This article is definitely for those meditators who do enjoy watching movies sometimes. I certainly do! Now, does that make me an inferior and downright unspiritual worlding? Probably! Should we all stop to entertain ourselves and move into a cave? Only if you are a spiritual Superman with Rainbow Ninja Powers – then you may move into a cave 😀 For the rest of us, it’s back to training in the midst of Netflix and Headflix. Let’s see how this fun little practice could be a valuable vehicle for inner transformation.
Practicing with Netflix
I was reflecting on a practice that we can do whenever we watch a movie. Since most of us watch movies regularly anyways, it would make sense to integrate our spiritual practice into this process for extra benefits. So I came up with the simple exercise that will teach you a whole lot about awareness, fabrication, attachment and letting go. So get your popcorn ready, cross your legs, sit comfortably in your meditation posture (or relax in your favorite armchair), open your eyes and choose your movie.
One benefit of this exercise is to show you how easy it is to loose yourself in something. It will clearly reveal the mechanics of “loosing yourself” and “waking up” spiritually. The practice in itself is really simple: While watching the movie, stay aware of the sensations that your body causes. Remember that “simple” doesn’t mean “easy”. This exercise is about watching the movie with your whole body/being. It’s about staying awake rather than completely loosing yourself in the content. You are watching the movie from the high ranks of awareness – staying centered is key. There should be a sense of “knowing that you watch a movie” most of the time.
Practicing with Headflix
As you’re getting better with cultivating awareness you will be able to maintain a clear and joyful state of centeredness throughout an entire movie. You could really say that this awareness is the best seat in the entire theater. Now I challenge you to transfer the practice into the theater of your own head. In the cinema of our own brains there are countless movies, various genres and infinite variations playing constantly – unless we are in deep sleep.
When your brain has a few thoughts and talks in sentences, then who is listening to it? When your brain produces pictures, images and movies, who is actually watching them? Who is buying into the content that our nervous system fabricates on its amazing screen?
Who believes in all those stories, who tries to get rid of them and who “subscribes to Headflix”? You can only find the answer if you develop the skill of looking carefully and with great clarity. One of the major obstacles to this process is a habit to get caught up within the content itself. St. Francis of Assisi has pointed to the core of this practice by saying: “ What you are looking for is where you are looking from.” This is a type of skillful surrender.
Aware of Awareness
Instead of continuously getting caught up and identified with the content that is produced by our conditioned nervous system I encourage you to become aware of the knowing quality itself. Notice that there is a quality of consciousness that is not entangled with what it is aware of. It can see thoughts arise and pass clearly without being fooled into the idea that it is the thinker itself. It can watch the various head-movies while still knowing that they are essentially just an empty flickering of our human nervous system. Listening to the emotional background music playing in our bodies, awareness clearly knows it as an empty luminous play of just mind and body.
Realizing that there is such a detached and clear quality of awareness has tremendous benefits. Recognizing it directly is a blissful experience of freedom and release that gradually deepens the more familiar you become with it. In a world where we celebrate continuous identification and entanglement with content, such profound freedom is a rare quality. Worshiping objects and things, such as thoughts, opinions, emotions and an infinitude of other circumstances we remain completely blinded by them. We might even reduce self-realization, enlightenment, awareness, transcendence etc. (choose your word) to mere objects that we chase after. So let’s cultivate the power of waking up with great diligence and enthusiasm anywhere at anytime. Get your popcorn ready for some real life spiritual practice.