The stories presented in The Mindfulness Movement are powerful and important, but it all should have been a lot more fun. Directed by Robert Beemer, who did such mesmerizing work with the television series “The Universe,” The Mindfulness Movement takes an important, historically and culturally rich subject and turns it into something more akin to a celebrity lifestyle or product to be peddled.

The Mindfulness Movement follows four practitioners and discusses the problems in their pasts that led them to mindfulness, tells of their mindfulness education and then catches up with them in the “current day.” These folks are famous pop/folk singer Jewel (also an executive producer), ABC news anchor Dan Harris, a mindfulness sports consultant named George Mumford and Sharon Salzberg, an author and meditation teacher who cofounded an organization called the Insight Meditation Center. All four individuals have rich, interesting stories to tell, though because they are also working in the field of mindfulness, Mumford and Salzberg’s parts occasionally feel like commercials and/or motivational speeches. Harris’ journey is striking because he struggled with anxiety and panic attacks in such a public forum while Jewel’s journey intrigues because it seems as if she’s been famous forever and we should know more about her past by now. Of course, as it turns out, Jewel also has skin in the game, as she runs a foundation called Never Broken that teaches mindfulness techniques to at-risk youth, but even when commercial-adjacent, her journey is more inspiring than sales-pitchy.

Motivations aside, the other issue with these stories is that they are occasionally presented in dramatized retellings that feel like old episodes of “Unsolved Mysteries” or “Rescue 911.” When that isn’t happening, footage from the institutes highlighted in the documentary is used, which makes it hard to feel like we’re getting an objective view of mindfulness practices. This is a shame, because when the experts do pop up to talk about how mindfulness can help the brain, help trauma survivors, help prisoners and much more, it is genuinely interesting and exciting. But audiences are wary of being coerced into patterns of thought and The Mindfulness Movement will struggle in that regard.

While there are brief mentions of the historical and cultural roots of mindfulness, particularly regarding Salzburg’s story, as part of her mindfulness education took place in India, the film would really have benefited from more. Because there are so many different mindfulness practices, tracing their lineage for differences and commonalities would have provided genuine intrigue. Instead, that information serves as context rather than content in terms of The Mindfulness Movement.

Also present here is Deepak Chopra, who has done so much for taking mindfulness into the mainstream (in tandem with Oprah, who makes a quick appearance) but who is underused. By focusing so much on the stories of its four primary subjects, The Mindfulness Movement sacrifices content that would get viewers more interested in exploring mindfulness in their own lives.

If you’re looking for a more insightful documentary about celebrity meditation practices, David Lynch’s Meditation, Creativity, Peace is intriguing and also provides actual insight into the effects that mindfulness can have on creative work. There are others as well, Lynch’s is just fun because of how clearly it ties to his actual creative output. The Mindfulness Movement suffers under scrutiny because it doesn’t do justice to its important subject or the dynamic individuals who practice it. Still, it might open doors and provide information for further exploration, and in that case it will have fulfilled its apparent aspirations.

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