Photo courtesy of Greg Reitman

In his latest film, ROOTED in PEACE, director Greg Reitman tackles a handful of heavy subjects, like violence, meditation, self-fulfillment and environmental degradation. Despite the weighty subject matter, Reitman embarks on a spirited and contemplative journey, speaking with luminaries like Deepak Chopra, Mairead Maguire and David Lynch. His ultimate goal is to challenge viewers to think more deeply about their values and their greater responsibility to society and the world. Doing so, Reitman argues, will not only lead to self-fulfillment, but could also help blaze a path away from war and ecological ruin toward world peace.

Why are the interconnectedness of the world and the need for peace lost upon us?  Are we too busy trying to keep up with our jobs and relationships?

It’s simple. Out of sight, out of mind. As humans, we’re disconnected from the natural world. As in the case of climate change, we’re not on the front lines of the Solomon Islands – which will soon be another lost civilization imperiled by human ignorance – or in the case of Israel where bombs drop as often as someone goes food shopping. All of these human experiences are diluted via news or social media channels. Unless we have a direct experience, we are unconscious to that reality. It only becomes apparent when either you or a close friend or family member experiences hardship; that’s when reality or truth sets in. Second, our pop culture indoctrinates our children with war video games. We have a form of violent behavior that is adorned and socially acceptable. As these adolescents become adults, we’re breeding a war-like culture. We put no value on Peace. Nor do we put a value on carbon. It’s effusive. All of these elements leave us disillusioned and in turn we are subject to this form of human behavior, which is destructive.

If someone watches your film and wants to jump head first into living a better, more loving life, rooted in peace – what’s the first step?

The first step is always to recognize the breath. Awareness of breathing. Second, take the time and go on a hike or walk along the beach. You’d be truly surprised how interconnected and refreshed you will feel when you’re with nature and the benefits of the natural world. Third, I highly recommend you learn how to meditate and bring the stillness into your life. Meditation has many benefits on the mind, body and overall well-being. And in the case of the film, I highly recommend Transcendental Meditation.

One thing I gleaned from the film is that it’s that it’s hard to help others without taking care of yourself first. Do you think people have a duty to center themselves before becoming activists?

Fundamentally, a healthy mind, heart and body are quintessential in individuals achieving happiness and optimal success, whatever their higher purpose or social cause. However, it’s even more important as activists to refrain from violence, and to lead with grace and dignity. To take the Gandhi approach. Activists are always front and center, and now are even more visible with the use of cell phones and technology. It super important that the message not be diluted amongst divided lines.

Early in the film, Avon Mattison, founder of the UN International Day of Peace, says, “all our celebrations are violent,“ like comic books and video games. Is it even possible to shelter future generations from the violent good vs. evil indoctrination that’s so prevalent in our culture?

The culture of war and violence has been celebrated in television, movies and now video games. It’s not something that’s going to go away now or in the near future. However, as fellow human beings, parents, or political leaders, we have a civil and moral duty to inform our children how this type of content affects their well-being and impacts their brain and well-being. Studies have been published showing the impact of this type of content and how it affects our youth emotionally. With the proliferation of gun violence, and the reality that 42 people are shot every day by a gun, it’s imperative that on a local and federal level, this issue be addressed. The answer is simple. Communication, education, and meditation. If we want to build a culture of peace, there must be a radical shift in our human understanding of what we are doing to our children. Distinguishing reality versus non-reality is not enough. In order for there to be true change, we must identify the issue of commercialization, materialism, and how we communicate to our children in all channels, for the betterment for future generations. And we must give them the tools of advancement to achieve inner happiness.

A lot of issues talked about in the film may not seem important in the day-to-day lives of working class people who are struggling to support families. Indeed, this is a huge challenge for all activists, especially those focusing on the environment. How do we get everyday people who lack money and leisure time involved in the peace movement?

It’s all about our priorities. Human capital and human wellness should be our number one priority as citizens of the world. The advanced countries of the world, like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, prioritize the values of education, peace, health and wellness. Human development is critical for a successful evolution as a nation state, if we are to thrive.

Deepak Chopra cautions against being an “angry peace activist.” These days, however, we seem more divided on issues than ever before, and there is considerable anger coming from both sides on most issues. How do we bust through this tense political climate and move toward peace? 

First, we must recognize that violence begets more violence. We must always use restraint. However, science, logic and meditation are critical in our pathway to success. We now have a new understanding of the practical benefits of ‘brain science’ and ‘heart science’ that can help us shift from a reptilian to a mammalian form of living. Evolution is inevitable. We must nurture a new economy of young millennial thought leaders with a new set of tools such as mantras, eating and nourishing the body with clean healthy organic food, to be able to communicate clearly and concisely, and to have an inner practice of meditation.

You’ve traveled the world and talked to a lot of deep thinkers. Is there something someone said that stood out amongst all the conversations you’ve had?

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire always stands out amongst the various luminaries in the field, such as Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, William McDonough to name a few. The idea that we weren’t born violent, that we’ve been conditioned to be violent. It brings everything home, and why everyone should see this film.

How optimistic are you about the future of the world? 

In every paradigm, there’s always a shift. We saw this with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It’s clear that something must die in order for something to be reborn. Perhaps it’s our human nature for us to have to suffer before true change can be born. With the succession of Donald J Trump upon us, I see more change coming now than ever before.

For more information on the film, visit the official ROOTED in PEACE website.

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