Rob Beemer: Mindfulness in the viewfinder

- through Sophie Solere

Published on

Interview with the director of the documentary The Mindfulness Movement, which explores the impact of Mindfulness, a real societal phenomenon in the United States.

How did the idea for this film come about?

I make films for Discovery, History, etc. TV channels. This activity can be stressful given the deadlines… I sometimes lost my temper, especially with my children; I was not the father I wanted to be. One day I discovered the magazine Mindful ; he interested me and I started to practice the Mindfulness, because this secular meditation suited me. I've been practicing it for twelve years, so I decided to make a documentary that presents a non-religious approach to meditation: the quality of attention in the present moment.

Who were your instructors?

I did not study formally, I followed guided meditations, I read and participated in retreats.

What is the evolution of Mindfulness in recent years in the United States?

It is increasingly popular, even if misunderstandings remain, because it is sometimes associated with Buddhism or other spiritual currents. While secular meditation, advocated by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, exists in the police, schools... And it is precisely the distinction between the religious and the secular that allowed its dissemination.

What status does American society accord to this practice?

There are more and more secular people in the United States, hence its growth, but also because it is compatible with religious affiliation, as Tim Ryan, a Catholic politician, testifies: he does not perceive antagonism between his religious beliefs and his meditative practice.

Your interlocutors often mention suffering as a catalyst for their commitment...

Indeed, it is most often because of their suffering that they are brought to Mindfulness or, like me, because of a burn-out, of nervous tension. But for the majority, the primary motivation remains stress.

Has the practice of Mindfulness become a mental health tool more than a philosophical teaching?

It's a way to relax. THE scientific research found that the same level of relaxation is achieved by practicing as with a tranquilizer, and that it improves brain function. Most people therefore come here out of a desire to relax, even if they find something else later, such as an improvement in their personal relationships. Because with the deepening of the practice, one realizes that the relations improving, one manages to help the others. We would tend to associate meditation with selfish action, because we focus on ourselves, but as we move forward, we realize that by relieving our own suffering and modifying our relationship to others, we act on society.

Was it this idea that you wanted to demonstrate in your film?

I wanted to clarify misunderstandings about Mindfulness and explain what this practice is, how it serves society... Because it is not only for wealthy people, everyone can access it, children to veterans, for whom public programs have been set up.

“We would tend to associate meditation with a selfish action, because we focus on ourselves, but as we move forward, we realize that by relieving our own suffering and modifying our relationship to others, we are acting on society. »

During an interview with Joe Biden about the George Floyd case, Trevor Noah suggested the establishment of teams of social workers to support the work of the police. What do you think of Mindfulness training for the police?

It's happening and I'm happy about it. Because the George Floyd case has shown how much the police need to develop their emotional intelligence. They cannot be asked to play the role of social workers and at the same time apply the law: the role of the police is to stop crime. And the practice of Mindfulness would help them to use their emotional intelligence in difficult situations, so that they are able to maintain control of their emotions and consider the other as a human being rather than applying hasty judgments: it is depressing to see so many people incarcerated in this country. The practice of Mindfulness would surely improve this situation.

Is the introduction of Minfulness into social life synonymous with the “silent revolution” evoked in the film?

That's what Diana Winston believes in: the ability to change the world through practice. And I think so too. But the transformation of society will take time, the current protests prove it. Hope is teaching Mindfulness in schools to children.

What has the practice of Mindfulness brought to you?

It helped me not to jump to conclusions and to keep my composure. And even if I still sometimes get angry, I am more present. As journalist Dan Harris' book announces, 10% percent happy, I'm ten percent happier. Because being aware of one's thoughts, of one's emotions, transforms existence, and that's what I wanted to express by showing a secular option, which allows it. Mindfulness can also be practiced while eating, walking, not just sitting. And then, you have to try to act in a “mindful” way.

Because it is a tool of non-violence…

In effect. This is the case for the police, in prison and at school, where it teaches an alternative to physical violence. In the current context of demonstrations and questions about police violence, this is a decisive issue. That's why I made this film: to say how important it is for this growing movement to continue to grow.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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