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From the Himalayas to US Neuroscience labs, two filmmakers explore the effects of meditation and its potential for collective evolution

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. Machig is a 30-year-old, Caucasian American from the Pacific Northwest, and a long-time Tibetan meditation practitioner. She practices Dark Retreat. For forty days, she sits in a meditation box with no food, water, or light. She self-regulates her autonomic nervous system so as to eliminate all distractions from complete meditative absorption. 

When she's not doing dark retreat, she works with prisoners and victims of human trafficking. Some say she is enlightened. Others worry about the psychological dangers of such practices. Infrared cameras allow a window into Machig’s first-person experience of this controversial practice, while neuroscientist Richard Davidson provides a third-person perspective on what is physiologically happening in various states of meditation. Davidson was one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People and works intimately with H.H. the Dalai Lama for the Mind & Life Institute.

Scientific discoveries are proving that meditation can be beneficial to individual and collective happiness, but what does this mean outside an Eastern Buddhist culture?

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-convict of 14 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. Intimately shot, this is is a personal journey, a heartfelt inquiry in which two filmmakers confront their own biases and prejudices, turning the camera on themselves as they traverse their own journey between subjectivity and objectivity. With stunning cinematography and an original score by internationally acclaimed cellist Claudio Bohorquez and saxophonist Hayden Chisolm, NAKED MIND is both a celebration of the human experience and a brave inquiry into how to work with our minds in today's world.

In Dharma in Hell, prison activist and meditation teacher Fleet Maull shares his journey of transformation and service amidst the anger, violence,darkness and despair of a maximum security federal prison. This collection of previously published and unpublished writings from his 14 years behind bars vibrates with kindness, hope and the triumph of the human spirit. It is a testament to the truth that all human beings possess basic goodness.

The Interviews

  • His Holiness, Karmapa XVII 

    Though only in his early 20's, His Holiness is already making a powerful impact in the lives of his countless disciplines all over the globe. Since his dramatic escape to India in 2001, he has shown an increasing ability to bridge cultures and eras, recasting ancient practices, and expressing visionary insights into contemperary issues.  

  • H.E. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

    Born in Bhutan in 1961 and recognised as the main incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1894-1959), he has studied with some of the greatest contemporary masters, particularly H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.   

  • Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

    Having been brought up in both Asian and Western cultures, the Sakyong is a unique bridge between two worlds. The eldest son of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and the incarnation of Mipham the Great, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche serves as temporal and spiritual director of Shambhala, a global network of meditation and retreat centers.  

  • H.E.Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

    A highly venerated teacher of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, Mingyur Rinpoche completing his first 3 year retreat at the age of 17. He has since taught numerous western students, written two books, and been involved in cutting edge research on the effects of meditation training.  

  • Matthew Ricard

    Matthieu Ricard is a buddhist monk, photographer, and author. Dubbed the "happiest person in the world" by popular media, Matthieu is a tremendous inspiration to many. After receiving his Ph.D. in molecular genetics at the Institut Pasteur, he decided to forsake a promising career in science to instead focus on what he felt was most important in life: development of positive human qualities.  

  • Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

    One of a small handful of Western practioners to have undergone the rigours of such extended retreat, Jetsunma spent 12 years in a remote Himalayan cave before slowly beginning to teach.  Championing the role and status of female practitioners in particular, her unique and fresh insights are a gift to all those she comes across.   

  • Ven. Geshe Lhakdor

    Geshe Lhakdor has served His Holiness the Dalai Lama as his translator and religious assistant since 1989, accompanying him to numerous conferences and forums throughout the world. He has translated many important works from English to Tibetan and from Tibetan to English and offers rare insight into the cultural and philosophical issues surrounding Buddhism coming to the West.  

  • Joan Halifax Roshi

    Joan Halifax Roshi is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and author. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.   

  • Acharya Fleet Maull

    Acharya Fleet Maull, M.A., is an author, meditation teacher, consultant, executive coach, trainer, university teacher, end of life educator and social activist working for peace, prison reform and social transformation. He is a student of the late Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition.   

  • Richard Davidson, PH.D.

    Dr. Davidson is a William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his PhD from Harvard University in Psychology and has been at Wisconsin since 1984. He has published more than 250 articles, chapters and reviews, and has edited 13 books. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his research, including the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association – the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.

  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.

    Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.   

THE TEAM:

Sarah Barab, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER Sarah is the founder of Naked Mind Productions- A production company dedicated to producing socially conscious Dharma-Inspired films. Sarah was a Theater Director and Actor until 2006 when she switched her career to film. Sarah is also a yoga and meditation teacher and professional astrologer.

Mevlut Akaya, PRODUCER Mevlut Akkaya is an award-winning producer and director of stage and screen, and an active member of the international entertainment community for over a decade. 

Sarah McCarron, WRITER Sarah McCarron holds an MFA from the London International School of the Performing Arts. She received grant funding to write and produce a play about Appalachia at the turn of the century, and was part of Centrifugue Ensemble, commissioned by the Bebersee International Musik Festival in Germany to produce an original play. She recently wrote for David Milch on the HBO television series Luck.

Paxton Winters, DP Paxton is an award-winning filmmaker whose feature debut CRUDE won “Best Feature Narrative” at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He has also made a number of other films, mostly focusing on the near East in the post-colonial era. 

Suparna Bhasin, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Founder and CEO of She Creates Change. Suparna is a successful entrepreneur devoted to creating personal and global transformation through empowering women to make their dreams a reality. She is a true visionary and teacher, inspiring a movement of change and infinite possibilities.  

Roy Gokay Wol, EDITOR AND ADDITIONAL CAMERA  Wol is a NY based Argentine-Israeli-Turkish filmmaker. He recently produced Flavio Alves' narrative TOM IN AMERICA starring academy nominated actors Burt Young & Sally Kirkland, Doug Karr’s feature narrative: ART MACHINE, starring Golden Globe nominee Joey Lauren Adams which premiered at the 2012 Woodstock Film Festival

William Karnett, STILL PHOTOGRAPHER, (ASIA) Bill is an intrepid traveler, poet, meditator, photographer and a lover of humanity. Bill has traveled the world widely and experiences life as sacred pilgrimage. His unique gifts as a photographer have been informed and inspired by his spiritual orientation and sacred outlook toward life. 

Artyom Ash, PRODUCTION MANAGER AND WEBMASTER Artyom has been involved with various creative, spiritual and humanitarian projects with the Earthville Network, an international NGO and band of Dharmic do-gooders since 2001, when he first came to India and fell in love with the people and the place. 

Aditya Prasad, SCIENTIFIC ADVISOR Aditya is a software engineer at Google. Prior to joining Google, he spent three months in retreat at the Vajra Vidya retreat center in Crestone, CO. Since then he has been passionate about sharing his experience and knowledge of meditation with others, and has given talks and classes at Google. 

Corey Kohn, CAMERA OPERATOR AND SOUND RECORDIST (ASIA) Corey's style as a visual producer and photographer is a reflection of her diverse experience working with clients and collaborators ranging from international NGOs to award-winning film production studios. 

Mari Plaza Munet,  PA, India A visual and media artist as well as a strategic planner, Mari is a specialist in public relations, project management, education and training who has worked on social justice art projects, public heath issues, and on conflict resolution and development. 

Claudio Bohórquez, COMPOSER, MUSICIAN Claudio Bohórquez was awarded the use of Pablo Casals’ Gofriller cello for 2 years after winning the top prize at the 2000 Casals Competition in Germany at the age of 24. 

Hayden Chisholm, COMPOSER, MUSICIAN
A New Zealand saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, and producer, Hayden has been at the forefront of the European music scene for over a decade. He currently records for the labels Nonplace and Plushmusic. 

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

At this point in the film we are 65% done with production. We are a NON-PROFIT organization and any and all funding left over from film production costs will go towards our outreach program that will bring meditation (via Buddhist teacher and activist Fleet Maull and filmmaker Sarah Barab) into veteran's hospitals, prisons, rural high schools, and universities. All donations are TAX-DEDUCTIBLE. We still have several key trips left to be made. Despite the fact that our budget has reflected the bare necessities of the film, each production trip requires anywhere between $3,000 - $15,000. This reality of filmmaking requires us to constantly fundraise, which is time-consuming and detracts from the creative process. One of the main challenges we face now is distilling the core values of the practice of meditation and its relevance to mainstream culture. Another challenge lies in presenting these valuable spiritual teachings in such a way that a widespread audience will be interested and inspired. Presenting this film from an objective and multi-faceted perspective which encompasses both the benefits and the potential dangers of meditation is fundamental to the integrity of the film. In order to accomplish this, we have found it necessary to interview meditation teachers, beginning and advanced meditators, neuroscientists, psychologists, and artists whose varied experiences with meditation illustrate diverse perspectives.

FAQ

  • We plan to document one of Machig's Dark Retreats without food or water. Machig's meditation box emits steam every few days, so her skin absorbs small amounts of water from the steam and it helps with hydration, even though she doesn't actually drink any water. It's possible that Dr. Richard Davidson will work with us in monitoring one of Machig's retreats to better understand the physiology and neuroscience of what she is capable of. We know, it's truly hard to believe! Thank you for your curiosity!

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  • We are a NON-PROFIT - all donations are tax-deductible and will go towards the costs of finishing the film and post-production. If there is excess funding (fingers crossed!) it will go towards Sarah Barab and Fleet Maull's outreach program focused on bringing the dharma and meditation practice to veteran's hospitals, prisons, rural high schools and universities throughout the United States and hopefully even overseas. Any funding left over from the outreach program will then go towards funding other socially-conscious projects through our production company.

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  • We are working hard to generate sub-titled versions of the trailer (and eventually the film when it is done.) For now we have Spanish, French and Portugese versions in the works! If you or someone you know would like to assist with transcription to other languages please email us: nakedmindfilm@gmail.com

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  • You can share our Facebook page and find us on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vimeo, Youtube and Google + under NakedMindFilm. You can also subscribe to our mailing list at www.nakedmindthefilm.org for film updates!

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