Here's another spiritual practice that is both depicted in the movies and fostered by them. Scenes of celebration and gaiety on the screen elicit our own elated response. So do portraits of the characters' happiness. We find ourselves rejoicing in their personal breakthroughs, moments of deep connection, and sheer pleasure in being alive. Movies with lots of dancing are other good examples of joy in the movies. You come away from them feeling refreshed with a smile on your face. "Feel-good movies" are often deeply spiritual.
As spiritual people, we yearn for justice and freedom for all. We live with the hope that a time will come when the gross inequalities between the rich and the poor will be eradicated. Meanwhile, we watch for ideas on what concrete steps we can take and what stands we can make. At the movies, we are inspired by protagonists who risk their lives, and sometimes give them, for justice. Films of social and cultural criticism that highlight the problems in our world also demonstrate the spiritual practice of justice.
"Whether one believes in religion or not there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness," the Dalai Lama has observed. Little acts of kindness season many a film storyline. It's truly wonderful to find a character with a generous and kind heart. Even better is to discover someone who makes an intention to do good, who decides to take the trifles of life and make them into arenas where he or she can practice civility. Movies about self-absorbed, ego-driven people who act with neither common courtesy nor respect for others are evidence that kindness is needed.
Here is yet another spiritual practice you both bring to a film and find demonstrated in it. Some movie heroes and heroines are distinguishable for their ability to listen the mother figure who lends a sympathetic ear, the scientist who hears something unusual during his or her research, the child tuned into the sounds of nature. Deep listening on your part requires that you give the movie your undivided attention so you can hear the messages conveyed through the dialogue and between the lines. Some points, for example, will be heightened by sound effects or the music. Listening to the voices inside yourself that speak up during the experience adds another layer to the process. Listening for messages from God takes you even further.
All the world's religions point to the importance of love and the obligation to love our neighbors. Muhammad linked the two when he said: "Do you love your Creator? Love your fellow beings first." It's no wonder, then, that how to love is one of the most popular themes in the movies, and its collateral subject, what happens when love is lost, denied, or forfeited, is almost as popular. Movies offer many courses on love: love of partner, parents, children, siblings, friends, animals, work, country. Many films also show characters struggling with self-love. What gives the typical love story a spiritual tone? Here's one clue: The lovers see not just each other but also intimations of the Divine Presence in the relationship.