Janine is remarkable in her early adoption of meditation, Eastern philosophy, and spiritual principles and translating them into American culture. She was among the first meditation practitioners to bring the practice into corporations in the 1970s, long before it became accepted in the broader business community.
Janine developed an ingenious method of adapting Eastern philosophy to companies like Dell, one of her primary clients, while maintaining the integrity of the philosophy’s core principles. Her meditation techniques were presented in a way that was accessible and translatable to corporate leaders, increasing their likelihood of incorporating these principles into their personal lives and businesses.
She subsequently used her skills as a coach and psychologist to transition into filmmaking, helping to produce a powerful new film, From Shock to Awe--an intimate and raw look at the transformational journey of two combat veterans suffering from severe trauma as they abandon pharmaceuticals to seek relief through the mind-expanding world of psychedelics. The personal stories depicted show the power of these medicines to help heal trauma.
From Shock to Awe is now being used to advocate for the use of psychedelics in treating war veterans and people with PTSD. Led by Will Jenkins—former Policy Director for the Impact Film Festival at the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions—the production team is raising funds for a digital outreach impact campaign to influence minds and policy in Washington, D.C. The campaign received $20,000 from the Open Society Foundation and $30,000 anonymously toward a match.
Executive Producer Maxi Cohen said, "Over and over, I hear of people who, through viewing the film, have learned about MDMA and ayahuasca, found a session, and since have been relieved of PTSD, Lyme disease, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts. These people have discovered the purpose of their lives, the way to solve fundamental issues, and other huge life-changing experiences. Individual change creates societal change. The film has the potential to change the conversation on MDMA and ayahuasca."
Listen here or read below to check out our interview with Janine about the film and her insights on shifting consciousness. You may watch the trailer here and make a tax-deductible donation to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit research and educational organization, to support the impact campaign.
Disclaimer: Ayahuasca is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage or condone the use of this substance where it is against the law. Any information we provide in this newsletter is for educational purposes only.
00:00 Mark: Hello everybody. I'm Mark Monchek, the Chief Opportunity Officer at The Opportunity Lab and I'm here very excited to interview Janine Sagert, who is the mother, co-creator, content producer of an amazing film From Shock To Awe and the founder and president of Sagert and Associates, which is coaching, consulting, and training. We're going to talk about her career as a coach, consultant, and most recently as a film maker, among many other things. So this is our monthly newsletter podcast from Culture of Opportunity and welcome Janine.
00:37 Janine: Hi Mark.
00:39 Mark: Good afternoon, good morning, to whoever, wherever you're listening. So, Janine and I had a very interesting story of how we met. So, a mutual friend Maxi Cohen, who's executive producer on this incredible film invited me to a film screening last September 30th, in Brooklyn, and I saw one of the most extraordinary documentary films that I've ever seen about the use of psychedelics, particularly MDMA and ayahuasca, treating veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were extremely traumatized with severe cases of PTSD.
01:14 Mark: I saw that film, was so inspired and so amazed at the work that they had done as filmmakers, but also at the work that they had done therapeutically, you know at Soul Quest in Orlando that I volunteered and I said, I want to help this film in any way I can. And that's how Janine and I met. And we then proceeded to do some Culture of Opportunity programs for the team and now Janine will tell us during the course of the interview some of the exciting developments of that film. So Janine, maybe we'll start with how you got involved with the film because you have a long career as a coach, consultant, a teacher, a mentor going back to many, many years in corporate America, non-profits and so forth, but this film is a special labor of love for you. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the film, and then we can go to work backwards from there in your career.
02:01 Janine: Sure, well, the root of all of my work in my whole life has been transformation of consciousness. So whether it's translating it to high-powered executives or helping people through personal crisis, that has always motivated me. And having retired basically from coaching and training, my attention went to looking at the new research on psychedelics, and the powerful healing that's ensued from that and then looking at the veteran population. So it was really from my heart, trying to get the word out about the power of healing and transformation that psychedelics can engender.
02:52 Mark: So you've been involved in meditation and yoga in different ways to shift consciousness for a long time. And then had studied all different forms of this—including psychedelics—over the years and then you got a particular interest when you evolved from your coaching training career. But the director of the film, Luc Côté, is somebody you'd known many, many years ago, right. I guess you'd met at an ashram. So that's an interesting story of how you met and then how the film came to be.
03:26 Janine: Yeah, exactly. Well, first of all, I lived in India, I studied there as an undergraduate. So my interest in India and yogic philosophy goes way, way back. Then I was involved with a meditation teacher, named Muktananda, and that's where I met Luc. There were ashrams, we were kind of a traveling show. He was the videographer for the team here with Muktananda. I was part of the crew, not the video crew, but the general crew and so we met there and have that common interest. For a long time, we were looking for film project to do together, and this is the one that rose to the top that involved both of our hearts and minds.
04:11 Mark: So when people see this film, From Shock To Awe, they're gonna see a miracle of filmmaking because the two veterans who are in the film, Matt Kahl and Mike Cooley…
04:25 Janine: Cooley, Matt Kahl and Michael Cooley, yeah and Brooke Cooley, who is also a combat veteran, the wife of Mike.
04:34 Mark: Yeah. And then Matt's wife, who is not a veteran, but also is in the film. These were two veteran families that were extremely decimated by their experiences from the war and came back. So how did the film come to be? How did you choose these two amazing human beings? How did you choose where they would end up getting the treatment? There are so many fascinating things that I'm excited to hear about.
05:01 Janine: Well, there's always a lot of grace and serendipity in these things. Of course, we put in our leg work, and interviewed many many veterans and went around the country, filming various groups and looking for our characters. And as luck would have it, on one day, we found these two characters in Colorado Springs and were lucky enough to follow them. But then, of course, you put all your marbles in that basket. And one of the things you don't know, you start filming and going in depth and you don't know if it's going to turn out the way you want. Documentary filmmaking is not scripted. So you follow the families and you don't know what the results will be. And that's part of the beauty of this film is that we do see deep and profound transformation of both couples and their families.
05:58 Mark: Janine, what was it about Mike and Matt that made you think these are the two guys and their families that we want to follow and tell their story?
06:10 Janine: Well, there were different things. Matt is very articulate; he has since gone into doing lobbying and talking to political groups, etcetera. That was pretty obvious. He also knew all the science behind cannabis and psychedelics. Mike Cooley, on the other hand, when we first met him, was so withdrawn that he couldn't even put two sentences together, and we assumed that he would not be a character, because the first time we met him he was literally shrunk back in a corner. But out of politeness and promise, we went to film him the next day. And lo and behold, what came out was the most poetic, articulate description of what it was like to have PTSD, and we went, "Whoa. We've got to film him." And they're quite different characters, so that was perfect as well. We just knew, after encountering hundreds of veterans.
07:21 Mark: So I would think that given how traumatized they were, when you see the film you really will see a visceral sense of their trauma from the beginning. There must have been something in your coaching career, in your study of consciousness, that enabled you to do and say the things that would make them trust you and open up in a way that probably no other filmmaker could have done?
07:48 Janine: That's a possibility. I'm a little more humble than that, but [chuckle] certainly my skills of connecting with other humans, seeing through to their pure essence despite the personality or circumstantial behaviors, I think was a guiding principle; that there was a deep, deep connection in all the interviews, and with their families, and the ongoing nurturing of that. Because it didn't limit itself to the times we were filming. One of the differences between coaching and consulting and making a documentary film is it's a much more intimate intertwining with these families; it's not a couple hours a week and then you go about your business. This was full-time, 24/7. I could get phone calls in the middle of the night. Because once we were established in a relationship, my care did not limit itself to a confined time. So that was...it becomes a very personal endeavor, and quite different than coaching and consulting. Although you're right, those skills of connecting and paying attention to, and really deeply listening, were common.
09:04 Mark: Was there a particular memorable moment, a phone call in the middle of the night, or some cry for help from one of the people in the film that stands out for you?
09:18 Janine: Not really. There are some other calls that stand out for me that were not about these characters that were much harder for me to digest, which was...angry tirades aimed at me by other veterans that we had encountered for any number of reasons where they just ripped me a new ass hole [chuckle], to excuse the expression. There was a lot of just taking in a lot of negative energy, and understanding where it was coming from.
09:51 Mark: So there were veterans who were angry about the use of psychedelics?
09:57 Mark: No, it was more about the...some perceived slight, or not giving them enough attention in the film, or...strange things that you could only explain by PTSD, really.
10:14 Mark: So the whole film was a therapeutic endeavor? Just to get the people to be able to talk about it, just to get them to be able to participate in the film? And then when you went to Orlando to Soul Quest, it must have been like a massive group therapy experience to get all of them to the film?
10:31 Janine: Exactly, exactly. I kept saying…because we lived in PTSD for two years; I'm immersed in it. And can we please get from the shock part to the awe part as soon as possible? But that weekend, which happened to be my birthday weekend, was...all our chips are on this. We don't know what is gonna happen, and so it was a tremendous focus of energy and a tremendous relief when we saw that in fact the hope for transformation did occur. And then of course we followed them up for two years afterwards, and we're still in touch. They're like family now; you can't separate.
11:14 Mark: So Janine, as I better understand the film and the filmmaking process, it feels like the actual process of making this film was incredibly therapeutic for all the people involved. Not only by telling their story, but actually helping them get to the point where they were able to tell their story.
11:35 Janine: Yes.
11:36 Mark: Can you share the therapeutic impact of the filmmaking process?
11:43 Janine: Well, that has a lot of mystery associated with it, but certainly knowing that somebody cares, that there's a consistent listening, a consistent attentiveness, a consistent wanting to help, is of tremendous therapeutic value; you know that. And that was there throughout; that was very much my role, holding those human relationships, and I take them very seriously. I would also say for my own self, it extracted and pushed me into aspects of myself that I had not touched though coaching and consulting and training; much deeper. I had to let go of all my concepts of organization and [chuckle] planning something out that just wasn't possible. Everything was more following what was developing, as opposed to trying to create a structure, even a business structure.
12:52 Mark: So, whatever need you had to control was disabused every day, it sounds like.
13:00 Janine: Bingo! Exactly. So I have had to learn really to trust more, to surrender more, to follow what's in front of me, rather than trying to lead what's in front of me. It's a very different aspect of my own psyche.
13:16 Mark: So what would you say now that the film, the actual making of the film, is a little bit behind you? The sharing and the scaling of the film is obviously with you right now, but from the actual filmmaking process, are there insights you've learned about shifting consciousness that we could share with the broader audience, that we could apply into other areas of life?
13:45 Janine: Well, absolutely, and that's, I think, a much longer discussion. But I certainly would encourage everybody I work with as a client to find that place within themselves that they trust and to oftentimes have to let go of control while doing what's responsible, being able to respond to what's in front of you. But also trusting that deeper aspect of self that is operating in all situations, and that's a bigger leap. Most executives that I've worked with are very much into control. That's the cultural model in a corporation or in a business, trying to plan things out, organize things, all of which is necessary, but then there comes a point where one has to just consistently trust whatever that inner guidance is, and sometimes it's not popular.
14:48 Mark: Yeah, it's very much against the command and control, the power and the direction comes from the top and then the people down the chain have to follow. That is absolutely not what happens in making a film like this, and it's not what happens in truly collaborative endeavors, which right, we're trying to move from “I” to “we,” from competition to collaboration, and it really involves understanding, to me, the wisdom of the group, not the wisdom of any individual.
15:19 Janine: I agree. And also learning to let go of control is one of the hardest things any executive would need to do. But if they are interested in their own transformation of consciousness, and truly transforming the culture of their corporation, I contend that it's one of the important skills to be developed, if you want to call it a skill. Maybe it's an un-skill. [chuckle]
15:50 Mark: No, no, I think it's a skill to first of all understand what your mission is, what has brought everybody together. So in your film, there was a larger mission, which was to get the word out about the healing power of psychedelics for cases of trauma and to be able to get the story out of these particular veterans, but many, many other veterans who also struggle with this disorder.
16:18 Janine: And many people with trauma. It really does generalize. Yeah.
16:22 Mark: Yeah. And so, I think when everybody's there for a common mission, and everybody has a general idea what their role is, then the leader, to me, is really about making sure that everybody's on board for the right reasons, and everybody's role is respected and there's some process which gives everybody some voice to be able to have some specific impact from what skill and what qualities that they bring to the table.
16:50 Janine: And a higher principle, whether that's the mission, that we're all joined in that mission, that there's like a third party, a third focal point. There's the “us” as opposed to the “I,” as you said.
17:07 Mark: So even though you're giving up control and you're respecting the wisdom of the group, as a filmmaker, I imagine there are times when you need to say, "No." Or you need to say, "We need to do this now." And you need to create some direction. How did you balance the respect for the wisdom of the group with the need to actually move the film forward and get some shooting done on a particular day?
17:35 Janine: Well, a lot of that actually fell onto Luc to be honest, with you, because he’s an experienced filmmaker. So that's why I eschew any title of director. Because he knew what was happening, he knew what had to happen, how to organize and direct. That was more his role, but even in the behind the scenes and not in...but the team behind the scenes, all the different people we had to work with, there certainly was having to coordinate people and cut people off and curb egos and keep people focused on the higher principle.
18:21 Mark: So...
18:22 Janine: It's hard. It's hard.
18:24 Mark: Yeah.
18:24 Janine: Especially when these are people, many of whom are volunteers, or they were working for below scale. So almost everybody in this movie sacrificed financially.
18:35 Mark: Yeah.
18:35 Janine: Well, herding cats with volunteers is an art unto itself, which you have probably experienced.
18:45 Mark: Yes. So tell us a little bit about where the film goes now, what we in the public should be looking for, both in the film and what the film is trying to do.
18:57 Janine: Well, our big, and this goes into pure business, so now that the film has been made and it's already being seen at conferences, etcetera, now our big focus is getting it on digital media, so iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, and that'll be in the fall in mid-October. But before that we have to get it publicity. We have to get eyeballs to know, I'm focused on this, to know that it's coming. So that's a press campaign, a social impact campaign to specific organizations, influencers, etcetera. So that's a massive job in its own right, and it's more classically a business in that regard—organizing an infrastructure, getting professional team on board, etcetera. Releasing money. [chuckle] That's also a business endeavor.
19:53 Mark: So, if someone who hears our podcast wants to support this incredible film, how can they do that now just from wherever they sit out in the world?
20:07 Janine: The easiest way is through a tax-deductible donation, through MAPS, who is our physical sponsor. MAPS is Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. You can find them online. Just be sure to designate your donation to: From Shock to Awe.
20:25 Mark: So we will put a link to the trailer. There's a wonderful trailer. I believe that's on YouTube and Vimeo. And then we will in the show notes, we will put in a link to the MAPS contribution with a note for those people who'd like to support the film.
20:43 Janine: That's terrific. Thank you.
20:46 Mark: So, based on your long career as a coach, trainer, consultant and now as a filmmaker, what's next for Janine Sagert? What are the things you are, in addition to getting this film out into the world, what are the other things you're most passionate about these days?
21:03 Janine: What I'm most passionate about, and I believe is my next project, is figuring out how to create conscious communities, whatever that looks like, creating, drawing from old models, but also creating new models, so how multi-generational communities can come together as we enter this next phase of life on the planet. And I do think it's very important that we start going back to some values of collaboration and mutual support. So what that will look like, I don't know. To be honest, I'm still in the throes of supporting this film, but my heart wants to create conscious communities, and of course, I'm always involved with helping leaders—particularly leaders, that's my focal point—translate their own shifts of consciousness into their lives. Because I think leaders, of course, have high impact. They're influencing hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. So it's all about, again, transformation of consciousness in its various forms.
22:18 Mark: And so, you work with leaders of companies, organizations to help them identify the consciousness they want to create in themselves and shift toward that consciousness?
22:29 Janine: Well, that's my future desire. In my past, I was doing that more surreptitiously by teaching meditation to executives, which I started in 1976. We didn't call it meditation then. I mean, it was like too odd of a word. But that continued through my whole career. Training people. My real focus in training in corporate cultures or business cultures, leaders to regulate themselves so that they are in an optimal state using their whole brain, operating on all cylinders, and of course, being kind-hearted in the process, or at least compassionate.
23:19 Mark: So what would be a step that a leader listening to our podcast might begin to take to start to think about shifting, expanding their consciousness?
23:32 Janine: Learn to meditate.
23:33 Mark: Uh-huh. Meditation. Number one tip. Okay.
23:36 Janine: Number one. And that's available. In contrast to 1976, it's very available now in businesses. Mindfulness, meditation, learning to tap into something much deeper than our thinking mind from which all creativity and guidance comes. So that would be number one.
23:58 Mark: Okay. And then what?
24:00 Janine: For the more adventurous, I would encourage them possibly to read Michael Pollan's book, called How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, and see if they might be interested in experiencing a psychedelic experience. I know that's kind of radical, but it's becoming less radical, including in Silicon Valley where multitudes are micro-dosing small amounts of psychedelics for creativity and higher performance. So it's not as radical as it was even five years ago.
24:32 Mark: Well, it's interesting. In my second reading of Michael Pollan's book I really fixed on the idea that Ampex, which was one of the first founding companies in Silicon Valley back in the '50s, was on track to be the first psychedelic company in the world. They had 10,000 employees and their senior leaders were going into the desert to have LSD and then maybe psilocybin experiences. And the general manager shut that down because he was scared of it. But there was a lot of activity, not just in micro-dosing but in macro-dosing. Steve Jobs has said that a lot of his creativity, that was one of the five top most profound experiences in life that created his ability to create Apple.
25:26 Janine: It's embedded in Silicon Valley, implicitly and now more explicitly.
25:30 Mark: Yeah. So for those of who have not heard of or not read Michael Pollan's book, How to Change Your Mind, there's a lot of very interesting links about the history of psychedelic movement in the United States with the founding and the shaping of Silicon Valley in a lot of direct and indirect ways. So I highly recommend the book as a whole, and that particular section of the book is really fascinating.
25:57 Janine: Agreed, agreed.
26:00 Mark: So in the time we have left, I think we have about four or five minutes to go, any things that I have not asked you about that you'd like to talk about that you're particularly excited to share with us?
26:15 Janine: I'm thinking. I don't think so. I think I'm actually surprised and delighted that we were so focused on psychedelics. [chuckle] Again, it shows the shift in the American workplace and in the American consciousness.
26:35 Mark: Yeah, I'd like to get our audience and people out there to understand that the mystery, the mystique, the misinformation about psychedelics, is needing to go away.
26:50 Janine: The stigma, yeah.
26:51 Mark: The stigma and a lot of the distorted information. Psychedelics have been used by indigenous people going back thousands and thousands of years, and many of them come from plants. Certainly ayahuasca, psilocybin. There are many, many different diverse, the DMT, that have been used in sacred ceremonies and are still being used. And we kinda took a wrong turn, without going into all the politics of that, and now the resurgence is coming back because of films like From Shock to Awe, research that's going on at Johns Hopkins and NYU and various places around the world, and it's really about a larger shift in consciousness. And a lot of the reason why it got shut down is that the powers that be, the powers that run the world, were frightened about a consciousness that wanted to challenge the status quo, that wanted to say, "We need to look at every living thing in the world, every human being, the plants, the animals, the planet, and that comes first before profit."
27:58 Janine: And it's predominantly anti-war.
28:00 Mark: It's anti-war. It's anti-hate. It's anti-discrimination. It's anti-separation. So there's a flourishing going on. I wanna thank Janine for her role in making that flourishing so accessible. I encourage everybody to watch the trailer, From Shock to Awe, and eventually see the film, donate to the cause. We will put that in our newsletter when we release this in the next few weeks. Thank you very much Janine for your contribution to the film, to me, to the world and to this podcast.
28:35 Janine: Thank you Mark. Delightful to talk to you.
28:40 Mark: Same here. I thoroughly enjoyed it.