Tim Shields

A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment

by Nina from MindGourmet

A little while ago I listened to an interview Tim gave for a radio show – and I thought: I want to read this book and I would love to have a conversation with him to share with you! And this is exactly what happened!

My interview with Tim is a little different. I decided to read him quotes from his book and have him expand on their meaning for us.

To give you some background, here’s what A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment is about in the words Tim describes it!


vi·var·i·um [vahy-vair-ee-uhm]

A place, such as a laboratory, where live animals or plants are kept under
conditions simulating their natural environment, as for research.


Spirit brought me into the world.
The body carried me through the world.
And the mind sent me in search of the world.

So begins A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment. On the surface, it’s a story about a man in his mid-30’s coming to terms with the death of his parents. Beneath the facade, however, it’s a multi-layered literary novel in three parts (Spirit, Body, Mind) about an artist searching for his voice, a writer searching for his story, and the power of gratitude and intention to create our reality. Drawing on the themes of childhood, the search for self, and the quest for self-realization, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment takes the reader on a journey into Thomas Furey’s inner life as he travels throughout India and Southeast Asia for exactly one year.


The gratitude journal

Using a gratitude/intention journal as a structural element, the catalyst for the story is the morning of Thomas’ 36th birthday, which finds him jobless, without a relationship, or any of the other successes his friends seemed to have. Having just returned from his mother’s funeral, he decides to buy a one-way ticket to India. Possessed by fear, armed with hope, protected by naivety, and guided by intention, from the moment Thomas begins to act in alignment with his true self, serendipity intervenes.


One year full of inner and outer adventures

Throughout the course of exactly one year, Thomas finds himself volunteering for a Nobel Prize winner in India, working as the assistant to a delinquent school photographer in Vietnam and China, drinking his way through Laos and Cambodia, wallowing in the depths of loneliness in Thailand, experiencing a moral hangover in the Philippines, and after having just rekindled a love affair in Sri Lanka, believes he may meet his end.

The course above charts a roadmap for Thomas’s spiritual, mental, and emotional growth as he wrestles with the death of his parents, heals the wounds of his past to create a new future, and attempts to surrender his fears for a greater vision of himself.

But threatening his security, safety, and success is the veil. Something he can feel more than name, the veil is a shadowy force that has haunted his life and dreams for as long as he can remember. Terrified by whatever is behind it, the veil threatens to lead him down a trail of self-destruction, all the while obfuscating a truth central to his life.


Joyful expansions and painful contractions

Throughout his year of travel, like the breath of life that animates his body, Thomas moves through a series of joyful expansions and painful contractions as he drifts through women and excess, paralyzing fear and self-doubt, fathomless loneliness and unbounded gratitude, and the terrifying and ultimate realization that he is infinitely more powerful than he ever could have imagined.


The Journey of overcoming oneself

At its most human level, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment is about the journey of overcoming the self. At the archetypal level, it’s the hero’s journey towards self-realization/actualization. Ultimately, it’s about the fact that each of us are the heroes we’ve been waiting for.

No matter where the reader is in their life’s journey, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment is a story about the transformation and awareness that occurs in awakening.


Enjoy our interview!




This is what you’ll learn from our conversation:


  • A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment: the first part of a series of books Tim is working on (02:30)

  • What led Tim to write his book and what the main character’s journey is about (04:20)

  • A story full of synchronicities – for the main character and also for Tim (9:50)

  • These are the quotes I asked Tim to expand on:
    “Just use your feelings as a guidance system. Move toward that which brings you joy and expansion, and leave behind that which causes you friction and contraction.” (18:25)

  • “Pave your path with intention and gratitude, then get out of the way and let goodness happen.” The Gratitude&Intention Journal (24:05)


  • “Magic can’t happen where expectations live.” (29:15)

  • “We all know where to look for the answers, but most of us are afraid to go there.”

  • “It was not what was behind the veil that terrified me. It was not the uncertainty of tomorrow – it was my free will.” (36:15)

  • “It’s about not being afraid to lose yourself in the chaos of disorder while finding stillness in the order of the chaos. It’s about asking the hard questions and being still so you can hear the answers.”(43:05)

  • Tin foil as a metaphor for us interacting with the unified field (48:50)

  • Tim’s new adventure: moving to Mexico (50:40)

  • How you can find out more about Tim and connect with him and A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment  (55:35)


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Published October 29th, 2018