Thursday, August 19, 2010


I love movies that mess with my mind…movies like Vanilla Sky and Momento. These are movies where you have to pay attention and sometimes even that is not enough to fully grasp the boundary between illusion/dream and reality.

I was not surprised to see that Christopher Nolan, also the director of Momento, was the creative mind behind the new film Inception. This man knows how to bend and twist and open the mind. If you’ve seen Momento then you understand fully what I mean. Who else would think to film a movie frame by frame backwards to help us understand a character with no short term memory?

I also love movies that are laced with deeper messages, and Inception had me going back to the movies a second time with my pad and pen in an attempt to capture some of the quotes and richness weaved into the script. If you haven’t seen the film…well it isn’t easy to explain, nor would I want to even try. Suffice it to say that it is a movie about dreams and our subconscious mind. There have certainly been other films made about those subjects, but none as innovative and creative as Inception.

“What is the most resilient parasite?” asks Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio). “An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and re-write all the rules. From the tiniest seed, it spreads like a virus.”

WOW. Well that simple idea is what my spiritual teachings are based upon: the power of the mind to transform. Unity’s teachings are all about the power of the mind and how we can transform our life and our world through our thoughts.

Ideas are resilient and formative. This is great news! The bad news is that many of us are living with ideas that have taken residence in our subconscious mind, ideas we got from childhood, that are destructive. Ideas such as: “I’m not worthy” or “Life is difficult” or “The universe is not a friendly place.” Or, like Cobb, maybe we are harboring feelings of guilt that stay buried deep in our subconscious mind and interfere with our everyday living.
The thing is…those thoughts are not reality. If we believe that we are not worthy or unlovable or that we live in an unfriendly universe, we are deluding ourselves and living in a dream world. We need to wake up! But we’ve held onto those ideas for so long that they seem real. They are buried deep in our subconscious mind and they are running (and ruining) our world.

In the movie, Cobb and the others who hung out in the dream world crafted for themselves a unique totem. A totem was something that they could carry with them that would tell them if they were living in the dream world or awake. Cobb’s totem was a top (actually the totem was his wife’s, and why Cobb is using it was never explained, but for our purposes here let’s say Cobb’s was the top). When Cobb was inside of his dream world the top would continue to spin forever. If he was awake the top would eventually stop spinning.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could craft a totem that would let us know that the thoughts we were living with were not real? While we may not have a physical item to carry with us, we do have the ability to tap into our ‘witness’. All of us have a consciousness that is able to stand ‘outside’ of our circumstances and observe. It is that consciousness that is able to remember the dream upon awakening and even able to be aware it is dreaming (lucid dreaming). It is also that consciousness that can ask the question that Cobb asked Ariadne (Ellen Page) “How did you get here?” As Cobb pointed out, dreams usually start out in the middle, not at the beginning. So if you can’t answer the question, “how did I get here?” then you are most likely dreaming.

That’s a great question to ask ourselves whenever we are having a thought or experience that brings us pain. How did I get here? What is the prevailing thought behind this experience? What was the ‘inception’ of those ideas? For instance, say your lover leaves you and you go into a deep depression. How did you get to this place of depression? It wasn’t simply over being left. It was the thought process and meaning that you attached to getting left. Such as, “I’ll never find someone else to love me, I’m not good enough or loveable, I’ll have to live the rest of my life alone”…etc., etc.

If that is the thought process buried in your subconscious mind, then you need to wake up from that delusional dream for it will bring you nothing but heartache and will mess with your ‘waking world’. Once we uncover the prevailing thoughts we have the power to replace those negative thoughts with positive life affirming ideas. The trick is to make sure those ideas are imbued with a corresponding positive feeling. As Cobb said, “positive emotions trump negative emotions every time.” He didn’t say positive thoughts trump negative thoughts. Positive thinking alone is not enough; feelings trump thinking every time. Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, believed that thoughts include both thinking and feeling, and feeling is the most powerful and most formative of the two.
Cobb fostered deep feelings of guilt over the death of his wife and those feelings impacted his life and his dreams. He needed to forgive himself, release those negative and destructive thoughts and feelings and learn how to live in the waking world. The film ends leaving us wondering if he did indeed make it out of the dream world.

Albert Einstein said “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit it a very persistent one.” Perhaps he’s right and it’s all an illusion. It really doesn’t matter; we all have the power to choose our experience, our thoughts and our feelings…even within our dreams. That’s the beauty of Lucid Dreaming, which is a form of dreaming in which the conscious mind takes control over the contents of the dream. So even if what we think of as the ‘waking world’ is really an illusion or dream, as Lucid Dreamers we become empowered to change and mold our experience.

Perhaps I love movies that mess with my mind, because my mind was designed to be messed with? So let’s get busy messing around.