Art of Living Review.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” and Spirituality

Non-Violence Is Its Own Power:

Science fiction blockbusters such as those in the “X-Men” series of movies have mostly been popular for their action sequences and amazing special effects. One normally would not look to such films for their spiritual guidance. However, just as one cannot find beautiful diamonds without first digging through the rough, sci-fi blockbuster movies similarly have true spiritual gems among them. One of these spiritual gems is the most recent of the X-Men series of films, “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

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The basic premise of the film itself is ripe for exploration from a spiritual and moral standpoint. For those who don’t know what the X-Men series of films is about: the X-Men series of films are based upon the comic books of the same name, in which the superheroes in question – the X-Men – are simply born with their superpowers through genetic mutation. While they do their duty to save humanity, they are also feared and reviled by humanity itself, by virtue of the fact that their superpowers set them apart from the rest. The comic book franchise was in fact inspired by the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s, and while the struggle of the superheroes of the X-Men franchise to be accepted by the rest of humanity isn’t exactly identical to the struggle against racism during the period that inspired the comic books, it does have some parallels.

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Where the film “X-Men: Days of Future Past” really gets its spiritual standpoint is not just from the premise of the original comic books, but also from the movie’s plot, which involves time travel. While the concept of time travel has been explored in many other sci-fi blockbusters, the particular plot of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” has a unique spiritual and moral angle to it.

 At the start of the movie, it is revealed that humanity is being systematically exterminated by robotic drones called Sentinels, who were originally created to hunt down and destroy mutants such as the X-Men. As for what causes this dark future, this is where it gets interesting: the start of the catastrophic chain of events that leads to this outcome is none other than the actions of one particular mutant who goes by the alias of Mystique. What she does to start this chain reaction is that she assassinates the CEO of the weapons manufacturing company that creates the Sentinels – she wanted to stop the persecution of mutants such as the X-Men through her deeds, but instead ends up causing their annihilation, as well as that of the rest of humanity!

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This basic plot point alone speaks volumes about issues such as violence, especially from a spiritual standpoint. One obvious statement the movie makes is – violence never leads to anywhere good, as its results never lead to where one wants. But if violence isn’t the answer, what would be the answer in the face of the oppression that the superheroes of the X-Men series face?

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This leads to the actions of the other characters and how they fit in. For instance, the actions of the leader of the X-Men, known as Professor X, are aimed at “showing [the humans] a better path” – in this case, demonstrating that the X-Men are true heroes, who are willing to do the right thing, and not resort to the baseness of violence. However, non-violence in the case of the movie does not mean non-action; “X-Men: Days of Future Past” wouldn’t be much of an action movie for one thing if this was the case! Rather, the better path that Professor X speaks of is showing that the X-Men are indeed human – having all the virtues as well as faults thereof – and being human, deserving of the recognition of their rights that all other humans deserve.

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This is demonstrated by one of the conflicts of the movie – the X-Men have their less-than-virtuous counterparts, mutants lead by the villainous Magneto. Magneto is a villain who wouldn’t stop where Mystique would have stopped – he would have kept on killing, following the path of violence to its ultimate conclusion. And it is worth noting that in the dark future that starts the movie, Magneto has in fact joined the X-Men, seeing that violence has defined the dark future he helped create, and is one of the mutants who helps with the time travel process to undo the damage done.

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This demonstrates the spirituality of non-violence on many levels. One level is of having faith in humanity’s better side and hope that this better side will prevail; another being that violence and killing is the most negative way of altering the future; and especially the level where nothing in the future is set in stone, that evil prevailing is not inevitable, and that choosing a better path is always within our reach.

The X-Men series of movies may be considered popular “popcorn movies” on the surface, but “X-Men: Days of Future Past” transcends that label, as it uses the conventions of such “popcorn movies” to express some deep spiritual truths, especially concerning resistance against oppression and the ultimate negativity of violent resistance. One normally wouldn’t expect as much out of a popular movie… and perhaps that is why it is popular in the first place!

– by Phillip Miner

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Art of Living Experiences.

I met him when I was sixteen. There was something about him but I didn’t quite know what which made me feel that feeling whose name I didn’t know. Was it those eyes flowing with kindness? Or that smile that conveyed “Everything is alright. I’m here.” He had a soft and reassuring presence and I wanted more of that.

It got very quickly to the stage where I could not take him out of my mind. I was surprised, “Why is my first thought of the day as I get off the bed about him? Who is he? Why does he seem so important to me?” But I did not search intensely for answers partly because I knew nobody could tell me and largely because I was enjoying whatever was happening to me. There was a spring in my step, even when things weren’t smooth, like during exams :)

Life had suddenly become beautiful because his eyes, his smile, his words and his silence had somehow conveyed that he knew. I had no idea what, but it was something I knew nobody else knew. Did he know what life is and why it is like it is? This made it all the more exciting because so far, I hadn’t seen anybody interested in finding out or in letting me find out. But if he really did know, he seemed in no great hurry to share this secret. I figured I was going to have to wait.

However, I could not stop wondering how he could make so many people so happy? And without doubt, he was having the same effect on me. What was he up to? What did he want? Because everybody wants something. I watched him over the years, from a distance and up close. If there is something he wants, it is to give, that’s where his joy lies. Making people smile is not that difficult – a little charm and wit will suffice. But keeping the smile on them even when they are going through adversity is a tougher gig to pull off. It means hours and hours of listening each time they are going through a breakdown; it means hand-holding them each time they cry out for help. It means being prepared to wait for years just to allow them to realize that all they have to do is smile.

If the measure of a person lies in what he shares, Sri Sri’s vastness is hard to put within boundaries. The mad rush of people forever running after him is only an outer reflection of his inner richness. It is a sign of what he has given to their lives that they so desperately want to thank him for, not knowing how. When everything that you can wish for is dwarfed by what you are being given anyway, what do you wish for?

If I had to ask for something, what would it be?

Comforts had their charm earlier but after meeting You,

I realized that the pain of love is the only comfort for lovers.

I thought all my desires had left me wiser

but my desire for You has only grown not sated.

I felt blessed for all that had been given to me until it dawned

that the greatest fortune is to be ruined in love.

I believed wealth, power and fame counted in this world

but they are just toys in this enchanting toy shop.

I was frightened by the thought of being separated from You

and now waiting for You is what keeps me alive.

I trod cautiously because I thought I had a good chance

but am unstoppable now that I have lost all hope.

I was afraid I would forget You for this world

and now everything in it reminds me of You.

I thought all I had to do was to stay in my senses

and here I am, unable to hide my madness anymore.

I remember the moment time stopped forever

when You turned and looked into my eyes

I knew life was made and all else was mere detail.

Art of Living Experiences.

 

I was going through a very rough patch in my life. I’d just lost my father to cancer and my relationship with my boyfriend was also ending. I was in bad shape, really bad shape. I wasn’t sleeping well and I felt reluctant to get out of bed every morning. I went to my doctor and became one of the millions dependent on anti-depressants.

 

This was my existence until the summer of 1999. A friend of mine had taken this “Art of Living” course and he insisted that I do it too. After months of pestering, I decided that I would take the course only to see what sort of cult he had gotten himself into. I decided that my last act as his friend would be to see what sort of de-programming he would need.

 

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The first session of the program we learned a strange thing called, “Pranayama.”  It was more than foreign to me, but it seemed harmless enough so I participated. That night when I got home, I slept better than I had in at least ten years. So I decided to show up for the next session.

 

Then we did this breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya. I found it very difficult to do. I peeked at what was going on around in the room, basically minding everyone else’s business. But even though I had my eyes open most of the time, not keeping the rhythm, I still felt really good afterwards. Someone made some funny noise in the room and that was it. We laughed for what seemed like an hour. That afternoon I did many things in which I had not done in years. I felt energised as well as a sense of peacefulness I had never felt before. Most importantly I slept the deepest I had in years.

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Next day we again did the Sudarshan Kriya. But this time I decided that I would keep my eyes closed and see what happens. It seemed so much easier this time. I felt extraordinarily different when I opened my eyes. I noticed the sky through the open window, and it was as if it were the very first time I had seen the sky in my life! Then I looked around the room and for the first time, made real eye contact with anyone in I don’t know how long. Their eyes were so bright, so beautiful. I felt like I just fell in love with each and every one of them.

 

Shortly after practising the Sudarshan Kriya I was able to stop taking anti-depressants. This was just the beginning. From that very moment in which I opened my eyes after the second Sudarshan Kriya, I realised that the entire fabric of my life had changed and I began LIVING again!!!  Smiles returned to my face.  Kindness and warmth began to radiate from my heart to others. My entire life began to transform from one of bitterness and sadness to one of richness and beauty.  I began experiencing more beauty and love than I had ever experienced before. The purpose of my life became clear and a contentment I had never known came.

 

I have no words to accurately capture the magnitude of the gratitude I feel for Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

 

Diane