The documentary follows a Buddhist retreat on Shamatha — the practice of stilling the mind with one-pointed concentration. It seems like a simple practice, but in fact it is extremely difficult to master. The retreat takes place in a new, specially built facility on the island of Phuket. Thirty-five people from all over the Western world have signed on. Some are experienced mediators, some are beginners. The events are told chronologically from the beginning to the end of the retreat.
Alan Wallace, the Dharma teacher at the retreat, is a long time Buddhist practitioner, a former Tibetan monk, scholar, and scientist based in Santa Barbara. He has spent more than 40,000 hours in meditation, much of it in solitary retreat in the Sierras and in India. His exposition on Buddhist ideas about consciousness form the basis of the retreat. As advanced a meditator as he is, he still has difficulties handling his emotions when things look like they're falling apart.