Chill out to multiplex meditation
Sunday Herald (England), Aug. 3, 2003
By Jenifer Johnston
It’s not the first place you would think of going for relaxation, but your local multiplex may soon be offering meditation services alongside the latest blockbuster.
Meditainment will debut in Brighton next month as Britain’s first cinema-based meditation experience.
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Using “meditation by democracy”, audiences pick up a coloured glow-stick on their way into the auditorium. Projections and a voice-over then invite them to vote for different “journey” options – a mountain top, an ocean, or a meadow, for example, with other options for background music and types of breathing and relaxation exercises.
A specially trained projectionist counts the votes for each option and then uses an internet package to mix the choices together into a smooth compilation shown on the big screen by a digital projector.
The meditation then begins with cues for when to relax and let the mind drift off. The Odeon chain of cinemas has expressed an interest in bringing it to screens around the UK if the experience can be made to work commercially.
Meditainment’s Scott King said the communal meditation experience is a groundbreaking new leisure activity.
He said: “This could revolutionise the way we go to the cinema. The atmosphere of 200 people mediating at the same time is amazing. People think of meditation as something you have to do by yourself or in a class, but it is really enjoyable as a group.”
Meditainment is branching out into cinemas after finding success providing meditation programmes through broadband connections to stressed workers in their homes and offices, and with CDs to help people meditate in hospitals such as Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary.
Marc John, of the Odeon cinema chain, confirmed that Meditainment could soon be hitting Scottish screens. He said: “If this is successful in Brighton then we would look at doing it elsewhere. There is a lot of potential for these kinds of enterprises and we are looking forward to seeing how far we can take them.”
John warned, however, that the lack of digital projectors may be a stumbling block.
“There are only four digital projectors in the UK out of 6000 screens, and for the Brighton trial we have had to hire a projector in specially.”
Jonathan Hinde, a spokesman for the Transcendental Meditation movement, agreed that meditation may be difficult to achieve in a cinema environment.
He said: “This experience may be a kind of ‘chill out’ zone but it is not what we would refer to as meditation. You can’t force the mind to be quiet. Even the act of asking it to will disrupt the meditation.”
The ancient relaxation technique has recently gained more scientific credence. One study found that meditators needed 87% fewer spells in hospital for heart diseases, 55% fewer for tumours and 87% fewer for disorders of the nervous system. Earlier this year American researchers found that regular meditators experienced lower anxiety and more positive emotions.
At the same time, the UK’s cinema admissions are at their highest for almost 30 years, with 176 million cinema tickets bought last year alone.