew little about these kind of journeys though some 15 years before I had seen the famous book by Robert Monroe and retained something about silver cords connecting the astral body to the physical body and being able to float from room to room like a kind of ghost.  None of this happened to me in my near death experience. My experience was about letting go.  Meaning I lost my physical abilities and senses, I couldn’t see or hear or move and I had to accept that and even more accept that I was dying and had to let go of being here, let go of my career, my family and relationships, my ego.

So the moment you left your body, what can you compare that to?

Jeremy:  I looked for words to describe the ecstasy as I wrote the book: This final letting go, giving up, had an experience to it.  Unexpected.  It was like air released from an inflatable pillow.  Like water gently overflowing a container. Like a sphere whose surface has somehow dissolved and everything within flows easily out in every direction. And there was no pain.  No pain at all.  Just this smooth dissolution of being.  It was remarkably soothing.

When you have an out of body experience, did you ever feel that you couldn’t ‘go back’?

Jeremy:  There was no going back.  The idea of return was not even an idea.  The issues was where I was going to and what would happen next. 

Why did you decide to go to a sweat lodge in the first place?

Jeremy: I had gone to sweats before.  As I mention in the book these experiences were intense and challenging.  You are in the dark, it is very hot, you sweat a lot, its really uncomfortable, but I had powerful visions doing these sweats and felt cleaned of worries, as in the kind of sweat lodges that I had gone to, you are asked to tell the truth and to speak to wishes you have for yourself, for others and to give away those thoughts and emotions that are possessing you. Powerful stuff.  And this was the night before my birthday, so I thought it a good idea for a kind or pre-birthday preparation.  

Your book can be called an aid to help people get over their fear of dying.  How do you feel it does that?

Jeremy:  Well, I have that fear of dying and had that fear of dying.  This experience where I died or went through some mystical experience of dying and death allowed me to know that consciousness does not end with the end of the body, and that the transition itself can be blissful, and the experiences out of the body can be ecstatic and perfect.  Yes I also went through my version of hell, but that too turned out to be an illusion, and just to know that is to remove much of the fear of any form of afterlife.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell everyone?

Jeremy:   This book is about learning to live with death, learning to appreciate the miracle of living, and hopefully it is a preparatory document for the journey that we all are taking.  I want the reader to know that awareness does not end with the end of your body. That love for everyone and everything is a possibility. And that we need to "lighten up." Meaning not take things so seriously, opening up our hearts, removing the heaviness that can drag us down, becoming a light for others, being passionate yet not attached, and letting go of the constraints that limit us to being the remarkable beings we truly are.

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