There's a whole meditation movement going on right now and it caught my eye recently. The whole idea is to optimize the mind right? That should be good for us filmmakers right? Well, its complicated.
What is Meditation
Headspace, Tangerine and so many more apps are making money thanks to an increased interest in meditation.
But what exactly is Meditation? In laymen speak its focusing your thoughts and attention on something in order to create some self awareness. Its a common practive with a lot of use cases like brainstorming and therapy.
Well, filmmakers do both of those things, and if everyone is doing it, it must be working, right?
If you do it right, yeah. Let's break it down.
You sit down, upright and comfortably. You maintain a relaxed pose and concentrate. What do you concentrate on? Usually something simple, like a sound, a visual or your breathing. When your mind inevitably tries to stear itself away from what your focus is, you need to wrangle it back and refocus it. What I find most interesting about this is that what my mind tries to wander to tends to say a lot about my state of mind and whats making me anxious. I make a note of it and take steps to work through it.
It's recomended you make a habit of it and, speaking from experience, 10 minutes every few days goes a long way.
The main benefit of doing this is to give your brain a geniune moment of peace. I know we have sleep for this, but we're filmmakers, we don't sleep. We're on every kind of caffine that can get us through the shoot.
But giving your bran time to think, gosh thats a wierd phrase, but giving it time to silently process without being hit from every direction is very beneficial to your health.
First, it tends to stabilize your heart rate. Again, we caffinated all day every day, we should probably keep our hearts in check.
Second it improves focus. As filmmakers we jump through so may different roles that often we have trouble sitting down and doing one thing without gittering into somethe else. By upping our focus skill points, we make sure that when something urgent is right in front of us that we can stay on it and see it through.
Finally, it helps you understand yourself more. Self awareness can go a long way in helping you stay happy and healthy. How and why is beyond what my caffinated brain can handle right now.
Sounds great, how do I get started? Not so fast. I have two problems with this movement that I want to talk about before we move forward.
Problem 1 is the intent
The First problem is sort of a word of caution.
Any trend, particular one that you can pay for, that is trying to help your mental health should be looked at with some cinicism. Easy fixes to your everyday problems rarely have a lasting effect, expecially when they are packaged as cure-alls like meditation tends to be.
Now I'm not saying that everyone who preaches meditation is trying to scam you, but answer me this…if I say the word Guru, what comes to mind?
For me, and I imagine at least a few of you, it means someone who claims to be an authority without really being one. But the term originates from my part of the world, India, where it means a spiritual leader. AT least it did, becuase once a bunch of fruads proclaimed themselves Gurus and rnow we assocate the term with fraudulence. And what did the old spiritual leaders tend to teach? Mindfullness and Spirituality through Meditation.
Again, I'm not saying that anyone or anything that has to do with meditation is a fruad. But due to meditations nature, it is very easy for bad actors to take advantage of people who need help, and thats not okay. SO before you dive into meditation, do some honest research first.
Problem 2 is the method
The second problem more applies to us, filmmakers.
You see by creating stories that are visual and audio and nature, we're a bit more in tune with how people's attention goes and how they interpret sounds and visuals. This is important because a lot of modern meditation approaches center around using calming sounds and visuals to get in the zone so to speak.
Now this might be a bit of a problem if you are say, a Foley artist, where your job is to make sounds like reign and footsteps all day. I can't imagine that hearing those same sound is going to help you relax.
Same with the VFX artist or camera or grips when it comes to visuals. You might get too wrapped up in what you're looking at when you're supposed to be clearing your mind.
Finally, if you're a writer like me and have ever tried one of those spoken, guided meditations, you'll notice that you'll get hung up on their word choices and start drawing connections that aren't meant to be there. Or maybe I'm just an anxious son of a bi—
This are just a few examples of how these practices may have a different effect on filmmakers than whats intended. But, thankfully, there's ways around this.
So how should we do this
First, set times and places. If you want to make this a routine like I do, you have to go through the same or similar motions each time in order for the habit to stick. Either the time or location, as long as one of those is as consistent as possible, you're off to a great start.
If you're on a location gig, try to pick a place minimal on the noise. And one away from people ideally. I tend to get wierd looks when I'm trying to get my 10 minutes done on our lunch break.
Next, I recomend focusing on your breath first before anything else. I find doing that helps me control my heart rate if I'm in the middle of working and gets my head situated a lot easier.
Finally, if you're all about the audi-visual meditations or guided ones, start first with YT, its got a lot of them that are good enough to get you started for free and if you find what your jam is, then buy an app that provides it.
So the bottom line is that yes, Meditation is great for us filmmakers even if we have to tread through it carefully. The healthier our minds are the better work we do and thats what we're here for.