Cultural Arts Review – “On Meditation” Film Series

Posted on April 15, 2013 by


On Meditation

Rebecca Dreyfus is one of the filmmakers who recently directed the film series called On Meditation. On Meditation offers a glimpse into the private insights and rituals of its subjects. Each film focuses on a single individual and explores how meditation works for them, how it has changed or continues to change them in the deepest ways, and what it looks like on the most basic physical level. It documents the inner journey of meditation of practitioners with various traditions. Some of those practitioners include a Tibetan monk, a Zen Buddhist, a secular mindfulness practitioner, a practitioner of Vipassana mediation – one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation, as well as a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation. The filmmakers’ objective is to be inclusive and to make the practice accessible to anyone. She was inspired to film On Meditation by her interest in other people’s practices and her desire to cultivate her own. The vision for the project actually became real to her as she was sitting in an ancient temple in Kyoto, Japan. She was so moved by the environment and in general the great lengths Japanese society had gone to cultivate spaces in which to feel peaceful, and she wanted to learn more.

At first, it did seem silly to produce a film that shows people sitting around with their eyes closed doing basically nothing. Also, meditation is a private practice. How do viewers stay engaged? It makes sense that the filmmakers encountered these challenges and thought about them for a long time. After shooting the Venerable Metteyya, the Tibetan Monk, she was able to listen to him discuss his understanding of his mind and his relationship to meditation, and it became very clear to her. People undertaking spiritual practices are seeking answers to questions that are unknown. Indeed, life is a big mystery, and it is intriguing that people who meditate are communing with this mystery and attempting to make peace with it.

Clearly, people of different religions practice meditation. It is evident in the film series that everyone is different in age, religion, culture, life situations, and day-to-day realities. For those reasons, their practices do differ on the “how and when” level.” However, at the end of the day, they are all seeking the same thing. They are looking for something that will offer them a richer connection to themselves. Meditation is the focused attempt to move beyond conditioned “thinking” into a deeper state of awareness. In the same way, Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward Enlightenment and Nirvana, essentially to find inner peace.

The film is focused on the effects that a consistent practice has on people, regardless of their traditions. Some of these people have shaped their lives around a spiritual practice while others incorporate meditation into busy lives. This is important as it allows us to learn that meditation is something we can all do, regardless of what religion we practice. It may seem obvious once you start listening to people who do it a lot; it’s innate for humans to sit. Meditation used to be obscure; something religious monks practice or something the Beatles did in India, but now it has become more ordinary and routine. On Meditation seeks to show how beneficial meditation can be by depicting the regular practices of several individuals. The film series is still in progress and the filmmakers are working to continue finding inspiring people. Besides documenting a Tibetan Monk, the first films included Peter Matthiessen, the author of The Snow Leopard; Elena Brower, an acclaimed yoga teacher; Giancarlo Esposito, an actor from Breaking Bad; and Tim Ryan, a congressman from Ohio. Filmmaker David Lynch is next in line to be featured.

Preview of On Meditation


Alex Caring-Lobel, “On Meditation: An interview with Rebecca Dreyfus” Buddhist Art News, April 9, 2013, (


Posted in: Buddhism