Everyone Needs to See this Film, or How Sixteen Schools in the Midwest U.S. came to Host a Scottish Film on Dreams by Barbara Condron
"PBS has a show on dreams on Tuesday night," my husband Daniel mentions at dinner. He knows I am interested. It is a subject we have explored and taught throughout our adult lives as teachers at the School of Metaphysics, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational institution teaching consciousness evolution.
I sigh. Tuesdays are my days in town with Hezekiah, our 15-year-old, who is a serious martial artist.
It would have been easy to let the August 24, 2010 airing of The Edge of Dreaming pass by. Yet one of the abilities a metaphysician develops is the interpretation of energies that enables her to perceive lines of probability. Sound a bit lofty? It's actually similar to how financial wizards note trends that tell them when to trade or how pilots adjust flight plans to changes in the weather or how your mom just "knew" you'd be on time, late, or missing in action. All of these are examples of actions of the mind, operating behind the scenes of the people, places, and things that fill our busy lives.
My inner mind is telling me I will want to see this show. So halfway through kung fu class, I call Laurie Biswell, our chief of staff at dreamschool.org, and ask her to stay late enough to record the show. She does.
Discovering Amy Hardie's Story
Four weeks pass before the Mind Linguistics class I teach at the College of Metaphysics is ready to watch the film. Mind Linguistics is the study and application of the oldest language known to humanity? The art and science of interpreting images is the key to interpreting day and night dreams. This class sharpens the student's skill in mental perception through interpreting their own dreams and those received from people around the world through our website at dreamschool.org.
We have just completed a five-week arc studying James Cameron's Avatar film. Cameron has spoken openly of his interest in lucid dreaming and youthful experience with flying dreams. In one interview, he said he dreamed the characters and setting of Avatar in 1995, years before he started making the film.
I don't consciously have any idea what The Edge of Dreaming is about. I know it is on PBS, so I feel secure that it will be educational, thought-provoking, and high-minded. I am expecting it will afford a practical balance to the science fiction of Avatar. I am amazed. The film exceeds my expectations.
The Edge of Dreaming is to real life, what the movie Inception (released just one month before) is to cinematic life. The similarities are startling. Both films take us to the farthest reaches of "normal" dreaming, crossing the line into subconscious realities where those who no longer walk on the earth visit with us and where future probabilities can be foreseen and altered. Yet, Amy Hardie's movie is not fiction, it is a documentary. This is its true appeal. It is one year of her life concisely and masterfully edited into 72 minutes.
When I saw the film, I was struck by Amy's transparency. Her forthright telling of what most people push away - thoughts of loss and separation, fears of ill health and dying - is without pretension or self-pity. She merely allows us into her thoughts, and then invites us to tell her what we saw that she did not see.
"Everyone needs to see this film," I thought when the film ended.
An Educational Ally
I asked my students to perform a stream of consciousness exercise. This is a specific method for emptying the mind of thoughts accomplished by perpetual writing for a set length of time. Some of the students' writings following the movie are posted here at www.dreamschool.org.
After I read them, I knew I wanted all of our teachers and students to see this film. I felt strongly that going on Amy's journey could strengthen the compassion every teacher needs while challenging the limits of his or her thinking as a student. This delicate balance is difficult to present in any form, and Amy had managed to present a most polarizing subject - wrestling with one's own mortality - in an openly neutral way.
I start by visiting the PBS website. Public Broadcasting in the United States is known for its high standards of using media for education. PBS supplies programming, distribution and technical services to 355 member stations. I am impressed with the extensive information it offers on The Edge of Dreaming. The film is described in this way:
"Scottish filmmaker Amy Hardie has built a career making science documentaries that reflect her rational temperament... The Edge of Dreaming is an evocative, intimate chronicle of that year and a fascinating investigation into the human subconscious. [http://www.pbs.org/pov/edgeofdreaming/]
I read the many comments the film has generated since its airing. Most are favorable or supportive, a couple are disparaging finding the film "hokum" or "junk." In my post I write, "Self-disclosure is always the most challenging form of science, and the most polarizing, it seems, as evidenced in comments here. You have certainly stirred people's thinking and that is the greatest accomplishment of your film."
I go on to cite Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, whose first book On Death and Dying changed the landscape of how we talk about our lives. After decades of experience with people facing death, she reported three questions that every person asks:
Did I give and receive love?
Did I help others?
Did I leave the world a better place?
The Edge of Dreaming answers all three. This is why I think its message is so profound. It's not about death at all. It's about living life, and this is why we study and teach metaphysics. This film can prompt medical students, business majors, or future educators to consider, and perhaps neutralize, their thoughts about death. It affords sociology students and future counselors (of the psyche and of law) a window into family dynamics.
Amy writes, "I was very shocked by my dreams. I make science films for a living and I don't normally remember my dreams, unlike my psychoanalyst husband. He writes his dreams every morning, and says, comfortingly, that they are not to be taken literally. Except that my dream of my horse's death was literally true. And this was followed by two more dreams, warning me that I would die this year, and then showing me how I would die.
"I began filming my children after my lungs collapsed. I wanted to get the whole year on record. I didn't tell my two girls, because I didn't want them scared. Nevertheless, my youngest daughter came home and read my palm, announcing cheerily that my life line was short and that I would 'have a happy life, but a short one'." [http://www.pbs.org/pov/edgeofdreaming/filmmaker_statement.php]
Preparing the Proposal
A masterful storyteller, Amy Hardie repeatedly invites the viewer to share her journey. Two months after her dreams, she says, "I want to not think about it. Fear is like a mushroom. It grows by itself in the dark. Not thinking takes a lot of energy." By the sixth month, she becomes ill, her lungs are functioning at 60% capacity and the doctors don't know why.
Less than two months before her 49th birthday a brain specialist Mark Solms she consults offers her the neuroscience view of how connections are made in the brain. They occur in three ways: when we do, when we imagine, and when we dream. "Perhaps the dream really laid down a death sentence, only in dream reality, I think." This opens her mind to the possibilities. "I want another dream," she says. Not receiving one, she determines "I just want to change the dream." This is the thought that leads her to the shaman.
Eminent scholar and consciousness expert Dr. Stanley Krippner gave his keynote address at the 2009 IASD Conference on "Everyone who Dreams Partakes of Shamanism." Dreams are windows into the soul. They are subtle thoughts seeking the light of day. They exist in those regions occupied by the recently departed, like Arthur - father of Amy's son. The film includes many elements from the dreamworld ? precognition and visitation, even experiencing the nether-worlds known to Tibetan Buddhists and the Celtics as the bardo. These are familiar territories for metaphysics students who log their dreams each morning, meditate each evening, and endeavor to raise their consciousness through mindful choices between the two.
All of these are on my mind when I present the case for SOM sponsorship of screenings. In a few weeks, I will tell Jamie Bodie, POV Community Engagement & Education Coordinator, "It's as though Amy Hardie made this film just for the School of Metaphysics. It illustrates what is beyond the limits of our physical perception affording the potential to open the mind to deeper understanding about ourselves, each other, and life."
POV - a cinema term for "point of view" - is television's longest-funning showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the "best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues."
Scrolling down the webpage at the PBS/POV site, I come to "Take Action - Download discussion guide" then "Plan an event around this film." Within minutes, I have studied the downloaded the information. What a simple and straightforward approach to assist our student-directors in learning how to create successful, educational gatherings. I am delighted to find this resource for it meets all our requirements.
- The subject - dreams, health, and the power of the mind - fits us like a glove to a hand.
- The partnership agreement affords a step-by-step guide for organizing a screening of the film and discussion with the audience.
- The mission of PBS and POV is compatible with that of the SOM in a way that can fortify both.
I know our students and teachers will receive an education just working with POV, and in turn, our potential engagement with them will meet their needs to reach greater numbers of people.
With this in mind, I submitted a proposal to the SOM Board of Directors which they accepted in mid-October. Our teachers meet the first weekend in November in regional locations. They screen the movie for the first time. Their responses are varied, yet they agree to host the film on the same date and time - January 22, 2011. POV takes note as our directors begin scheduling the event. The next two months are filled with flyer creation and press releases. The POV staff afford a real-world education for our students.
The Edge of Dreaming shows on 17 screens from Chicago to Dallas, Cincinnati to Kansas City. People gather at places like the Circle Cinema in Tulsa, the Hyatt Regency in Louisville, the All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis, and the Central Market in Dallas to see the film. Then, they share their thoughts. Those thoughts are blogged and articles posted at www.dreamschool.org and at www.som.org.
As I write this February 28, 2011, our directors are planning another POV collaboration for the end of April during SOM's annual National Dream Hotline® weekend. They are coming to see the January 22nd event as a dress rehearsal for something more expansive. This kind of open-mindedness, which embraces all while establishing bridges for people to connect on deeper levels, is a bedrock of education.
Bringing Humanity into the Cinema
Amy Hardie and I have been corresponding since last October. This has led to the School of Metaphysics hosting her in Chicago for four days. The opportunity to meet the filmmaker and assist her in connecting with the people she seeks to serve is a rich one. We are planning events to bring Amy together with theosophists, neuroscientists, Jungian therapists, and student filmmakers. Of these, it is the filmmaker interaction I most anticipate.
As I am coming to know her, Amy is a dreamer in the true sense of the word. With clairvoyant vision, she sees the scope of storytelling from its origins in cave paintings and tribal circles to the breath-taking transitions cinema now allows.
"Powerful images and sound compress time through editing," she writes to me. "Sequences that could not be shown during the last 60,000 years (except in our dreams) have, for the last 100 years, been increasingly ubiquitous on our television, computer and cinema screens. However, in one aspect cinematic story telling has lost power.
"Cinema is not live. Its stories are no longer created by an individual in front of an audience. Cinema is pixillations projected by light, and when the end credits roll, the audience is left alone. There is no storyteller left in the room. There is no longer a person to engage with the audience's response to the film, or, perhaps even more importantly, to engage with the audiences' own experiences that have been brought to mind through the film."
Amy Hardie proposes a development of the cinema experience. Instead of cinema-going as an essentially passive and private experience, she aims to bring back what has been lost as storytelling has become mechanized. She advocates profound engagement with the film, an interaction that is active and articulated and done in community.
"It is about articulating a creative response, opening up a place for people to bring their own experiences to the film and to build on their interpretation." When this occurs the creative energies of Kundalini within the individual are awakened and co-creation begins for that individual. That moment is when educating the Whole Self becomes essential. And like spiritual midwives, teachers and students from the School of Metaphysics are there.
We invite you to join us in the Spiritual experience that lies beyond the "edge of dreaming."