Tom Shadyac
Photo: George Burns © Harpo Inc.
Tom Shadyac was the hugely successful Hollywood director of such films as Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty and Patch Adams. Then in 2007 he moved out of his 17,000-foot mansion and into—surprise!—a mobile home. He began giving away his income. The luxuries of his former lifestyle had taught him one thing: "I was no happier," he says. Not long after, he was hit on the head during a bike accident and suffered from debilitating post-concussion syndrome. This last physical struggle gave him the courage to talk about why he made such a drastic change as well as the courage to direct the recently released small-budget documentary I Am, which examines the troubling question, What's wrong with our world—and what can we do about?

He participated in
Oprah's Lifeclass on "Newton's Third Law," and we asked him to talk with us a little further about the topic. What resulted were some life-changing ideas for all of us:

Newton's third law [of motion] or karma—however each of us chooses to name it—is something I've been aware of for years. I call it cause and effect: The energy that you put into the world comes back. In other words, the fruit is in the seed. You can't sow an apple seed and expect to get an avocado tree. The consequences of your life are sown in what you do and how you behave.

Our culture does not teach us this, but what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. If you cheat in Vegas, it comes right home with you. If you cheat in Vegas, you walk home as a cheater. You lie awake at a night a cheater. You cannot escape it.

The one thing that advances a society is not technology or so-called development; it's love—that one principle.

I'm not a big fan of this idea of bad karma, saying someone got sick because of bad karma. She may very well have gotten sick because of good karma. I know my accident, facing my own death, was a perfect blessing.

Often, when people say, "I have a karma problem," they really have a perspective problem. They think they are in a karma rut because they are not getting what they want. I think people have to move from the "wish" to the "willing." What I mean is, move from "I wish I could have this" to the willingness to accept what is. For now. It's just for now.

We've got to remove our boxes around the self. It doesn't work that way. There is no "I." That's an illusion we've got to get beyond.

Next: What's the "goal" of karma?