Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Yesterday as I drove into the City I listened to this interview with filmmaker Sarah Barab from The Secular Buddhist (one of my favorite regular podcasts).

Nerdy, I know.

Nerdily awesome, that is.

Barab is the creative force behind an upcoming indie documentary called Naked Mind. Here's a little bit about it:
Filmmakers Sarah Barab and Paxton Winters set out to document how Western scientists and Eastern meditators are collaborating in unprecedented ways to understand the human mind. Along the way, they meet meditation masters, neuroscientists, convicts, drug addicts, and Machig.

In contemporary American life, the term "mindfulness" has become a buzzword across a huge range of disciplines, from psychology and medicine to education, social action, and prison reform. This film asks: What does mindfulness mean, how does it relate to human happiness, and what does it mean to practice mindfulness in today's society? Interspersed with interviews from meditation masters around the world, NAKED MIND looks at the practical integration of mindfulness in the context of social reform and exposes the trappings of spiritual materialism while resisting easy conclusions.
Featured in the film are Fleet Maull, an ex-felon of 15 years who founded the Prison Dharma Network, and Willoughby Britton, a neuroscientist in the psychology department of Brown University. Britton's work exposes the hard questions around assimilating an Eastern practice into Western consumer culture and celebrates what secular modernity has to offer mindfulness practices in terms of feminism, democracy, and psychology.

Sounds sharp. Stoked to see it. Love me some intelligent indie cinema.

(And in case you, too, wanna help make this li'l film happen, you can donate to their Kickstarter campaign here.)

I'm plum proud to tell you that Naked Mind's writer is none other than my dear old college friend Sarah McCarron.

Sarah and I have known one another since waaaaay back in 1998, when she came to the University of Delaware a first-year smarty and I was a very bookish know-nothing sophomore. Back then, we shared a college-kid love for Thoreau and the Indigo Girls. We did a few Vagina Monologues together onstage. After college, we both split for Europe for a minute, did some time in graduate school, and eventually found ourselves on the West Coast. I even got to make her wedding cake last fall in Joshua Tree.

Over the course of the last decade, I've been thrilled to see Sarah's career as a professional actor and writer skyrocket. (Dude, she worked with Dustin Hoffman at HBO!)  She is mad-smart and so inspiring. And this summer she's doing more rad research investigating art as mindfulness practice. I'm grateful to call her friend.

That said — Sarah gamely agreed to participate in our Next Big Thing writer's circle, even though at the time she was buried in a Zen Brain retreat down in Santa Fe. Here she is with a few words on her next project. (Forgive my, er, slight delay in getting it up online.) Big thanks to you, Sarah, for your willingness to shed some light on your next big thing.

What is your working title of your project? 

Not One Not Two

Where did the idea come from for the project? 

I recently attended a Zen Brain retreat conducted by several of the neuroscientists and philosophers who work with the Dalai Lama under the umbrella of the Mind & Life Institute. Western scientists and eastern meditation masters come together to strengthen and enhance the dialogue around consciousness. It struck me so strongly that what is missing from the dialogue is a non-cerebral, non-cognitive perspective of a movement artist. Theatre and performance artists have been practicing in a lineage of non-religious and non-scientific consciousness studies since ancient times. So I'm exploring this history and what performance art has to offer the dialogue around notions of awareness practice, embodiment, and the cultivation of compassion in a secular democratic context.

What genre does your project fall under? 

Pretentious hogwash? No! Just kidding. Um.... I'd say quasi-scholarly essay.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Anna Deveare Smith and Titus Welliver

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your essay? 

The practice and performance of live theatre is a robust path of consciousness studies, not only equal to science and contemplative religion, but independently valuable in its non-hierarchical, non-cognitive, embodied approach.

Will your project be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self published.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This has flowed with a speed I've never experienced! I'm often a deliberative writer, slow in preparation. But if the soil is rich, I can pump it out. This has only taken a few days. But it comes as a culmination of years of inquiry.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

Peter Brook's THE EMPTY SPACE

Who or what inspired you to write this essay? 

A frustration with a bias toward science and religion as authorities in our culture, and an over-commodification of the arts which contributes to a kind of aggressive underestimation of art in society. As well as a concern about an inherently disembodied lifestyle we are collectively susceptible to.

What else about your project might pique the reader's interest? 

A little known fact that the earliest visual images of the Buddha were made by the Greeks! In the image of Apollo.

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