Ever wondered what it would be like to let go of anxiety, self doubt, fear and all the other hindrances of the mind? The Danish documentary “Free the Mind” is trying to give some answers to these burning questions.
The film follows a number of war veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a little boy who is afraid of riding the elevator after having gotten stuck in one for hours.
The soldiers are portrayed sitting in a meditation class, where they learn how to use their breath to get centered, and how to release frightening memories that hold them back from living a normal and fulfilling life.
“There’s a region of the brain called the insula that’s literally used for interacting between the mind and the body”, explains Richard Davidson, researcher and scientist and the University of Minnesota.
“This area is dramatically enhanced in its activation during compassion meditation and will enable practitioners who practice compassion meditation regularly to feel the emotion of others more easily.”
Davidson, who was one of the first scientists to explore how meditation is affecting emotions and consciousness, reminds us that the brain is still very much a mystery. It is not known how conscious experience is arising from our brain matter, which leaves the door open for all kinds of explanations how the mind heals itself.
In a scholarly paper about the neuroscience of consciousness, which was co-authored by Davidson, the scientists point out that the brain is in bidirectional communication with the nervous, the endocrine and immune systems of the body, i.e. if meditation has an impact on calming the brain, it may also have an effect on these other systems.
Meditation is one proven remedy against anxiety. Gradually pushing through the fear is another. It is impressively demonstrated when the film follows the development of the five year old boy who is afraid of elevators.
His kindergarten teacher gently encourages him to try and take a short ride, first by announcing that they will go there together and just look inside. When on the day of their first attempt he starts crying and gets sad, they postpone the trip to another day.
But his teacher doesn’t lose sight of the task, and brings up their plan again. They go and inspect the elevator, leaving its doors open, and walk back out.
Some days later they finally tackle the challenge, and the little boy – holding his teacher’s hand and accompanied by a couple of friends – overcomes his fear and masters the task.
Gerti Schoen is a writer and psychotherapist. In her spare time she enjoys learning, being in nature and around animals.