film

“The painting paints itself”

The maker of a brief documentary sent me a link to this video. It’s worth setting aside the six minutes or so that it takes to watch it.

It shows Gert Johan Manschot — a Dutch artist who meditates — in action, creating beautiful Zen calligraphy–inspired paintings. Manschot lives in Texas, which I wish had been mentioned earlier in the video since at first I was baffled at his otherwise out-of-context references to longhorn cattle and cowboys.

Anyway … Monschot discusses his creative process, which involves waiting until the painting paints itself. This is a beautiful way of describing how the creative process involves an absence of clinging to self. This certainly matches my experience that the less there’s a sense of “I” involved in creation, the more effortlessly the creative process flows.

Art of the Moment from Travis Lee Ratcliff.

This is a painter I’d love to know more about, and I hope that a longer documentary gets made about him.

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We can save a precious Buddhist archaeological site!

Brent Huffman, who travelled to Afghanistan to film the desperate efforts by archaeologists to document the ancient city of Mes Aynak before it turns into a Chinese-funded open-cast copper mine, wrote today to point out these new artifacts, which were recently unearthed:

The unheard-of level of preservation on discoveries just like this is one of the many reasons why Mes Aynak provides such a unique insight into Buddhism and Afghanistan’s past. This historical treasure must be protected and preserved!

Mes Aynak (“little copper well” in Pashto) is a mountainous site in the Taliban-controlled Logar Province, Afghanistan, 25 miles southeast of Kabul near the Pakistan border. Mes Aynak contains the ancient remains of a 2,000-year-old Buddhist city, on top of a 5,000-year-old Bronze Age site. Massive, at nearly 500,000 sq. meters, this historic Buddhist city contains dozens of unique and never-before-seen stupas and temples, thousands of artifacts, and around 600 large Buddha statues – similar to those destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 at Bamiyan.

These archaeologists working at Mes Aynak risk their lives daily to discover and protect the priceless cultural heritage found at the site. Learn more about the sacrifices they make in our new video, featuring footage from “Saving Mes Aynak”. Please help by sharing their story, and the story of Mes Aynak.

Please do contribute to Saving Mes Aynak’s Indiegogo fundraiser, which will go towards advocacy and education in order to build a strong international case for saving the city,

Also please sign the change.org petition in order to pressure the Afghan government to reconsider its decision regarding Mes Aynak, and a separate petition to ask UNESCO to add Mes Aynak to a list of endangered sites.

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Zen in America: a documentary

Adam-TebbeI’m always very happy to encourage Buddhist creators, and Adam Kō Shin Tebbe‘s project to document the history of Zen in North America seems well worth supporting. Please head on over to his Kickstarter page and support this excellent documentary.

Zen in America is a multi-part series which will cover the history and practices of Zen in North America. Funding is the first major obstacle in getting any documentary off the ground and a detail every filmmaker wishes they could hop right over. The reality of fundraising is quite real, however, leaving many independent filmmakers like Tebbe to turn to sites like Kickstarter.com.

“Zen in America” tells its story through a patchwork of interviews with teachers of all North American Zen lines, recollections and experiences of practitioners, analysis by scholars and academics, archival footage and photographs, and footage shot on location.

Over the coming years, the director will travel throughout North America to talk to the leaders and practitioners of the tradition. Having only begun shooting for the film in July of 2013, the film already includes interviews with the following American Zen teachers:

Sojun Mel Weitsman, Hozan Alan Senauke, James Myoun Ford, Myoan Grace Schireson, Myo Denis Lahey, Jay Rinsen Weik, Karen Do’on Weik, as well as many other North American Zen practitioners.

Tebbe expects to be filming for the next 3 years of his life, estimating that the full DVD series will be available at some point in 2017. To learn more about the film, readers can head over to his project’s pitch page here.

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Look in the mirror. What do you see? (Day 72)

100 Days of LovingkindnessAs we get toward the end of our period of exploring mudita, or joyful appreciation, I wanted to share this clip from Luc Besson’s “Angel-A” (2005). “Angel-A” is about an angel, played by Danish actress Rie Rasmussen, who intervenes to rescue André (Jamel Debbouze), a self-loathing scam artist on the verge of killing himself, and teaches him to love himself.

“Look at your body, battered by the lack of love and trust. Don’t you see it deserves a little care from you? Don’t reject this injured body which has supported you so long, never complaining. Tell it that it’s important, that it has its place. Give it what it deserves.”

(“Regarde ton corps meurtri par le manque d’amour, de confiance. Tu ne vois pas qu’il merite qu’on s’occupe un peu de lui? Alors ne le rejete pas se corps blessé qui t’as supporté depuis si longtemps sans jamais se plaindre… Dis-lui qu’il a son importance, qu’il a sa place. Donne-lui ce qu’il mérite.”)

Can you look in the mirror and love what you see? Can you say to yourself, “I love you”?

I suspect this is a practice of appreciation that we could all benefit from.

PS. You can see a list of all our 100 Days of Lovingkindness Posts here.

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Temporary reprieve for the threatened ‘Buddhas of Mes Aynak’

We’ve had some great news from Brent Huffman, who ran a Kickstarter campaign, raising funds to finish a documentary on the Buddhas of Mes Aynak. Mes Aynak is an ancient Buddhist city in Afghanistan, which was scheduled to be destroyed about now in order to construct a copper mine that’s being built by the Chinese.

Here’s what Brent had to say:

Due to the success of our international campaign that reached out to the US including the Smithsonian and State Department, Thailand and other Asian countries, South American, Canada, Europe, etc., the Ministry of Mines in Afghanistan is FINALLY recognizing the importance of the ancient Buddhist site and is paying attention.

Archaeologists, who have been doing INCREDIBLE work at Mes Aynak, now have 6-9 more months to continue rescue excavation. During this time they can save movable relics and artifacts.

The bad news is that Mes Aynak will STILL BE DESTROYED in 2014. So we still have our work cut out for us. The documentary should be complete in late March/April, so it should have maximum impact to help save the site when it airs.

Here is an updated list of news stories about the film:

I will be making a donation of 10% of the Kickstarter money to Afghan archeologists sometime during this month as soon as I receive the funds. This money will be used to buy necessary equipment like cameras and computers.

Also, check out the new poster design by Wendy Tay.

To keep in the loop on current developments in this project, please like our Facebook page here.

Thanks again for all the continued support! Let’s save Mes Aynak in 2013!!!

Best,

-Brent Huffman

Wildmind is proud to be a contributor to the film’s Kickstarter project, and will be on the credits. More importantly, though, there’s a precious opportunity to document the artefacts of Mes Aynak, and possibly to put further pressure on the Afghan and Chinese governments in order to preserve the entire site.

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Room to Breathe: The official trailer

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Room to Breathe is a surprising story of transformation as struggling kids in a San Francisco public middle school are introduced to the practice of mindfulness. Topping the district in disciplinary suspensions, and with overcrowded classrooms creating a nearly impossible learning environment, overwhelmed administrators are left with stark choices. Do they repeat the cycle of forcing tuned-out children to listen, or experiment with a set of age-old inner practices that may provide them with the social, emotional, and attentional skills that they need to succeed?

Even just this brief extract of the film is powerfully moving. I can’t wait to see the whole thing.

Here’s some more background information from the film’s website:

The film begins in the halls of Marina Middle School in San Francisco – kids pouring out of classrooms, shouting to each other as they sweep down the stairwells into a concrete schoolyard that lies outside of the massive art deco building that is the weekday home to almost 1,000 children. The tough language and raw physicality suggests the underlying violence to which these kids are exposed.

Topping the San Francisco school district in disciplinary suspensions, and with overcrowded classrooms creating a nearly impossible learning environment, overwhelmed administrators are left with stark choices. Do they repeat the cycle of forcing tuned-out children to listen, or experiment with a set of age-old inner practices that may provide them with the social and emotional skills that they need to succeed?

We are introduced to Omar, a troubled African American boy with a love for playing basketball, partly to forget his brother’s murder in an unsolved crime in 2007; Lesly, a highly social girl with no interest in academics, whose hard-working parents immigrated from Mexico; Lesly’s friend Jacqueline, a tough and disruptive girl who is frequently in trouble with school administrators; and Gerardo, a winsome but defiant boy who sees himself as unfairly persecuted by his primary teacher and other school officials.

Room to Breathe has two primary adult figures — Ling Busche, an overworked young Asian-American counselor helping seventh graders deal with what they perceive as a hostile school or home environments, and Megan Cowan, a buoyant 30-something Executive Director of a growing mindfulness-in-education organization. The first question is whether it’s already too late for these kids. Confronted by defiance, contempt for authority figures, poor discipline, and more interest in “social” than learning, their young meditation teacher runs into unexpected trouble in the classroom. Will she succeed in overcoming street-hardened defiance to open their minds and hearts? Under Megan’s guidance, our characters and their peers slowly start to take greater control over themselves, and a new sense of calm begins to permeate their worlds, in class and at home.

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Meditation creates a little breathing space for San Francisco students

Richard Schiffman, OpEdNews: There are two jobs that have become a lot more difficult in recent years. One is being a teacher, which was never easy at the best of times. But in an age of virtually unlimited opportunities for distraction and rapidly shrinking attention spans getting kids to focus on their schoolwork can be (with apologies to dentists) like pulling teeth.

I know: As a former school aide working with young children, it was often all that I could manage just to break up fights and keep the decibel level below that at an international airport. Any “education” that actually took place …

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Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche featured in new documentary

Stephen Pedersen, Chronicle Herald: What is uncommon about Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the king who is the subject of Johanna J. Lunn’s 72-minute documentary, An Uncommon King, is that he is a chogyal, an earth protector, a king of the dharma, a lineage holder, protector of the Shambhala teachings, which focus on secular meditation fostering enlightened society.

Those teachings and that story are part of Nova Scotia history, ever since the Sakyong’s father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, moved his international headquarters from Colorado to Halifax.

It took Lunn three years to tell the story.

“About five years ago,” Lunn said in a recent interview, “a …

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‘Samsara’ filmmakers seek meditative flow

Pam Grady, SFGate: Twenty years after they made “Baraka,” filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson are back with “Samsara,” with Fricke directing, Magidson producing and both men credited with concept, treatment and editing.

Shot in gorgeous 70mm over five years in 25 countries on five continents, like “Baraka” and 1983’s classic “Koyaanisqatsi,” where Fricke started his career as co-writer, co-editor and director of photography, “Samsara” is dazzling visual poetry that blends the sacred with the profane, the industrial with the natural. Fricke and Magidson recently sat down for a phone chat about their latest cinematic wonder.

Q: How do you find out about some …

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