ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Alan Arkin has been a stage, screen and TV actor for six-plus decades.
Among his well-known films are “Little Miss Sunshine,” for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” and “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.”
He’s also been a director, a singer and an author. His books include several for children, the memoir “An Improvised Life” and the recently published “Out of My Mind (Not Quite a Memoir).”
“All of my books, to one degree or another, are about self-discovery,” Arkin said in a phone interview from his southern California home. “Self-discovery is an endless process.”
The new book traces Arkin’s search for meaning with Freudian analysis to decades of meditation practice and the study of Buddhism and Hinduism, with the help of spiritual teachers.
In “Out of My Mind” Arkin uses his easy, eloquent storytelling talent to highlight events that take readers into the author’s self-discoveries.
In one, he has a terrifying 10-second past-life episode during the 18th-century French Revolution.
In another, a light of self-discovery shines while Arkin is playing tennis with a friend. Arkin’s guru at the time urges him to drop the sport because it’s too competitive an activity. Arkin holds his ground.
On one day for 45 straight minutes he couldn’t miss a shot. Arkin was unsure of the source of this new-found accuracy.
“… I don’t know the exact formula I’d uncovered, but it was clear that it somehow involved the diminishing of my ego needs, my ego experience, in order to serve something else.”
He and his friend never talked about the dramatic, temporary shift in Arkin’s game.
Arkin also shares other people’s self-discovery stories. A particularly astounding one is about the mysterious power of psychic healing.
Perhaps the most vivid story on this power in the book is about a Brazilian bartender nicknamed Arigo.
Arkin convinced a major film studio to send him to Brazil to learn more about the late healer for a possible film project.
In a long chapter Arkin relates talking to witnesses of Arigo’s first “operation.” It occurred at the home of a friend of Arigo’s, whose wife was comatose and dying of a massive tumor in her womb. Her priest was administering last rites, and group of neighbors were paying their respects.
Arigo went into a trance, and according to those present, he retrieved a sharp knife from the kitchen and plunged it into her womb. He dug out the tumor, which was the size of a grapefruit, tossed it in the garbage.
Then Arigo collapsed.
“The woman stirred, open her eyes, and came back to life,” Arkin writes. Arigo’s reputation spread and he was called on to help others in need of his mystical healing, even though he himself didn’t remember the events. He was always in a trance.
Based on the information on Arigo gathered on the trip, Arkin and his then-wife Barbara wrote a screenplay. However, every L.A. studio turned down the project.
Arkin himself had two experiences with psychic healing.
In one, his son, Tony, then 5 or 6, was in bed with a burning head and virtually immobile. With his right hand over Tony’s heart and his left hand on his stomach, Arvin told him to “give me the sickness. To just let me have it.”
After several minutes, “I felt some force come barreling out of his body … and into my body with a violence that threw me across the room and into the wall.”
Soon the energy transferred to Arkin dissipated and disappeared. Within a few more minutes Tony’s head was cool and he overcame the crisis. Arkin tried the same technique on others but it never worked.
Arkin, 86, lived in Santa Fe during his 70s. “Out of My Mind” grew out of a series of exercises taught in Santa Fe workshops Arkin attended.
The print edition of “Out of My Mind” came out in 2020, two years after an audiobook version.
A New York Times review of the audiobook, read by the author, said, “It is impressive how, while speaking of his past, Arkin never seems to judge himself, or does he overthink either his career or the work he had done on his own personhood. … He’s just exactly himself.”