When I was a child I looked forward to bed as I did going to the cinema and there was a time when I was rarely disappointed. Where else but in a dream, could I fly? Where else could I enjoy experiences I could not see in the cinema?
And — yes– if you realize it is a dream – and you don’t like it you can always wake up or if you are feeling really bold turn around and talk to that monster chasing you asking it a direct question like, “Excuse me, I think I know you, can I help you with something?” And then suddenly laugh as the monster melts or dissolves much like the witch in Wizard of Oz or better yet becomes someone you know like the kid down the street who is less than kind.
One cinema evening, however, didn’t end well at all for me. I must have been around four years old and I had not yet fully realized that dreams were distinct from waking.
In that dream, I had been given a candy bar. I decided to hold on to the chocolate bar tight enough that it could make its way back with me upon awakening. Ready to be… devoured.
After I awoke, I remember looking everywhere for that candy bar blaming my older brother Ken for stealing it and asking my parents if they had seen the candy bar anywhere. I was in a sour mood and furious…until my mother asked me a few questions on where I had gotten that candy bar and where I had seen it last. She then told me the bad news: dreams are not real. You can’t take things from dreams and bring them back here so easily.
And then I became deeply curious. What were dreams and what were they good for?
Around the age of seven, my experiments lead me to use sleep differently. I would read something at night and then set my alarm very early around 6am and re-read the material I wished to know one more time.
I realized that during the night my mind was working in wonderful ways while I was resting. As I loved sleep, this pleased me immensely. I enjoyed this method so much that as a reward to myself after completing the early morning study ritual in bed, I set up my alarm clock once again – this time for an additional 20 minutes of sleep.
During those 20 minutes of time I would let my body fall asleep but remain slightly aware. Everything during those 20 minutes of “light” sleep became even clearer. Answers to my questions came. Material was effortlessly absorbed. Creative ideas abounded.
And when I awoke after those 20 minutes, I felt incredible as if I had three additional hours of rest. Rest of a different nature.
It is only years later, that I realize that position on my back was shavasana and that the sleep technique was a form of yoga nidra. Had I been more knowledgeable at the time, I would have used my sleep for far better things then just acing tests and being good at academics or coming up with creative ideas.
Had I known…
So, these next entries are for those who are a bit curious.
Perhaps you want to sleep more, perhaps you want to sleep less, perhaps you want to experiment with what is most beautiful within or a new direction in your life. To each his own: I let you choose, but do be curious, test what you think you know (as I did) and experiment with a few. Sleep — less or more of a variant of it– may just change your life.
Sleep is one of my most beloved moments in a day. A serious moment to be reckoned as my husband will surprisingly attest — for when I get sleepy, I become warm as a baby and nothing NOTHING (not even mounds of laundry nor gold scattered on my bed) could stop me from nudging everything aside and letting everything melt away. Hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, it might just not matter at that moment.
Anywhere, under any condition I can sleep–just kindly give me two minutes. As funny as this may sound, the capacity to relax instantly has saved me more than once.
It is not that I was always sleepy, but when I want to sleep, I can. And soundly.
And how about you – what are your strengths with sleep? What are your weaknesses, ambitions and needs regarding sleep?
Take 5 minutes to assess your sleep: Strengths, Weaknesses, Ambition and Needs
Strengths: Are you a good sleeper? Do you wake up well rested and full of energy and ideas? Can you fall asleep easily? Do you need many hours of sleep or just five or so (imagine all you could do if you only needed 5 hours of sleep and felt GREAT)?
Weaknesses: Is it hard to fall asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep? Do you always feel a bit tired as if on empty? Do you have bad dreams that disturb your sleeping hours?
Ambition: What do you want from your sleep? Is it a way of resting? Is it a means to explore? Do you use sleep to get new ideas or absorb information quickly? Do you feel sleep effectively solve conflicts from the day? And how about using sleep as practice for being conscious at the time of the ultimate sleep: your death?
Needs: How many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested? When you are tired can you take a quick nap and recover fully or do naps make you more tired? If you need 8 hours of sleep do you calculate at what time you need to go to bed so you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock? Do you find you need less or more sleep depending on what and when you eat?
Jot down a few ideas. After all many people spend at least 1/3 or more of their lives in bed. Might as well think for five minutes on the value of all this time and make it work towards your health, happiness and well-being.
2. Memory, Learning, Creative Problem Solving
The technique I used for memory and learning during sleep as a child and young adult that helped me do well academically (took classes at Harvard Law, Harvard Undergraduate, Fletcher School, Amherst, Berkeley, HEC business school) was simple enough:
Little did I know that this 20 minutes was the crucial technique that allowed the information to enter effortlessly and remain in my short-term memory.
3. Sleep Well at Night
Usually, I go to bed around 10.30pm and like to wake up without an alarm clock early in the morning (I nevertheless set one just in case). But most days I wake up naturally anytime from 3.30am to 5.00am. Five hours of sleep is usually sufficient for me, but when my body is healing it can be later. I enjoy this early morning time alone immensely as the air is fresh, cool and my mind and spirit are at their best.
Do things without Tension During the Day (Relaxation and Ease is Rest)
Since I do the most important things first thing in the day when everyone is sleeping I am more relaxed the rest of the day as I have done what matters most to me (meditation). During the day, I try to do either things I love or at least do them in a way I love so my body is not tense. Naturally, daily exercise also helps in letting go of physical tension.
Eating Different Foods Creates a Body at Rest & the Need for Less Sleep
I used to need eight hours of sleep. However, my sleeping time dramatically decreased ever since I began to eat differently (became vegetarian and ate a good amount of raw fresh foods & raw organic juices so digestion happens faster and easier).
At one point when I was doing many organic juices and had many vegetables, I only needed four hours of sleep. This made me realize that my body was not working optimally on a “regular French diet” even if I came from a family of great French chefs and ate good quality food. This discovery has made me deeply curious about what foods bring energy and make you feel great.
Digest Well and Cleanse Away the Worries of the Day
Other things that help me sleep well is eating an early dinner around 6.30pm, a shower before sleep and a cup of warm un-homogenized organic milk with a pinch of turmeric 30 minutes just before bed.
Set up a Great Environment and Say Goodbye to the Day
I also like to light a candle in my room prior to sleeping with a little oil as it gives a beautiful glow to the room. As I watch its warm glow, I say a silent prayer (not to disturb my husband) and then usually take 10 or more minutes to write about what was most meaningful during the day; what I learned about myself and how I might do things differently if given a second chance tomorrow. If, as each day is a blessing.
Create Space for the Night for Greater Things to Happen
Just before going to sleep (if I am not already asleep as I usually fall asleep in two minutes) I try to disassociate myself from events or things during the day; creating a little space by reminding myself that I am not my body nor my mind. In other words, I try to disassociate from the many roles I play during the day: mother, wife, yoga teacher, chef, artist, Director of Beyond Our Best, writer or other.
Gratitude and Joy
In the morning, I like to wake up and see the glow from the lamp (sometimes it goes out at night) and smile that I am alive for another day. I like to smile too at my heart and thank it for beating while I was sleeping.
Do What Is Important
Another day is another chance for me to experience something worthwhile with people I love and to do what is important for me. Before I usually practice morning meditative techniques, I put a little ash on my forehead (like Catholics do on Ash Wednesday but I like to do it every day) to remind myself that today could be my last day and if it is I must use it wisely.
This may seem strange to some, but something as simple as a little ash is a reminder for me that I may not be here long. It changes the way I spend my day. And each day adds up quickly to a life. This simple morning ritual, can help me focus on important things such as calling my mother or a friend in need. When you think of your last day; it is not often the large glorious things you think about, but the really important people in your life and what matters most to you.
For more tips, here is a video by a yogi named Sadhguru who explains Good Sleep Rituals
4. Take Power Naps 20 Minutes Equal to Three Hours of Sleep
When and if I get tired during the day, I take a short 10-20 minute nap. After 10 minutes of rest, I can recover completely and seem like a different person. 20 minutes is ideal.
This 20 minutes of sleeping or resting is equivalent to 2-3 hours of sleeping time. For it to be done properly, you need to teach the body to fall asleep but keeps the mind conscious or aware. This practice is best done in the morning when one is not tired or else one tends to fall asleep…
You can use the Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs App to help Train Yourself to do this: Press on this link to download Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs.
It uses two different sounds in each ear so you need to use headphones.
Please note you can put relaxing sounds in the background such as raindrops or choose your favorite song in the background (good for teenagers who may not like elevator music). Some other apps do not allow this function and you get tired of their music.
After you download it, use the Power Nap function and set your alarm for 20 minutes. Put yourself in Shavasana pose (corpse pose) in yoga – lying on your back with your legs and arms spread slightly, palms facing upwards. During the practice try not to move and make sure you will not be disturbed.
Try doing this for at least 48 days until you get comfortable with it and can then do it upon will without falling asleep. When you are conscious or fully relaxed you can also say a “signal word” like — focused relaxation and let it be associated with the moement of intense relaxation you are currently in. Later when you repeat the same word at the beginning of a meditation relaxation should come quickly.
Use “Conscious Sleep” for Preparing the Mind for Meditation
Deep relaxation is key to many things; sleep, memory and meditation.
For those who wish to practice meditation the capacity to relax is the first thing one must learn. To completely let go or relax helps one enter states of meditation.
I practiced conscious sleep (putting the body to sleep and keeping the mind aware) in Shavasana for 6 months for about 40 minutes a day prior to learning sitting meditation.
For those who want to meditate, start with the 20 minute Nap practice in Shavasana.
Remember Conscious Sleep is best practiced when not too tired or you will fall asleep. You can practice it at bedtime if you have a hard time falling asleep and then let yourself sleep! If you are tired during the day try finding the time for a 20 minute power nap as it will deeply re-invigorate you. It is a must for people with long or intense working days or who may work night shifts. Flight attendants can use the practice during their “rest period” travelling, taxi drivers can practice it at night in their cabs when on “rest.”
Some Tools for Meditation that Give the Benefits of Restful Sleep & Far More
Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs App (Power Nap do 20 minutes)
Yoga Nida (Beginners from Bihar School excellent 30 minute)
Yoga Nidra (Intermediate from Bihar School excellent 40 minute)
Shoonya (Taught by the yogi Sadhguru)
Centering Prayer as taught by Monks such as Father Keating
Try one that seems right for you. The first three are easy to use and you can begin with the video or the app. Shoonya needs to be taught. There are books on Centering prayer.
Wishing you great sleep, good power naps, great memory and a deep centered awareness throughout your day and night.
Re-inventing Ourselves Silently
Nations do not change, only individuals. We are all called to be artists, creators of change within ourselves and around us. To create something entirely new, to go beyond our best as individuals, we need to draw on our inner capabilities.
One such path is through meditation. Meditation is not something we do, it is a state we enter when our body, mind and spirit are ready. Certain meditative techniques or practices help make meditative states be experienced sooner than others. As such it can not be taught, but only experienced by those willing and open to experiment on themselves and disciplined enough to create the right body, mind and spirit.
There are many paths that lead to “meditation,” chose one that fits you and begin today.
Nirmal was trained in Raja yoga in Nepal as of age nine, practiced Ayurveda as of eleven and is fluent in Japanese. We recommend you meditating with him (on Tuesday at noon — check schedule in case it changed), or his private Ayurvedic Counseling or Pranyama class (Thursday nights) at Nirmal Yoga. Contact Nirmal Gyawali Yoga Studio (Shirokanedai) email@example.com to create a new group of meditators or to practice one on one or for for individual ayurvedic counseling. Nirmal also has a teacher training course.
For those interested, we recommend Zen at Senkakuji Temple with Chudo Yamamoto (Japanese/English). Many other temples in Japan have Za-zen, you need to call and find out when it is available to the public. Most in Japanese! Zen is a full life-style that includes the way you walk, sleep, eat, so if you think by sitting one or two hours a day will be enough for a full transformation, you need to re-think your whole lifestyle.
YOGA TREE (Hiroo, Japan). We recommend for hatha yoga Michael Glenn’s studio (English/Japanese) at Yoga Tree in Hiroo, Tokyo. There is something about Michael’s intensity and focus that makes practicing there an incredible experience that harmonizes the body, mind and spirit. The Japanese teachers are excellent too.
YOGA in SYNC (Outram Park, Singapore). For those in Singapore, we recommend hatha yoga with Vikram at Yoga in Sync (hard to find a yogi who knows the body better). For advanced students, health challenges and athletes, we recommend his private sessions.
NIKAM YOGA. For cleansing techniques that prepare the body for meditation we recommend doing yoga with Nikam Yoga. Nikam Yoga includes pranyama and is free of charge, but only available in certain countries like India and Singapore where former students become teachers devoting their time and expertise freely. It is a course, with each class building on the other and regular practice, so committed members only.
We recommend Qigong with Shu Seika (Chinese/Japanese) Friday mornings at 8am in Arisugawa park (near the statue on the side of Library) Hiroo. Mr. Zhou or Shu Seika began his training at age 9 and has helped people with cancer and other illnesses in Japan for many years. He has given workshops that rejuvenate health at the cellular level and treats individuals. Speaks Japanese and Chinese fluently. Tel: 0363289606.
YOGA (From Comfort of your Home with most Effective Yogic Techniques)
For those who do not have an individual teacher, who wish to learn at their own pace or from the comfort of their own home, we recommend the effective techniques of Sadhguru, an Indian yogi. The best place to begin is his online Isha Kriya or his on-line Inner Engineering Course (download his app). Sadhguru gives more advanced trainings in countries where there are enough volunteers to assist follow up trainings. The US, India, Singapore, Malaysia, UK are amongst a few. Then perhaps to India!
For those with limited time but desiring effective techniques–this is it. Naturally as this yogi is Indian, in the West one must be open to that which we do not know (not the best trait of the French nor the Japanese according to a Franco-Japanese!).
Sadhguru is a yogi full of joy, he is profound, his technique combines all forms of yoga even if he himself is probably a kriya yogi. He has talked at the UN, taught the Kennedy brothers, spoken at MIT, Harvard, Yale, trained CEOs and does whatever is needed to bring a small element of spirituality to this world. You may not understand everything he does (nor do I), but his techniques I have tested. They work!
Download Sadhguru App (itunes Version) or search for the one adopted for your phone. For simple 5 minute practices select Yoga on the app and press “Yoga Tools” Learn Now. Apps available on isha website.
For those who wish to do a short 15 minute meditation try ishakriya meditation on the app. Do it daily for 90 days or 2x a day for 48 days for maxium benefit without missing a day. It works..
For those with health issues download the health meditation chit shakti meditation online or use the app. There is also a meditation on love, success and peace.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM there is a Tibetain Buddhism center in Saint Gilles called Kagyu Samye Dzong, located at 33 rue Capouillet who follow the Karmapa line of Buddhism which is in line with the Dalai Lama. I walked in one weekend to do my first seated 20 and 40 minute meditation with a formidable meditator and Lama named Yeshe who has meditated in seclusion for many years in the forest and also more than once for 25 or so days in a dark enclosed box (most humans go crazy after a few days).
I later returned once again to the center to learn briefly from and meet his elder brother who was a great lama and doctor, named Akong Rinpoche. Both brothers started the first Tibetain monestery in Europe in Scotland. Lama Rinchen Palmo, a French lama at the center also kindly helped me to contact a Zen master as I was leaving for Japan to work with the Japanese. Ken Holmes and his wife Katia are a formidable team of scholars who I met there and give an 3 year on-line course on Tibetan Buddhism that is impossible to find elsewhere. I could only complete two due to my schedule, but recommend it highly.
The Kagyu line also have a monestery in the Catskills, New York which I discovered when a monk I met in the train back from NYC wished to bring me there! Although a novice myself on Tibetain Buddhism, all the people I met at this center were inspiring.
SILENCE AND THE SISTERS OF BETHLEHEM
Christianity has its own set of practices that are meditative in nature and a tradition of silence. The monastery of the sisters of Bethlehem in the Catskill Mountains (Livingston manor), two and a half hours from New York City, is home to this silence, to great love and to the joy of solitude. This is a sacred place and Sr. Amena, the head of the monastery, and the nuns who practice there have a beautiful presence which make each moment spent there sacred.
I had the good fortune of going there once a year for the last few years and staying in a wood cabin for a few days of silence in the forest. It was divine and the small chapel with the chants of the sisters early in the morning lift one’s prayers and meditation.
See if you can book a place Livingston Manor for a silent retreat, contribute for your stay a donation to the sisters (as they live on what they earn with their art) and return re-invigorated. Each sister here is special, each one wants to remain nameless. Each one feels like my sister. Each one has prayed for our family countless times.
Silence is rare these days. And yet, Jesus went into the desert to meditate. There is in Christianity a tradition handed down by mystics and later by the Carmelite tradition exemplified by Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux and Thomas Merton amongst others for silence. One of the techniques used, centering prayer, is much like the techniques I have found in the other traditions above. It is contemplative prayer and it has been renewed with Father Thomas Keating’s work at St. Benedict’s Monastery.
Learn to enter deeper states of relaxation, strengthen your meditation practice, experience the art of well-being or discover a new level of being far beyond a previous best, as you transform yourself and us with your creations and your life.
With gratitude and joy to all artists, all creators,
A blog to go Beyond our Best in body, mind and spirit
Kesennuma, Changing Japan from Kid to Kid and Beyond (a visit on March 13, 2013)
Kesennuma, located in the northeast of Miyagi Precture, Japan, was deeply affected in Japan’s quake disaster. This leading fishing town in Japan is of great beauty and its people of great strength. Having said that, the strong need help and two years after the disaster there is still much that can be done.
Kesennuma Hit Hard by Tsunami
When faced with national crisis many of us feel useless. Our first response is what can I do? And yet, it is often the smallest acts, many of which seemingly go unnoticed, which make a fundamental difference.
For instance, Emi Satomi and a group of nursery teachers from Kesenumma whose jobs were eliminated by the catastrophe, weren’t sure what to do. They made a makeshift day care center in a warehouse up on a hill. Despite Emi’s fear to take on something she felt was beyond her, she forged ahead and named the new nursery Ohisama, meaning “sun” (more on her by Japan Times). And sun it brought.
Today, the Japanese have done a great job in cleaning up Kesennuma. And yet, it is not clean streets alone that are sufficient in raising the human spirit. It is people like Emi Satomi and small acts which change lives. Acts that tell people we are with them.
TIS (Tokyo International School) Kids, Parents and Michael Anop’s Play Ground of Hope
On March 13 2013, a group from TIS (Tokyo International School) of dedicated and inspiring parents — including Bita Alu and Tracey Odea — as well as the head of the school, Des Hurst, and the entrepreneur Michael Anop (founder of the Play Ground of Hope) went up to Kessennuma together with a mission. The purpose of the visit: to send a message from the kids of TIS (Tokyo International school) to the kids of Ohisama that they are not forgotten.
In kids talk, this means it is time to play and to smile. The kids at TIS saved their money and through their own fundraising as well as of their parents offered a playground of hope to a nursery school in Kesennuma. The idea was to provide a smile to kids up north and some relief to the brave nursery teachers who through their giving and effort helped many families in difficulty.
These kids from TIS (Tokyo International School) are wiser than most of us. They know that is only when smiles return that real reconstruction begins. Let me share with you a few of those pictures as the moment was a happy one!
The boy with the red cap kept hugging us.
I speak about the wisdom of children, but I also speak with some noted exceptions of great adults. Michael Anop, who is himself a parent and knows well the benefit of outdoor play for kids has started a great project of hope for kids (and their parents) in Tohoku. As the housing situation is difficult in the north with temporary housing now constructed, but with no room for kids to play — a solution had to be found.
Given that local authorities remain busy with the basics of housing and employment, it is private initiatives like the Playground of Hope that make the difference. Michael, determined to help children and their parents in Tohoku, found a way to make playgrounds affordable. He did something that even the local Japanese constructors thought impossible: build a sturdy affordable playground designed to last.
As he has worked on project after project in Tohoku, he has merited the confidence and trust of local authorities and even the makers of playgrounds are now approaching him with some admiration. It is my hope that new playgrounds can be created for children who have no place to play. For this to continue efforts in financing Playground of Hope are helpful by schools and individuals.
We also need the media in the north to make the project of hope visible so that new communities in need of playgrounds will initiate requests to Michael.
They are waving to their new friends at TIS. Bita Alu lugged up a large suitcase of presents for each one of them, to be given after the snack…
Financing Socially Aware Projects in Tohoku Creates Smiles
People such as Ronald Choi, a Korean investment banker for JP Morgan in Tokyo and also a parent at TIS, is now working to help finance the Playground of Hope and other projects. He and others are aware that the real work in re-construction starts now. That is : it is only after people have struggled to physically survive, that comes the more difficult task of re-building one’s life and creating daily meaning in difficult circumstances.
Ron Choi is raising additional money for the Playground of Hope and other projects up north with the organization NADIA.
I first met Mr. Choi on a bus on the way to Ishinomaki when TIS donated a large playground and many excited children and parents rode up together with Lorraine Izzard (the new head of TIS as of July 2013). On the bus, I was struck by Mr. Choi’s great spirit, modesty and generosity. Here was an investment banker who took his own vacation time (vacation is rare in investment banking) to physically do hard labor to help re-build homes up north. I only met him for a few moments, but was moved by him and his giving family as well as the way he spoke to his own children and to others.
Helping Communities Now and Japanese Architects
Projects such as Michael’s are important as they underline the necessity of people up north to re-create links and find a place to see old friends and build relationships. This naturally happens around children. Socially aware projects like Michael’s enable communities to unite and re-build from within.
As most housing units up north have been randomly assigned to people in temporary housing, people often do not know each other. Until (and even after) permanent housing and new relationships are created, playgrounds and places where adults can come together are needed.
Another such notable project that merits attention due to its social awareness is by the reknown architect Toyo Ito. He has designed a “house for all,” as shown in Keiko Courdy’s web documentary Yonaoshi. Her stunning documentary talks about a New Japan emerging from the disaster, a Japan better than before. Perhaps, when we look at this house, we begin to understand the spirit of this new Japan.
In the video interview of Toyo Ito, Keiko Courdy shows a prototype of a house by Ito that builds on a new spirit of community. The wooden house has a place to sit outside where people can naturally greet passing neighbors and a place to gather to cook together a simple meal inside or to have tea together.
Other Japanese architects too, like Shigeru Ban, have created new structures for people up north often without help from local governments nor outside funding nor support. These architects remind us of our responsibility in crisis to think about the people within the houses, about their hearts, minds and desire to be together with loved ones.
The experience of these Japanese architects remind us of the courage necessary to break away from bureaucracy and let a new Japan emerge. Some Japanese bureaucrats have been courageous to do so and have allowed talented Japanese architects to realize new structures. However, more needs to be done to help Japanese architects build and innovate according to needs of people who have lost their homes and often all hope.
It could be our role to link Japanese architects, courageous mayors and bureaucrats who are willing to take a chance, bankers like Ronald Choi and daring social entrepreneurs like Michael Anop to help make the daily life of our citizens livable.
Building a New Japan : A Role for Artists
The well known ship that was left stranded shows a stark contrast to the one in the earlier picture of this blog. And yet, there was also a feeling of great sadness. A feeling of isolation that is hard to describe as there was an emptiness about the streets.
With unemployment in the Tohoku area important, houses with a new community spirit and playgrounds brought by the private sector can do much to help reduce stress and growing domestic violence, drinking and suicide in Tohoku.
Playgrounds and community houses may seem like little acts of creation, but in the day to day life of stressed out parents who can easily tire, they bring back a moment of peace or even a smile. That smile was best communicated to us by the children we met at Kesennuma. When we first met them, they were all hard at work happily building something in the sand around the playground.
When I asked them what they were building, I had expected a “castle,” or something of the sort, but instead heard “I am building a store, a house, a road and shops.” And so they were. I leave you, Japanese architects, bureaucrats and financial investors with their hopes and with the beautiful sunset I saw on the way back passing Fukushima. I am sure you will not disappoint them.
Thoughts on the movie Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan
Last night I was invited to a well attended Diet screening for Rene Duignan’s much talked about film (see Asahi Shimbun 1/22/2013, Yomiuri Shimbun 125/2013 amongst others). The presentation, opened by MP Hosono, and closed by MP Renho, who is the former minister in charge of suicide prevention in Japan, had an important following.
Over 100 Diet members were invited. Murata Nobuyuki moderated the event and Professor Hidetoshi Nakamura, Deputy Director of EU Institute of Japan at Waseda University gave remarks. Saito Yukio, Nakashita Daiki and Rene Duignan were on the panel.
Rene Duignan and Saving 10,000
Rene Duignan, who works for the European Union Delegation in Tokyo, is by training an economist.
A man of great spirit and focus, he spent many late nights and countless weekends over the three last years wanting to make a difference about one issue: suicide in Japan. Interviewing countless experts he made a film which examines why so many Japanese people take their own lives in Japan. The result is tremendous.
The film is released today free on the internet in order to reach the greatest number. Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan, is going to make an impact. It will make you think about what you can do to save a life.
Statistics on Japan’s Suicide Rate
The movie raises many questions about why Japan’s suicide rate is so high despite a declining population. A few figures stuck out: the suicide rate in Japan is 2x that of the United States, in the last 10 or so years 300,000 people committed suicide in Japan — a figure about equal to the population of Iceland.
Most notably, of the 30,000 who take their lives each year from suicide, 10,000 have been in a mental hospital and 1/3 are over 60. Having said this, to suggest that the thought of suicide only crosses the mind of the weak or aging in Japan would be wrong. Another study shows that 40% of University Students in Japan have considered suicide.
I will allow you to view the film or see the reviews. I will just make a comment on a possible answer to suicide.
The Best Suicide Prevention: Stronger Intimate Relationships and Existential Meaning
For me the opposite of death is life. This means that the best suicide prevention is to help people live healthier happier lives full of meaning.
It can also come on the existential level, with a sense of life purpose or meaning that has a spiritual element be it a strong morale, an appreciation of beauty or the capacity to use our life to help others.
On an existential level this can be experienced as beauty, as oneness with nature, or for some the experience of being one with the universe or with God.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
On the individual level, given the Japanese statistics, Japanese psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers can play a role by helping the Japanese balance their inner lives, despite outward difficulties which in our world today only seem to be growing.
For this reason, Rene will also be giving up a follow-up event of the EU’s screening of his film on March 27th 2013 at the EU Delegation to Japan with Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, a Japanese Harvard trained psychiatrist who founded the Japan International Medical Student Association (JIMSA) with the support of Dr. Taro Takemi—the long-standing President of the Japanese Medical Association and a well-respected physician and nuclear physicist.
Using Crisis to Make A Breakthrough in Life
Dr. Yukio Ishizuka will talk about how a failed suicide attempt can be an opportunity to breakthrough beyond a previous best level in one’s sense of self, intimacy and achievements.
The talk will address our threshold for individual stress, the subjective factor, suffering and happiness. Rene and other experts will be on a panel.
Suicide a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem
As Rene points out in his film, just one of us can do a lot. The patrol man Shige-san who along with his volunteers has sucessfully stopped 297 from jumping off Tojimbo Cliff, has had an impact. Most notably of those 297 who were determined to take their lives at that moment, only 4 later committed suicide. That means, that 293 of the 297 found it possible to overcome the terrible circumstance that once made life seem impossible.
Societal Factors that Play a Role Should be Addressed
But as Durkheim, the French sociologist, pointed out the causes of suicide can be found in social factors and not just individual personalities. When a society faces disintegration in the family structure, in politics and religion (or meaning), then suicide increases. That may be true not just of Japan, but of the world. However, there are national specificities in life insurance packages, in gambling, alcohol, mental health, bullying and how we view death and suffering through our culture, literature and history that also play a role. In this aspect, the film examines some important issues.
Japanese Artists Have a Positive Role to Play
As far as Japanese artists goes, there is also much that can be done. Henry Scott Stokes, a personal friend of Yukio Mishima — the Japanese renown author who took his life in gruesome circumstances– has much to say on the matter. The death of Mishima is a great loss to the world.
In the film Saving 10,000 lives Mr. Stokes states, “The suicide tendency among Japanese authors has been extremely high. And if you just list them going through the decades there are many who took their lives and the pattern is totally out of shape with the rest of the world. There is no where else where the suicide of novelists is so prevalent.”
Henry Scott Stokes regrets dearly Mishima’s decision and states, “Those of us who knew he had suicidal tendencies should have stepped forward, should have found a way to enable him to continue to live.”
Because artists are often sensitive to the beauty of life, they also feel deeply the pain. The challenge for Japanese artists in the future may be to help the Japanese experience the fullness of life without the fascination for death.
While life and death are inseparable, all of us can overcome. We can express the ugliness of despair and the beauty of finding one’s own way. Through art, including literature, Japanese artists can inspire the Japanese to new heights, to the experience of greater beauty and meaning– to a dignity that will move us all.
There is a spiritual value in art that touches our core and in this Japanese artists have a profound opportunity to touch far more than 10,000.
Art will always express what words cannot.
Fundamental Individual & National Change in Crisis
As difficult as crisis can be, it may be an ideal opportunity for fundamental change in the individual as stated by Dr. Yukio Ishizuka and seen in the graph above or (as Dr. Paul Briot, a Belgian philosopher and writer) has pointed out poignently — in a nation.
In a letter addressed to Japanese friends published in English and Japanese by the chief editor of Sogensha in Osaka, dealing with psychology psychotherapy and art, Dr. Paul Briot and I write:
“Nations, just like individuals, often ask crucial questions in times of crisis. It is only when things become really difficult that we have the courage to consider transformational change. After the 2011 tragedy, Japan set about recovering with a dignity and courage that moved the world. Just as in 1945, the Japanese will recover and rebuild. The question is: can a new Japan emerge?”
It is often only when we have reached our worst, that we can ask fundamental questions and create something new beyond a previous best. After March 11, 2011 the time may have come.
Japan Can Use Crisis to Breakthrough
Japan can do much to reduce the suicide rate and help create a society of meaning. We all have a role to play in this. It starts by taking time to notice how we impact others and how we can help those in difficulty. We can start by making changes first in ourselves and then in the world around us.
On a national level, it also takes bonds, but of a more profound and fundamental nature. By calming our emotion, by using our reason and focusing on knowledge and compassion, we can begin to make important changes in our country and in this world.
Please contribute to the campaign and pass on the link to those who can make a difference. That is: all of us!
Some Useful Links:
Film Trailer Saving 10,000: winning a War on Suicide in Japan http://www.saving10000.com/
Hotline in Japan on Suicide: Tell Suicide Prevention
For more on Health, Happiness and Optimal Adjustment
Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka, a Franco-Japanese from New York, sees hope for Japan
Born of a French mother and Japanese father but raised in New York, Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka is of three cultures. Today, due to the Japanese crisis, she desires to return to Japan and be with the Japanese people. She, her husband, and her two young children (5 and 7) are hoping to make that possible as of September 2012.
Seishin Joshi Gakuin: A traditional Japan
At age 16, Nathalie enrolled as the first high school student from the United States to attend the all-Japanese traditional girl school, Seishin Joshi Gakuin. There in the most traditional of Japanese schools, Leiko was initiated to the Japanese language, Japanese mythology, and Japanese brush painting during a four month exchange.
Mitsubishi Communications: A Peek at Office Life
A following short summer internship at Mitsubishi Communications, gave her a peek into Japanese office life. Like the Belgian author Amelie Nothomb in Stupeur and Tremblements Nathalie Ishizuka served tea in the morning, arrived early, and spent much of her day asking how she might be of use.
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution : Original Research
At age 22, Nathalie Ishizuka wrote a 240 page Summa Cum Laude thesis at Amherst College on Article 9 of the 1946 Japanese Constitution. She received the Doshisha Asian Studies Award and written praise from Colonel Charles Kades, one of the Constitution’s founding fathers. Ishizuka was fortunate to benefit from Kades’ guidance as well as input from Professor Ray Moore, Professor Donald Robinson, Jim Sutherland, and Terusuke Terada.
Keio University: A Struggle with Language
Nathalie attended Keio for a six month exchange to better speak the language.
Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy: Psychology and International Affairs
While at the Fletcher School, Ishizuka wrote “Lessons from Preventive Health to Preventive Diplomacy,” winning an Eisaku Sato Memorial Essay Award. Ishizuka was invited to the U.N. University in Tokyo. During this time she also applied a hypothesis about how the affect fear influences economics and went to Berkeley for a year to work with Oliver Williamson (Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2009) to explore a paper she had presented at the Academy of Management.
Returning to Japan to be with the Japanese
Today at age 42, Nathalie Ishizuka wishes to return to Japan in a sign of solidarity with the Japanese people. She hopes to work with writers, thinkers, artists, deciders and those who hold the Japanese traditions and spirit dear.
While Nathalie’s own father’s mentor, Dr. Taro Takemi, a long time President of the Japanese Medical Association, had once told her father, Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, “Not to return to Japan,” because the future was the West, Nathalie Ishizuka believes this is no longer true. She and Dr. Paul Briot, a Belgian essayist, see great hope in Japan.
They will share their optimism with their Japanese friends in an article they wish to publish in Japanese print in the next few months.
The World’s Most Valuable Asset in a Time of Crisis
Letter to Japanese Friends
Dr. Paul Briot and I (Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka) believe that to rebuild Japan will require a magnificent and strong morale made of comprehension, of compassion, beauty and all the pacific values of the great Japanese culture. In that respect, Japanese artists, writers, thinkers and the youth have an essential task to realize.
It is with great modesty that Paul and I wish to address in the months to come a letter to our Japanese friends and in so doing share our own optimism for Japan. We believe that Japan thanks to this crisis will rise again. Not uniquely in an economic or political sense, but in a morale, aesthetic, existential or spiritual sense.
Should the Japanese collectively, and individually, emerge from this crisis with greater comprehension, compassion, liberation, and realization they could initiate changes in society far beyond a previous balance.
If successful, the Japanese could go as far as stiring the imagination of other nations on how to face and successfully overcome natural and man-made crisis, each freely with respect to their own culture, specificity and individual differences.
Brief Background Description of Authors of the Letter:
Paul Briot, Ph.d in Philosophy, Professor at the Faculty of Comparative Religion, Antwerp (F.V.G.), Belgium. Author of poetic essays, articles and books on the subject of the utilization of crisis, sincerity, artistic creation, and the clarity of objectives. Recent books include Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…? (The Radiant…An Art towards the Infinite?) 2004, Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers. La Structuration de l’existence, (The Structure of Existence) Charleroi, Editions du Centre universitaires (Cunic), 1989.
Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka
Nathalie Ishizuka studied Japanese at Keio University, M.A.L.D. Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (administered in cooperation with Harvard), M.B.A. from HEC, Paris. Her 240 page summa cum laude thesis on Article 9 of the 1946 Japanese Constitution and UN peacekeeping received written praise from Colonel Charles Kades, one of the Constitution’s founding fathers. Ishizuka currently writes on the use of crisis as an opportunity to build individual and national health for the Positive Mental Health Foundation. She is also the author of this blog inviting Japanese artists and citizens to imagine a new Japan.
Japanese Art & Artists: What will the works of Japanese Artists Invite us to Dream About?
If certain artistic masterpieces can be understood from the aspect of wisdom, what do the works of Japanese artists invite us to dream about? How did the Japan tsunami, the Japan earthquake, and the Japan nuclear meltdown change Japan? Are we about to discover something more important than technology and economic efficiency as the central motor of our civilization? This section of the site will analyze or comment on the works of artists who inspire.
Crisis Both Danger and Opportunity
Crisis can move artists and individuals in a positive direction. In the future, we wish to post here interviews with key individuals in Japanese art, culture, and society who wish to discuss a positive vision for Japan and incite both the old and young to act with greater comprehension, compassion, liberation or realization.
We will also post articles for individual Japanese citizens to use the crisis as a means for greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization. These articles will include a psychology of health, balance and building meaning in our everyday lives despite difficulty.
We will include here examples of artistic propositions to be interpreted freely by Japanese artists which could incite the imagination of the Japanese. We encourage artists to make new suggestions. We suggest that any ideas used be appropriately cited to the authors to empower and continue to inspire. We encourage all artists to tell us about any interpretations so we can share their work with others.
Examples of propositions for artists to interpret freely (painting, sculpting, dance, multi-media or other) are included here from Paul Briot. They are published in, Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…? (The Radiant…An Art towards the Infinite…?) 2004, 2017 Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers
FACES OF SUNS
A field of sunflowers, moving sculptures. The flowers converse, look after one another, bow in all directions. Eyelids of suns. Us.
–Paul Briot, Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…?
A PURPLE CLOUD
A purple cloud condenses into a rain of ideas.
–Paul Briot, Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…?
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