Waking Up: An Exploration of Filmmaking as Awareness Practice

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Traill, Robyn J.
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This research study describes my exploration of the art of film as an inner awareness practice from the view of the Buddhist yogic tradition. In the initial pre-production and production phases of this research, formless Mahamudra meditations were most important. A camera lens was employed as a cue or reminder to practice the lens of awareness while capturing moving images. In the post-production phase, the creative meditations within Buddhist yogas became a major reference point: visualization, ritual practice, narrative text, and embodied energy practices. This present thesis-text arose as reflections and observations within every stage of the process, inseparable from the meditation and art, and was then edited into its current form. The research study included a series of meditation retreats with a schedule of visualization practices, formless meditation, mahamudra meditation-in-action, illusory body practice, and dream yoga. In between retreats the practice of lens art and meditation continued as a walking-photography practice. The final stages of the research process centered around work in the post-production studio: editing film into timelines using improvisation and chance operation. Improvised music and sound design were then woven into the fabric of the video edit. Two films linked here, Dreamsign and Holofractals, artifacts of this process, are included through various links in this thesis-text. All blue text in this document is linked to these films, or fragments of these films. The research questions of this study include: In what ways can contemplative film practice reveal and enhance the practice of self-awareness as articulated in the non-dual Buddhist tradition? How do the meditative and artistic aspects of contemplative film practice balance one another in different approaches to film? Current contemplative arts-based research influenced this research study from beginning to end. Connections are made between this research and the Vajrayana practice of sadhana.
Awareness, Buddhism, Arts-based research