FLYING: Confessions of a Free Woman

My Secret Life- Moscow, Russia, September 1, 2008

by zohefilms

I have just arrived in Moscow for resuming of filming my new documentary after a wonderful, necessary holiday with my boyfriend in Greece. Of course he is part of my secret life. We all have many hidden parts, but he is not the secret I was talking about….

It’s funny for a woman who has spent the last years trying to bring her private world out into the light that there are still things that inevitably remain hidden. The truth is no one is ever really known. Sometimes when I appear at screenings of FLYING, inevitably people will ask questions about what the film leaves out. Many times women have stood up in the audience and asked me how the film could leave out spirituality? It is true that the film does not talk directly about spirituality, although many of the women who appear in it are religious. For example Svetlana in Moscow is the founder of Project Kesher, a group specifically created to help develop female leadership in the Russian Jewish community. Her spiritual life is not delved into in the film, nor is that of others. Although with Sveta we tried to edit more in, but simply the film could not hold the digression and so we had to take it out again. Films cannot be about everything as one finds out over again when one sits down to edit a story. Whatever is not on the subject invariably ends up on the editing room floor. And FLYING is basically about female sexuality.

So when this question comes up to me, I often respond by saying that while the film doesn’t speak about spirituality directly, it is informed and imbued by many things that I learned through my spiritual practice – things like being present in the moment, and equanimity. But if you watch FLYING you will not ‘see’ a spiritual woman, you will see someone grappling with her female identity and her sexuality. My new film is about the life of the high Tibetan Teacher Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche and his son Yeshi, also a Reincarnate Lama, called LEARNING TO SWIM. I have been following and filming Namkhai Norbu for twenty years and the film will finally be finished next year. So, perhaps now it is time to come out of the closet with another part of my life. It is time to talk about my Buddhist practice, which strangely may be harder than talking about my sex life!

How do you speak about your relation to the spirit? How do you speak about your need for the spiritual? How do I explain that while I am a Jew, I have been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for 23 years and that it has informed my life and my films? To be honest I rarely speak about religion. I only talk if asked, prodded and pushed, but I might talk about my sex life without so much as a question. That’s funny, huh? Maybe that’s a good example of a modern woman…. Even now I find myself pausing at the computer, wondering what to say next? My boyfriend, who does not practice any spiritual faith at all, recently asked me why I practiced Buddhism? I was really touched by his curiosity and I took a deep breath before responding. I wanted to find a way to explain to him so that he could finally understand. After many moments of searching for the right words, I said: “It’s about connecting to the universe and seeing the world as much bigger than you and your little problems….” When I saw the glaze in his eyes, I realized that my explanation didn’t help much. He has never had this experience, except maybe during sexual union, but he doesn’t have the idea to call those feelings ‘spiritual’.

When I meditate, I feel like I am in the vast galaxy of stars above the earth – not even myself anymore, but part of the sky, the clouds, the planets. And this feeling gives me a natural arising of compassion for others and also for myself and my stupidity and my suffering. Because our small lives seem so unimportant in the larger scheme of things. Buddhism plugs me into the vast beauty of our existence that is bigger than all of our petty problems.

My teacher Namkhai Norbu often says: “Samsara is always Samsara.” This means that we cannot expect there not to be suffering in human life; we must know that there will always be suffering, work with it and go beyond it all.

I am curious about other women’s ways to create a spiritual life? What are your thoughts and practices?

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