New on the App: Short films sharing Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings

Dear friends,

Today we’d like to share some insights about Wake Up Films, a series of shorts which pair Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings with footage from Plum Village or the natural world. They can be accessed on the Plum Village App and on our YouTube channel, where we premiere a new installment most weeks, usually on Wednesdays.

We reached out to our long-time collaborator, the filmmaker Miguel Sánchez, who directed and edited the entire series.

Can you tell us a bit about this new way of sharing Thay’s teachings? Why do you think it’s important to integrate visuals from nature or monastic life alongside Thay’s words?

My inspiration for creating the videos comes from Thay’s teachings. He himself used metaphors based on nature in his spiritual teachings, so that they would be more accessible to everyone. Phrases such as “a cloud never dies” or “no mud, no lotus” contain great depth, but at the same time are very easy to understand.

In the videos I make, I feel as if I’m using watercolors to illustrate a book by Thay, making it more beautiful as a way to reach the viewer’s senses. This lets Thay’s voice and body blend with nature – since, in the end, we all inter-are. Also, I like to integrate scenes of Plum Village, the monks and lay people of the sangha, because we are all his continuation, and he continues in us.

You’ve listened to viewers’ feedback; has this altered your approach to directing and editing? Should this material be made to fit the needs of the viewers, not just the ambitions of the creators?

My work is at the service of Thay’s teachings, and of all those who follow spiritual practices – even those who are not familiar with Plum Village, Zen Buddhism, or mindfulness, but who seek a small moment of peace in their lives. It’s a real joy to do this as a service to the community; it helps me free myself from more selfish ambitions, which usually bring a lot of tension and worry. 

Knowing whether the videos connect with people is essential for me. And I’m not alone; a team who work for the Plum Village App guide me. I’m constantly open to feedback, and I want to continue evolving and flowing with my work. It’s very gratifying to know that it reaches people’s hearts.

How often do you go to Plum Village? And does this help with your creative work?

Last year I was there twice, and in 2021 I lived there as a long-term resident for nine months. I even explored the possibility of becoming a monk, although in the end I decided to continue with my lay life, and combine my audiovisual work with spiritual practice. 

Plum Village is an island of peace on Earth, where healing is possible. It’s very important, for my work, that I go there from time to time, because it helps me see what is really important. I try to focus my efforts on projects that grow good seeds in the world.

As someone who spends a lot of time listening to Thay’s talks, how relevant are they for the world today? 

Thay’s words are pure light. They are capable of bringing us deep insights, beyond intellect. Today’s society needs to breathe, stop, look within, see beyond, and connect with what is most sacred and miraculous in life. 

I speak from what I see in my environment and for myself. I’m the first beneficiary of being in touch with Thay’s teachings. Little by little, through repetition, I’m returning to my true home: to the breathing, to the present moment.

Have you considered making longer films based on Thay’s teachings, or do you think these shorts are better for people’s current needs?

At the moment, I’m focused on short videos, approximately four or five minutes. That may seem short, but they condense a lot of Thay’s wisdom. Being short makes them easier to assimilate and practice. 

I particularly like to practice for several days with a single teaching, from one of Thay’s books or videos, to be able to focus with greater determination. Sometimes just one sentence is enough.

Are the films aimed at a certain group of practitioners, or do you have a wider audience in mind?

The videos are for everyone, like Thay’s teachings. It’s true that, depending on  circumstances, some people may connect with some messages more than others. For example, when Thay talks about discrimination, armed conflicts, poverty, death. But, in truth, all issues concern us all, because we are not separated from one another. It’s impossible to isolate ourselves from others, no matter how far away they may seem. In fact, Thay’s words help us create that deep connection.

Where do you get the images and sounds that you use in the films? 

My sources are varied. On the one hand, I have an archive of videos that I filmed during my stays in Plum Village, and also recordings that I love to make when I travel in natural settings. On the other hand, I find many nature images in online databases, where artists offer videos and sounds that they’ve recorded. Really beautiful material is available. 

For nature sounds, I also go to the earth.fm website, which is a beautiful project to create more awareness about the wonder of life on this planet by offering immersive soundscapes of natural spaces, created by the best sound recordists in the world. These include long recordings which I highly recommend for relaxing at home, or to create a pleasant workspace.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I want to thank everyone who is interested in watching the videos, since thanks to them I can continue doing this wonderful work. Every day working with Thay’s material is a blessing, and I couldn’t be happier to help keep his legacy alive. I have realized how essential consistency in practice is to see its fruits. 

By spending a lot of time listening to Thay’s words during the editing of his talks, the Dharma is entering my heart, and little by little I feel that I can live naturally in a more present way, and not be so absorbed by worries. It’s so simple, as he says: just return to the breath, and we find ourselves in the Pure Land of Buddha.


☁️ Find out more about Miguel’s immersive videos and Plum Village Moments series, previous projects created for the Plum Village App. 
☁️ Watch the Wake Up Films series on the Plum Village App (in Resources >> Short Films)


☁️ As has been the case with Buddhist teachings for millennia, there is no charge for the Plum Village App and its digital content. However, if your means allow, please consider offering a donation to support our small team’s continued work on the app.

Comments

  1. Such a beautiful offering to help spread Thay’s wisdom! These short films are transfixing and very relaxing to watch capturing the essence of Thay’s teachings in a very impactful way. 🙏🏼

  2. The sound of nature and the vision of the landscapes collaborate so that Thay’s teachings, so simple and so profound, reach our spirit and we can truly understand them.
    Thank you for so much dedication!

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