Is it to naive to think that we as human beings can change the world and make it a better place to live? Have we as modern people lost hope and given up faith in the ability to change?
These questions have been on my mind since my recent visits to New York and Madison. I was in the United States to present our documentary film Free The Mind and thereby to complete several years of work, which at last was to be shown to our American audience. Along with the director of the film, Phie Ambo, I went to the University of Madison, Wisconsin, to attend the seminar "Change Your Mind, Change the World."
We were listening to His Holiness Dalai Lama, Professor Dr. Richard Davidson, Director of Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Madison, WI, professor Dr. Jonathan Patz , Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Matthieu Ricard, French Buddhist monk and Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of Huffington Post. In this group of strong and insightful debaters the focus was put on the key topic: Can we change the world by changing our thoughts?
Free The Mind is a documentary about Professor Dr. Richard Davidson. The film follows and documents Professor Davidson's research of the human brain and his extensive studies of how meditation affects the human brain and body. He has followed a group of American veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan before, during and after undergoing a 7-day meditation and breathing course.
It sounds very simple and maybe that is the very reason for contemporary man's great problem: We don't have the ability to relate to simplicity -- instead we continuously restrain ourselves because we expect everything to be complex and incomprehensible. To most of us it would seem unthinkable that a change of thoughts can ultimately change the world -- even if to a better and more positive place to live.
It is in this context Free The Mind in my opinion has unique relevance. Documentaries often have distinctive qualities, because they can accomplish something only few feature films do. They can simply raise bigger and more in-depth awareness. Free the Mind is proposing a path for human beings to master even the greatest and most horrifying nightmares and anxieties on their own: By meditating, by deep breathing exercises and by changing the patterns of thoughts in a positive direction.
We have been working on this film for six years. When we began working, we did not know half of what we know today. Back then the theme of the film, meditation and the brain, seemed unapproachable and difficult to describe and make relevant for the mainstream audience. However, after the film was finished, we realized that we created a film that might make a significant contribution to a better world. During the seminar in Madison it was clear to us that we had created a film, which intertwines in a wave for a better world. His Holiness Dalai Lama, amongst others, has called upon the world's leading scientists to launch this wave. Enormous efforts lay ahead for scientists to help us all think more positive, become more compassionate and have a caring development of the mind, ourselves, our fellow man and the world we live in. We still don't know how to achieve this, but we are trying to raise awareness with this film.
Free The Mind is an attempt to encapsulate, investigate and climb the on-going wave. Spending so many years to make just one film makes us even more grateful that we today understand that time has worked for a better understanding of our film. With this film we have the possibility to raise awareness of the audience, so that they will get the possibility to know that there are many ways to deal with pain, anxiety and stress. You just have to find your own way, your own path. Our film gives the audience an opportunity to be motivated to strive for a more compassionate life.
Personally, I was in doubt if we would ever achieve anything meaningful, when we began this long journey into the human brain and the research of Professor Dr. Davidson. However, the further we went into the research and mind-set of the scientists, the simpler it became to us. It comes down to finding the courage of letting go and open yourself to the most obvious: To be compassionate for yourself and the world that surrounds you is not science. To be compassionate should be as natural as taking a breath.
After only seven days of breathing exercises most of the veterans had reduced their post-traumatic stress disorder level by 40 percent and reduced their sleep problems significantly, one of them by 72 percent. One month after the study the improvements were still visible.