Rainn Wilson is most commonly recognized as the awkward and neurotic Dwight Schrute from the hit TV show “The Office.” He is an accomplished actor, winning six television and film industry awards and receiving 11 nominations.
Wilson is also the spiritual mastermind behind the life-enriching SoulPancake Movement. Wilson started the positive, life-changing SoulPancake website, initially funded by Google, in 2008 and co-wrote the book “SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions.”
“Okay, get your camera phones out and let’s get this over with,” says Wilson as he steps up to the microphone to a packed audience in the Lifetime Activities Center at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. As he conjures up a variety of amusing poses, he encourages the audience with “let’s make some magic” and that, in a nutshell, is his underlying message.
Wilson, like a driver at the wheel, launches the audience on a road trip of his spiritual and artistic journey, along with self-reflection. He defines the word “spiritual” as “everything that is not material” and says “it’s love, service, our higher self,” and “if you take up space—you matter.”
Believing we all have an important journey, Wilson outlines his own journey. Born in Seattle, Washington, he was reared by artistic parents, whom were devout members of the Baha’i faith. However, he says his parents welcomed discussion in their home and served pancakes and coffee to a range of visitors; including “Sikhs and Suffi, poets and painters and Jehovah Witnesses.” He sees the Baha’i faith as socially progressive, absent of prejudice, supportive of higher education, and hosts a strong learning and teaching model that point out we are all members of the human family, like “roses of a different color.”
While attending high school in Chicago, Illinois, Wilson says he has his high school teacher to thank for encouraging him to become an actor.
“I had a little kernel and she fanned that spark and a flame grew; the right teacher at the right time can come in and make infinite changes in our lives,” Wilson says.
After performing and gaining confidence, Wilson continued with college in Boston and Seattle, and then, at NYU, where he abandoned his religion. He says he became an atheist, as he believed there was hypocrisy in religion and says he also harbored anger toward his parents.
“We were a bunch of pretentious people; chain-smoking filter-less cigarettes,” he says.
He describes digging deep into a Bohemian lifestyle and dying his hair jet black, although he jokes he looked suspicious for not dying his ginger-colored eyebrows.
“We thought we could change [audiences] hearts and minds,” says Wilson of his experiential theater days. He describes going to a “Happening” where people stayed awake all night to see ‘what happened.’ He says someone might beat a drum or play a tambourine, while others would dance with joy or cry out.
He soon graduated from college and met Holiday Reinhorn, then a budding writer, whom he later married. Although he was working and securing acting roles, he says he still felt unhappy. He equates it to the “If, then proposition. If I get this, then I will be happy” and says once we achieve our goal, we expect to feel happiness. Yet, he says this is a fallacy because we always want more.
“It is in our nature to be inquisitive. When thinking ‘happiness is around the corner’, it never happens,” says Wilson. He says we need to be more in the moment and grateful.
After much searching, Wilson eventually returned to the faith of his childhood and continued on his artistic path. He realized that through exploring various religions he had actually employed the Baha’i belief of ‘Individual investigation of truth,’ which charges everyone to find their own inherit truth. He says he was digging through and transcending the human experience and found his greatest desire is to be integrated as a human being.
Wilson encourages people to participate in the SoulPancake website, to read his book and to enjoy life by “whipping up some batter and making some crispy goodness.”
“I encourage you to continue on your spiritual journey and to make beautiful stories,” Wilson says.
Photo gallery by Michael M Latimer