My Films

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Refusenik- Documentary Film World Premier

I am happy to annouce a documentary I worked on while I was in Los Angeles just had its world premier at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival on Thursday, December 6, 2007. Having worked as an assistant editor on this project, I poured over hundreds of hours of interviews and historical footage and the last cut I saw really shows the power of people coming together and standing up for human rights. It's a truly inspirational film and highly recommend you see it if you are interested in the triumphs and struggles of peoples' movements.

Synopsis:
REFUSENIK is the first retrospective documentary to chronicle the thirty-year movement to free Soviet Jews. It shows how a small grassroots effort bold enough to take on a Cold War superpower blossomed into an international human rights campaign that engaged the disempowered and world leaders alike. Told through the eyes of activists on both sides of the Iron Curtain - many of whom survived punishment in Soviet Gulag labor camps - the film is a tapestry of first-person accounts of heroism, sacrifice, and ultimately, liberation.

The campaign to free Soviet Jewry is a major event in Jewish history. By 1992, one and a half million Jews had left the Soviet Union to live in freedom as a direct result of what was likely the most successful human rights campaign of all times.

REFUSENIK illustrates how individuals can utilize the power inherent in a tolerant democracy and literally change the world. The tactics and methods developed by activists in this struggle became examples to the rest of the world, forever changing the human rights landscape.

One of the proudest chapters in Jewish history, the story of the refuseniks demonstrates the need for Jewish solidarity, the importance of the State of Israel, and the responsibilities we face as individuals living in a democracy.

Much of the material used in REFUSENIK is unique and exclusive to this film. Interviews with key leaders in the movement are some of the first ever to be recorded. Many of the photographs and covert film footage – some of it smuggled out of the Soviet Union – have never been seen before by a large audience, and help make REFUSENIK a unique portrait of this amazing story.


For more info visit http://www.refusenikmovie.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thank you 2007!

I have had an amazing year and I just wanted to say thank YOU and thank the universe for all the fruits it has brought me. Here are some of the highlights:

  • This year I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn to Vietnam. There I deepened my understanding of Buddhism: its practices and insights that create both inner and outer peace.
  • I directed a 12 minute documentary film about my fellowships trip to Hiroshima to learn about the atrocities of the atomic bomb. Which can be viewed here.
  • I spent my summer in Berlin, German this year to work for the amazing media organization Dropping Knowledge, which uses new media technology to incite dialogue on some of our most pressing social and global issues.
  • I was invited by Rotary's Peace and Conflict Studies program in Bangkok, Thailand to document their field study trip to Cambodia. You can see the latest version here.
  • I am focusing on my thesis on media and peace and every day I'm getting clearer and one step closer to it.
I have met some amazing people along my journeys this year and I am truly grateful for their presence in my life. I also look forward to seeing how the fruits of the lessons I've learnt and experiences I've had will continue to blossom in my life. Over the holidays, I will be refocusing and setting my intention for the new year. Until then, have a Happy Holidays!!

love and peace,

Megumi

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cambodia doc- Walking Through the Killing Fields

On our third day of in Cambodia, we visited the Khmere Rouge killing fields at the Choeung Ek Genocide Memorial. Please click on the image below to watch the video or click here.



I have found some resources on the web for creative commons or royalty free music:
http://www.podsafeaudio.com/
http://shockwave-sound.com./
http://stockmusic.net/
http://neosounds.com/
http://freesound.iua.upf.edu/

Though I haven't found any pieces of music that has jumped out and grabbed me, I'm very hopeful and thankful to these resources. I've also been talking with some composers who either work under the creative commons license or are just starting out and are willing to work for credit. So there's hope, there's hope!

Also this pieces is 5minutes long, which so far of the things that I have cut (including some footage of the slums, which I'm not ready to post) over 12 minutes. For the final 15-20 minute product, I wonder what will get cut?
You can always have you say if you comment below ;).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cambodia doc- On our way to Cambodia

Waiting to get through check in at Bangkok airport, the Fellows comment on what their expectations are as they head to Cambodia. 1min
FYI. Blogger is distorting my aspect ratio.. not too happy with that...

video

So, what I desperately looking for is music. Does anyone know any creative common licensed music sites, where I can download different types of instrumental music- upbeat, down-beat, funbeat?
Music is such an important part of filmmaking, and I realize that the music that I select has a tremendous affect on my cutting.

Now, I'm on to the more serious sections of this project: the slums and the killing fields...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cambodia doc- What Russ takes away from Angkor Wat

This mini movie is about the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies program's last day on their trip to Cambodia. After a grueling week of looking at the many difficult issues of post-conflict rebuilding, these fellows take a day to enjoy one of the seven wonders of the world- Angkor Wat. Enjoy!


video


Progressing forward on my journey of editing this film- I am editing out of order at this point, this section will probably be the second to last as part of the greater whole, but in a way it has excited me about the over all project, as I hope it is exciting you as well. I already have a sense that in the final production, I will be re-editing some aspects of it, but this is definitely serving it's purpose for now.

So far this project has been a great lesson in how much more my camera work needs to improve. Of course, I think better equipment will help a little and thus my wish list is growing... anyone want to help out on that?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cambodia doc- Boat Trip to Siem Reap

So, as I progress in editing this documentary project on Rotary's Peace and Conflict Studies Program to Cambodia I will be posting mini movies for 1) my own inspirational purposes 2) give you a taste of the over all trip 3) to document my editing process. Since this is the largest self-directed and edited project that I have tackled, I have decide to condense my 15 hours of footage into a series of small "episodes."

Here's the first one I've compressed for your viewing pleasure of our boat ride to Siem Reap.
video

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Rotary's Positive Peace Place

Each year the International Christian University holds an annual festival in which the university's club and associations participate in by setting up booths to sell snacks and other such goods. The local community is invited to visit the campus and partake in festivities which often include wadaiko (Japanese traditional drumming) and various musical dance performances.

This year, the sixth year of the Rotary Internationals' partnership with ICU in the Rotary World Peace Fellowship, we RWPFs decided to have our own booth in which we sold nachos and held a flea market to raise funds for the Burmese NGO called Back Pack Health Worker Team.

BPHWT provides "primary health care in ethnic armed conflict areas and rural areas where access to healthcare is otherwise unavailable. The BPHWT provides a range of medical care, community health education and prevention, and maternal and child healthcare services to internally displaced persons in Burma."

Anyways, I have to say that I think that our booth was quite a success. We did have to give away some items for close to nothing towards the end of the second day (but that's to be expected when you try to sell off things that you don't even want.) I believe we made our two main goals: raising a reasonable amount of funds for a good cause and having a more visible presence on campus. I hope this is the beginning of a Rotary tradition.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Getting started on the Cambodia doc

I have begun to edit the Cambodian documentary project that I shot for the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies program in August. For my own motivational purpose, I will be posting stills from the footage.

The following images are from our first day in Phenom Phen, in which we visited two slum areas. First, we visited a highly-valued commercial property that is being occupied by both the original land -dwellers as well as encroachers. The government and their corporate partnerships are evicting these residents and relocating them. Unfortunately, the re-location land that my group visited (the other group had quite a different experience) paled in comparison to the eviction site. We met with entire families that lived in 4x6 shacks, they lacked adequate water and many of the children looked as if they were suffering malnutrition.

Well, not to paint you a too grim picture of the situation there.. here are some still images... as always the spirit of children to find happiness in any circumstance never ceases to amaze me...







From the re-location site:



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thesis update: One step closer

Though most have you know this all along, that my passion is for media and peace, I have only recently decided that this is really what I want to focus my thesis on. So for the next 8 months, that I spend writing this 50-100page essay, I am really hoping to learn from specific media organizations how to make media that creates peace. I have more less being trying to do this with my life since 2003, but here I'm going to get to study and research this in-depth. Will this make me a better filmmaker? Well, I certainly hope so.

So my possible research question is one that I explored earlier this year for a presentation in Peace studies:

How does new media technology contribute to a culture of peace?


Some of the theories I hope to examine in my research are peace journalism and democratic media.

Anyways, to get started on the right track I have enrolled in Johan Galtung's Transcend University's online Peace Journalism course taught by Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick. The course follows the Peace Journalism book written by the two professors, which though I have only read the first few chapters, I already highly recommend.

Since this is the year to write my thesis, I reckon I will be writing several blogs on this process. I hope this doesn't terrible bore you. Hopefully, I will make another film or two over the next year.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Burma!

Hey my friends,
please sign the petition support the monks and peaceful demonstrators.

Free Burma!



Free Burma! Petition Widget


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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Film: Jewish in Berlin

My dropping knowledge film which asks the question: What does it mean to be Jewish in Berlin today? (4min) is now up on their Schatten Auf Berlin website. If you scroll to the bottom strip of films in the category of Nue Berlin and click on several films over you can watch Judish in Berlin there... ...or if you feel like it's too complicated to get to (since there is no direct link) please click on the following image:




Two of the three interviews are in German, so in many ways there were new challenges to this project but overall I'm quite pleased with what I was able to accomplish in two weeks with this film. I also recommend taking a look at the Shadows on Berlin web magazine though that is entirely in German. Enjoy!

It seems like the other link takes a long time to upload. So on Blogger video for now.
video

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Schatten auf Berlin- a dropping knowledge initiative


One of the projects that I have been working on at Dropping Knowledge is Schatten auf Berlin- The Shadows of Berlin. It is a multi-media web magazine looking at the social issues of Berlin: from alcoholism, prostitution, to delinquent youth, and the homeless. The project is based on a series of ethnography studies conducted by Hans Oswald in the late 1800's. dk compares the many issues of Berlin of that time to Berlin in 2007.

This Sunday, September 23rd, the website will go live. Along with it, here in Berlin, there will be an evening film screening and discussion event with doors open at 9pm at the Kino Babylon.

Though I have not been able to participate much in this project due to my lack of German, in the last two weeks I have been able to pull together a short film for their New Berlin category. The four minute film I made asks the question: What does it mean to be Jewish in Berlin today?

The reason why I sought to answer this question was because that I had read a statistic which said that there was a growing number of Jews moving (back) to Berlin. Why have they come back to Berlin? Why Berlin and not some other German city? and finally What does it mean to be Jewish here and now?

Anyways, I am very happy that I was able to contribute to this project and produced a short film while I was here with Dropping Knowledge.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

60 Seconds of Light

video

This video is part of the 60 Seconds of Light internet memorial.

"60 SECONDS OF LIGHT is an attempt to create an internet-wide September 11th video memorial. The concept is simple: on September 11th 2007 we are asking all vloggers and internet video content creators to take a break from their regular scheduled content and instead upload 60 seconds of light. A candle burning. A lighter lit. A glow stick glowing. Anything light-filled that you feel honors the memory of all those who were lost. Our hope is to have this light spread throughout the internet; creating the largest memorial service ever to commemorate September 11th."

So if you have a web camera, will you consider joining me and other bloggers in a minute of silence and light to honor the people who lost their lives six years ago today?

May our light shine peace on to this world.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Getting focused on my thesis

Hi, so the time has come for me to get serious about my thesis. At the end of the last school year, I had narrowed my interests down to three areas:

1. The Buddhist practice of compassionate listening- After my trip to Vietnam and writing two papers on Buddhism and its relationship to peace, I have fallen deeply in love with the philosophy/religion. While, I don't think I will ever call myself a Buddhist, I do believe that Buddhism offers much wisdom for creating peace in oneself and with the world.
So my thesis idea was to look at the practice of compassionate listening and see the value of it as a conflict resolution tool. There is a Seattle based organization, the Compassionate Listening Project that is doing this work and in particular in Israel/Palestine. My research idea on this was to asses the effectiveness of this practice as a conflict resolution tool.

2. Article 9. I am planning to make a film on the peace movement to protect Article 9 anyways, so why not write a thesis on it? This way for the next year I can be one-pointed focused. However, how would I do this? What angle would my thesis take? I have to be honest I'm not interested in writing about the possible geo-political implications if Article 9 is revoked. I am just not political minded enough to do such a paper. I also am far more passionate about the people, and why or why not they care about Article 9.

3. Media and Peace. Now this obviously makes the most sense. This is what I am trying to do with my life. But once again how do you write a thesis on this? One idea I have is to do a case study on organizations that do media trainings in developing countries. One such organization is called Barefoot Workshops. They train youth and women in video skills in Africa focusing on:

  • Empower youth through media, music and the arts
  • Bridge communities together to address global issues
  • Inspire individuals and communities to transform themselves from within
  • Innovate new uses of media to meet development goals internationally (Source: Barefootworkshops.org)
Assessing the impact that such a workshop has, is do able and would mean traveling to Africa which is just not a bad idea. An upcoming workshop that I would potentially be interested in participating in is in Jan 2008 in South Africa. My only hesitation with this is that I don't necessarily see this as my path and how I will be doing most of my work in the future. However, maybe it is a good place to start and will open doors to new ideas on how media can help create a culture of peace.

Anyways, if you have a suggestions please send me a mail or leave a comment! All help is very much needed and appreciated!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Headed to Cambodia

Cambodia! Wow, what an incredible gift from the universe. I have been invited by the Rotary Center for Peace and Conflict in Thailand, to make a promotional documentary about their program.

When I was in Vietnam earlier this year, I thought of taking a few days to go to Cambodia since I wanted to learn more about the Killing Fields and visit Angkor Wat but now I am blessed with a full ten days packed with meeting NGOs, visiting museums, and seeing how Cambodians have dealt with restoring peace to their country. I find educational tours far more interesting then any tourist trip.

I am leaving Berlin on August 8th and will return on the 21st. I will be bringing my video camera only, so no slide show upon my return but hopefully with a month or two I will have a film to show you. I'm excited for the opportunity to make a film in such a beautiful country and to push my skills even further.

love,
Megu

The fun of promotion

So part of the work that I am doing at Dropping Knowledge is creating awareness about the great work that they do. ie. promotion/marketing.

This is incredibly important not just for DK but for me to learn as well because I tend to slack on this. I do send out my films to festivals but it takes a concerted effort to be on top of it all. I often miss deadlines by just a few weeks and that is incredibly frustrating. However my research on gorilla marketing has motivated me very much to take the time after work to do my own projects and have a greater presence online.

My myspace friend Yaron has started a youtube like video sharing space called Peace TV.

Peace.TV Broadcast Your Peace

I will be posting videos on my Peace TV Channel, as well as on Youtube.

As you can see, I have also added little Stumble Upon, Delicious and other icons. (well I'm in the process of adding them) If you read a blog that you like, it would be great if you could click on one of them or all of them. Basically, this allows my presence on the web to grow. I personally think that the more people know about different peace initiatives/projects/orgs that I come across the better it is for everyone. Anyways, I hope you think so to.
So click away!

love and peace,
Megumi

ps. Everyday, I am continually astonished at the growing rate of internet technology. It's a little scary about how much time we spend at the computer. What does the future hold?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Getting deeper into Dropping Knowledge

Hi, I've been spending the past few days digging deeper into the wealth of knowledge that DK provides. I really think that this is great resource for any of us who are committed to making the world a better place.
I'm posting some of the videos available on youtube that I particularly resonated with:
This one is with Julia Butterfly Hill


What does DK have the power to do? Inspire people. It definitely inspires me.


I think this video asks some good questions, esp. pertinent to what I am trying to figure out in my life's work



DK also just came off their latest project. The G8 Summercamp.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I have arrived in Berlin!

Hello,

I have arrived in Berlin to work for Dropping Knowledge for the next two/three months. I'm not sure what I will be doing for them as of yet but I hope it will be a good experience in which I can use my film/video/graphic skills, improve up on them, and making meaningful media on social issues.

For the past three days, I have been wandering the streets of Mitte in East Berlin. Berlin is such a sprawling city, I have yet to see much of it but I'm excited to explore its many intricacies in the upcoming months. As always I'll be keeping ideas on peace and conflict in mind.

There are two things that I am most eager to explore in particular while I am here and they are based on the observations that I made when I came to Berlin in 2001.

1. Art- Berlin is an explosion of expression. Every corner is a gallery, a design showroom, or some event space that leaves your eyes and ears tingling.

2. Rememberence- You cannot walk through this city with out being reminded of the atrocities that happened here, first with the Nazis and second with the Berlin Wall. Today, the city proclaims loudly, "Such horrors happened here. We will not forget and we will never ever let it happen again."

Please check my flickr photos for updates, as well as enjoy the slideshow below.

Tschuss!
Megumi

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Utah!


Woo ha! We're (and by that I mean the Rotary World Peace Fellows at ICU) are headed to Salt Lake City, Utah this Thursday to attend the three-day Rotary World Peace Symposium!


I don't believe I ever been to Utah before (even though I always wanted to make it to Sundance) so I'm excited to check out Mormon Country.


The symposium is from the 14th to the 16th, and many of the RWPF alumni will be giving presentations on their research and their post-RWPF experience. It's going to be a major peace networking bonanza. Here's the tenative schedule. Woo hoo!!


Unfortunately, they won't be showing my film about ICU RWPF's trip to Hiroshima due to scheduling issues but I plan on brining many copies to pass out. Perhaps, I can set up a make shift screening in one of our hotel rooms. I hope so.


Okay, I've got a few papers left to crunch out! Yay, Utah!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rotary Trip to Hiroshima


Here is a link to a short film I just finished making about the Rotary World Peace Fellows' recent trip to Hiroshima, Japan.
To watch click here. 12 minutes

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution


Alright, I have been in Japan too long to have not written anything in regards to Article 9.

It states, "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes."

The second clause goes on to say, "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potentials, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

This constitution has remained unchanged for sixty years since it was adopted when the US occupied Japan after World War II but now is being challenged by the current Abe administration. They plan to abolish the second clause so that Japan can posses a military.

Being Japanese, this is something that I take a lot of pride in. While there is a debate as to whether the US enforced this constitution on the Japanese people or the Japanese co-authored it, the fact is that it exists and should not be abolished.

Many of the arguments to abolish it has been so that Japan may play a more active role in world politics and supporting US troops in their military endeavors. Instead, what I feel strongly is that not only should Japan maintain Article 9 but that similar pacific clauses should be adapted by constitutions around the world.

Anyways, so I am currently making a documentary film on Article 9 and am trying to focus on it from the youth movement perspective. This is something that I would very much like to have screened nationally in the United States on Current TV.

Anyways, much more to come on this timely issue!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dropping Knowledge

Hi, I am psyched to annouce that this summer I will be working with Dropping Knowledge in Berlin, Germany.

In September 2006, they invited 120 people from around the world to partake in a global dialogue project called the Table of Free Voices. 100 questions collected from the internet were asked of these 120 people over 9 hours. Each person had a camera directly facing them intimately documenting their answers.

Their basic premise is that is through asking questions a global conversation can be started which can change the world for the better.

Here's a short video of the larger project that I will be working on. I'm so excited, so excited....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

We made our fundraising goal!

Today, May 10th, is our fundraising goal due date for the Oxfam Trailwalker. We are supposed to raise a minimum of 120,000 yen ($1000 US) for Oxfam's humanitarian projects and so that we can participate in our crazy 100km challenge.

So as of last night (with some more last minute donations still coming in) I had the 120,000 in my hands!! Yippppppeeee!!! Thank you all to those who contributed!! (If you sent donations online and didn't email me, please let me know because unfortunately the website doesn't tell me who's contributed, just how much.)

We have been super busy fundraising:
-We sent letters to our friends and family asking them to support us
-We held a fundraising party on Friday, May 4th in which we were able to raise 43,000yen
-We have received individual contributions from our professors
-Last Sunday, we went on the local Nishi-Tokyo Radio and talked about the Oxfam Trailwalker and asked for support from the local community.

So here's a slide show of our various hikes and the party!
The 100km challenge is a week a way, wish us luck!!!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Arise Women!

Mother's Day is this Sunday.

We often think that Mother's day is a Hallmark-made commercial day but the reality is that Mother's Day began after the Civil war, as a protest to the carnage of that war, by women who had lost their sons.

So don't forget to thank yur mama and the mamas of the past for standing up for peace.

Here is the Mothers' Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From
the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
of justice."

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a
great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,to be
wail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of
peace.

Julia Ward Howe Boston 1870

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Healing myself to heal the world



I have to be honest, I went into this trip with a heavy heart and feeling stressed out. I had just completed another term at school, in which every minute counts towards completing those final term papers.

Six months had passed since I began my studies at ICU, and I had become heavy hearted from all the world issues that I had learned about. I felt overwhelmed in the enromous complexity of these problems and felt lost as to where my place was in all of it.

For the trip itself, I didn’t have any expectations. I really had no idea of what it would consist of, if it would be like a retreat or not. I was just planning to show up and be recepitve to whatever came my way.

(Me in my temple robe to Tu Hiu monastery in Hue)

I have come back from this trip, feeling soft and light. The three weeks I spent doing sitting meditation, walking meditation, eating mindfully and dharma sharing has really put me back in touch with myself--- to a place where I feel sturdy. Sturdy about my passion for peace in the world, sturdy in how I am meant to share that expression with the world, and sturdy in the joy of just being me.

The things that stressed me out before no longer do, and if I feel any inkling of anxiety coming my way I merely take a moment to return to my breath. I feel a smile resting on my lips at all times.

Thay really walks his talk, and the great thing is that he invites you to walk along with him. It is clearer to me more than ever before that peace within goes hand and hand with peace without. If each everyone of us were able to touch that sacred true part of ourselves, connect with it, breathe with it, what a wonderful world this would be. I have been inspired to understand his teachings at much deeper level and put them into practice everyday.

With love,
Megumi


(Taking a bike ride along the rice patties in Hoi An)


To read previous blogs on my trip to Vietnam, click here and here2.
To see more pictures of Vietnam, click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Daily Schedule of Mindful Practice





Our daily schedule consisted of waking by 5am, meditating for an hour, eating silently at 6, leaving for the temple by 7. At 8, Thay would give a two hour Dharma talk in Vietnamese (graciously translated into English and French by the sisters). In Hue, at Thay’s root temple (where he was a novice monk) we would practice walking meditation with him around the temple grounds. After lunch, we would rest for a couple of hours before listening to dharma talks and participating in dharma discussions. We would dinner at five and then return to our accomodations for a quiet evening.

Here is a gatha ( a short meditative poem) that I recited as part of my mornig ritual. I think it is just equisite! (With a 5am morning shot of Saigon out our hotel window)

Waking Up

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours before me.
I vow to live life fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.


Walking Meditation is a beautiful practice in which we walked slowly together through the temple grounds. Its purpose is to be in touch with the present moment by being aware of our breath and enjoying each step.
The blessings I have of my beautiful university campus is that is big and green and has many wonderful paths in which I can practice walking meditation every day for fifteen minutes.


We would then eat lunch at 11 am perpared by the monks and nuns. We would eat with our family groups, often in silence. The practice of eating mindfully is to be fully aware and grateful for the food before you. When eating, I chew slowly in order to really enjoy the various flavors of the Vietnaemese vegitarian dishes. The following gatha is often recited before eating.


The 5 contemplations to eat in mindfulness

This food is gift from the whole universe,
the earth, the sky, and much mindful work.
May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy of it.
May we transfrom our unskilfull states of mind and
learn to eat in moderation.
May we take only foods the nourish us and prevent illness.
May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.

To read about how these practices have touched my life, click here.

Healing the Last Wounds of War

Last year on Peace Boat, I visited a small rural village outside of the former US military base Da Nang. There, we visited a health clinic set up by Le Ly Haslip, who escaped post-war devastation by marrying an American GI and immigrating to the US.
At this clinic, we stumbled upon a rehabilitation/care room for third generation children affected by Agent Orange. Like children anywhere else in the world, they were delighted to see us and clapped and laughed along to the songs we sung for them.
In just a few hours of arriving in Vietnam, I witnessed the continuing effects of a war my country waged some thirty years ago on these people. I wondered: What responsibility do I have? What responsibility does my country have to these children? This was April 2006.




When I began studying peace in 2003, I discovered the work of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. While other books intelectually stimulated my thoughts on peace, his words actually took me to a state of peace. Since then, I have wanted to visit Plum Village, his retreat center in the south of France.


So as I began to plan my spring break earlier this year, I visited the Plum Village website and discovered that he was planning to tour of Vietnam during that time. I couldn’t think of anything better than to practice with him and his home country on a tour entitled “Healing the Last Wounds War,” so I decided to go to Vietnam.


I joined Thay (Vietnamese for teacher) on Segemnt 2 of his tour, which began with the Great Reqieum Ceremony at Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in Saigon.

5.6 million lives were lost because of the bombings during what the Vietnamese call the American war. The ceremony was held to pray for the liberation of all the people indiscriminate (ben dang) of religion and political parties. For on both sides, the people who passed away passed away in pain.


In his Dharma talk, Thay talked of the many wounds of the war that still needed healing. He said that when the injustices of violence and war go unspoken, they are suppressed deeply into our consciousness and manifest in the forms of aggression, anger and fear.


However, through the simple act of listening, he sais that it is possible for us to relieve suffering in others. If we ourselves learn to forgive the wounds of the war, then our parents and ancestors will forgive as well. For every word of forgivenesss will benefit those around us with love and compassion. It is when suffering is recognized then it is possible to heal. To read more about his teachings during the ceremony, please click here.




What is so inpsiring to me about Thay's teaching is how he boils it down to the action that each of us individually can take. Are we free of our own fear and pain? He says that it is our own pain that unskillfully causes suffering in others. So if we alleviate our own pain, then it is possible for us to begin to alleviate pain in others. How? through living mindfully in the here and now. To read about my daily practices click here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thay's prayer to untie the knots of great injustice

Dear Ones who have passed from this life:

You are our father and mothers; our aunts and uncles; our husbands and wives; our sisters and brothers; our sons and daughters, who have died during the war. When our country was on fire with all the fighting, you left us tragically, suddenly, forced to abandon your previous body. We have lost you, dear ones. We know that you fought courageously for our nation without regret for you situation, and the injustice could never be expressed. You died deep in a distant jungle, or we lost at sea or in a dark prison cell. You may have died because of bullets or bombs, or from starvation or sheer exhaustion. You may have been raped and then killed with no way to resist. How many of you have died in despair, in injustice, the remains of your body lost somewhere in the ocean or the jungle where we who love you could not get a hold of them. To fight for our independence and freedom, our country has had to bear great tragedy and injustice, and it is you who have shouldered the burden of the whole nation in your death.

We your relatives, you fellow countrymen and countrywomen, we come here-- some of us are before our own altars at home-- and among us there are those who still continue to suffer from injustice. Fortunately the nightmare has ended, the country is now at peace, and we are having the chance to rebuild the country, to heal the remaining wounds. Thanks to the merits and good deeds of our ancestors we have a chance to come together and offer prayers together to the Three Gems. With the support of the powerful Dharma, we request you to come back ALL TOGETHER to reunite with each other, embracing each other, loving each other like sister and brothers in one family. We will not distinguish between North or South, women or men, adults or children, by race, religion, party or ideology. We are all fellow countrywomen and countrymen, but because of the past bad fortune, we have been pushed to fight each other in our drive fro independence, for freedom. Thanks to the merits of our ancestors we can now come back to each other, recognizing each other as siblings of a single family, to promise each other that we will not forget this painful lesson of the past now engraves on our hearts:

We vow that from now on we will not let the country be separated again, not even on more time. From now on, when there are internal difficulties, we will not request the help of any foreign power to intervene with weapons and troops in our country. From now on, we will not start a war for an ideology. From no on, we will not use foreign weapons to kill each other. From now on we will use our best efforts to build a society with real democracy, to be able to resolve all kinds of disagreements by peaceful democratic methods, and we will not resort to violence against fellow countrymen and countrywomen.

Respected Blood Ancestors respected Spiritual Ancestors, please bear witness to our profound sincerity. We respectfully make these deep vows before you. And we know that once we have sincerely expressed ourselves in this way, all the knots of injustice can be united, and the deep wounds in each of us will start to be healed.
Today this Great Chanting Ceremony to unite ALL INJUSTICES EQUALLY without any discrimination starts here; but at the same time, countless Vietnamese and friends of Vietnamese throughout the world are setting altars in from of their houses too, to pray for you all. We touch the earth deeply to request the grace of the Three Jewels to carry the other shore of liberation ALL OF YOU dear deceased ones, so that, dear ones, you can be carried by the strength of the Dharma to be able to understand, to transform, to transcend and to know you are free.

We your descendants, we promise to continue your aspiration. We vow to carry you in our hearts, to build brotherhood/sisterhood and mutual love of fellow countrymen and countrywomen. We will remember that pumpkin vines and squash vines can share a single frame, that chickens from the same mother will ever fight each other. This insight from out Ancestors will shine out its light for us, now and forever.

Back from Vietnam!

Hi, I have just returned from my one month journey to Vietnam. I'll be writing a proper blog to share my experiences but for now I wanted to post a slideshow of my photos. Enjoy!
love,
M

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oxfam Trailwalker!!


A few of my classmates are currently training for the Oxfam Trailwalker! It's a 100km walk to be completed in 48hours. We will fundraise approximately US$1000 to fight against poverty.

The hike looks intense and most people walk through the night with out sleeping! Anyways, I am excited to push myself physically and walk for a good cause. We'll have 'till May to train, so every other weekend we have been hiking and I've started to regualrly run 6km every other day.
I'll be posting photos from our various hikes on my flickr site. Clikc on the Oxfam Trailwalker Set. Yay! Walk to end poverty!

Monday, February 12, 2007

February Update

Hello, once again it's the end of the term rush! I have been sitting infront of the computer for forever it seems!! but it's all good, in less than two weeks I will be done with my second term at ICU. Woo ha! One more full term to go and then, it's off to my summer Applied Field Experience!!

Anywyas, I probably won't be writing very much over the next couple of weeks but I just wanted to write down some of things that I have/will be up to and that I intend to write a blog on each of them.

1. I went to hear two Iraqi women doctors speak at an event a week ago. It was really meaningful for me to go listen to them, since the reason why I'm on my quest for peace began with my country going to war with Iraq. How could I not hear/meet these women who have been affected by a war that I protested from the begining. So I shot some video of them and I hope to make a real simple video clip for the world to see.

2. I participated in such an interesting dilaogue excercise the other day. It was for my Secuirty and Conflict Resolution class. The dialogue technique helps the involved actors to understand what the root cause of their conflict is. Really interesting. I shot some video of that too, so hopefuly I can make a couple of minutes to show you the process!

3. My trip to Vietnam is all set! Air plane tickets. Check. Visa. Check. Registration for Thich Nhat Hanh's tour. Check. I recently watched a Youtube video of him. He is so extremly powerful in taking me to a state of peace instantly! I can't imagine what spending three weeks with him will do to me!

4. Before I go to Vietnam, I am going on a Rotary World Peace Fellows field trip to Hiroshima. We will be meeting with Hibakusha and people from the Hiroshima Peace Insitute. I'm planning on bringing my video camera along there as well.

Wow, well it looks like the next couple of weeks will be filled with wonderful experiences.
here's a flower for you!



xo,

Megumi


Monday, January 29, 2007

Film: View from the Bridge

Hello, my friends. Here is an update on a documentary I worked on last year. I'm so happy to see the progress this film has made. I feelso blessed to have been able to work on this film that examines what happens after the worlds attention leaves a place of conflict. I'll keep you updated on any screenings in your neighborhood, please check out the website and help this film be seen around the world! xo, Megumi






View from the Bridge will premiere on January 16 at 7PM (CET) at the Kosovo National Theater in Pristina, Kosovo.


(Directed by Laura Bialis and John Ealer)
What happens after the bombs stop falling?
When news cameras turn away?
When America changes channels, or just loses interest?
In 1999, before Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States and NATO went to war in Kosovo in an unprecedented exercise of military might to end ethnic violence.
Six years after the bombs stopped falling, we returned to Kosovo to see if a society, once riven by ethnic division, can build a lasting peace.
In the scars and the tears, in the nightmares and the dreams of the Kosovars, we trace a portrait of a remarkable people trying to build a future while inextricably bound to the past. Sometimes hopeful, sometimes tragic, yet always unnervingly honest, the struggle to make peace in Kosovo, captured eloquently in VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, provides a remarkable window into the profound human impact of the politics of hate.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My favorite time of the year



Need I say anything more? this campaign is so dear to me. In fact, it maybe where my heart truly is.

Instead of hearing about the problems that we have when it comes to conflict and violence, the Department of Peace is about creating solutions.

I'm sad that I won't be able to attend this year, but I know that I will be involved passionately soon enough!

If you are even a little curious, this conference in 2003 changed my life, so register!!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Quakers!


Since I began my real peace studies education nearly four years ago, I have been fascinated by the world’s most famous pacifist group--the Quakers or more formally the Religious Society of Friends. They are known for being witnesses to peace, consciences objectors, active in humanitarian work, and lobbying on behalf of the peace voter (The American Friends Service Committee) Well, I've heard little tid bits here and there over the years about what they do when they congregate but I wanted to experience their service first hand. Well, Tokyo has its own Quakers society and so I decided to join them this past Sunday.

What I had heard about the Quakers was that they sit in a circle in a "home"(no churches here), that there is no minister or pastor or priest conducting the service, and for the most part they sit in silence until Spirit moves them to speak. Well, I was most curious as to what they say when spirit moves them and how it relates to their values of pacifism and non-violent action.

Sure enough, the service room was set up in order for people to sit around in a circle. I had imagined that people would sit in chairs in a single circle however at this "home" regular church pews were lined in rows in circular fashion around a small center table. People sat wherever they felt like ie. Only one person at in the inner most circle. There were more pews than people attending that day, so people sat around comfortably.

As I entered, I sat down in silence (as so the website I researched told me to.) It was perhaps 20 minutes before anyone was moved to speak. Then, one man did and asked that we sing a song. Everyone stood up pulled out their religious song book and sang the song once then sat down in silence again. Shortly after, a man stood up and spoke. I had always wondered what exactly they say when spirit speaks through them. Do they talk about god? Do they talk about Christ? Do they talk about peace? Well, this man talked about his concern for polar bears and how global warming was causing their extinction. Another woman spoke about her typical American son-in-law and how their visit to the Hiroshima peace memorial affected him. A few more people spoke; someone read a passage from the bible, another person talked of a charity project they worked on. The service lasted for an hour or so.

I have to say it’s really moving to meet with people who can talk about global warming or their concern for Palestinian children during their religious service. I mean really when was the last time you attended a church service (esp. in the Christian faith) where people were consciously concerned about the world and were taking action about living out teachings of love and kinship!? Well, I give the Quakers my two thumbs up!

Next, Baha’i here I come!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

2007 Yeah!

Happy New Year! I hope 2007 is off to a rockin' start for you.
So far 2007 has been an amazing year.
After celebrating the new year in the traditional Japanese way of Hatsumode (visiting a shinto shrine), I traveled to Kyoto for a mini self-retreat. I spent five days meditating, contemplating, journal writing, hiking, walking and intention setting. What a wonderful treat it was for me! I feel clear and excited about the next 300+ days of this year and the endless possibilities of amazing experiences it holds.

First things first. For a couple of years now, I have wanted to study with the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Han. I had always envisioned that I would spend time at his Plum village monastery in France and I had decided to do so this spring break. Well, upon checking the website I discovered that Thay (as he is affectionately called) will be traveling to Vietnam this spring to heal the last wounds of the war. I have decided to join in for three weeks while he is there. When I visited Vietnam on Peace Boat, I was deeply moved when I met third-generation children affected by Agent Orange. As an American, I feel responsible for my countries actions and want to help heal the wounds between the two countries. So, this trip feel like a really good way to dot that. I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity. I am planning to travel to Vietnam from March 10 to April 9th.

Well, this is just the beginning of the many wonderful things coming to me this year. Woo hoo!
xo,
Megumi

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

On Apathy

I have been particularly interested in the dilemma of apathy and what is needed to move people out of it. When I worked for California Peace Action , I knocked on 40 plus doors a night and I would always meet a handful of liberals who were consumed by it.
Anyways, I came across this at Post Secret.


I agree with this post secret but I also believe that we can overcome apathy. It is reminding people of the power that they have individually to make a difference and the rippling effect of many coming together. Anyways, I also came across Anti-Apathy, a UK org working to create awareness of how we can all make a difference.


What are your thoughts on apathy?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Media Activism and Film Fests

I recently hooked up with a Japanese youth media activist group in Tokyo. They held an all-day screening of media activist films a couple of weeks ago and I was able to share my short films and talk about media activism in the US. While I was onboard Peace Boat, one of my friends subtitled three of my films in Japanese so now I can share my work more widely while I'm here in Japan. I'm hoping to start collaborating with them on different projects in the new year. I'm starting to realize, I am some what of an expert on grassroots campaigning, activism and media-activism. Who knew!

Also, I just got confirmation of another screening of my film Peace Begins with Me and You at a film festival in Los Angeles this February. It will be screened at the Conscious Life Expo, a "yearly 'gathering of the tribes' allows the entire spiritual and progressive community in southern California to come together to share, network, learn and celebrate the emergence of the new energies that are slowly but surely converging on our little planet at this time."

One too many...

Take a moment to reflect.

The war in Iraq is almost four years old. As a 22 year old in 2003, it was difficult for me to imagine what a war in Iraq would really look like. From the on-set, I did not support the war but like many Americans I had no idea how long the fighting would drag on or what it would look like.

Now that I live back at home with my parents, I wake up to the sounds of CNN blasting from the living room each and every morning. Today, I barely bat an eye at the daily reports of violence and killings in Iraq. Have I too become desensitized?

3000 US soldiers have been lost. On the Iraqi side over 500,000 deaths have been estimated. It's time to re-remember why we want peace and to hold a moment of silence for the lives that have been lost on both sides. There are no winners in war.

Here's a video of a weekly memorial organized by Veterans for Peace in Los Angeles. Take a moment to watch the video.