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Ten Must See Spiritual Growth Documentaries

Photo Credit: M. Buckley

“Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.” ~William Pollard

The wonderful part about a well-made documentary is it allows you, for a brief moment, to step inside someone else’s story and see the world through their eyes. The hope remains that information presented through documentaries will widen the perspective through which you see the world, and increase awareness of the different possibilities.

As always, it is important to keep an open mind because “just when you thought you’d considered all the angles, life goes from a square to a cube.”

The following list are notable documentaries that focus on spiritual growth for the individual as well as the collective whole:

1. Discover the Gift: A feature length documentary created by award winning filmmaker, Demien Lichtenstein and his sister, Shajen Joy Aziz. Discover the Gift seeks to celebrate the “basic but vital reality that there are Gifts in each person, and in all circumstances, that are simply awaiting discovery.” The message of the documentary, as well as the spiritual leaders is “the degree to which you nurture, educate, and allow the miracle of your gift to live is in direct proportion to the degree to which you will experience joy, power, fulfillment, freedom, and unconditional love.”


2. I AM the Documentary: I AM opens with Tom Shadyac talking about his own personal struggles before and after his pivotal bike accident. Shadyac discusses the continued imbalance he felt between where he was in life and where he wanted to be; this propelled him to shift his focus from a comedic director to one that asks the deeper questions about life. What’s wrong with this world? How do we fix it? How are we being taught? What are we being taught? What should we be learning? If we know we function better as humans using positive emotions, why don’t we use more positivity? The documentary sets out to explore the notion of why our economy and way of life are based on materialism that goes against our true nature - to co-operate and unite. These questions inadvertently lead to even more questions, but also highlight the fact that our first step to solving any problem always starts within.


3. What If? The Movie: Created by James A. Sinclair and featuring Bruce Lipton, an internationally recognized authority in bridging science and spirit, What If? The Movie documents that most of the thoughts, beliefs and behavior we take on and believe to be hereditary are not, but instead are derived from subconscious mental programming that are received before the age of six years-old. The movie states: "Who you really are is far greater than what you're currently experiencing and expressing, and reveals not only that gene activity is being controlled by our minds but also that there are individuals who have mastered what social consciousness believes is impossible."


4. WAKE UP: After it is medically proven Jonas Elrod is NOT suffering from any medical condition and that he is indeed sane, WAKE UP the film documents Elrod’s journey as he begins a spiritual quest to find out why after spending the night in a San Francisco hotel, he could suddenly see and hear things that he previously could not, such as auras, ghosts, and angels. WAKE UP is a fascinating story of an average guy who inexplicably developed the ability to access other dimensions.


5. The Nature of Existence: Director Roger Nygard traveled the world asking theologians, scientists, skeptics, and everyday people 85 tough questions surrounding existence, religion, science, God, faith, truth, scriptures, morality, sin, sex, free will, suffering, prayer, the soul, the afterlife, the supernatural and doomsday all to decipher why we exist and what are we supposed to be doing.


6. Awake: The Life of Yogananda: Introduced to America by Paramhansa Yogananda, the author of the most-read autobiography of all times, Autobiography of a Yogi, “Yoga, the timeless science behind all true religions, consists of systematic and definite steps to realization of the soul’s oneness with Spirit.” Chronicling the original purpose of yoga and the union it is meant to create with Divine Intelligence, Awake clarifies we should “use the body because you have a body, but it’s really about the mind.” Initiating more than 100,000 men and women during his thirty years in the West, Yogananda emphasized the underlying unity of the world’s great religions, and taught universal methods for attaining direct personal experience of God through Kriya Yoga. Although for many yoga has become something you do for aesthetic purposes, Awake reminds us “when the eyes, breath, and heart are quieted, another world comes into view.”


7. This Emotional Life: A three-part PBS documentary series explores improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals. With three episodes focusing on Family, Friends & Lovers, Facing Our Fears and Rethinking Happiness each episode “weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest scientific research along with revealing comments from celebrities like Chevy Chase, Larry David, Alanis Morissette, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Richard Gere.”


8. Cosmos: A Personal Voyage: "With Cosmos, Carl Sagan and his wife and co-writer, Ann Druyan, brilliantly illustrate the underlying science of his same-titled book, placing the human species within a space-and-time context that brought the infinite into stunningly clear view. The series, which originally aired in 1980 on PBS, has been seen by more than 700 million people worldwide and remains a high-water mark in miniseries history. Sagan lucidly explains such topics as Einstein's theory of relativity, Darwin's theory of evolution, and the greenhouse effect, bringing the mysteries of the universe down to a layman’s level of understanding. The remastered footage is fresh and riveting and considered one of the greatest television series ever."


9. The Zen Mind: If you’ve heard the word ‘Zen’ but remained perplexed about the true origin and meaning of the word, this documentary is for you. “The Japanese word Zen is derived from the Chinese word Chán, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which means “meditation” or “meditative state.” Zen emphasizes experiential prajñā in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct realization through meditation and dharma practice.” The Zen Mind documents meditative style and practice to achieve “no mind.”


10. What the Bleep Do We Know: The Original 108 minute film was released in theaters in February 2004, starring Marlee Matlin and 14 scientists and mystics. Exploring the worlds of Quantum Physics, Neurology, and Molecular Biology in relation to the spheres of Spirituality, Metaphysics and Polish weddings. Part documentary, part drama, part animation, asking how does it all fit together?


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