Shamanic Wisdom on Love - our fundamental nature of being - with Tom (tomás) Pinkson
The biggest opportunity with immersive media like 3D 360° video is how it can be used to connect us… to bring us into relationship with ourselves and our communities. After creating the Ram Dass and Gavin de Becker experiences recently, it felt to me that being able to virtually sit down with wisdom teachers in their personal environments is a good first step on that path. There’s something about putting the headset on that focusses the mind in a way similar to meditation… it’s hard for the viewer to think of anything except the experience while in there. My thinking is that since the headset experience already creates the space in which we focus intently on something, why not provide a wisdom teaching that’s worthy of our focussed time?
So… “what does worthy mean?” To provide experiences that add to our lives in a positive way, reminding us that we are here to be kind to each other and ourselves. I’ve been lucky to know a few wisdom teachers and that has put me on this path…. part of my filmmaking practice for the next while will be in this domain.
Today you’ll meet Dr. Tom Pinkson (aka tomás)… one of my teachers for the last 20 years and a man whose ability to see and speak the truth is a light that’s provided me with guidance whenever I’ve needed it. I asked him to sit down with the Z CAM V1 this past week and share what he feels is our true nature of being… love. It’s remarkably similar to Ram Dass’ message, but told in Tom’s own sweet personal style.
This is a short 9-minute experience and the best way for you to watch it is through the SamsungVR app, which is available for the Samsung GearVR and Oculus Go headsets. In the SamsungVR app you can search on my last name “Yost” to find my channel (remember to click on the channel button) and when you do watch this in the app, PLEASE download it locally to view it without having to deal with the resolution artifacts inherent with streaming. The few extra minutes it’ll take to download the file is more than worth it, and you can delete it after watching to free up space. I sincerely recommend that you don’t watch this as a flat video… you’ll completely miss the full power of the experience. If you only have a smartphone, then at the very least please get a Google Cardboard unit, click on the Youtube title of the video in the thumbnail above to load it into your phone and then click on the little “mask” icon at the bottom of the screen to split it into stereo views and using this Youtube link put your phone in the cardboard holder… it’ll work fine.
Tomás studied with the Huichol indians of Mexico for eleven years and learned their shamanistic ways from Guadalupe de la Cruz and her family. The Huicholes live in the Nayarit region, which includes their Holy Land of Wirikuta (pronounced “Wirshotika”). These are indigenous people in harmony with their land and they understand the use of medicinal plants to open our inner doorways (“niericas”) to greater understanding of ourselves and our relationship to the world. They work hard to keep their culture alive in a world that doesn’t honor them and dismisses so much of their shamanic wisdom. Tom’s apprenticeship with them and his work here in the US gives us a glimpse into their priceless value and how teachings from their ancient spiritual practices might help us rediscover our sacred connection with all of creation. This is a source of spiritual strength and Earth-centered guidance that the modern world desperately needs.
The Huichol’s spirit teacher is grandfather fire (“Tatewarí”) and their most sacred medicine is the peyote cactus. In the Huichol cosmology the first shaman is Tatewarí, the Fire Spirit. Tatewarí is the actual leader of ceremonies instructing the human shaman as to what to do, and you’ll see Tatewarí represented in the video by a traditional yarn painting while tomás invokes this spirit. The intermediary between the Fire Spirit and the human shaman is Kauyumari, the Deer Spirit. Kauyumari helps the shaman to find the peyote medicine in the desert, and you’ll see the deer represented in the final yarn painting in the video.
Lessons Learned. As usual, each of these projects provides its own teachings about the art of stereoscopic 360° video.
Exposure in this location (tomás’ garage studio) was tricky because the garage was quite dark and there was only one window camera right. But there was a door and I opened it up to let as much light as possible in. Final exposure was 1/60th shutter at iso100, which was great. This of course meant that the bright outdoors was completely overexposed but there wasn’t anything important out there and my intention was to add 2D graphics in the area of the door anyway. So it all worked out.
Proximity and optical flow: I wanted the candle to live between the camera and tomás and it ended up being about 2’ from the camera, with him 4’ away. Optical flow had a slight problem with resolving the vertical candle correctly in both eyes and it appears slightly warped. Just another lesson that a short bright vertical object near(ish) the camera might not be 100% perfect in stereo. If you watch the piece in mono (for example on Youtube in a browser) the candle is perfect and I could’ve fixed this stereo issue in Mistika but then wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the perfect parallax in the rest of the scene using Wonderstitch. So I went with Wonderstitch and candle verticality is what it is. :)
Audio was a little tricky (as always) because tomás was wearing a tight-collared white garment, was going to pick up a guitar, prayer arrows and feathers, put them down, etc. Putting a lav on his collar would’ve been visible, there was no place up by his head to stash it and the bending would’ve caused a lot of rustling noises. In a normal interview I’d just put a shotgun on a boom and no problem, but 360 video isn’t normal and when the user can see a microphone it breaks the immersive quality of the experience. So I ended up clipping the lav to a piece of material in front of the candle and compromised a bit on quality, but using the iZotope RX7 mastering tools I was able to cut room reflections and reduce background noise enough to make it work.
The set (garage) itself was very perfect in terms of how the subject’s environment in a 360 video ought to tell the story of their personality. All of the objects in the scene paint a clear picture of the creative person that tomás is, and it’s easy to listen to him and look around and pick subtle story cues up from what you see.
As usual with this series of projects, I asked tomás to visualize the viewer in the camera and connect with that viewer, essentially embodying them into the space via the strength of his connection. Since the viewer becomes disembodied when they put on the headset it’s critical for the experience to re-embody them in a clear way. This can only be done through the strength of the subject’s connection with that virtual viewer.
For more information about these ontological questions about the nature of being and how it relates to virtual reality experiences, I highly recommend Kent Bye’s great podcast “Voices of VR,” and in particular these two extremely useful recent episodes:
As tomás says so eloquently, “May we all hold a vision and work towards its realization a healthy, harmonious, peaceful and just, Win-Win for all Beings with All Our Relations, remembering that we are stardust bought to Earth to shine, shine, shine. So polish up the light you are, come so far, from a star. Polish up the light you are, to shine, shine, shine. In the words of the Huichol people, “Pompadios!” (thank you, I am grateful)
To learn more about Tom Pinkson, I recommend checking out his website here.
And for information about the defense of the sacred lands and natural resources of the Wixárika (Huichol) people, please visit the Wixárika Research Center.