Mindful Movies: Thoughts on What's Bubbling Up in Popular Culture

trees, california, winter
Several years ago, Avatar made big waves, crushing box office records left and right. It had all the usual stuff: romantic interest, explosions, and a fairly linear, easy-to-follow plotline. What blew a lot of people away (some good and some bad) was how strong of statement it made about being connected to the environment. This idea of interconnectedness was bold (and politically charged for some), but to me what was even bolder was the courage to add a lot of spiritual elements to the mix such as the big healing circle and a powerful the female shaman (tsahik) at the center of the Na'Vi clan. It was and is a powerful movie on multiple levels, but it's not the only one.

Wake Up: A Documentary to Bring Awareness to Awakening

Years ago, a friend and I watched "Wake Up." It's a documentary about Jonas Elrod, who one day suddenly started seeing energy and spirits. It's a jarring transition and one which Jonas struggles with as he starts a journey of self-discovery. It's a fantastic portrayal of someone coming to terms with gifts that fall outside society's current box of understanding. It also raises awareness for a lot of people going through a spiritual transformation that this is okay.

At the screening that I went to in Berkeley, I could really feel the love and integrity of this awareness in Jonas. It's a beautiful resonance that naturally comes off of him. It makes you feel instantly connected to him and very safe. It's a beautiful thing.

As for the movie, "Wake Up" does a great job of adding in a foil. Jonas's girlfriend is the skeptic, who--for most of society--will represent their point of view. Her counterpoint to him is a very beautiful part of the film and part of an endearing relationship to witness on screen. The courage that they both show in sharing so much in a documentary is truly wonderful and amazing.

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

I Am: A Movie For the Scientific Mind

Another movie I've watched in years past includes "I Am." Tom Shadyac--a director of movies like Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, etc.--shares his experiences from having recurring concussion syndrome and the agony that he was in. It drove him to question his reality and then to make this movie to help people see the truth that he'd learned: that we are all interconnected. While "Wake Up" is a raw spiritual and psychic awakening in full bore, "I Am" is a movie for the rationale mind that still wants science to proves such statements like: We are all interconnected. It does so admirably well, and it offers a lot of interesting tidbits from the Institute of Noetic Sciences and other research groups.

Most of all, it is really powerful to see how Shadyac gave up a lot of his wealth to live more simply and how he acknowledged his own contribution in being part of the problem in society (superficiality, hoarding resources past his own needs, etc.).

Samsara: The Beauty and Terrors of the World Before Us

Samsara is an amazingly deep film that uses no dialogue whatsoever. It is a collage of pictures of people, places, and things from all over the world. The visuals are stunning, mind-blowing, and compelling. The "narrative" has many sub-narratives, and there are many ways that this movie will challenge conventional thought. This isn't the watered down, brainless hero saves damsel in distress tale. This is a broad lens view on the totality of humanity from the plastification of women to the immense beauty of traditional life to the certainty that we will all return to dust in the end. I highly recommend seeing it and then spending time talking to a friend about it to help integrate and appreciate all that you just saw.

The Work: A Documentary on Inner Transformation

"The Work" is not a casual, kick-up-your-feet flick. This is a serious documentary about the depths and power of inner work.

In this documentary, a men's group gathers men from everyday life and from Folsom Prison. Together, they work on shared issues. It's an amazingly vulnerable movie, and it offers so many important insights. One important insight is seeing how similar the inmates and the guys from the "streets" (prison lingo for people not incarcerated) are. In fact, there are times when the inmates in this move are better at vulnerability and being strong, and we get to watch the "normal" guys struggle with those things.

This movie does an amazing job of dissolving misconceptions about prison inmates and pulling the rug out from under anyone who thinks that they're inherently better than someone in jail. It also is a powerful lens into the types of issues that many Western men are struggling with these days as well as one avenue of healing those issues.

Spiritual Transformation and Seeking Spiritual Help for Your Process

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

"Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a documentary about a popular children's television host named, Fred Rogers. It's an interesting look into Rogers work on television and how he used this media as a means of delivering the very simple and beautiful message to all children that they are loved exactly as they are.

This message of love has obvious spiritual implications because so much of the heart of spirituality is unconditional love. Seeing how Rogers got started and how he lovingly tackled enormously difficult topics is inspiring. Topics that he took on included:

  • how children can handle not feeling wanted or feeling like a mistake
  • how to handle hearing about an assassination (The assassination of Bobby Kennedy happened early on in his TV career)
  • how to handle change, and more

For those who think about how best to help others, I think Fred Rogers's story is an important one, and the message of learning to love each other exactly as we are is a timeless spiritual lesson.

When There's Nothing Left But Love

Mindful Movies and Cinematic Discussions on Consciousness

I love documentaries on spiritual and personal transformation topics because I think it's important that people don't associate "awakening" or "enlightenment" with fiction. That said, I still enjoy a movie called "Rango" after years of re-watching it. While this movie is funny and an interesting view on the old West and new society, the big question of "Who am I?" holds sway over the story arc far more than the plot-driven question of "Where did the water go?" The movie offers some interesting thoughts from the filmmakers of what enlightenment means to them. So on a journey of self-actualization you go with Rango, and with the guidance of a wise armadillo, you see his life shattered from a caged, glass, and plastic world into a new sense of self.

Obviously, there are plenty of other fictional and non-fictional movies about consciousness and spirituality. Lots of people love The Matrix trilogy for its thoughts on the nature of reality, and there are plenty of others. It will be interesting to see what other stories and storytellers will emerge over the coming years as we continue to investigate this whole process of becoming more conscious.

Levels of Conscious Awareness


  1. i loved " I Am " movie it helped me understand what my girlfriend has been saying for months about the difference between physical and spiritual and how to feel

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Pascal. Thanks for your comment.


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