August 3, 2010

The Yoga of Inception.

Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character’s job in ‘Inception’ is like teaching yoga.

This may seem like kind of a stretch…but I could see the connections in Ari Pliskin’s post, A Buddhist Take on Inception and while the concepts also apply yogically, I am inspired to describe aspects of the movie from my yoga-centric viewpoint.

In Inception, a vital concept is that of shared dreaming. People are connected with a device through a tube with a needle stuck into the wrist, like an IV, and they enter a shared dream space. (Since I don’t like needles, I  just connected my movie ticket to my wrist for the picture.)

Three ways Mr. Cobb’s job is similar to teaching yoga.

1. You end up working on yourself as you are trying to effect other people.

In Inception Leonardo DiCaprio’s Mr. Cobb goes into a person’s mind through a dream to effect change in them—but when he gets there he also finds opportunities to face his own demons as the dreams trigger his own subconscious mind.

When teaching yoga, it is also important to see clearly as we seek to help others with yoga technique. But we all have vision that is skewed based on our education, culture and fears. So when someone takes on the role of a , of these imbalances of perception can show up in class. One way to see this might be to notice if there are certain students that you favor and people you avoid. If you avoid an overweight student, for example, maybe you are ascribing certain qualities to this person that don’t belong there—essentially projecting onto them your own fears of becoming heavy. This is something we can work on and perfect, providing more even attention to all yoga students.

2. If you don’t do your own personal work, it can get in the way.

When Mr. Cobb is in denial of the subconscious projection that is haunting him, she shows up ever more vividly. Denial is not the way to neutralize something that requires attention. Eventually the late Mrs. Cobb must be dealt with.

In teaching yoga there is also a necessity to work with one’s self, lest we become blocked. I remember the morning I found out that Mother was in the hospital. I went to teach, like usual, but it was such an effort. I was distracted. There was something important for me to address. So as soon as I finished teaching that morning I made the necessary flight arrangements, and went.

I came back to teaching clear and present after my trip—I had taken care of a personal need allowing me to be there for students, again.

3. Life has uniquely prepared you for the challenges you will experience.

Cobb was the only one on the Inception dream team that had been lost in the infinite, unstable subconscious mind. So when one of them got lost there after a fatal wound in dreamland, Cobb was uniquely prepared to find him with the aim of bringing him back.

Yoga is like this for me, too. The most fascinating coincidences occur. And perhaps students are drawn to me who have had similar difficulties in life. Finding a sense of strength and stability in myself through yoga has been something of a revelation for me (I know I’m not alone in this.). So when I come across students seeking a sense of physical empowerment and openness I can really relate, and have a lot to offer since I have walked a similar way.

The Architect’s Promise.

One of the jobs in this drug-induced, technologically enabled connected dream process is an architect. The architect creates the scene or space that the dream will take place in, and the dreamer populates the constructed space with their subconscious mind. And isn’t that just a metaphor for movie making…I found that the movie, Inception operates in just this way.

As you might have already noticed, I’ve populated the structure of the movie with what I’m up to in my life right now by making a connection between teaching yoga—what I do—with what the protagonist does—navigate dreams. I think that this is exactly what happens as we watch this movie: we place ourselves and our stories in the open structure provided by the dreamers in the movie. So there is an architect for the movie dreamers, and the movie itself is the “architecture” for our own projections as we watch it.

There was a promise in the movie between a man and woman that came up again and again in the movie, “…you said that we would grow old together.” Isn’t this just how the mind works? Over time we might grow to regret, or become embittered based on remembering just such a promise when the time for that relationship has past. So I totally projected my own sense of loss, loneliness and guilt onto this scenario in the movie. And I completely suspect that I am not the only one…

Films are always manipulative—and this film takes manipulation to the max. The movie starts with a “test job” (see the movie twice to see what I mean) happening on multiple dream levels—which is, of course, totally confusing, but also super fun.

And in the end I don’t think that the distinction between what is real and what is a dream is clear. I actually think that everything in the movie is a mix of memories and dreams and nothing is happening in real time—a groundless movie world that is highly entertaining because there are just enough details that connect, so it seems like things are really happening, but it is actually very circular, and perhaps really a labyrinth like the architect in the movie has built for the movie dreamers.

The filmmakers have actually given real movie-viewers a similar experience. Yogically-speaking, the movie represents Maya (illusion): an experience where all is illusion and dream.

The yoga of Inception is maya.


Other Elephant coverage of Inception:

The First Solar-Powered Movie is…

Inception gets more Awesome.

A Buddhist Take on Inception.

* Article provided compliments of Yogic Muse *

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