Written by Barnet Bain director of Milton’s Secret.
From Planet Fear to Planet Flow.
There’s a lot more stress in the world. Maybe also a few more challenges for each of us to handle personally. By now it’s clear big changes are happening. We are at a crossroads, moving from one ‘operating system’ of reality to another more expansive one.
Imagine you’re experiencing a night dream. In the dream you are walking along a busy street after a heavy rain. A bus comes along. The bus slams into a pothole sending a sheet of mud and water flying your way. How are you feeling? You are drenched to the bone, grimy and cold. Maybe you were hurrying to an important date. You might even think the bus driver splashed you on purpose. That’s when the alarm goes off and you wake up in your bed.
From this awakened perspective you can say with relief, wow, it was just a dream. But look a little further. What else can we know now?
YOU were the dreamer who dreamed the story. YOU were the unfortunate soul who was soaked. YOU dreamed the bus driver. The streets were YOU. The bus is YOU. The pothole and puddle, all YOU, as well.
You were the director of the dream. You wrote the script and played all the parts. You chose to stage the story this way, and not another way.
From the limited perspective of the You who got soaked, life is one thing. From the more expanded perspective of the awakened dreamer it is something else entirely. We create it all.
“To reduce the stress of Planet Fear, begin with the possibility that we each write the script of our lives completely. “
You can explore this idea a little deeper by WRITING OUT two or three areas of success, or joy in your life worthy of celebration. For example, maybe you have created a beautiful and intimate relationship with another person, or achieved a promotion at work or tended a garden.
Next ask yourself “What would someone have to believe or feel about herself in order to dream this success?”
Then write down two or three areas of failure or disappointment, and ask yourself the same question.
The Secret of SUBTEXT
To an actor or director, subtext is a word for all the unspoken thoughts, feelings and motivations a performer brings to her role. Subtext is always unspoken, yet it is the most eloquent aspect of an actor’s performance coloring every speech and action. But subtext is not to be found in the script. It comes from the actor’s unique interpretation of the story, mined from personal memory, life experience, and imagination. That is why the same script or play can be performed again and again by different actors and still remain fresh.
A businesswoman calls her fiancee from her hotel room. “I love you” she says. Does she say it with her full attention, or with one eye on cable news? Is she thinking about a meeting on her schedule, and rushing him off the phone? The same words can be said with an infinite variety of intentions.
The subtext always expresses our deeper motivations, the ‘under the table’ and subconscious intentions that truly run our lives. This is the level of communication we sense when we are ‘reading between the lines’.
Just as characters in a movie know very little about the underlying intentions that drive them, we don’t generally start out aware of the power of our own subtexts in our lives, sometimes turning to personal growth, mindfulness or spirituality to seek understanding.
We soon learn from experience that even small changes to our inner lives can change our life circumstances as well.
Inscribed on a small sculpture of a writer’s pencil that sits on my table are words from Jean Renoir, the great French movie director and son of Pierre Auguste. ‘One only ever makes one film in his life’ said Renoir. I believe this is as true in life as it is in movie-making — it is a reference to the power of subtext.
Without the ability to discover and adjust our automatic behaviors, feelings and conditioned thinking, we repeat and respond to every experience from the same set of intentions. Nothing ever changes. Fortunately one of the gifts of present awareness is the power to become more conscious.
Here is a technique I practice:
Pay attention to your thoughtstream and feelings. Listen to your thoughts, and beliefs. Notice if what you are thinking is original with you, or if it is conventional wisdom and hand-me-down thinking. For example; when I was a small boy we lived in a village in Northern Quebec. My parents admired President Kennedy, and no surprise that at ten years old I was also proudly a Democrat, never mind that I knew nothing about American politics, and, oh, yeah, we were all Canadians. That’s a hand-me-down choice.
Drama and Ego
Drama. What is drama anyway? In the language of entertainment, drama is conflict. It’s what happens when one character’s set of hot-button adrenaline charged themes, beliefs or values comes into direct opposition with somebody else’s tightly held and equally charged themes, beliefs or agendas.
The primary ‘player’ in dramas is the one with a position to protect. That is usually the ego. The ego always tries to protect its noble opinion of itself, its role as ‘opinionator in chief.’
I’ve been wondering why we tend to remember big dramas more often than the pleasant stories, and I think this is just as true in life as it is in the movies. Pleasant stories get a bad rap. How often do we hear the words ‘chick flick’, or ‘soft’, or ‘family story’ used as an unconscious put down? In fact, we can easily become addicted to our hot button charged dramas. Conflict dumps cortisol, adrenaline, and other chemicals into the blood stream.
So why do we tend to obsess on drama, focusing less attention on the flowing, pleasant experiences of life, those devoid of rife and conflict? If this question rings true for you, and it’s a situation you’d like to change, here is a helpful technique. Only through creative acts can we rise above our conditioning.
Barnet Bain WRITE OUT one or two dramas from your past. Look for the distressing stuff, things you find yourself remembering obsessively over and over again even though the incident may be water under the bridge. Maybe there is a theme that’s tended to repeat itself with other players and situations over the years. Once I had an old business relationship that came to an end after some unpleasant drama. Years later I was still reviewing it over and over in my thoughts. At last I understood I was hooked on the ego rush of righteousness and nobility.
The next step is to write down an inventory of your pleasant experiences. You may find yourself recalling memories you’d almost forgotten. Take note of how it feels to remember them.
Finally each time you catch yourself replaying or being caught up in drama, make a conscious choice to revisit and respect the pleasant, beautiful experiences of your life.
From time to time I am asked what makes a conscious or spiritual movie? I would love to hear from anyone who can offer an answer. Until then I hope this will do. For all of us learning to practice conscious living, do movies reveal a clue?
Here then, some clues to transformation I found in the dark.
From ACTION HEROES I get what it means to live every moment as if it is my last. To be engaged, involved and committed to a cause. To participate with honor. And the importance of get-up-and-go.
LOVE STORIES unfold in enchanted pockets of gracious giving and receiving. They foster my compassion for the loss and hurts of others; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Very different from opportunism and entitlement. They tease open my heart and mind.
SPACE OPERAS AND SCI-FI help me see past the world of form. Beneath the veneer of every alien civilization and dimension await shared universal tests. How do I make a difference? What maps do I make to ease the way for myself and others? To be More. Live more. Stretch more. Forgive more. And what am I prepared to move beyond (or leave behind) to access the Force within. To go boldly into the unknown.
From DRAMA I connect with the feelings of others. How do I deal with my own relationships: my spouse, children, friends, boss, colleagues? With myself? Higher Self? God/Goddess/All That Is? When I can recognize myself in another person it increases my response-abilty.
COMEDIES always force me to wonder why I take myself so seriously. Funny movies remind me to laugh. To find humor in the frantic dance I do for love without remembering I am loved all along. To shrug off my mistakes, and lighten up.
HORROR MOVIES AND WAR FILMS have lots to reveal about what is dark in me as well as what is light. Often pointing to judgments or emotions that are not fully conscious, or that I deny altogether. Movies that arouse strong feelings of antipathy are a sure sign of resistances, fears, and blockages to love that persist below the waterline of my awareness. What I resist persists.
Barnet Bain is an award-winning movie producer, director and creativity consultant. Select film credits include Oscar winner What Dreams May Come (producer), Emmy nominee Homeless to Harvard (executive producer), The Celestine Prophecy (writer, producer), Milton’s Secret and The Lost & Found Family (director). He is co-host of Cutting Edge Consciousness Radio on KVTA AM Talk Radio in Southern California.