Tag Archives: inspiration

Koto Jazz 74: playing @ 101 Public House pub

Half time playing a piano gig at the pub in South Bend/ Raymond, the oyster capital of the world. And two Koto Jazz fans! This was so much more relaxing than a few weeks ago when I played at the Seattle Center. Ahhh, the taste of the ocean air , a couple koto jazz tunes . . .. and more oysters . …

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Koto Jazz 68: Mini Garden

Simplicity is my theme here in this basic mini- garden in Boulder, Colorado. A total of only $10 was spent on this serene mini scene. While space is not as much a premium in the vast expand of this globally trend-setting Rocky Mountain city, I still brought my creative miniaturization impulses with me from the Pacific Northwest city life. This mini garden replaced a common area lawn that had completely died away.

I seek to capture the surrounding area using local assets such a variation of rock and stones, elegant spacing, mini flowering bulbs such as dwarf tulips and mini- daffodils, along with naturally growing ground covers such as violets and forget-me-nots. Being in this semi-arid region that boasts 320-plus days of sunshine a year, it also helps to add a few desertous (new word) plants as accents to the mini garden image. These include a bonsai-style and shaped juniper in the background, and an ornamental grass off to the left.

I used pinkish- white marble rocks to outline the plants and stones in this mini-garden. I also created a mini dry creek that meanders from one end of the mini-garden to the other to give it a natural flow. Finally, I made a pretty rough but natural lantern out of local stones and a brick. The beauty of mini-gardens is that they fit into spaces of just about any size. 🙂

KotoJazz 65: Song Stories- Endless Golden Wheat Fields

This song I wrote as a young teenager, which I have never played publicly until this week at the QCafe in Seattle. It is wonder I remembered it only recently.

This song story of “endless golden wheat fields” is about my time (2 1/2 years) in third grade and middle school in Lawrence and Hays, Kansas, respectively. Peering across the golden wheat fields of Kansas are much like viewing across the Pacific Ocean during an early sunset– bright golden hues reaching far and wide into the horizon, billowing with the breeze, knowing that it never ends even there, and reaches into the heavens.

And yet it possesses its own mystical beauty quite unique to the clear and simple way of Kansas. Its flowing, undulating golden waves of grain connect us with the earth and the mysteries of Her beauty. It is the incessant reminder we are nurtured by her every day, and we belong to her glory and wonder. It is a reflection of the people of Kansas; a kind, gentle, gracious people who at best are attuned to the best of who we are and who we can be.

There are many more songs I have yet to uncover during my younger years which I had completely forgotten.

🙂

Koto Jazz 56: Song Stories – Mount Index Ice Caves

This new age musical tune was inspired by a hike with my friend Kim. We climbed to the ice caves at the summit of Mount Index off highway 2 just northeast of Seattle.

The Mount Index ice caves were leaking typical eerie, echoing sounding drops of water melting off blue ice, which increasingly gathered and coalesced into more and more tributaries of water racing toward the opening of the ice caves. It is the beginning of the water cycle, passing beyond alpine lakes and converging with glacial streams and eventually, rivers racing toward the Pacific ocean.

It’s one of my fun trance-like tunes of quirky frivolity reminding of the simple world we live in and the majesty of the basic elements that give us life.

Koto Jazz 49: Haibane Renmei’s Shinto Message

The anime story about “The Charcoal Feather Federation” (Haibane Renmei) sends a deep spiritual message. The setting of the story resides in the idea of a purgatory type of state for lack of a better term (although this does not necessarily reflect the intent of the author nor is it wholly representative of the true translation).

This state is more psycho-social spiritual than an actual physical place or state that are often associated with western ideas of purgatory. The mindset of the main characters are all about relationship, giving and receiving, and letting go of the thinking that holds us back from attaining a place of spiritual freedom- freedom from the trappings of our mind’s thinking, such as self blame and guilt, and lack of self- forgiveness.

This is what makes the Haibane Renmei a must see. Every one of us has a place or part of our life- story and life- thinking that we struggle to come to terms with; we struggle to forgive. It comes in a form we may have long buried and forgotten. If we find ourselves being dismissive when reading this, we most absolutely have something we imperatively must find, face, and forgive.

The first step is to find it and face it. Haibane Renmei emphasizes the important messages we may gather from our dreams and memories. Then, having found and faced it, can we muster the courage to forgive?

This is the ultimate aim of a spiritual life, and I argue each of our lives. If we have not forgiven our self, we are not able to forgive the same in others. Thus, that part of us is projected out; becomes a cancerous toxic presence in our own life, and therefore among our circle of friends and family. The creator of Haibane Renmei, Yoshitoshi Abe, has a gifted way of bringing the spiritual life, including the progression into the next life, as interwoven with the life of here and now, a notion very appropriate for the Shinto tradition. However, it presents the current life we lead and the progression through spirituality into the next life, in terms foreign to western concepts of life and death. These are Shinto- Buddhist concepts, though Abe-san handles it masterfully.

Once we have forgiven the self, we free our self from our own mental trap and become empowered with the capacity to forgive. Often the “forgive process” comes from someone else, as was the case with Reki in the Haibane Renmei story, the girl who could not remember her dream, nor forgive her self. The story suggests a need for a loving catalyst, a loving person in one’s life who reaches and makes the “forgiveness connection”. I’ve needed more than one person to help me make my “forgiveness connections”.

That is the means by which we obtain freedom to reach a higher spiritual presence in this life and the next.

KotoJazz 44: “A New Dialogue with Nature”

My apologies in advance for this “detour” from art and the nature of gardening and koto jazz music. This “KotoJazz 44” blog entry is about the revolutionary nature of Nobel prize winning physicist Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ and “Man’s Dialogue with Nature” in their international bestseller, “Order Out of Chaos”. Though published a while ago in the 80s, it could not be more relevant than today, including the topics of this blog. As Alvin Toffler puts it in the book’s preface, “it is the processes associated with randomness, openness that lead to higher levels of organization.” In all structures associated with life and life forms, even social life, before change occurs, it is forced toward a non-equilibrium state and approaches a critical moment or bifurcation point where it transforms/ morphs into a “new path of development” that is not predeterminable.

This is also very true of creativity in music and art. It sums up modern music and art in so many ways, including modern jazz and especially koto jazz. Koto jazz may have some predetermined melody and style, but its origins are rooted in the very musical expression of nature. Out of the “randomness, openness” of nature, and our open, often random exploration of music and sound, we can connect with the core of our own Nature. This is the ultimate goal of Koto jazz music. For me, patterns of nature unpredictably and indeterminably morph into new patterns, at times interrupted by chaotic resonance, then transforming into a new efflorescent chime or melodic sequence. We are the heirs of this new perspective on art, science, and life.

Prigogine and Stengers’ views reach into all areas of our social, political and business life. Take the management theories of John Morgridge, the former chairman of Cisco Systems, as an example. Probably a key period of my professional life was having a sit down dinner/ interview with Morgridge back in the mid-90s. A key point to this article I wrote about him was about the randomness and openness of putting together project managers, engineers, creative designers, and others (without titles) needed to complete a business project. Over time, the open organization evolves and forms its own natural organization where at times the engineer or the designer leads the group rather than the business manager.

The way Morgridge described it in the interview is reminiscent of the brilliant book written by UC Berkeley professor Ori Braufman and Rod A. Beckstrom, “The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations”, and Braufman’s more recent book (2013), “The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success”. You cut a starfish in half, it can grow into two starfish. Prigogine and Stengers also “undermine conventional views of thermodynamics by showing that, under non-equilibrium conditions, at least, entropy may produce, rather than degrade, order, organization”– and therefore life itself. This is true of business, society, nature, music and art, with music and art leading the way. It is one of many reasons why we must support the arts– it is the very fabric that shapes who we are. Koto jazz tunes can offer the mind and spirit not just an escape but a solution, an order out of the natural chaos that precedes it.

Koto Jazz 39: Old & New Faces at the Royal Room, Seattle

I saw a lot of old faces in the crowd at my performance at the Royal Room (Columbia City, South Seattle) and a lot of new faces.

I can’t thank the old faces enough for coming out to see me play the piano (thank you, thank you, thank you). As we grow in our understanding and expression of koto jazz, it is not possible without your support. What an opportunity to play before a full house on a Monday night. 🙂

I’m also curious about the new faces and why they came. So I went out and talked to them. The feedback I received is that people are interested in the music, but more than the music. They are interested in the flow state and the connection to a spirituality with Nature and the Shinto and Zen Buddhist origins that these Koto jazz pieces introduce to the listener.

I’m surprised I received as much feedback as I did about the spirituality that creativity offers us. On the music side as predicted, people loved certain songs, all the comments came from one of the Koto jazz pieces I wrote (Hatchidori and Kozan no Kaze) and a few endorsements of the variations on known Koto melodies I jazzed up. But it was also the energy they like.

My music is an attempt to re-connect with the spirituality about and around Nature. This spirituality is not locked up in the closed doors of any institution or church, or temple, or shrine. My music serves as a simple offering of our attention to nature and invitation to be present to it in whatever form it takes before us; whether a hummingbird or ripples on creek rocks. Music is one of many vehicles that can unleash that spirituality.

The Shinto influence of it is so much more than the political environmentalism of our time. It’s really not enough for me to say “I drive an electric car”, or “I’m saving up to put solar panels on my home.” Sure, that’s all good, practical good. But it’s not spiritual. It is the essence of the natural world we tend to overlook. We forget that we come from this Natural state and we tend to take it for granted. When do we say thank you in the language of the Creator, that we are grateful for everything created for us in this world? The Creator does not speak a specific human language; not even English. It’s Not just about the stuff We create, but the stuff of Life that’s been here almost forever.

In other blog entries here, I talk about the science of the flow state or Shinto spirituality, ions and all that. Clearly it’s that, but more. I’m interested in all that, because I like science and I like proof, but I’m also interested in the “more” part. There will always be more, and I’m tired of the polemics and ideology that rend our age. I want more, don’t you? I choose today, to pay honor and reverence to that which is “More”; was here long before I came into existence, and most certainly will be here long after I pass on.

The presence of the Natural world in our lives is not a religious proposition, it’s not profound at all, it’s really simple. We can be changed and transformed by it if we “tune in”, if we choose to listen to the language of the Creator. Seek this first, my friend, “and all else . …. ”

Yes, my next big challenge as a musician will be to write a koto jazz piece about the “Sea Slug” (pictured above). If I can write a song about a sea slug, I’m getting somewhere. 🙂

Koto Jazz 37: Zen “Inspired” Garden

Here is my first effort at creating a simple zen- “inspired” garden in a narrow side yard of our family home on the coast of Oregon. Since this is a vacation spot, it is intended to maximize simplicity in beauty without the maintenance required for most zen gardens (e.g., raking highlights around the featured rocks, watering, and pruning). More may be added later, such as a tall pogoda toward the back and a sumac to commemorate our family roots in Colorado (which grows wild in Boulder’s green belt, and light up the Flatiron’s Green and Bear Mountains with their fiery- orange and red color images in the fall.


Sumac in Fiery Red

TORII GATE:
It includes the Torii gate, where the objects of its true meaning frivolously dance and sing, “where birds dwell”. It is very common to see birds in our bird house and among tree branches in the back yard, including finches, chickadees, robins, but also hummingbirds, Stellar’s (blue) jays, and an occasional bald eagle perched on the top of one of the large fir trees. The Torii gate symbolizes the entrance to a special place of natural beauty.

As a basic requirement, this Torii gate has a kasagi, the top beam of the Torii, angled at each end. It also featured a miniature cross beam, the nuki, separate from the upper kasagi beam, but not too far below it. The hashira are the two supporting pillars which hold up the Torii. This is the simplest and most basic form of Torii gate as it lacks additional features common to most Shinto Toriis. In the middle, we intend to add a small gakuzuka support post with our Harada family crest on it. The gakuzuka will connect the kasagi and nuki at the center.

STONES:
Two large stones are featured in this zen garden, one symbolizing the crane (in the background) and the other (located in the lower front center of the above image) representing the tortoise. Though the slight bluish colors do not represent anything in zen garden traditions, they do accent the stones quite nicely. Both symbolize longevity. Various mosses are placed around the front of the two stones, including the standard sheet moss, fern mosses, and hair cap or tree moss (a bit hidden on the side as they are more sensitive to sun exposure). The gravel is basic pre-existing standard grey gravel that has been always been in our side yard to reduce yard maintenance.

Hair Cap/ Tree Moss

EARTH ELEMENTS:
The garden also includes a coral bark maple tree already beginning to change colors before the autumn season from bright yellow into fabulous orange and pinkish red colors.

Coral Bark Japanese Maple

It also includes two bamboo grass clumps on the left and a meandering white stone path from the front to the back. To the right of the stone path is a clump of naturally growing crocosmia.

Orange Crocosmia

There are a couple of wild plants which I left in this zen garden. In the background, you may see a naturally growing wild golden tansy shining resplendent yellow flowers on tall stems behind the maple tree. Also, you will find in front of the lantern, a wild broad-leafed weed with multiple stalks, which I am yet not able to identify.

Behind the Torii gate is our back yard which features a small circular nature trail highlighted by four large old growth Douglass firs. Crocosmias grow naturally throughout the back yard, which feature honeysuckle-like orange flowers at the end of tall stems (hummingbirds and bees love them!), interspersed by wild purple asters, and a range of fern varieties. There is something special about this back yard as my late father insisted this part of the yard remain in its natural state. So while this Torii is a transition from the zen garden to the wild and natural part of the yard, it is also symbolic of a spiritual transition from the physical to the spiritual worlds.

LANTERN:
I have also placed a black lantern toward the back of the garden in front of the Torii gate and to the left of the maple tree. The lantern is elevated on a small hill to make it more pronounced. It is embellished with black pebbles my mother and I picked up from the ocean shores. The pebbles have been smoothed and rounded by the hands of churning ocean waves :-).

Black Creek Pebbles

As Shinto – Buddhism are often interchangeable, I have placed this lantern to light up the pathway of this garden Shinto shrine/ zen garden, as lanterns traditionally light up the path way to a Buddhist temple.

Koto Jazz 36: Flow State in Art & Music

Have you ever been so immersed in a creative adventure that it takes you to a different, alternative plain where your creative expression no longer feels like you, but a part of something more? Wikipedia defines the “flow state” as being “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” It is a serendipitous, spontaneous expression of joy. It is spontaneous because one’s greatest level of creativity emerges from the collective unconscious almost without your own planning it to happen. It just flows out of you, and in many cases, it rushes out of you like a waterfall. It is serendipitous because so much of your unique and beautiful creative discovery almost happens by accident in this flow state.

The energy of the flow state is passed on or transmitted to onlookers, such as an audience, or a passive participant in the activity. I’ve attended many live performances in the creative arts, even visited many fellow word pressers, and whether it’s someone’s live performance, garden reflections, a haiku poem, ikebana flower arrangement, or garden design, I feel the person’s flow state and their creative energy in their creations. This also happens when I listen to a brilliant musical performance. The artist gives me insight into the person’s connection with their creativity, their spirituality, and their connection to the world. Perhaps, this is what Carl Jung referred to as the “oceanic self”, a part of our being that is connected with all of Life, and the energy of Life.

The artistic expression can take us to another plain or spiritual state. I get this when I listen to the “chaos jazz” music of Li Pui Ming, the eternally optimistic consonance of Peter Kater, or in a very different way, the meditation music of Shakuhachi flutist Riley Lee and ukulele composer Jake Shimabukuro. Li Pui Ming takes me into her collective unconscious of order intermingling with chaos and a genius flow state. Riley Lee and Jake Shimabukuro take me to a meditative or contemplative “flow state” much like the Buddhist/ Taoist teaching of being in a state of “action through inaction.” Athletes enter this zone as well, according to Wikipedia. The famous martial arts expert Bruce Lee for example, encouraged his students to “Be like water …Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water.”

In my own musical performing experiences, it is not uncommon that the music takes me along a ride beyond me, in a zone where the music takes over, and takes me to an alternative plain. I feel this particularly when I play two musical pieces– Hatchidori Wa Hana Kara Hana e Tobu (Hatchidori, for short; translated to mean “The Hummingbird Flies from Flower to Flower”), and Kozan no Kaze (“Alpine Winds” or Alpine Wind Storm). The other day, a fellow musician mentioned after one of my performances that “you are one of those performers who can take the audience to a higher plain.” He referred it as like a “black hole” into the unconsciousness that gives a glimpse into another world or realm of reality. It was powerful to hear that.

I hope I can do that every time I play. But before I can make any credible comment on that, I would say my music needs refinement, and this means I need to play on a real piano with real weighted keys and full depth with an 88- key range more than once every one or two months. Then, at that point, I may come to a place where I agree with this person. It’s much easier to reach that flow state when I’m alone in my room playing my mini- electric keyboard with no one listening.

The artist’s great challenge is to share that openly when the opportunity arises (and we are all artists at some level), and be always willing to push the envelop. Creative expression is full of emotion, and if you keep your peace in tact, share your creativity with the world, even if you don’t think you’re quite ready. So what I mean by being “ready” is not ready performance-wise, but be emotionally ready even if your performance level is not where you believe it can or should be. Look at the crazy popularity of karaoke singing worldwide– it gives people that creative outlet that is now socially acceptable, acceptable to take a stab at belching out your favorite tunes even if you don’t have that refined Whitney Houston kind of a quality voice. For me, while this website does offer some “rough” samples of my music, it’s not yet nearly refined to where it can be, but in any case, I do love the process. I love playing. 🙂 I think you’ll love it too– yes, the music too, but the process. Enjoy the ride, and don’t ever let go of your creative spark! Be the Hummingbird. 😉

Koto Jazz 33: Music & Mindfulness

Music is able to transform the human mind and spirit in similar ways as natural places of beauty. This is accomplished in part by the sound of music imitating nature by rhythmic beat and flow, its movement in and out of patterns, its simple resonation, coloration, depth of sound, and most importantly, its moments of intermittent silence.

Perhaps, my favorite musical pieces, especially those with koto jazz tunes and themes are those that are able to most effectively bring out the melodious expressions of beauty in nature. While I try to do this in all my music, here are a few feature samples of my music where I believe I come close to accomplishing this (I will be featuring these songs when I play at Seattle’s Royal Room on September 8th):

  • Ki Kara Amei no Shizuku (Rain drops from Trees; see the above photo)
  • Hatchidori Wa Hana Kara Hana e Tobu (Hummingbird Flies from Flower to Flower)
  • Kuriku Iwa no Hamon (Ripples over Creek Rocks)
  • Tori No Yo Ni & Koto jazz encore (rough live recording at the Brass Tacks, Seattle)
  • Certain harmony even dissonance, can induce the same euphoric state as inspiration from the natural world. From a health science perspective, it releases chemicals in the brain but also establishes an ionic, possibly magnetic balance in the brain to build upon higher spirituality and higher levels of intuition (again, referring back to James Redfield’s “intuition” in Celestine Prophecy).

    After all, music is made by the passing of energy through strings and other instruments. These “instruments of energy” pass on their energy and nurture our spirits. They often connect us with our subconscious emotions and life experiences, or to the contrary, may help us escape from them. It can also lead our spirits to an enlightened spiritual plain. When a musical masterpiece is played in your presence, do you not feel uplifted and recognize the performer taking you to a higher spiritual plain? I think this is what Ludwig Von Beethoven meant when he said, “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”

    This also explains the use of sound in some sects of Buddhism, and the use of the flute in the aforementioned Zen sect (see “suizen” or blowing meditation in Koto Jazz 34: Shakuhachi Flute).

    When we connect with people enjoying the same music, we feel a heightened euphoria and spiritual connection with them, as if we’ve learned something spiritual and profound about them without the need for communication of words. So in that sense, it is a powerful form of human spiritual communication, and communication with a Higher Power.

    Koto Jazz 28: Beyond Prophecies

    My basic but paramount premise of going “Beyond Prophecies” is this– that there can only be a mass global spiritual transformation if it is achieved in parallel with the fusion of pre-existing spiritual/ religious traditions with each other. And I would argue that is already happening among east- west traditions in unprecedented ways, and it will continue until the leading religious traditions worldwide are substantively virtually indistinguishable.

    When I first read the international bestselling novel, The Celestine Prophecy (click on this link to find out more information about The Celestine Prophecy), I was captivated from beginning until end. Today, I explore the phenomenon behind Celestine Prophecy and its connection with the spirituality of the East. James Redfield, author of Celestine Prophecy, seems to touch on this connection in his more recent book, The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight (Warner Books). Even beyond The Secrets of Shambhala and the 12- Insights of the Celestine Prophecy, there is an underlying “eastern” and scientific support of the general ideas behind The 12- Insights.

    Before delving into these points, the only drawback I see about this amazing book is that it is put into a western linear context. Is it out of place that we need this western linear context? Is not the intention behind the 12- Insights directly relating to freedom from linear thinking, freedom from context, and bringing us closer to the spirit of Shinto- Buddhist- Hindu traditions that have been evolving over thousands of years (in the case of Hinduism and Buddhism)? That this newly evolving spirituality in fact has been in existence in Eastern and Native spirituality for centuries, even millenia? Let’s give credit where credit is due.

    The goal of Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto spirituality has always been to practice mindfulness in every precious moment of life, which parallels the premise behind The Celestine Prophecy. In our mindfulness of the present moment, we are mindful of our healthy mind, or we are mindful of perhaps some unhealthy thoughts passing through, and our awareness allows us to observe them and allow them to engage or act upon, or let go and pass by. That said, I love James Redfield’s references to being guided in life by healthy intuitions and being in “synchronicity with the universe”. To quote Redfield, we can “put spiritual knowledge into very practical application to find a higher path through life.” Back to Eastern spirituality, we do this by mindfulness obtained through meditation, accountability (through programs such as the 12-Steps), and connection to the energy of the universe.

    ENERGY:
    Beyond the Prophecy (even the concept of prophecy itself), our life is also about energy – positive and negative. We choose one or the other in everything we do, everything we say, and even everything we don’t do or say. We receive this energy, positive and negative, from all natural forms including from our fellows. We replenish our bodies with negative ions from the air in small amounts, but particularly in the presence of moving water like ocean waves or a waterfall, or in a dense old growth forest where a high concentration of negative ions are known to be present. We may even be naturally drawn toward an urban designed water fountain, or the water feature in a downtown Japanese garden. Here is a brief summary of a Presbyterian minister- turned “Shinto” nature spirituality chaser, in Chasing Waterfalls, a blog by Ariane de Bonvoisin.

    Likewise, we often find ourselves in a euphoric state of inspiration when in the presence of these natural forms. Some endorphins may help create the euphoric state. The medically accepted fact is that negative ions in the body relieves stress, improves communication between nerves in nerve endings and improves the natural flow in muscle fiber, and thus reducing cramps. This suggests that spiritual energy can offer a scientific explanation, to a degree.

    MINDFULNESS:
    Likewise, we replenish our mind and spirit by continual deeper and sharper mindfulness (which elevates our intuition described by Redfield in Celestine Prophecy) – in one level, observing our thought patterns and discriminating the mind’s healthy and positive wanderings and its unhealthy and negative attitudes and tendencies. This mindfulness brings us back to increasing our ability to replenish our spiritual presence in this world, and thus, emit positive energy rather than negative or toxic energy. Our daily walk of life becomes an ongoing spiritual path of mindful meditation. I believe, a scientist will discover the connections between the wanderings and tendencies of meditative mindfulness as connected to the reinforcement or oppression of negative and positive ions present in the body. I personally have no scientific evidence of this as of yet.

    It is also a looking inward at the things about us we try to avoid and have the courage to face them, face our fears, and perhaps our darker side; not to condemn it, but to accept it but account for it, make peace with it, and let it pass. This allows us to free ourselves from the judgement, and the judging and the judged, which today drives so much of the modern world’s toxic behavior. Does the phrase “Do not judge, and you will not judged; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given back to you” ring a bell?

    So e Celestine Prophecy can be partially explained by our consciousness or mindfulness as it is known in Buddhism and empirically, with our own energy and how it affects the world around us and the people around us.

    More to come . . …

    KotoJazz 24: Waterfalls

    Waterfalls are a key part of the Japanese garden and symbolize the Buddhist and Taoist impermanence of life. If there is not the actual falling of water in a garden, stones can imply the presence of water falling. The pairing of a waterfall with tall rocks or symbolic mountains in a garden is symbolic of the “yin-yang” contrast of “mountain and water”. This contrast extends to the permanence of rock or mountain paired with the impermanence of water, and the upward movement of the mountain toward the heavens paired with the downward movement of waterfalls from the heavens as described in the Zen Buddhist tradition (C’an Buddhism from China); permanence versus continuous renewal and change. The symbol of the waterfall, according to the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, is akin to the concepts in Tantrism in that the waterfall is in continuous motion, shape and form remains the same.

    Waterfalls have long been a central theme of Chinese landscapes as well, since the time of the T’ang Dynasty to the Sun Dynasty, according to the Penguin Dictionary definition. The waterfall offers a natural element in continuous motion to bring the “look and feel” of nature in a limited surrounding. We look for waterfalls in nature not only to observe its serene beauty and flow, but also to be in the presence of a therapeutic natural white background sound and spray able to drown out any noise (within and without) that might disturb our calm.

    Waterfalls have their therapeutic elements. Hydrotherapy uses the physical properties of water for therapeutic purposes to support good blood flow and even treat diseases. Ishnaan (Cold Water Massage Therapy) is an Indian term for the point at which the body temperature feels warmer than the coldness of the water, thus increasing blood flow and triggering endorphins. This is similar to the use of hot and cold contrast at traditional Japanese onsen, in the presence of natural flowing hot springs. It has been suggested by Indian Sikh Gurus as a way to cleanse the mind and soul.

    However, scientists behind these forms of therapy do not say much about the ion balancing nature of waterfalls nor the therapeutic qualities of its sound. Waterfalls are sources of both physical and spiritual purification. WebMD asserts that waterfalls produce a high concentrate of negative ions, which in our bloodstream “produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin.” This is known to reduce depression and stress. The presence of waterfalls foster a serene place of spiritual worship and meditation. It provides a powerful regenerative presence in our lives. It is also symbolic of the Buddhist cycle (or wheel) of life, as it evaporates into the air from the sea only to return again to earth at the summit of a mountain to cascade down a waterfall into a crystal clear alpine lake, mirroring the waterfall image behind it.

    Japanese garden designers have studied the elements of waterfalls in nature. Often waterfalls in Japanese gardens are single falls or two- to three- step falls, the more common being the latter. They can either be smooth or uneven at the lip of the fall, thus affecting the sound of the water flow from splashing to girgling to a subtle shimmering.

    Additional information about water and waterfalls can be found at the following KotoJazz blogs:

    KotoJazz 7: Water, Water Everywhere: https://kotojazz.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/kotojazz-7-water-water-everywhere/

    KotoJazz Water references: https://kotojazz.wordpress.com/?s=water

    Koto Jazz 23: Torii & Gateways

    Torii translated to mean “where birds dwell”, is symbolic of the entrance to Shinto Shrines, and the doorway to a sacred place. It also means the transition from the physical world to the spiritual world. The kasagi, or top beam of the torii, is often curved, suggesting the image of “wings”, as showing in the above photo of Tacoma’s Point Defiance Pogoda and Japanese Garden. The second beam, or shimagi, appears to be a support beam, located directly under the kasagi, and is slanted inward. A third and final cross beam, the nuki, is separate from the two upper beams, but not too far below them. The hashira are the two supporting pillars which hold up the torii. They are often rounded like poles, but can be square shaped as well. There might also be a small gakuzuka support post that connects the nuki and shimagi at the center.

    The significance to me of the spirit behind Shinto is it’s lack of a building structure such as a church, synogagogue, or mosque. The torii and the jinja (where the kami dwell) come closest to the spiritual place of worship of these western structures.

    Kami and nature are virtually the same. The way of the kami, or kannagara no michi, we become filled with the energizing spirit of nature, and positive and negative ions. Each kami possess positive and negative energy, good and evil. Musubi is the energy force that connects humans and nature and the world to each other as we strive to unite with our higher spiritual power. You may find more information at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of North America , at http://www.tsubakishrine.org/.

    KotoJazz 22: 3 Key Elements to Japanese Gardens & Koto Jazz

    The Portland Japanese Garden (the Garden) website outlines the fundamentals of the Japanese garden succinctly. So many elements seem to come in threes – Shinto, Buddhist, Taoist – and then the three essential elements – stone, water, and plants (see Portland Japanese Garden, at http://japanesegarden.com/learn-more/gardens/). According to Wikipedia, “traditional Japanese gardens can be categorized into three types: tsukiyama (hill gardens), karesansui (dry gardens) and chaniwa gardens (tea gardens).” (see Wikipedia, Japanese gardens).

    Likewise in Koto Jazz, three fundamental elements are present in the music and sound that makes it unique – Japanese Koto, western influence (rhythm and jazz), and reverence to Nature. To continue this analogy, The Garden begins with the “bones” of the garden, stones. I would parallel this with the traditional Japanese koto musical roots of koto jazz. Though they may vary from one musical piece to another, traditional koto tunes with its spiritual roots provide the base of the “musical garden” of koto jazz. The Garden’s second element is water described as the “life-giving force” of the garden. Likewise in koto jazz, western influences of rhythm and jazz weave within and through koto jazz as its “life-giving force”. Finally, the Garden describes plants as the gardens’ tapestry of the four seasons. This is the embellishment and coloring of the garden landscape, just as inspiration from Nature provides the embellishment and coloring of koto jazz music.

    Other physical elements such as pagodas, stone lanterns, water basins, arbors, maples, and bridges, are provided by this kotojazz.com blog. Feel free to scroll down for information about these elements of the Japanese garden. The above image is a scene in the Portland Japanese Garden showing varieties of colored Japanese maples and a bridge.

    On July 5th at 9pm, you have the opportunity to see some of this koto jazz music on display at the Brass Tacks, Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. It’s an exciting opportunity to first hand experience the creative energy and spiritual presence of koto jazz. For more information, see “events section” of this website. I hope to see you there!