I’ve seen two movies in recent months that kept me riveted to the screen. Both were dramatic survival stories about one person facing impossibly challenging circumstances alone. Both stories were portrayed by excellent actors, Sandra Bullock in the film Gravity, and Robert Redford in All is Lost.
I was immediately sucked into both movies; caught up in the tense battle for life and the almost super-human effort put forth to fight all the forces conspiring against the heroes. Both stories are fiction, but it didn’t matter to me; I was impressed with the strength and courage it took to make the films and the principles of indomitable courage and perseverance they held out for the audience. I was inspired.
I’ll admit I wanted to be drawn in. These films came at a time in my life when the solutions to my challenges were not immediately obvious, and the Hollywood version of life, with solutions written by a team of writers who know the end of the story, was somewhat appealing and exhilarating. I let myself enjoy the drama and excitement, artificial as it was.
Perhaps because I’m a girl, I found it easier to imagine myself in Sandra Bullock’s adventure than as Robert Redford’s tough old guy at sea. So at the end of the story, I felt almost as if we had done it together. Such is the magic and allure of Hollywood.
However, as I watched Robert in his battle with the unrelenting power of the ocean, I was a bit more detached and I realized something. Nowhere in the film is there a mention of God, or even a hint that the central character has a thought about God during this struggle between life and death, hope and despair, joy and pain. (There are actually only a few spoken words in the whole movie.) I realized that I was superimposing a spiritual dialogue into the script with my own inner thoughts. With each new twist in the circumstances, I had an internal conversation that sounded something like this:
“Okay Master, what do you want me to do now?”
“Take one step at a time, deal with the hole in the boat.”
“You’re right, of course, the first step is to deal with the hole. But you have to help, I can’t do it alone.”
“Check the supplies, you have what you need if you look carefully. Don’t rush.”
“Okay, I can stay calm if you are here. Let’s find the supplies and get started.”
It was a fascinating realization that after 30 years of discipleship to Paramhansa Yogananda, I’m not able to face life any other way, even while watching a movie. Imagining myself in those circumstances meant imagining my guru there as well. I tried to turn off my part of the script and just tune in as an “average” viewer. Wow, that was an eye opener. Without the guru/God dialogue the stories take on a whole other meaning. They tell us that through our own will power and ego driven desire to live, we can succeed against any circumstance and we have nothing to depend upon except our self. The story was just too limited and small when I looked at it like that, so I allowed my inner script to run again, and enjoyed the rest of the movie.
I hope you have stayed with me this far, because this is the important part of this post: I want to add my testimony to all spiritual seekers who have come before. We are all on the spiritual path, and whether you have a guru or not, there is a power and grace that is ever-existing, ever-conscious, and ever-new, and you are a part of it. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
(Spoiler alert!) As Robert Redford rises out of the depths of the ocean and stretches up to grab the hand that is reaching down to lift him out of the darkness, my inner script said joyfully, “Thank you, beloved guru!”