I AM... AN ILLUSION?
A story about losing and finding oneself. "...I am 43 years old; my children have grown up... Who am I, besides a mother and a wife?"
Xenia - is a Russian woman who has devoted herself to her family, but as her children are getting older, most of her duties as a mother are now in the past. She feels like the world has moved on, while she has been left behind. Confusion about her place in the world is painfully dissonant with her seemingly prosperous life. Dmitry is a successful businessman, and Xenia’s friend; he hopes that Buddhism might help her. So he invites Xenia to a Buddhist monastery in London, where he introduces her to a group of monks and proposes a journey to Myanmar to practice meditation.
In addition to meditation, Xenia and Dmitry decide to make a film about Buddhism for a Russian TV channel. Creating this film as a gift to monks will help them ensure full support from the Burmese community.
Our heroes fly to Myanmar and travel around the country together with the monks. They are also accompanied by an expert, Reini Hauser, a Doctor of Psychology from Switzerland, who becomes Xenia's main mentor in her search. Xenia interviews monks, goes to ancient caves to visit sages, meditates... But she is constantly gnawed at by a sense of her own worthlessness, and discord in her life. Every day, Reini is working with Xenia as a psychotherapist….
“You blame yourself for missing a path. As you do that, you’re losing yourself. You’re losing yourself at this moment!”. Reini Hauser.
«Make it a quiet environment. It is very quiet here in the mountains. So, you become yourself, your own person, and then your mind gradually purifies». Venerable U Lokonatha.
“Step by step for every action! Body action, mental action! You must investigate every action, and then knowledge will come out, and delusion will go away.” Venerable Ashin Tondara.
“You must climb up step by step! Ah, all the things it takes to reach your destination!”
Venerable Ashin Nyanissara
*These documentaries were filmed in Myanmar (2013), based on psychological work and Buddhist wisdom. Originally it was produced for the Russian TV channel Psychology-21, and has now been re-edited for our English-speaking audience.
Who is Xenia, besides being a mother and a wife? Is that really all that she is capable of? Dmitry is a friend of Xenia’s, hopes that meditation and Buddhism will help her get through her crisis. He invites her to visit a Burmese monastery in London, to meet his old friend, a monk called U Lokonatha.
In this chapter, we get to know Myanmar through the eyes of our heroes. But serene landscapes, the simple lives of local people and the everyday duties of young nuns do not bring peace to Xenia. Everything only exacerbates, reinforces her internal conflicts: "Maybe all these thoughts about paths and fate are an illusion? Maybe they are just trendy western ideas, inspired by Hollywood movies?"
Xenia and Dmitry’s wife Edita arrive at the women’s meditation center. Xenia is very anxious: will she be able to concentrate properly? She has heard that Burmese meditation techniques are strict and tough. Local monks keep postponing their meditation. Instead, they explain meditation techniques and give different worldly tasks to the heroines. The calm atmosphere of the meditation center helps women slow down, relax, and prepare for the practice...
“Meditation or enlightenment is only a skill. You practice something day after day. And eventually, you will be good at it.” Yogi
Monks explain the basic concepts of Theravada Buddhism, Reini demonstrates his understanding of psychology, other people share their wisdom. But because Xenia can't hear herself, all this information is too overwhelming. Xenia's mind is overloaded, and she is blaming everyone around.
“And now I am here, and I want to go beyond the limits of my mind, beyond the consciousness. It is a big thing because I’m not an empty bottle. They filled me up with many things over the years. But to accept the teaching and true wisdom, I need to empty myself first.” One of the Yogini
After the meditation center, Xenia, along with monks and friends, continues to travel around Myanmar, studying Buddhism and the role of women in Burmese culture. But most of all, she is interested in the psychological sessions with Reini, during which she explores the very essence of her path. Reini helps Xenia to see how she blocks her spontaneity. He works, provokes, and plays with Xenia. Xenia is disappointed that, after all this time, she still cannot find herself. Reini is doing his best to help her see : Xenia is already, at this moment – herself. The insight comes during a dinner with friends.
I want to help you to discover your way and that you’re already going your way. It’s not somewhere in the future or the past or somewhere else. It’s always right now. You just need to notice: “Aha! I chose this, I do this!” Reini
A new day of travel begins, new questions arise... "What is my true abundance, apart from material values? What can I share with other people?" Reini helps Xenia understand that her ability to see beauty in others and admire other people's life paths is not her weakness but a gift. If she wants, she can share it, even in a professional field.
Xenia sees that the "cage of the rational mind" isn’t an issue. If the "mind" is caught up and she doesn’t know what to do next, her body knows.
You may be a businessperson, you may be rich, but at the same time, you must practice, to do loving-kindness meditation, do good things and speak nicely. Then you won't be arrogant, you will understand what the meaning of your life is. U Lokanata
In recent decades, western public views on women’s role in society have changed rapidly; women are less held back by patriarchic obligations, are allowed to be who they are. It is for sure a relief; at the same time a challenge, it makes women face new questions. “What are my talents and strengths? How do I transform my limitations into something helpful, inspiring?". Myanmar helps our heroes to understand that the very opportunity to question one's life path is already a privilege. Xenia continues to use this chance to have deep conversations with monks, practice meditation and work with Reini. Reini helps her interpret an important clue from her dream.
“In an interview, I feel really connected, very intense. All my attention goes to the person, I am interviewing. I almost lose where it’s you or me... We become One. You know? It feels almost like …” Xenia
Filmed 2013. Postproduction 2021.