Some fainted. Some dove out of the way. All screamed. All believed.
Their minds were applying "old rules" to the visual information: If it's photographically real, and it's moving, and its perspective remains consistent, it's REAL. If it's a train and it's moving towards us at great speed, we're in REAL DANGER.
What's happening onscreen, if it's engaging emotionally and visually, might have us rapt but if a phone call comes from the babysitter we don't hesitate to answer it because THAT'S REAL and MORE IMPORTANT.
I imagine mindfulness is like this.
Most of us are like the early film audiences, so bedazzled by what our eyes are telling us in this very moment that we are capable, not only of forgetting we got here by walking into a cinema ten minutes ago, but that what we are seeing doesn't REALLY look that convincing.
We're staring at the screen, jaws slack, minds blown.
The ones who know it's just a movie - and not a very good one at that - can't even get through to us. Though they try...
Some of us are watching a movie called "Enlightened Me", I think. This is the one I've caught myself watching. In my version, it stars me being all deep and spiritual and there's this aspect that involves most others NOT being all deep and spiritual.
But it's still a movie. It still isn't REAL.
At least, this is what I've started to suspect. I'm not yet at the place where I can enjoy this - or any movie - the way the 3D surround sound audience above can: Never really forgetting they're in a movie because they're so media-experienced, yet able to enjoy the roller-coaster ride in all its empathetic glory.
I'm truly grateful that I've noticed the glowing red exit signs once or twice. That I've had those moments of "Oh...I SEE... That's just a FILM of a train"
What was it that was different about those moments in which I realized I was in a theater and that REALITY is MORE IMPORTANT?
I was being mindful. I was sitting in stillness. I was concentrating on not concentrating. I was using my mind to outwit my mind, to fake left and go right and grab a fleeting glimpse of the ALL.
In those few and far between moments, the movie ceased to be more than hilarious. Its problems ceased to be more than fascinating little plot twists. Its visuals suddenly looked adorably, forgiveably grainy and hokey. Everyone in the cinema with me was beloved no matter how lost in the movie they were. And the exit door was open, just for a moment, revealing the joyful expanse of ten-billion-times-better awesomeness beyond.
The surprise was it wasn't empty and flat and dull. The surprise was how full and satisfying and EXTRA-DIMENSIONAL it was.
So now, when I remind myself to be mindful, I can remind myself that it's worth it. It's still hard. I still forget. I'm still so captivated by this silly movie called "Separate Me" with all its 'special effects'. But if I can make myself eat this popcorn mindfully, I sometimes notice where I really am.