Soft-Attention Transforms Despair: Three Films
Three documentaries featuring Zen soul-healer Ittetsu Nemoto Sensei
Greetings Good Travelers and Wayfarers, I wanted to share some information about three films with you, all of which involve the same person: Ittetsu Nemoto, and all of which relate to the dreamingbody, heart-mind, meditation, and the essential topic of liberation from suffering.
Ittetsu Nemoto is a Zen priest in Seki, Japan (Gifu Prefecture), where he is the Chief Priest of Daizenji Zen Temple. A former punk rocker, Nemoto-sensei experienced a number of losses early in his life — all people who committed suicide.
Nemoto’s process of deep inner questioning about the suffering behind these events led him — after much soul-searching — not only to become a Zen priest but also to dedicate his life to helping people who are struggling with depression and suicidal ideation (and/or people who have made suicide attempts).
Nemoto-sama’s transformative presence and work with people around these issues utilizes a process he calls Tabidachi (“The Departure”) and is the subject of three documentaries: “The Departure”, “My Soul Drifts Light Upon A Sea of Trees”, and “The Ritual Death”.
“THE DEPARTURE” / directed by Lana Wilson
“The Departure” is the more biographical of the three films and offers a down-to-earth portrayal of a humble Zen family man pushing his limits so hard to be of service that he begins having disconcerting health problems himself.
Interspersed with intimate discussions with family members concerned for his health, we see Nemoto-sensei both counseling individuals and guiding groups in a workshop retreat exploring consciousness, life purpose, and the topic of death, which he calls Tabidachi, The Departure.
“THE RITUAL DEATH” / directed by Sam Goldwater, hosted by Monica Byrne
In this 13-minute short film, playwright and science fiction author Monica Byrne travels to Gifu Prefecture, Japan, to meet Ittetsu Nemoto and participate in his Tabidachi Workshop. She touches upon the subjects of the capacity of Zen meditation to diminish depressive states, Japan’s urban “death-by-overwork” culture, Japan’s epidemic rates of suicide, and the work of Ittetsu Nemoto against this backdrop.
“MY SOUL DRIFTS LIGHT UPON A SEA OF TREES” / directed by Heinrich Dahms and Michele Aime
Where “The Departure” focuses more on Ittetsu Nemoto, the man, “My Soul Drifts Light Upon A Sea of Trees” focuses on the lives of three people whom Nemoto-sama has aided in their journey of self-acceptance and healing.
Applying the concept of the dreamingbody to these very personal portrayals (in particular, Mocca, a female singer who offers a poignant description of the troublesome messages of self-hatred and shame that characterized her cyclical thought patterns for a specific period of her life), we witness a deeply tender description of how the beauty and creative power of the soul can become suppressed by the weighty overlay of trauma, inherited toxicity from abuse, and general depression.
What shines through loud and clear is how vital it is for these weighty residues to be taken seriously, attended and tended to, “off-gassed” and released, so that the light of the soul can shine through again.
As my late teacher, Kuma-sensei, used to say, “It isn’t your life that must ‘go’; it’s the thick clouds and heavy stones preventing your life from blooming. Clouds and stones can be moved. Movement is the fulcrum.”
Below you will find trailers for the films mentioned, along with a couple of articles that contain interviews of Nemoto-sama, one in the Buddhist magazine TRICYCLE and one in The New Yorker.
Deep Peace to you,
Frank Inzan Owen
The Poet’s Dreamingbody / The School of Soft-Attention
p.s. As someone who has lost a handful of dear ones to suicide, I implore you: if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal thoughts, THAT IS THE SIGN that an “off-ramp” is needed. Take the Off-Ramp. Reach out. Help is available, free and confidentially.
Here’s a link to the website that explains the: National Lifeline
Read the TRICYCLE Magazine interview with Ittetsu Nemoto here: » “The Counselor”
Read the New Yorker feature about Ittetsu Nemoto here: » “Last Call”
“The Departure (2017)” - Trailer
“My Soul Drifts Light Upon A Sea of Trees (2018)” Trailer
“The Ritual Death (2017)
SOUND MAP OF POST VOICEOVER
I am especially thankful for this posting , the timing of it is profound for me and may be of great assistance to a Japanese friend of mine.
I have been concerned as she has been out of sight for many weeks and although she does respond briefly to my texts, up until a few days ago she has not been willing to see me. Just today she reached out to see if we could meet soon.
A younger mutual Chinese friend says that she sees her at yoga class sometimes and she is ok- just going through something.
I haven’t felt so sure, so I keep reaching out and just a few minutes ago I sent her your posting.
Now we have some common ground as I too have felt the emergence of some old pain and despair arising in these beautiful bright days and increasing moon and darkness.
So grateful to you, old friend.
Right on target.
All love no end,