More American soldiers commit suicide after they return from war, than are being killed in the war. Most of
the war veterans suffer from PTSD.
Steve is one of the proud American veterans who just returned from Afghanistan. He was an interrogator and very good at his job.
Now, back home, he suffers from sleepless nights and bad conscience because of all the terrible things he did during the war. He has a lot of anger and fear for the future and is struggling to be a good father for his two-year-old twins.
Brain scientist Professor Richard Davidson sets up his mind to conduct an unusual experiment: He will teach
American war veterans and children meditation and yoga. Can veterans through meditation and yoga ease their
pain and nervous system, find happiness and be more peaceful and get back to a life more like the one they
had before the war?
By studying Buddhist monks Richard Davidson has found that it is possible to rewire your brain through meditation. Some of the effects are that you become more altruistic, compassionate and happy. But Richard Davidson also wants to study how early in life you can start, using the same methods of meditation and yoga in an experiment with children with ADHD.
Davidson sets up his experiment and chooses the veterans for the experiment. We are following Steve, the
ex-interrogator, and Rich who was a very successful leader for battalions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He feels
responsible for not being able to save his friends that were killed during the war. Rich becomes more and
more closed up and can't tell his wife about his memories.
Through the film, we experience what meditation does to human beings and we investigate, if we, by using other methods than taking medicine to ease our pain, can get less stressful, and happy.
We are entering a new era - a Renaissance where everything gets turned up side down. In all fields, science makes new discoveries that constantly change our world view and leave nothing the way we first assumed. Our knowledge expands and gets more complex. Constantly, new fundamental questions are raised about who we are as human beings. The more questions asked, the more obvious it is to me how many things we still don't understand. I find that very inspiring!
FREE THE MIND is the second part of my trilogy on the fundamental human questions. The first film "Mechanical love" (2007) was about robot science. Characteristic for both films is their location in the field where science meets reality and where scientists use dashes and question marks instead of dots. In "Free The Mind" the central questions are: What is a thought and how does it create a manifestation in the body? Can we make a physical change of the brain only by the power of thoughts?
My personal reason for choosing this subject was sudden panic attacks a couple of years ago. It was a very
physical experience, and I felt as if the record in my mind was stuck and that it took a physical effort to
get the pick up back in the groove. I found that meditation could be the push I needed, and I became
interested in understanding how it was linked. It made me want to open up the skull and look into the brain
and se what was really happening during meditation.
FREE THE MIND is the result of that study. The film is not an answer but the beginning of an ongoing debate on what the human being is.
Phie Ambo, May 2012
About Phie Ambo
Phie Ambo has directed a number of award-winning films for the cinema, including major works such as Family (2001), Gambler (2005) and Mechanical Love (2007). Her films have been screened in cinemas as well as over 90 festivals and on television throughout the world.
Ambo is mainly interested in big questions such as 'what makes us human as opposed to robots?' (Mechanical Love) and 'can you re-sculpture your brain, thoughts and feelings?' (Free the Mind). Those two films are part of her trilogy on fundamental human questions.
Her intimate method of filming allows her to blend in with her surroundings. As a result of this method, one of Ambo's trademarks is universally human stories that get very close to their characters and allow them space to unfold.
About Sigrid Dyekjaer
Sigrid Dyekjaer has produced more than 20 documentary films, among them The Monastery - Mr. Vig and the Nun in 2006 by Pernille Rose Groenkjaer, winner of Joris Ivens Award,
The Good Life in 2011 by Eva Mulvad in competition feature length at IDFA, Amsterdam and Tribeca New York, winner in Karlovy Vary and winner of Doc Alliance Award, Mechanical Love by Phie Ambo (2007) competition Joris Ivens Award in Amsterdam and Gambler (2006) also by Phie Ambo.
This year Love Addict by Pernille Rose Groenkjaer was shown in Amsterdam too at the world's biggest festival for documentary films.
About Richard Davidson
PROFESSOR RICHARD DAVIDSON is one of the world's leading neuroscientists. He is a professor with a passion for meditation research and has been meditating for the past 30 years himself, in the beginning of his career not so openly, though - as he puts it: 'I was a closet meditator'.
In 1992 he met the Dalai Lama and he encouraged Davidson to apply the same rigorous methods that we use to study depression and anxiety to compassion and kindness. Ever since then Davidson has been very public about his meditation practice and has opened a center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison called Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.
This film is recorded at this center and the experiments are the virgin steps into the vast and unknown
territory of the brain.
About Emma Seppala
DR. EMMA SEPPALA, a graduate of
Yale and Stanford, is a dedicated young research scientist in Richard Davidson's laboratory.
Devastated by the rate of suicides in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Emma is passionate about helping veterans.
She knows that traditional treatments like therapy and drugs are often ineffective. She has heard that yoga, yogic breathing and meditation may be helpful for veterans with trauma. She therefore has dedicated herself wholeheartedly to scientifically examining the impact of yoga-based breathing, sudarshan kriya yoga, for veterans.
In her study, she recruits 20 veterans recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with trauma. 10 of these veterans will learn an intervention that may change their life.
About Center for Investigating Healthy Minds
Science and society have spent decades understanding how the mind copes with negative emotions. And yet, with all the tools and knowledge this research has produced, we know very little about how we can change our minds for the better. What if science shifted its focus? What if researchers began applying their state-of-the-art methods to investigate what a healthy mind looks like? And what if these findings and insights led to new and innovative ways of investing in health, and not disease?
The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM), at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is at the forefront of this scientific revolution. Located within one of the most powerful academic institutions in the world, equipped with one of the best laboratories for brain imaging research, and built upon the internationally established reputation of CIHM Founder Richard Davidson and his team, the Center is poised to rigorously explore the full capabilities of the human mind.
Established in 2008, the Center represents an intersection of contemplative traditions and modern neuroscience. The Center's diverse range of research projects are studying whether and how contemplative traditions can physically change our brains and also help us live healthier, happier lives. There is also a commitment to study these different practices beyond the walls of a laboratory, employing a dual-focus of both basic and translational research. This approach allows the CIHM team to continue investigating the biological and physical changes in the brain while also applying it to real world settings - like classrooms and healthcare settings - where the opportunity to change lives can be felt immediately.
Will is 5 years old and suffers from ADHD. His mother gave him up for adoption when he was just a baby, and the couple that adopted him would like to find out whether it is possible to help him get more control over his emotions
- without medication, but through yoga and meditation. One of the things Will cannot deal with is an elevator. He gets huge panic attacks if he thinks about elevators due to a very bad incident that once happened to him, being stuck in an elevator all alone.
In the film, we follow Will while he learns how to meditate and do yoga. Will he manage to get his anxiety under control and finally be able to take the elevator up to the 6th floor?
Steve is a veteran from the war in Afghanistan. Steve was an MI Soldier and interrogator and disturbingly good at his job. Back home in Madison, he now suffers from bad conscience because of all the terrible things he did during the war.
He also suffers from sleepless nights and has to take medicine to get any rest; he suffers from anger problems and fear of the future.
He is a father of two-year-old twins. His marriage is struggling and it's very hard for him to share the horrible experiences that he has had at war...
Rich was a very successful leader for battalions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rich feels he was responsible for not being able to save his friends who were killed during the war. He often feels that he should have been the one who was killed instead of his friends.
He cannot forget the horrible incidents he experienced during the war, and back home in Madison he becomes more and more closed emotionally. He simply cannot get himself to tell his wife or his friends about the traumatic things he experienced at war, and his wife eventually ends up leaving him.
In the film, we follow him during the experiment and back home alone in his house with his dog. Will he manage to control his emotions, rewire his brain and get happiness back into his life?
About Danish Documentary
The company is founded and co-owned by four celebrated Danish documentary directors, Phie Ambo, Pernille Rose Groenkjaer, Eva Mulvad and Mikala Krogh, together with internationally acclaimed film producer Sigrid Dyekjaer.
All four directors are famous for their cinematic take on reality, and their films have been screened worldwide in both cinema theatres and on television.
Their back cataloque include a series of internationally appraised documentary films winning numerous prestigious prizes all over the world, among many others IDFA's Joris Ivens Award, Sundance and CPH:DOX.
DANISH DOCUMENTARY PRODUCTION
c/o Duckling, Sankt Annae Plads 10b,
1250 Copenhagen, Denmark
Producer Sigrid Dyekjaer
DR INTERNATIONAL SALES
Phone: +45 3520 3040,
Mobile: +45 2854 2299
Emil Holms Kanal 20,
0999 Copenhagen, Denmark
Q & A FROM THE PREMIERE (FIRST 2 MINS IN DANISH)
ABOUT RICHARD DAVIDSON
ABOUT FINDING WILL
ABOUT HAVING PANIC ATTACKS
Plants Need Love!
Soldiers doing breathing Excercises
Steve feels anxious
Will gets a mind jar
Soldier and children doing yoga
Emma about the program
Richard Davidson about compassion meditation
Steve about being a soldier
Will and the elevator
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"We actually have no idea of how conscious
experience arises from this blob of matter that weighs three pounds. It's really still very much a mystery."
Dr. Richard Davidson about the brain.
"The sense, the smells, the images, the sounds, the... Some of those pictures I'll
Rich, ex soldier about his experiences in war.
"There's a region of the brain called the insula that's literally used for interacting
between the mind and the body.
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."
Dr. Richard Davidson on compassion meditation.
"The person I had to be to do my job was a
horrible person in my eyes. A horrible person.
And I was good at it."
Steve, ex soldier.
"We can actually be happier people. We can suffer less if we take responsibility for
our own mind."
Dr. Richard Davidson.
"It has changed my life in ways I never thought possible. I feel happy: Like a kid
Rich about participating in the program.
"The brain is the most complicated organ in the universe. We've only taken the first
very, very small baby step. We're just beginning this journey."
Dr Richard Davidson.
"Continual practice is something very important and it's kind of like physical
exercise. You don't go to a spa for 10 days and exercise and think that the benefits will last for the
remainder of your life if you don't continue to practice, and meditation is very similar."
Dr. Richard Davidson.
"A lot of our daily lives are spent in social interaction with other people. Much of
that information is not conscious, we're just not aware of it.
After 3 months of meditation practice people are able to notice much more subtle things in their environment which would lead people to be better at picking up on others."
Dr. Richard Davidson.
"Maybe I haven't really lived since I've been back. I've been just kinda ...
Rich about returning from war.