Article first published as Movie Review: Challenging Impossibility on Blogcritics.
Sri Chinmoy’s weightlifting defies belief. People just can not lift the weights that he did, let alone people past the age of retirement. Yet in a two-decade long weightlifting career which only lifted off at age 54, raise the impossible to comprehend Sri Chinmoy did, and furthermore, he said that we can do so too.
This is the uplifting message of Challenging Impossibility, a documentary which premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. Spiritual master turned strongman Sri Chinmoy, who passed away in 2007, is shown lifting not just weights but aircraft, elephants, cars and a who’s who of 20th Century luminaries including Nelson Mandela and Sting. By doing so, the Indian-born poet born again as powerlifter challenged impossibility itself.
When Sri Chinmoy lifts weights, “It’s like gravity stops” says former Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis, a personal friend of the weightlifting guru. And gravity indeed is denied when Sri Chinmoy lifts a 2000-pound car on film. How can such feats of strength be possible? The answer is “all in the mind”, according to five-time Canada’s Strongest Man and documentary cast-member Hugo Girard, who credits Sri Chinmoy with helping him to realise that powerlifting is first and foremost internal. “You get to the place where it doesn’t matter how much something weighs, it’s going to move. If you think how much it weighs, you’re going to fail.”
All in the mind, and in the heart and soul as well, for as Sri Chinmoy explained, the capacity he drew upon to literally raise the impossible is deep within us all, able to be accessed through the powers of concentration and meditation. “Many, many things I have done which my physical mind cannot believe” he explained. “But then again, when I concentrate, I am not afraid of it. When I am one with it, I act like a hero.”
“It’s been very motivational for me,” three-time Mr Olympia Frank Zane commented on the documentary, himself a pro body-builder who has merged meditation with weight-training since the age of 14. “You know, there are times in your training when you don’t feel like doing it, then you just look at what he’s doing and you’re in again.”
Challenging Impossibility Co-director Sanjay Rawal, a student of the weightlifting meditation teacher for 16 years, said his ultimate wish in making the film was to share Sri Chinmoy’s personal example of challenging the impossible. “The one thing that I learned from him is to never give up. There’s no such thing as an impossible dream.”