10 Year Anniversary Partner – Nika Khanjani

May 23, 2019

After a few months of weekly sessions with the new therapist, he suggested that I was anxious and depressed. “Not clinically, but enough that it impacts your quality of life.”

I’m curious about depression/anxiety and mental health in general, and not just because it impacts my own life. I think about it in terms of systems, histories, genetics, astrologies, all the research coming out of neurobiology. I think about essays and writing by some of the best thinkers of our time. I think about its descriptions and affects in fiction, in poetry, in the spectrum of self-help, mindfulness, energy-based body work, and what it means to want to find peace in an age of anxiety.

I know people figure out methods of coping and managing their mental health. I recognize the vast industries that thrive on promises of happiness, packaged in some form of rampant capitalism and individuality. I have tried many things—medication, yoga, therapy—but the issue is obviously complex and there are many entry points. And there’s the fact that I feel an undermining pride in my condition—how could I feel otherwise if I’m awake to the realities and conditions in the world?

Still, I needed some breathing room. The therapist suggested mindfulness meditation, or any meditation practice. I’m terrible at joining and keeping up with groups, and getting to a class was enough to create its own host of anxieties. Instead I looked online for free stuff. I discovered dozens of free guided meditation podcasts and settled on a few.

I process nearly everything in conversation with others. I have frequent check-ins with a good friend on the balcony each week, her in Toronto, me in Montreal, often sharing a cigarette while we review the day and ideas. I write to know what I’m thinking—in emails, in journals, in essays. And I make videos and short films—using moving image and sound to work out complex and subtle ideas. I’m drawn to the challenge of the formal question—giving shape and form in duration of moving image and sound—to illustrate and reflect internal psychological states. For this very reason I was excited to focus on experimental filmmaking in graduate school.

I was trained in film and video production. Along with writing, it’s the medium I use to work out ideas and hunches. I make plenty that I keep to myself, but some things are meant to be shared, because maybe it will resonate with some and hopefully it will generate more conversation.

Alexandra is one such video exercise. I was commissioned to make something for a research group at McGill University and the parameters were wide—anything to do with mental health. I used the opportunity to play with my current preoccupation—a restless mind that was looking for, and resisting, stillness and guidance.

What came out was this video. For the most part it was fun to make. I found a lot of parallels between the meditation practice and an art practice, including the ways in which making space for ourselves (to make work/to meditate) can bring on a torrent of ideas and distractions, and also calls on us to come back to the original intention/breath. I thought that was wonderful.

I’m not sure if it will be fun to watch, but I’ve heard a few chuckles and long spells of calm quiet when it screened before. If you watch the whole ten minutes and have an interest in sharing your response, I’d love to hear it. It’s really a low-stakes entry point into a larger conversation. We can start anywhere.

Feel free to send me a word at nkhanjani at gmail dot com