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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Meditating on a cinema first

By Chris Heard, News Online staff

The idea of chilling out at the pictures is taking on a new meaning - with plans for group meditations in the hi-tech comfort of cinemas.

Customers choose the path of their meditative journey
A British company is behind a venture offering customers a temporary escape from life's stresses amid the darkness of the multiplex.

Describing the concept as "meditainment", it places the time-tested relaxation principles of meditation in an environment designed to enhance the experience.

For 7, customers go on two different meditative "journeys" into visualised places of peace and calm. The session lasts a total of about 45 minutes.

I tried it at a central London cinema - and found it a fun and refreshing way to wind down after work.

What gives the idea its contemporary edge - apart from the technology - is that the entire path of the journey is determined by the audience in an interactive vote.

Customers use Day-Glo light sticks to pick the favoured destination from an on-screen selection - summer meadow, lost city or deep ocean, for example.

The audience uses light sticks to make its choices
They also vote to choose the form of transport (canoe, horse and carriage), music (orchestral/ambient, etc) - and even whether to be led by the soothing tones of a male or female "guide".

It was this last detail that had the audience during my visit in barely-controlled mirth, breaking the ice among strangers and underlining the communal nature of the event.

Once the journey is chosen, you just settle back, get comfortable and close your eyes, allowing the guide to steer you in the right direction using imagery and suggestion.

Anyone familiar with meditation may have experienced the sense of deep relaxation - even bliss - it can provide.

This session does fundamentally nothing more than you can achieve in an armchair with a CD and a pair of headphones - but it does set it in a new context.

It can be a deeply relaxing experience
Although it remains primarily an aural experience, the air-conditioned peace and digital clarity of a screening room does wonders for your focus - especially if you are easily distracted as a would-be meditator.

The anonymity of a darkened cinema is ideal for the self-conscious - yet it still feels like a group event.

Meditainment Ltd, the Brighton-based company behind it, stresses it is a secular exercise and you are in control of the journey at all times.

They are pitching it at all comers - from the seriously contemplative to open-minded "first-timers" seeking a new sensation - all before dinner or a night at the pub.

Two multiplex managers I spoke to remained uncertain of its mass potential - but admitted how much they had enjoyed it.

And if they liked it, you might reason, why wouldn't thousands more?

Meditation lessons for pupils
30 Jun 03  |  South East Wales
Meditation 'good for brain'
05 Feb 03  |  Health

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