Can meditation really change the world?

The Portal follows six individuals who undergo a personal transformation from trauma and struggle to calmness, self-acceptance, and compassion towards others. These personal changes are intertwined with contemplations about the broader struggles facing humanity and the role of technology.

The underlying claim is that stillness is not only a portal for personal transformation, but also a portal that ignites human potential for global transformation. The filmmakers contend that meditative practice has the power to move humankind from being on the verge of disconnection, chaos, and crisis to connection, calmness, and enlightenment.

While this might seem far-fetched, the film – slickly produced with stunning imagery – effectively captures our individual and collective challenges, highlighting the benefits people have experienced through various contemplative practices, and offering a hopeful vision of human potential.

Noise and haste

The movie begins with a powerful cacophony of noise, voices, and images – building up to a feeling of distress and a call to action that “something’s got to change”.

This sense of disruption, disconnection, and chaos then unfolds through the lives of six people from a range of backgrounds.

The experiences of the individuals are developed through the course of the film, skipping between their stories, supported by recurrent images and music. Their issues – abuse, violence, career-ending injury, stroke, suicide, loneliness, depression, stress, intrusive thoughts, debt, emptiness – will be familiar to many adults, young and old.

Extending beyond the individual narratives, futurists and philosophers explore the state of the world and the role of technology. Some viewers will likely agree with the causes attributed to these problems, others will not.

One commentator observes that almost every problem that we are facing is human-generated. We are living in a time when many of our social systems are unstable, with technology accelerating life faster than we can adapt to it.

Even as we become more interconnected than ever before, many young people struggle with loneliness and a lack of belonging. And concerns over the climate are negatively impacting upon physical and mental health.

We are divided from ourselves, others, and nature, which results in a range of problems ranging from mental illness to destruction of the natural environment.

Contemplative practices

The film proposes meditation is the solution to these problems, providing a way to realise our human potential.

Each of the featured individuals finds resolution through stillness, achieved through forms of contemplative practice: guided meditation, yoga, prayer, or quiet reflection. A growing number of studies, reviews, and meta analyses suggest contemplative practices correlate with beneficial outcomes, but also point to how little
is known about these techniques.

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