Ken Baker, author and Senior Correspondent for E! News, has shared his life’s most personal and intimate moments on the pages of his books. From his battle with a prolactinoma to the season he spent as pro hockey’s oldest rookie, he’s invited readers to experience both his struggles and triumphs. Now, his newest book, The Ken Commandments: My Search for God in Hollywood, chronicles his journey to excavate his faith through the lens of his everyday life working in Hollywood. He’s interviewed everyone from Britney Spears to Brad Pitt, but it was sitting in his Vegas hotel room covering Lamar Odom’s sudden hospitalization when he had an awakening that put him on a journey to find out what he believed about God and spirituality.
“There’s a value in exploring things because you want to understand them from personal experience,” he says of his intentional journey to experience various forms of spirituality. “There’s a certain contentment of knowing I’m as open as I can be and I’m giving it a shot. For instance, I now know from a personal experience that Scientology is not what I’m looking for.”
The story Baker tells about his experience with Scientology in The Ken Commandments probably won’t come as a shock to many, but he said he didn’t approach the organization with the goal of confirming his suspicions. Rather, he approached it as he did every spiritual avenue: with an open mind.
“I really wanted to give things a fair shake, to gain some insight and contribute to my spiritual IQ in a way. Unfortunately, I felt so under siege and pressured [at the Scientology center]. It was the only thing in this project I felt that way about. It was a shame. I bought several of L. Ron Hubbard’s books and there are some interesting things in there about strategies of dealing with people or moving on from trauma. There’s something valuable about “going clear,” or clearing your head. There was just too much emphasis on signing contracts to be allowed entry to the information. It wasn’t for me.”
The celeb-heavy Scientology wasn’t a slam dunk but he did find a pleasant surprise among another celebrity powerhouse he was more familiar with. The Ken Commandments includes personal stories about the Kardashians, something that makes sense in that they are so intertwined with his daily work life on E! News. While fans of their TV series may be familiar with the inclusion of their pastor on the show at various times, Baker witnessed the importance placed on faith by one of the world’s most famous families firsthand.
“I’ve been around them for more than ten years and I’ve seen them in many situations,” he said. “I’d heard they went to church and was really impressed by the level of commitment Kris has to it. I could see how it grounds her in the crazy chaotic life that she’s manifested. She has a very spiritually grounding practice and that really made an impression on me. That flipped a lot of how I saw them even though I knew them pretty well. Look, God is everywhere. God resides in the Kardashians, in a church, wherever there’s a soul speaking answers and seeking truth. That can happen with a multimillionaire reality star or with a humble person praying or meditating.”
That realization that God is everywhere is something he gradually learned over the course of his spiritual journey, but for Baker, he found the unexpected encounters–the spiritual avenues and experiences he didn’t plan on–to be particularly meaningful.
“When I first outlined what I wanted to do with the different spiritual avenues, I didn’t include psychic paranormal phenomena because I thought it was a silly waste of time and this was an honest pursuit. These weren’t just things I was doing to write a book, this was a real soul-searching mission. Having said that, it surprised me how impactful the experience with psychic Tyler Henry was. To this day, I can’t answer how he has such insight but it really blew me away.”
The second major surprise was related to the Bible, something he says he’d been completely closed off to before.
“I’d been really critical of the Bible,” he says. “I was at a place in my life where I felt the Bible had been used more to separate, divide, judge and alienate people more than to really help people. I’d become cynical about it. Then, talking with pastors like Judah Smith and Brad Johnson, I realized the Bible could be relevant to me and there was a lot to learn. Even if I don’t believe it is the legit absolute word of God at this point in my journey, and maybe it’s just allegorical stories that are morality tales to inform your life and inform you about the experience of being human, that’s relevant to me. These pastors helped me uncover that.”
The third surprise was his new-found penchant for meditation.
“I was surprised I could still my mind and sit long enough to actually meditate,” he said. “I’d been so frantic and busy running around all the time. I remember days when I first started the practice thinking five minutes of meditation took forever. Now, if I don’t do 15 minutes or 20 minutes, I don’t feel right. That was a pleasant surprise.”
That mantra-based meditation is one of the most pronounced ways his then-intentional search has parlayed into his daily life since he finished writing the book.
“It’s funny,” he said, “the words mindfulness and meditation in our modern day are synonymous with eastern spirituality or mysticism but I realized the act or state of being mindful or meditative really is a practice or state of being achieved through most faith traditions. Whether you call it prayer or meditation–or in yoga it’s called breathing–you’re still escaping and transcending your physical self in some way. By earnestly trying to get in touch with that transcendent part of me, it’s forced me to be mindful of what I do, who I am, and what my thoughts are. That has made a profound impact on me, stilled my mind, and created the gap I can slide into to be with my spiritual self and not be distracted by the day-to-day things.”
His day-to-day life as a husband, father and correspondent at E! News has provided him with a specific challenge as a writer, namely, how to find time to write between all of his other commitments. Whereas some writers have a specific time each day when they put pen to paper, Baker has had to learn to write wherever and whenever he can, be it on the weekend, during a break at work or while on a plane.
“I’ve had to learn how to write everywhere because of the practical constraints on my life and career. We romanticize writing so much but I feel being forced to be creative in less than ideal circumstances actually produces the best results. I wrote a lot of The Ken Commandments coming into work early at 5 a.m. I’d come in to beat the traffic and I learned I could write in the morning. I used to be able to write all day long but not anymore. Maybe it’s age, but I can write in the morning when it’s fresh and anything after that is a bonus.”
So why write about such a highly personal spiritual journey rather than keeping it for himself? For Baker, sharing is part of who he is.
“I think about part of my meditation, I ask myself: Who am I? What do I want? What am I grateful for? What is my purpose? I feel like the answer is to share my passion, my knowledge, my insight and my experiences. I realized it’s a gift that I can do that. It’s guided me and is the light that’s guiding my journey now. That’s my focus. I realized that’s what I’ve been doing in my career too. I was living that dharma without really thinking about it in that way. I have a passion to share with people.”
Up next for Baker is a novel out next years called I Know Who Hacked You, a thriller about a YouTube star who gets hacked and fights to get her reputation back. He’s also launching The Mindful Writing Center – an online learning center for writers to learn how to enhance their writing with mindful intention.
“It’s a real passion of mine,” he said, “and this is the true legacy of my journey I went on over the course of this book. It’s about being mindful.”
Pick up your copy of The Ken Commandments today and for more info on The Mindful Writing Center, head over to www.mindfulwritingcenter.com
Interview and story by Ryan Brinson
Header photo courtesy of E! Entertainment