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Interview with Alan Cohen

by Edie Weinstein Moser

Alan’s life is a reflection of cosmic coincidence that played itself out in the creation of this interview. A few days earlier, I had received his e-newsletter and in it, he was promoting his latest book, entitled Linden’s Last Life. Fascinated with the concept, I made a mental note to read it. There was also a short piece in the newsletter called Intention and Condition which caught my eye, since I had written an article called When Intention Meets Condition following the event in Philadelphia in September with Michael Bernard Beckwith, who was featured in the August issue of Wisdom. With me so far? I emailed Alan that night and mentioned the synchronicities. The next morning, as I am wondering who Mary wanted me to interview for the November issue, I open my emails and there is her request for me to write a story on....none other than my dear friend, Alan. He and I go back 30 years, when I attended a weekend retreat he offered in 1979. From the moment I met him, I sensed an ages old connection. Not knowing how to frame it while in my 20’s, I now understand it in deeper ways. We shared a laugh during the interview that we met 30 years ago, so that now I could help him promote his work.

Alan is a Renaissance man who has 22 books and CD’s to his credit and countless students and clients worldwide who have partaken of his workshops and classes. The impact he has had is incalculable; the ripple effect of which carries the world to a more peaceful state. Friendly, approachable like a playful puppy dog who drops a bone of wisdom and then backs off to see what you will do with it, Alan challenges the reader or listener to go deeper into the well of their own wisdom.

A world traveler, he was about to head out on a two week tour to Japan when we spoke.

Wisdom: You send out daily email messages and today’s was a gem. "You are in integrity when the life you are living on the outside matches who you are on the inside." How can we maintain that in the midst of temptations to do otherwise?

Alan: That’s a good question. The answer is simple, but takes some practice. It has to do with tuning in with how everything feels and when you are out of integrity, it feels off and weird and depressing and undermining. When you are in integrity, it feels enlivening, peaceful, enjoyable and empowering. We have to tell the truth: "That feels good... this feels bad..." Eventually you build a muscle of integrity that comes naturally without working at it too hard."

Wisdom: So when we are out of integrity, not only does our body feel badly, but everything feels out of whack?

Alan: It not only feels out of whack, but it IS out of whack, because you start having money troubles and relationship troubles and bodily troubles, emotional troubles. Those are all wake up calls that you stepped off the path. On some highways, they have what they call ‘turtles’; a bumpity bump that makes noise to get your attention. When we are upset or in pain or stuff isn’t working, that’s a bumpity bump saying, "You’re about to leave the road and if you drive in this direction, you’re going to be off the road or in another lane."

Wisdom: What were the seeds that you planted a long time ago to grow the garden that is your life today?

Alan: The effort to be authentic. You knew me when I was first stepping out on this path. There are more layers and more depth to it, but it is being aligned with your heart and your spirit and yourself, asking for what you want and making the choices that honor you. The seeds are the same, but there are lots of different variations on the theme.

Wisdom: At his core, his essence, who is Alan Cohen?

Alan: A spiritual being who is remembering it. I’m an aspect of God who is recognizing itself more daily through trial and error. I’m a guy who’s seeking to live with his heart; succeeding a lot and not succeeding at times. Someone once said that "God is a flower that grew a nose to smell itself." So, like all of us, I am discovering my beauty and worth, uniqueness and purpose and attempting to use that more in action and expression on a daily basis.

Wisdom: When you develop what I call ‘spiritual amnesia’, like everyone else, how do you remind yourself who you are?

Alan: I have a certain bag of tricks that helps me. I get into nature, I play with my dogs, I do yoga, I meditate, I do writing for fun, I go out to dinner. I think we all know half a dozen things that if we could only have presence of mind to remember to do it in a trying moment, we could get back on track and keep that presence alive so we can act on it.

Wisdom: Who reminds you?

Alan: Mostly my dogs. There are five of them; two parents and three puppies. We were going to give the puppies away, but they were too cute, so we kept them. If I’m caught up in my head or with work or on the phone, I just look at the dogs. They want to play and they want me to scratch their bellies and go outside and love and kiss. It sounds like I’m joking, but I’m serious. It’s their innocence and connection to Spirit that really keeps me on track.

Wisdom: And having a team around you and having Dee there probably helps too.

Alan: Having friends and partners and associates; that’s the gift of a lifetime.

Wisdom: How long have you two been together?

Alan: Nine years. It’s been a wonderful relationship and we learn from each other and there’s still course corrections. We have a great bond.

Wisdom: Does she go on the road with you?

Alan: In general she does. She is staying home more now; developing her own business and playing with the dogs more. I want to support her to have her own life as well as mine.

Wisdom: What is your purpose and passion in life?

Alan: To express my creative gifts whether it is writing or speaking or gardening or coaching. It is to move with the most alive energy inside me and sometimes it changes on a daily basis. Sometimes, I want to be out there with people and sometimes I want to be quiet. It’s more about listening to what the voice of Spirit is saying at the moment and be true to that.

Wisdom: You’re such an amazingly prolific writer. What is the process that leads you to your books?

Alan: An idea plants itself in my brain and gets my attention and eventually it takes me over so I don’t want to do anything else. I have a couple dozen books on my computer that I have started. Every now and then, one of them will just grab me and say "Run with this." and I will dive into it and will build up steam and momentum. That has happened with Linden’s Last Life. It actually started twelve years ago and one scene that I kept working and working and seeing where it led and then it turned into this whole book. That was probably the best example, except for my first book The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, where a book just grabbed me and kept working me.

Wisdom: Please talk about the book?

Alan: It’s about a guy who is down and out and is about to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge when he is intercepted by a monk who tells him that if he runs away like this, he’s just going to have to come back and it’s going to be worse. If he’s going to die, he has to learn to do it with dignity. He makes a mystical deal that he will die soon and never be reborn, even if he wants to. Something happens that makes him want to change his mind. He has to confront this big destiny that is set in motion and decide if he can change it or not. The book asks and answers two really big questions: Do I have power over my destiny? and Is life worth living?

Wisdom: By the end of the book, will those questions be answered or do we want to leave it a mystery?

Alan: I would like to think they are answered. The reader has to go through the process with Linden. A self help book would say "This is the way it is, but a novel is different because you have to walk the reader through the same process as the protagonist and they go through the roller coaster ups and downs. By the time, they’re done, they have the experience from the inside out what the character has gone through, rather than just hearing it from some author.

Wisdom: Did you know how the story was going to end as you were writing it or did you have to take the trip along with Linden?

Alan: I totally took the trip. It was revealed to me as I went along and I really didn’t know what was going to happen in the next scene until I started writing it. There was a certain amount of editing going back afterward. When I began the book, Edie, I really had no idea where it was going.

Wisdom: Is Linden a real person in your life, or a composite of people you have known?

Alan: He is kind of a composite. He is partly me and partly other people. Fiction is a very deceptive path. You think you are writing about someone else and when all is said and done, you see that you are writing about yourself. I really believe that all fiction on some level is autobiographical. I’ve never wanted to jump off a bridge, but I’ve certainly grappled with the question "Is life worth living and what are we all doing here and why do people suffer? Is this some cosmic destiny that is imposed on us by some external Source or can I make the choices that over-ride past choices that were painful?" The people who have read the initial copy say that they can identify with most of the pieces of it. It is kind of an emotional catharsis. I’m hoping that this book will be an inspiration for people, not just as a good read, but to help them carry on in their lives. There’s lots of fiction out there and is interesting, but there is very little fiction that uplifts and moves you. It is a combination of inspirational message and entertaining read. We’re calling it ‘meta-fiction’. It has its own website. We made a two and a half minute dramatized video trailer of the book so that people can see a min-movie of the book. www.lindens lastlife.com

Wisdom: So I hear that there is a movie in the works based on the book. Talk about that please.

Alan: We have a producer and are pulling in actors. It is a major motion picture and we are targeting 2011. There is a lot of interest around it.

Wisdom: My all time favorite "Alan Cohen story" that I share a lot is about being at a gathering of Unity ministers and someone asked about your spiritual orientation. Can you relate it here?

Alan: There are two pieces of it. Once I went to speak at a National Conference of Minsters and I stood up on the stage to give my lecture and said something like "You may find it odd that a guy named Cohen is lecturing to a group of Unity Minsters, but word has it that one of my relatives is very popular around here." There was another time when someone asked if I was a "Jew for Jesus." and I said "Well, sure. And I’m a Boy for Buddha and Alan for Allah and a Cohen for Confucius," and I went on an on. The idea is that I don’t fit into any boxes that belong to spirituality that far exceeds religion and is universal. There is truth in all religious paths. I prefer not to label myself as any one thing.

Wisdom: How do you remain grounded in the midst of the lofty work you are doing?

Alan: I get into nature. I live in Hawaii which is quite beautiful. I’ll do several coaching calls in the course of a day and I’ll go into people’s issues with them and their emotions. Then I’ll just go outside and lay in the sun, I’ll go to the beach, I’ll play with the dogs, I’ll do some yoga. Just being among trees and sun and land and water; that clears my head. I do things with my body. I swim, I do gardening, I get dirty.

Wisdom: A question that I asked His Holiness The Dalai Lama, who I know inspires you, is "what brings you that bubbling over, effervescent joy?"

Alan: Looking at nature, playing with my dogs, coming up with creative ideas, meeting up with people, watching uplifting videos, having conversations that stretch my mind, sleeping. I’m not overworked. Over many years one of my biggest lessons is being good to myself.

Wisdom: Does anything stand out for you in your years in the transformational field where someone’s life had been dramatically altered?

Alan: Constantly, almost daily. There is one kind of humorous, but touching story about a dentist who came to Mastery Training in Hawaii. He was a fundamentalist. I don’t know how he got to be guided to be there. He was kind of resistant. In the workshop room, we had a little Buddha and he said "I refuse to bow before the Buddha." I said "We’re not worshiping Buddha, he’s just here." He was really uptight and was having lots of troubles with his work. He had a big transformation and something popped during the week and he went home high as a kite. I started getting emails from him and he was telling me how his whole practice had changed and he was getting along with the people in his office and he was going to open off a relaxation clinic right next to his dentistry practice and I suggested that he call it "Chill and Drill". I don’t know if he ever called it that. Then he met a young woman and fell in love and got married. It was just phenomenal to see someone who carried a lot of resistance who valued his head over his heart. The best thing is when you see results.

Wisdom: What are the various offerings on your website?

Alan: The free level is that you get a daily inspirational quote for you or someone else and there is a nominal pay level where I send out a story and a lesson and affirmation. I just started a Life Coach Training Program and I’m very excited. We’re doing our first semester now and we’re going bonkers. People are getting a huge amount of it, so I’ll be repeating it in January. It is a 3 month course and they get a certificate at completion.

For more information on Alan Cohen, his books, and upcoming appearances, visit his website at www.alancohen.com








Edie Weinstein-Moser is a Renaiss-ance Woman, free-lance journalist, speaker, interfaith minister and Bliss Mistress who invites people to BYOB-Be Your Own Bliss. Her website is www.liveinjoy.org


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