Better than meditation

So last night I was watching Shane Carruth’s excellent and sublimely weird movie Upstream Color.


It’s (sort of) a movie about strange parasites. I’m not going to tell you any more, because I think you should go find a copy and watch it. It’s worth it.

Thing is, Upstream Color is one of those movies best watched after 10 PM, with all the lights turned out and your headphones on. Which is exactly how I watched it. And because of the way Shane Carruth directs and films his movies, the camera’s focus tends to be very intimate with the things it’s pointed at. After sitting for 96 minutes in that kind of total cinematic immersion, I emerged feeling very calm and still.

Because I am crazy, and because I have a need to direct my insanity to productive ends, I meditate pretty regularly. But (again, because I am crazy), my meditation tends to be disorganized, brief, and unsatisfying. I can manage a 15-minute session, and I can work up to 30 minutes with practice, but rarely more than that.

For me, watching movies is better than meditation in a lot of ways, especially watching them in the theater or in a dark room with headphones. The darkness and the headphones (or the darkness and silence of the theater) crowd out all distractions, and something in me naturally shuts my brain up while the movie’s playing. That way, I get all the benefits of 90 minutes of pure focus, but my brain is just entertained enough that it doesn’t wander off like it does when I meditate. If you haven’t done it yet, try getting really absorbed in a movie once in a while. It’s a nice feeling.

(Incidentally, the entire time I was writing this post, I was listening to my favorite track from Upstream Color‘s score, which is a beautiful song in spite of sounding a little like an industrial alarm. It’s called “As Though it Would Have Some Universal and Memorable Conclusion.” Here, have a listen:



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