What miracle product gives you happiness, compassion, and perhaps more surprisingly, toned abs, a fulfilling sex life, and a healthy bank balance? The answer will amaze you. It's the same product that connects the Dalai Lama and Rupert Murdoch; meditation.
Murdoch recently owned up to using meditation as one of his tools for life, although he described it as difficult to start. The Dalai Lama gets up at 3.30 am every single day and has completed something like 100 000 hours of meditation in his life. He is believed to be one of the happiest people on the planet. According to the US edition of the Huffington Post, meditation is also the daily habit of various, outrageously successful people, such as Russell Brand, Arianna Huffington, Ray Dalio, Oprah Winfrey, and David Lynch.
One of the extraordinary results of a 21st century mind practice, originating centuries before Christ, is a simple and powerful link to clarity, compassion, healing and transcendence, without dogma or religious messages. It works. It works not only in the most challenging environments, such as prisons, violent schools, hospices and hospitals, but also in other less extreme places, such as banks and industries. It makes people better, pretty much whatever the issue.
Surprisingly, there are very few self-confessed practitioners in the UK's top rung, although this could be about to change; the practice is now filtering into the NHS, and the wellness industry, and it's suggested that we will see meditation centres open on every UK high street, in a similar fashion to the now ubiquitous, yoga centre.
To give access to this hidden potential of the mind, and to attempt to leave a legacy behind, that is not just about me and mine, we are making a film; HereNowNeverNowhere. Zen monk, and former Hollywood actor, Andreas Wisniewski (Die Hard, James Bond), a Zen master, plus me, Evening Standard journalist, and now yoga and meditation teacher. We're taking the audience on a journey into their own minds; to an awakened mind state which is the goal of a meditation practice, a kind of shortcut to the experience of a long term meditator. We are aiming to give people the bliss without the arduous journey. (http://youtu.be/NI5MigAurm8)
We want to push out the film towards some of the 1.36 billion people, who go to the 130 000 cinemas in the world. If even a fraction of these people glimpsed the benefits of meditation, the world would be a better place. Once the tipping point is reached, as Malcolm Gladwell identified, mass consciousness shifts.
Even this far along the line, we've come across a zeitgeist aspect to the process. Meditation is growing. Fast. But entertainment is also changing. It's becoming transformational. There is even a name for the new genre: transformational entertainment. It's established in the US but has yet to embed in the UK. Eckhart Tolle, the world's leading spiritual author (according to the New York Times) is already working on a film, Milton's Secret, and the actor Jim Carrey is working with the Gate (Global Alliance For Transformational Entertainment) organisation, also to promote the genre where the audience gets to actualize self-development, often in a cinema setting. Think popcorn with huge benefits.
So, in Berlin and London, we are busy with getting the film off the ground. 4 am wake up calls, with meditation and bowing, followed by 6am breakfasts. We, currently 2 nations, 6 children, 3 ex-partners, numerous friends, and bits of Hollywood, are all working on this, this film HereNowNeverNowhere. It is pulling together the strengths of a patchwork family.
The first target has been to launch an Indiegogo fundraising campaign. Learning how to become a crowd funder is akin to starting up a political party from scratch in a foreign country. Tough. We have needed 40 days worth of material - including parties, stunts, logos, videos, Facebook updates, Twitter updates, websites, perks or rewards - so it's engaging new energies. In the UK the crowdfunding market is only at 5% of its capacity, and the industry is predicted to grow twenty fold within 2 or 3 years.
For the stunt we put together the Brandenburg campaign. Family and friends spent 2 days in front of slightly alarmed tourists, in zazen (sitting meditation) before the lofty reaches of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. On the first day the sun shone, the samadhi was deep and the tourists took numerous photos and videos, but the second day was wet, the 12 year old cried, and we simply looked mad.
It's a roller coaster. The downs of yesterday are countered by the excitement of the day. Yes!! A call from director Shekhar Kapur, who is also working out how to save the world and wants to discuss methodology. Yes!! An offer of money from a famous actor friend. Yes!! The outstanding Italian cellist , Giovanni Sollima, agrees to compose the music.
There's a growing and natural enthusiasm for the project out there but I'm struggling sometimes to be Zen about it when... Shit!! One of the exes refuses to pay a bill, or look after the children. Oh no, the thunderous bad mood of one of us threatens to derail the process.
When it gets really bleak, all that's left is the knowledge that anything really worth having, really worth doing is often just plain bloody difficult. And in this paradox there's hope. Not just for us, but for all of the people engaged in difficulty. It's not about us. It's about others.