On Med­i­ta­tion

ON MED­I­TA­TION, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

On Med­i­ta­tion gets off to a promis­ing start with a Pe­ter Matthiessen in­ter­view: He ad­mits to be­ing an­gry as a boy and dif­fi­cult as a man. Around 1970, he be­gan to learn about Zen Bud­dhism, which led to a life­long prac­tice. The cross­cut­ting be­tween Matthiessen’s words and the ab­stract im­ages out­side his house — a dog, the sun fil­ter­ing through leaves, a path — ef­fec­tively il­lus­trates what Matthiessen dis­cov­ered — that Zen only leads you back to your­self. It is the path back home. Matthiessen, who died in 2014, dis­tills in this sen­si­tive in­ter­view what the prac­tice of Zen meant to him. Re­becca Drey­fus’ doc­u­men­tary fo­cuses on how mod­ern­day prac­ti­tion­ers ex­pe­ri­ence the an­cient prac­tice of med­i­ta­tion, and how med­i­tat­ing reg­u­larly can al­low peo­ple to see them­selves more clearly.

Some of the in­ter­views that fol­low — for in­stance, one with au­thor and Bud­dhist med­i­ta­tion teacher Sharon Salzberg — are not as vis­ually dy­namic as the Mathiessen in­ter­view, and are also some­what repet­i­tive in that they cover sim­i­lar ter­ri­tory. Film­maker Drey­fus plays out each in­ter­view at length be­fore moving on to the next sub­ject. While this may be a med­i­ta­tive ap­proach, it also pre­vents the dis­cus­sion from go­ing deeper.

In one of the more il­lus­tra­tive in­ter­views, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) tries to in­te­grate the ben­e­fits he has ac­crued from med­i­ta­tion into his life and work. Con­gress­man Ryan, who serves on the Armed Services Com­mit­tee, be­lieves fu­ture mil­i­tary per­son­nel should learn mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion be­fore they are cleared to serve abroad. He tells us that col­leagues in Congress have pulled him aside to find out more about med­i­ta­tion, be­cause, as they con­fess: “I’m fried.”

It’s not clear why some of the other in­ter­vie­wees have been cho­sen to be in this film. Those in the “mo­ti­va­tional speaker” cat­e­gory give the most di­luted in­ter­views. The clos­est the doc­u­men­tary gets to the source is a monk who is not par­tic­u­larly ar­tic­u­late and, in fact, be­comes per­plex­ingly vague as he de­scribes his spir­i­tual jour­ney. More in­ter­est­ingly, a CEO finds that he is able to make thought­ful re­sponses to his team be­cause he med­i­tates. He takes out two-and-a-half hours from his busy day, ev­ery day, to prac­tice med­i­ta­tion and asanas (yoga poses). Judg­ing by the kind­ness his face ex­udes, his prac­tice is a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

One well-known devo­tee of med­i­ta­tion, film­maker David Lynch, tells us that med­i­ta­tion helps to get rid of the garbage in our minds. The doc­u­men­tary ends with a cou­ple and with a ref­er­ence to fam­ily life — con­ver­sa­tion about which can be oddly lack­ing in the con­text of Zen Bud­dhism and med­i­ta­tion prac­tice in this coun­try. A New Mex­ico psy­chol­o­gist aptly char­ac­ter­izes fam­ily life with chil­dren as a med­i­ta­tion re­treat of some 20 years. While On

Med­i­ta­tion is nei­ther as deep nor as rig­or­ous as you might hope a doc­u­men­tary on the sub­ject would be, it is an in­trigu­ing start. It could get you to con­sider clean­ing out the cob­webs in your mind. — Priyanka Ku­mar

Get­ting into the zone

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