I saw the movie Limitless over the weekend. It’s about unrealistic, overachieving, materialistic desires fulfilled by taking a pill that gives a person access to all of their mental capacity. What did this movie keep making me think about? Meditation.
Some of what the film portrayed was out of synch with how meditation can help. For example, the main character, Charlie, learns languages and high level math overnight. But there was much to connect the experience of having access to more of a person’s abilities with meditation.
What struck me were the scenes that depicted the change in Charlie after he took the pill. The visual presentation of what he was feeling looked and felt like being fully present. The film shows time slowing down and Charlie seeing both the scene in front of him and himself, from the point of view of an observer of everything. His eyes become clear. His posture becomes straight. He looks confident, centered, ready for anything that comes at him. The chaos of what is happening in front of him is separate from him. He doesn’t react, he observes and then responds. His mind is taking it all in, weighing his options and coming to a smart, creative solution.
The movie is science fiction but anyone who has had even a brief experience of being fully present knows the feeling is real. I have spoken about a period of time when I meditated consistently every day for a year and there have been other times as well, when I’ve felt more creative and centered. I could literally feel the synapses firing, just like they did in the movie.
Charlie uses his powers to play the stock market. At one point the big time investor he is working for played by Robert DeNiro says, “what’s your secret?” Charlie’s answer: “Medication.” Jon Kabat-Zinn has observed that the similarity between medication and meditation is not a coincidence.
I know that claims of super powers resulting from meditation are antithetical to the entire concept of the practice. Yet, I have had experiences after an extraordinary yoga session or period of meditation, that felt like scenes in the movie looked. My mind was highly focused and sharp. I experienced the feeling of being in the scene and being an observer at the same time. I felt more confident and able to deal with whatever came my way.
I wondered after seeing the movie, if the writer was inspired by taking mind altering drugs or by meditating. I also wonder what others think about the movie. You may have experienced that feeling of being “on”– of feeling sharp and confident and strong. What do you think helped you feel that way?