The Netflix of Conscious Media

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HHDL on treadmill_Sunrise-Sunset still

Buddha on a treadmill: still from Sunrise/Sunset

Think of it as the Netflix of conscious media. It even uses the same video engine.

For $9.95 a month, with a free 10-day trial, Gaiam TV’s library of over 5000 streaming video and audio programs covers just about every imaginable base, from alternative spirituality and healing to environmental issues, food politics, psychic phenomena, extraterrestrials, yoga, Pilates and, yes, even fringe conspiracy theories (hello, David Icke). Actually, there’s a lot of fringe content, but since when was Netflix all Downton Abbey and The King’s Speech?

Depending on your sensibilities, you can revel in such unrestrainedly new age hits as What the BLEEP Do We Know!? and Zeitgeist: Moving Forward or draw more grounded sustenance from the likes of Ram Dass and the Dalai Lama. Just about every guru and icon is here, whether interviewed, lecturing or a documentary subject, including Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, Don Miguel Ruiz (Sr. and Jr.), Marianne Williamson, Alan Cohen, Stanislav Grof, Jean Houston, Robert Thurman, Alan Watts – even Aleister Crowley (the subject of a 2-hour documentary) and Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky (among the roster of mega-minds interviewed in Tom Shadyac’s I Am (the Documentary)). There also are plenty of popular feature-length films, including Thrive, Happy, Kumaré. PLANEAT and Conversations with God.

Technically, Gaiam TV (a venture of the online retailer gaiam.com) isn’t up to Netflix standards. Although it uses the same video engine (Silverlight; Flash is an option in user settings), there’s no option to select video quality. On my computer, which easily streams in HD on Netflix, Gaiam’s streaming video never came close to HD quality, even on recent feature films. Instead it always appeared to top out in the DVD range (480p) –  definitely watchable, but not dazzling. Also unlike Netflix, when you return to a video, Gaiam TV doesn’t remember where you left off. And while the service has a dedicated app for some Sony DVDs and Roku, apps for other devices were still at the “coming soon” stage early this May.

Getting back to documentaries about icons, the Russian-made Sunrise/Sunset is a unique, almost cinema verité day-in-the-life of the Dalai Lama. This is not your typical Dalai Lama flick, whether it’s watching His Holiness start his day on a treadmill sporting a wise-guy white undershirt or channel surfing during a break. Eventually he lands on an interview of himself on the BBC and what does he do? Break up with laughter, of course.

There are more than enough unexpected delights like these to keep conscious media connoisseurs glued to Gaiam TV well beyond the free 10-day trial. See for yourself at gaiamtv.com.

Syd Baumel

 
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