25 April 2013
RETREAT follows thirty-five Westerners as they attempt an intense, eight-week, silent, meditation retreat in Thailand led by the American Buddhist teacher, B. Alan Wallace. Some are experienced meditators, some are beginners. They're learning shamatha, or calm abiding...stilling the mind with sustained, one-pointed, concentration...simple enough sounding, but extremely difficult to do for more than a minute or so, and especially difficult to master...maintaining the object of concentration for up to four hours. Alan Wallace, formerly a Tibetan Buddhist monk and academic, teaches it through a Buddhist understanding of consciousness - in contrast to the prevailing materialist paradigm of modern neuroscience. The film follows the retreat from start to finish. Problems arise when one retreatant has a sustained psychotic episode and the emotional fallout threatens to unravel the retreat. In the end it comes together in touching new ways.
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