The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Hold fast to the human inside you, and you will survive.”

The critics aren't exaggerating. It's brilliant. It's the kind of movie that as you're watching, you are immediately aware it will be impossible to forget.

Looking Closely, Seeing Through
A stroke left magazine editor Jean-Dominique “Jean-Do” Bauby locked inside his paralyzed body, forcing him to live primarily in his mind. His only means of communicating was to blink his left eye in response to the alphabet being recited. The details of his story offer a glimpse into some key aspects of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the ability to keep track of the components of sensory experiences as they arise in various combinations, moment-by-moment. The basic building blocks of sensory experience include physical-type sensations in the body, emotional-type sensations in the body, external visual stimuli, mental images, external sounds, and internal sounds and conversations.

The tagline for The Diving Bell and The Butterfly says, “Let your imagination set you free.” The word imagination comes from the Latin imāginārī meaning to form a mental picture to oneself. With his body having become a closed door, Jean-Do’s only escape is through the window of his left eye and his mind. The movie screen becomes the viewer's window into seeing the world from his perspective.

It is through the visual component of the thinking process that we experience memories, plans, and fantasies. In Julian Schnabel’s film, as in the practice of mindfulness, Jean-Do experiences a blurring and merging of his internal (subjective) experience and the external (objective) world.

As Jean-Do reluctantly accepts his physical paralysis with greater and greater degrees of equanimity, his prison gradually becomes a home. Through concentration, clarity, and acceptance, Jean-Do was able to see the world more clearly and, fortunately for us, to patiently communicate his story one letter at a time.