Mindfulness: The Key To Happiness

“If I met you, I would be talking to you. However, in my head, I might be thinking different things and feeling anxious.” Lucy Roleff, a local musician and illustrator in Melbourne, described her past experience when she was with other people. She used to feel anxious all the time, and made her feel depressed as well. “I used to feel isolated and living in a different world, even though I was with friends.” She explained that her symptoms were something related to anxiety disorder, ‘depersonalisation’. A person who suffers from depersonalisation disorder feels detached from her/ his body and experiences mild identity confusion. If it gets serious, the person may think about suicide.

The first step that Lucy tried to overcome anxiety and depression was to push out all negative thoughts and feelings. “I tried all sorts of affirmation, medication, and psychological therapy, but it did not work for me.” She felt that the goal of all these methods is pushing out negative emotions and thoughts and analysing them, which made her to focus on them more. She explained that it is related to how brain works. “Once people are trying to push away negative thoughts, our brain naturally perceives them as more important.”

One day, she read an article about mindfulness. “Trying to train the brain to accept all thoughts, not just positive ones, observing them and letting them happen, and even welcoming them,” Lucy explained her own definition of mindfulness. She added that some people still want the negative thoughts and emotions to be gone when they observe them, and that is far away from what mindfulness refers to. Understanding the idea of mindfulness and practicing it through meditation was a big step in helping her to overcome anxiety and depression.

Some people believe that distracting negative thoughts and emotions is an efficient way to achieve emotional balance in their life. For example, they watch movies or drink beer to take their minds off them. It can work temporarily, but not in the long term. Firstly, the thoughts and emotions creep back into your brain. Secondly, you may not have a chance to know what kinds of automatic thoughts actually trigger your negative emotions.

If you understand why a negative mood occurs, you can prevent it. Sally Polmear, a mindfulness-meditation instructor at Mindful Meditation Melbourne said, “a negative mood begins as a thought that goes unchecked and that sets in train other thoughts and subsequently develops into a whole mood or way of being in the world at that time.” Sally emphasised the importance of mindfulness as it helps people to check in regularly with our thoughts. According to her explanation, through a mindful state, people can catch their thoughts before they turn into a negative mood triggers.

Mindfulness is not a simple idea for people. “Mindfulness is a non-judgemental awareness of the present moment,” said qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher, Anja Tanhane. “It is not putting aside our good judgement, but rather being open to life as it is, regardless of what is happening – accepting that this is what’s happening right in this moment.”

Sally, who has been practicing and teaching meditation for 13 years, personally believes that mindfulness practice can increase your level of happiness. “I find mindfulness a helpful reminder to catch myself when I am absorbed in worries and plans for the future or caught by regrets of the past, or the myriad other things about which the mind ruminates. When I do mindfully gather my attention into here and now, I feel the release of tension in my body and that has to be a good thing for my physical well-being,” she said.

Anja, who has lectured on mindfulness at the University of Melbourne, explained how mindfulness helped to increase the level of happiness more academically. According to Anja, regular mindfulness practice has been shown to have measurable effects on the brain – for example, it strengthens the central pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for impulse control, empathy, and self-regulation. Also, the left pre-frontal cortex is activated, which induces positive mood states.

“Over time, we don’t get as aroused, but can also calm ourselves down more easily. This enables us to make better decisions, have greater awareness of other people’s point of view, and become more resilient in the face of challenges,” Anja said. We can go more with the flow of life, rather than constantly demanding that life be a certain way, and then being disappointed when things don’t work out as we think they ‘should’. Mindfulness helps us cultivate qualities such as appreciation, patience, trust, letting go, compassion and gratitude, which lead to an increased level of contentment and happiness.

The three renowned ways to practise mindfulness are Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) therapy, meditation, and yoga. MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the late 1970s to enable hospital patients with severe chronic health conditions to benefit from meditation without having to become a Hindu or Buddhist, or subscribe to a particular religion or philosophy. It uses one aspect of the Buddhist noble eight-fold path, mindful meditation, and brings the benefits of this practice into the Western clinical setting. “This has enabled mindfulness to benefit people from all walks of life, for a wide range of emotional, health and interpersonal challenges,” Anja said.

Sally, who teaches meditation and is studying a Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy, explained the difference between MBSR therapy and traditional meditation and yoga. “I would consider that traditional meditation and yoga ultimately have different purposes of a more transcendental nature, such as investigating the nature of phenomena and ‘self’, whereas MBSR therapy is primarily concerned with reducing stress, anxiety and exhaustion.” She said that MBSR therapy is helpful as well because it helps people to calm their mind which can be considered an important first step for developing insights into the nature of existence.

Anja recommended a daily formal meditation to really gain the benefits of mindfulness. “Our brains have been hard-wired through evolution to be constantly alert to danger even when there is no need to be, and to remember negative experiences far more strongly than positive ones. We have also developed unhelpful habits of thinking over several decades, and these old habitual patterns are very strongly developed in our brains.” Our society as a whole does not nurture mindful ways of living – it encourages us to focus on staying busy, to multi-task, and to distract ourselves. We are also over-stimulated on a daily basis. Mindfulness is a way of life, not a skill. Learning some techniques is helpful, but won’t go far in changing our established patterns. According to Anja’s explanation, it is impossible to simply decide to live more mindfully – between our evolutionary brain, our upbringing, and the society we live in, we simply have no chance. Mindfulness is not something which can be ‘willed’, it is an ongoing practice.

Therefore, what Anja and Sally really want to tell people who want to achieve mindfulness is that MBSR is a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy, teaches basic skills to calm our mind through an eight-week course. Thus, it cannot be an ultimate solution for people who want to live mindfully. People need to practice mindfulness by themselves consistently either through meditation or yoga.

Achieving the state of mindfulness through meditation and yoga seems like a popular trend nowadays. Google Chief Evangelist of Brand Marketing, Gopi Kallayil, talked about ‘How Google uses yoga and meditation to increase productivity’ on Bloomberg Business Week. He said that yoga and meditation help us optimise the most important technology, human body. Why is it better to do one thing at a time? Not at the same time? Our physical and mental systems work much better when we bring all our attention on a single thing. When we try to do five things at the same time, it falls apart. “You can train your mind to be much more sharp and focused instead of being distracted through meditation and yoga,” he said.

Lucy, a mindful musician, illustrator, and writer recommended a daily meditation as well. “I am using applications or online websites like ‘Smiling Mind’ and ‘Tiny Buddha’ to practice mindfulness.” If you are too busy to go to meditation classes every day, you can simply download applications that Lucy recommended and use them whenever you want.

“I still feel anxious whenever I play music in front of people. What I do is just letting them happen, you know, letting my hands shake. I just try to be mindful on what I am doing now,” Lucy said with a lovely smile.

If we do not have any chance to experience the negative emotions in our life, we may not appreciate the positive emotions which make us happy. There is nothing wrong with feeling negative emotions like sad or anger – they are a part of being human. Mindfulness teaches that whenever you feel sad or angry, it’s best to just let it happen. If the negativity stays longer, it is fine. Just know it will be gone soon and try to be mindful. Remember, the mindful state can only be achieved through daily practices like meditation and yoga. You can use the applications or online website, or you can attend a meditation or yoga class. Whatever you choose, it will help you for sure, if you keep doing it.

 

1. Lucy Roleff: A Melbourne-based Musician, Illustrator, and Writer

www.lucyroleff.com

2. Sally Polmear: An Experienced Meditation Teacher

www.mindfulmeditationmelbourne.com.au

3. Anja Tanhane: A Registered Music Therapist, Mindfulness Teacher

www.mindfulnessmeditation.net.au

4. Gopi Kallayil: Google Chief Evangelist of Brand Marketing

wordpress@kallayil.com

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The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_5

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea

 

Value of the Movie

As mentioned earlier, the whole process of movie production and the movie itself are valuable as forms of human rights advocacy. The Japanese government has declared that there is no historical evidence to prove the existence of comfort women until now. The film showed that a media content can become a proof of historical fact. It was powerful enough to shape the cultural memory of Koreans. 

Limitation

Firstly, it would be better that the film could focus more on women’s dignity, not just focusing on Korean nationalism. As the Korean government seeks to have a positive outcome raising the issue of comfort women, it could seriously injure the women’s honour. That is to say, the comfort women issue is mainly being used to bolster the nationalism in South Korea in the situation where the political relation between Korea and Japan has been negative (Orreill 2008). In the same context, crowdfunding for the movie was successful because of the nationalism based on the negative Korea-Japan relation, rather than an issue of women’s sexual abuse and its seriousness. Cultural memory of the comfort women that Korean people would get from the film is about Japanese soldiers’ brutality during World War Two, not about an issue of women’s right or dignity during the war.   

Additionally, the film does not mention the comfort women for American soldiers during the Korean War (1950-1953) after the Second World War. There are even the “unwanted children” or “children of bad memories” between American soldiers and Korean comfort women. They have been ostracised in the Korean society (Pae 2011). There is no mention of this in the film.

Future Direction

Wartime sexual violence that happened to women should not be accepted as a justifiable practice and should be judged through universal values of human dignity, integrity, and sacredness. Therefore, women’s perspective of wartime and peace needs to be explored more through media and examined in a theoretical framework.

There was a current announcement from the Korean government that expressions such as “Comfort Women” and “sex slaves” will be deleted from a social studies textbook designated by the Korean government for primary school students (Inoue 2016). According to the government, it is because primary school students do not need to know about expressions like “sex slaves.” However, the term “Comfort Women” should exist as it is a primary proof of their existence in history. Thus, the movie campaign needs to be continued to have an impact on changing the current announcement of the government.   

Additionally, the social media campaign, “Hug_Together” could be performed as active rather than as passive in order to gain the comfort women’s dignity based on feminist movement. It could change its name to an active form such as “Let’s Speak Up.” The movie itself can also be remediated countless times by books, postal stamps, songs, and exhibitions of the women’s drawings in the future.

 

The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_4

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea

The Comfort Women and Cultural Memory in Korea

The novel, “Eyes of Dawn” was published in 1981. Written by Kim Seong-Jong, the story is mainly based on the Japanese colonial period, the Second World War, Korea’s liberation, and the Korean War. In 1991, the novel is made into a television series. The story is not only about the story of comfort women, but it is considered the first cultural product in Korea which represented their story. However, the issue of comfort women failed to get public attention through these media. Based on the official announcement from the conform woman, Kim Hak-Soon, the documentary, “Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women” written and directed by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson in 2000 and the movie, “Snowy Road” in 2005 were produced. These efforts also could not bring this issue into the public discourse. 

The film “Spirits’ Homecoming” was produced based on one person’s autobiographical memory. Her memory is mediated through her drawings, including “Burning Virgins.” The director of the film decided to make the drawings into a movie. According to the official website of the film production:

The film does not seek simply to criticise the Japanese government nor does it seek to provide shallow comfort for the victims. Instead, it aims to highlight the devastation and tragedy of the history caused by the military of Imperial Japan, and to heartily send out the message that this cannot be repeated. So we dare say that this is not the story of the ‘past’ but of the ‘future’ for all (JO Entertainment Website 2016).

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The film can be considered quite successful in shaping Korean’s cultural memory of the comfort women. Unlike the previous media products, the film has broaden its impact further as it is a new social movement constituted by the current participatory culture that we live in. 

In the current participatory media culture, crowdsourcing is considered a new way to obtain resources such as ideas, solutions, or financial contribution from audiences, it is a new type of media network in relation to economic activities. There are four basic categories when it comes to applications of crowdsourcing: crowd wisdom (collective intelligence), crowd creation (user-generated content), crowd voting (participation) and crowdfunding. Among them, crowdfunding used social networking and the Internet in order to raise funds. Crowdfunding gathers financial resources provided by users to organise or carry out a project and is reinforced through online participation of users such as voting, comments, sharing and twittering. A combination of the micro-payment scheme and sharing buttons on social networking sites has created better adjustment between supply and demand making crowdfunding as a more efficient production process from an economic standpoint (Carvajal, Carcía-Avilés & González, 2012).

The movie “Spirits’ Homecoming” took an advantage of the current media networking culture through crowdfunding. More than 70,000 Korean citizens financially sponsored the film. Their motivation to participate might stem from the historical tension between Korea and Japan, but the number of people could easily participate in the process of movie production thanks to social media networking websites. The most impressive part of this crowdfunding is that the film shows all the sponsors’ name at the end-credits scene. It would be meaningful to all Korean citizens who participated in crowdfunding of the film.

The movie is analysed at a collective level (i.e., pluri-medial networks), not only because of crowdfunding but also because social media campaign considered the crowd contribution on movie marketing. Before the movie was officially released, a social media campaign called “Hug_Together” was initiated on Facebook, Instagram and Kakaotalk (i.e., the Korean version of Whatsapp). It was about changing Facebook or Kakaotalk profile picture to a butterfly which stands for hope and comfort women, the #Hug_Together, with the screen shot of the butterfly profile picture. This social media campaign created an icon of cultural memory for comfort women, ‘a butterfly with hope’. In addition, it helped to advertise the movie through new media platforms as a form of crowdsourcing.

After the movie was released in South Korea, it drew 2.21 million viewers in March (Yonhap 2016).  It is considered quite successful, and the production company decided to screen the film in UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (Ahn 2016). Therefore, Koreans who live in overseas countries could obtain a chance to participate indirectly in the process of shaping cultural memory.

Autobiographical Memory to Human Rights Advocacy

The production of the film and the social media campaign started from one person’s autobiographical memory. Her drawings based on her memory were made into a film and this has massively influenced the shaping of Koreans cultural memory on the history of comfort women. It provided an opportunity for the minority group that their memory could change the denied history written by the Japanese government through the media campaign. This shows how real and meaningful human rights advocacy can be produced through media campaign starting from autobiographical (i.e., bottom-up) memory.   

The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_3

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea

 

Memory and Media Advocacy

Memory and History

Memory and history are so deeply related that no one really can say which one is more valuable when it comes to truth seeking. The distinction that historians would draw between history and memory is that history is engaged to seek truth, and memory is winnowed out or discarded in a process of natural selection made by historians. Based on this notion, the statement made by Halbwachs that ‘history is dead memory’ can be considered (cited in Olick & Robbins 1998). This assertion somewhat negates the self-image of historiography devaluing the meaningfulness of memory in terms of an appropriate attitude toward the past.

Some critiques of this notion of the relation between history and memory are based on recent approaches, that consider history to exist nor just in the official version but in the social and cultural terms of memory. The selection and interpretation of memory/sources have become arbitrary in the process of writing history (Olick & Robbins 1998).

According to Halbwachs (cited in Olick & Robbins 1998), autobiographical memory refers to our own experience in the contrast to historical memory, which is historical events that we all remember through historical records. Collective memory can form our identities as it is considered more active compared to historical memory. However, historical memory can be organic/active sometimes when people celebrate something together, even though they did not directly experience it. Hence, different types of memory affect a creation of history, as history can be defined as the remembered past (Olick & Robbins 1998).

Cultural memory is something different as it is shared through cultural products and thus has cultural meaning. In the twentieth century, we use a new system which enabled digitisation of information through electronic recording and transmitting. This change has provided new ways of conceptualising memory (Olick & Robbins 1998). Accordingly, cultural memory can be examined in the context of media culture since most cultural products have been formed through digital technologies. 

Shaping Cultural Memory through Media

Cultural memory, once again, is formed by communication through media. It used to be reproduced through speech, such as when grandparents tell their story about the old days to children. Writing, film and the Internet are considered more sophisticated media technologies that help to shape cultural memory as shared versions of the past among people. What would be the requisite of power for media to produce and shape cultural memory? It can be argued within, between, and around the media (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008).

Firstly, intra-medial strategies are considered the requisites within the media as a form of collective memory based on four modes: the experiential, the mythical, the antagonistic, and the reflexive. The experiential modes represent the past as recent. The mythical modes describes foundational events in mythical way. The antagonistic mode includes negative stereotyping of conflicting memory cultures. The montage of different versions of the past are considered in the reflexive mode. All these modes help us to have an illusion of the past through media (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008).

Secondly, inter-medial relations can be argued to be one of the factors in forming cultural memory between the media. Pre-mediation and remediation are examined as a double movement in the interaction; meaning that memorable events are represented again and again in different media over decades and centuries, and that is how it creates a power in cultural memory. In the same context, comparable events provide schemata for later events, as they not only depict the past, – this is what the term “pre-mediation” refers to. Remediation tends to solidify cultural memory created in the first stage through different modes of representation, it stabilises certain icons of the past. Therefore, the boundaries between historical events as documentary material and fictional stories based on the events are often blurred in the course of remediation (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008). 

Thirdly, around the media affects cultural memory as “pluri-medial networks.” This stage refers to a collective phenomenon, not just a creation of cultural products – as films or books that no one watched or read will not have any influence in creating cultural memory. This means a certain kind of context is required for cultural products to become memory-shaping media. All those advertisements, comments, and discussions are considered as the context of the media networks surrounding cultural products (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008).     

In conclusion, powerful media has a memory-making effect, it needs to be analysed at an individual level and a collective level at the same time. Media representations at the individual level provide us a schemata of certain images of the past based on autobiographical memories. When the representation can provide cues for the discussion of those images in society, cultural memory can be shaped at the collective level. Therefore, cultural memory can be examined in the current media cultures we live in (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008). 

The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_2

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea

 

Historical Background of the Campaign

Political Relation of Korea and Japan

Economic relations between South Korea and Japan are improving as they deal with various issues together, such as tax evasion or disaster relief planning. In terms of political relations, there is a disconnect until now, as continuous territorial claims in relation to islands or history have threatened the relationship (Bang & Kang 2012). 

For example, Japan’s territorial disputes with South Korea over an island named as “Dokdo” by Koreans or “Takeshima” by Japanese have been worse since the end of the Second World War. Even though the island is currently occupied by the Republic of Korea, and it has always belonged to South Korea, the Japanese government has claimed that “Takeshima” is a part of the Japanese territory. The claim of the Japanese government is based mainly on the twentieth-century agreements with Korea. Conversely, the South Korean government argues that Japan returned the island after its liberation from Japanese colonial as a result of the two states’ bilateral agreements (Fern 2005).

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Aside from the historical territorial claims, the issue of human rights abuse has also made the relationship worse. The term “Comfort Women” refers to teenage girls or women from Korea, Northern China, Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan who were forced to become sexual slaves for the Japanese military during the Second World War. Few of them survived, those that did began to request a sincere apology and compensation from the Japanese government (Kim 2014). The surviving comfort women symbolises the collective wish to reclaim national integrity and bolster Korean nationalism in Korea and to remind Japan of its moral commitment to the Korean nation. On the other hand, the Japanese government has not tried to represent the issue as a crime. As a result, Japanese junior high school history textbooks do not mention “Comfort Women” and describe it as ‘paid prostitute camp followers’ (Orreill 2008). Therefore, the Japan’s colonial rule as well as its ignorant attitude and behaviour have made the serious tension between Korea and Japan.

Women’s Oppression in Korea

The system of comfort women is not an issue limited only in Korea, is rather found in almost every conflict zone. The gender-based military violence in Korea became a root cause of oppression of South Korean Women. Even though the comfort women are the victims of the forced military prostitution system, they have not been able to speak up and to share their tragic experiences freely for the sake of international peace and security. A social atmosphere has remained in Korea even until now that it is shameful for women to talk about stories in relation to sexual abuse. The oppressive atmosphere for women in Korea can be explained in relation to the historical background of Korean Women who had lived under the Neo-Confucianism law of chastity since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) before the Republic of Korea was established (Pae 2011). As a result, a first statement was made by one of the comfort women in Korea, Kim Hak-Soon in 1991, when that woman became really old (Orreill 2008).

The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_1

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea 

 

“Bottom-up memories began to replace top-down historiography since World War One” (Kim 2014, p.85).

A new movie “Spirits’ Homecoming”, directed by Cho Jung-Lae, was released in South Korea on February 2016, drew 2.21 million viewers by March. This film is not only considered as an art form, but also a media campaign since the movie production was funded by more than 70,000 Korean citizens through crowdfunding. The film was based on the testimony of comfort women, their memory mediated through art drawings, and by the film itself. This campaign constitutes a meaningful process, shaping the cultural memory of Korea in relation to the comfort women issue.

tposter_spirits_homecoming

About the Movie

The movie was directed by Cho Jung-Lae who is an indie movie director. He typically directs movies related to minority or Korean culture. His previous movie includes “Duresori” which is about students who study and practice traditional music in Korea. His documentary, “Youths on Feet: A Great Journey to Our Nation” also shows his passion towards the Korean peninsula and the people of Korea. 

The film “Sprits’ Homecoming” was produced based on a true story of one comfort woman in Korea, Kang Il-Chul. According to her statement, teenage Korean girls were forcibly taken by the Imperial Japanese Army to be sex slaves for them during the 1940s.

Kang Il-Chul is portrayed as one character, Jung-Min in the film. Jung-Min is an innocent and clumsy teenage girl, an ordinary girl living in the 1940s. She lives with her father and mother, peacefully thinking of getting married to someone in the future. One day, some Japanese policemen take her away from her family and put her in a car with a bunch of teenage girls. She arrives somewhere in China, and starts to work as a sex slave for the Japanese armed forces.

In the meantime, there is a character named Eun-Kyung who lives in the twentieth first century. Her father is murdered while he tries to save her from a burglar. Since then, she develops a mental disorder, and her mother takes her to meet a female shaman. The shaman finds out Eun-Kyung can talk to dead souls. One day, Eun-Kyung sees Jung-Min’s soul and her life as a sex slave.

Jung-Min and the other girls are saved by Korean independence armed forces when they are about to die. However, Jung-Min dies when she is shot by a Japanese. Eun-Kyung consoles the ghost of Jung-Min to make her spirit come back home. The movie shows how the teenage girls’ tragic experiences, as it was without any human rights or dignity, their bodies only for the purpose of war and the militarism.