Yoga has definitely entered the mainstream. Now even Hollywood is embracing fundamental tenets of Eastern mysticism to win at the box office.
In Collateral Beauty, which is showing now in Dubai theaters, Will Smith plays Howard, a successful New York advertising entrepreneur who cuts himself off after suffering an extreme tragedy. His coping mechanism is to write letters to Love, Time, and Death, beseeching that ‘someone’ shed light on his loss and how he’s supposed to continue living.
The film is particularly poignant as Smith, who lost his father to cancer while filming Collateral Beauty, explained, “I love that this was a guy who had the world on a string. Everything was perfect; he had life figured out and then suffered a loss and had to make his way back to even believing there was a possibility to have joy again.”
1. Howard learns to move from the mind and drop into his heart.
As with yoga and meditation, Howard understands that he must quiet his mind to experience life. Over the course of the film, he was forced to surrender – moving from thinking that he could solve all his issues, into accepting that pain must be worked through to be able to heal. After all, pain and joy and growth are all inescapably linked.
2. He turns to Buddhist tenets, like impermanence and letting things go.
Howard creates elaborate mazes out of dominos to distract himself from his grief. Then he knocks them over and walks away without even watching them fall – a practice inspired by the Buddhist monks who draw mandalas, working for up to 12 or 14 hours. They then stand up, observing them for a minute and wipe them away. This artistic expression reinforces the practice of impermanence.
3. He realises that suffering is a prerequisite for growth.
In the film, Howard begins to learn that rather than solving problems with his mind, he must feel in order to heal. “Howard was trying to solve his problems with his mind,” Smith said. “He thought he could think his way through this problem, and what he realised is he had to bleed, he had to suffer, he had to mourn, he had to let it go, and when he finally had the opportunity to just release and let it all go, the collateral beauty was the joy that he was seeking in the first place.”
4. He learns that joy is on the other side of pain.
Not only do the characters in Collateral Beauty learn to find the joy and beauty in their own pain, they also learn how to connect with the pain and suffering of others. “There’s a wonderful Kahlil Gibran quote that I love,” Smith said at a press conference. “He said our pain is the knife that hollows us out so that we may hold more joy, and I thought that that was a really interesting idea, that you suffer that pain and you are torn open for the purpose of being able to hold more life and joy and positivity, and I think that is the collateral beauty of the type of suffering that Howard experiences.”
“My experience during the time of working on the film was my father was diagnosed with cancer, and he was given six weeks during the process of working on the film, so it was a truly beautiful time for he and I, as I was in Howard’s mind studying and reading all of the different religious bases for being able to find an answer for how we recover from this kind of loss,” Smith said. “I was sharing that with my father through the experience, everything from The Tibetan Book of the Dead to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (the psychiatrist famous for her DABDA theory of the five stages of grief), everything you possibly do to deal with the inevitable pain of death – I was able to do it as Howard.”