Finally saw the movie Inception on an airplane after many of my friends specifically told me that I would be the type of person who would love this film. It's a movie about a corporate espionage thief Dominic Cobb (played by Leonardo Dicaprio), whose work consists of secretly extracting valuable commercial information from the unconscious mind of his targets while they are asleep and dreaming.
It's hard to discuss this movie because the plot is rather complicated. To call the movie mind-blowing is rather an understatement. If you have not yet seen this movie, I highly recommended watching it to get your mind opened and stretched farther than it's been stretched in a very long time (brain yoga anyone?). If you have seen this film, I'd love to hear what are your thoughts about it. In this blog post, what I wanted to talk about is the concept of dream state vs. reality.
In the movie, Cobb and his team construct these multi-layered dreams and plant them into people's heads while they're sleeping. It's like kidnapping someone and putting them into an artificial environment, except it all happens in the subject's head. If you try to rationalize the details, the whole movie doesn't really make sense because the entire team hops around between different team members' dreams. You just have to put your inner critic on hold and pretend this is possible to enjoy the movie. Since these people spend so much time in people's dreams, each member needs a way to check that if he/she's awake or still dreaming (a totem). What Cobb uses is a top that keeps on spinning in dream worlds and only stops spinning if he's back to reality.
Have you thought you've woken up, but you're actually still dreaming? I've never had any dreams as elaborate as the ones shown in the movie (my mind is nowhere as vividly creative as the writer/director Christopher Nolan's). However, I have had the experience of going about in my fantasy dreamland, heard my alarm clock ringing, opening my eyes to see my bedroom and my alarm clock, hitting the snooze/off button, and feeling confused/frustrated that it just kept ringing no matter how many times I tried to press the button or shake the clock. It seemed so real, until I woke up again, in shock, but finally managing to shut off the alarm for real. So my reality-check device is my alarm clock. The good old pinching technique also works quite well. Is it just me, or has anyone else ever tried to pinch themselves learned that they were still dreaming because it didn't hurt?
So what does this have to do with yoga? Well, for me, to differentiate between sleeping dreaming state and waking state is not too hard; the above mentioned techniques can do the trick. It's difficult for me to differentiate between zoning out while being awake and being truly in touch with reality. I spend an abnormal amount of time in my own head, daydreaming with my eyes open. I'm not always aware of this. Sometimes hours pass, or a whole day goes by before I realize I've just been sitting in front of the computer and absolute no work got done.
Yoga forces me to snap out of my zoning-out state. Most yoga standing poses place us in positions that require us to exert our conscious efforts in order to maintain still, whether it's a triangle pose, a forward fold, a warrior pose, or even the simple mountain pose. If I zone out in any of the poses, I literally fall over. Isn't it crazy that I can drive from my home to my school in auto-pilot mode (not recommended, but it happens to me all the time), but not while doing yoga? I love snowboarding for the same reason. Even though gravity does most of the work dragging me down a mountain on a waxed board, if my mind drifts off and leave reality, the board could catch an edge at any time and throw me on the ground.
What is it about reality that makes me want to avoid it throughout the day? It's the obligations, the mundane, the absurdity, the tiresomeness, the impurity, the ugliness, the unfairness, the injustice, the unpredictability, and my profound feeling of utter helplessness.
What is it about reality that I want to get in touch with? The beauty, the vivid colors and images I can't seem to reproduce in my mind, the creativity of others, the unexpected acts of kindness, the warm connections shared among living beings (however briefly each one lasts), the mind-blowing ideas/creations/naturally occurring events I can't possibly dream up with my own puny brain, the intense sensations, the rush of adrenaline, the pleasant surprises, the positive side of unpredictability.
Again, trying to say a whole bunch of ideas in one post. I am amazed how Christopher Nolan managed to pull that off in 2 hours. He literally put forth like a million concepts into one movie, and among all the complexity it's still magically coherent, understandable, and immensely enjoyable. I'll keep working on it but until I get there one day, my apologies for not always making sense :)