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On the Way to the Movies with Dean Sluyter

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Program Description

We don’t often associate such films as “Jaws” or Clint Eastwood’s “Fistfulof Dollars” with the spiritual quest, but Dean Sluyter does. There is much spiritual content found in movies and we can all name quite a few of these. However, Sluyter doesn’t go for the obvious; rather he takes us on a metaphorical enlightenment journey through some surprising films. He is a master teacher helping us look with new eyes at films. He observes such details as how the wicked stepmother of Snow White has an addiction to her mirror, and sees herself as narrowly defined within its frame. He points out that the “central enlightenment teaching in most spaghetti westerns is that the bad guys are always agitated. They sweat a lot, literally. They are always upset and always caught in their passions. Whereas the hero, generally the Clint Eastwood character, is like the eye of the hurricane. He is super cool and what he personifies there is the way we would like to be in the midst of all the craziness and violence and challenges of daily life.” Sluyter takes us through such films as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “Jaws,” the Marx brothers “A Night at the Opera,” and more. He also tosses in some profound Buddhist wisdom along the way.

Dean Sluyter has taught meditation since 1970 and leads workshops throughout the United States, with topics ranging from “Just Being: The Way of Natural Mediation” to “Shakespeare’s Cosmic Vision.” An award-winning former film critic, Sluyter is on the faculty of The Pingry School and New York Open Center. He is chief meditation instruction of Aikido Schools of New Jersey, practice leader of Dzogchen Center of New Jersey, and a volunteer chaplain for the Liberation Prison Project. Sluyter is the author of The Zen Commandments (Tarcher/Putnam 2001), Why the Chicken Crossed the Road and Other Hidden Enlightenment Teaching (Tarcher/Putnam 1998), and Cinema Nirvana: Enlightenment Lessons From the Movies (Three Rivers Press 2005). To learn more about the work of Dean Sluyter go to www.deansluyter.com

Topics Explored in this Dialogue:

  • How do you gain happiness through letting go
  • What is the psychological make-up of the wicked stepmother of Snow White
  • Why prisons inmates practice meditation like their hair is on fire
  • How the samurai persona is captured in spaghetti westerns
  • What is the surprising metaphor the shark in “Jaws” represents
  • How the Buddha discovered the scientific method 2500 years ago
  • What is the nature of comedy
  • What Nirvana is and letting go of the pursuit of happiness is how we gain happiness

Program Number: 3097              Host: Michael Toms             Interview Date: 6/30/2005

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