Tag Archives: spiritual food

Seattle’s Biospheres – Exclusive Connection to Nature?

Because “Amazon employees need connection to nature” (geekwire quote). Yes. We all need connection to nature; it connects us to ourselves. Hopefully, parts of it will be accessible to the general public –

http://www.geekwire.com/2016/amazon-biospheres-will-happen-inside-giant-glass-orbs-company-building/

The most recent news as of July 26 by the Seattle Times is that there will only be opportunities for public visits. Specifics  are not yet available. Generally, the space is closed to the public, though much can be viewed from the street.

 posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

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Do Our Over-stressed Brains a Favor – Come To Nature

“A concrete jungle destroys the human spirit,” former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew .

Bukhansan National Park, near Seoul, Korea. Photographs by Lucas Foglia
Bukhansan National Park, near Seoul, Korea. Photographs by Lucas Foglia

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=link_fbp20151215ngm-calltowild&utm_campaign=Content&sf17049277=1

Koto Jazz 75: @ Stage 7 Pianos, Kirkland

My first performance was a video recording session thanks to my good friend Ed Yakuzawa of Victory Music. Some of the koto jazz tunes have been uploaded to YouTube. Here are a few:

1) Tide Pools & Waves (Shiyodamari To Nami)

2) My Sakura

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 . …

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 42: Shapes in Design & Music

Shapes in designs are key to our expression and creativity.  There are the sharp shapes, sharp angles such as pyramids and squares (see the above photo’s stone walk way behind the water feature).  Traditionally, this is associated with the manhood and the west. It is common to find square stone walk ways, squared off gate ways, even pyramidal shaped trellises, and square- shaped garden areas. Substantial changes have taken place in the modern era to include rounded shapes and designs. This is not something you think about in the daily neighborhood dog walk. You don’t pass by the Jones’ house and say, “my, what a nicely manicured, squared off hedge outlining their nicely square-shaped yard.” However, it does influence your psyche over time, and if this is all you see and all you grow up with, it influences how you see things and see the world. I would argue, it narrows your vision.

Then there is the circle or rounded shapes.  Traditionally, this is associated with the Buddhist circle of life and the yin- yang symbol of the east. The rounded water features (see above photo) rounded walk ways, rounded stone steps, rounded gateways (more common in China), rounded bridges, are not commonly seen in North America but are more readily available garden features in Asia. For example, I visited a number of Chinese gardens which featured circled garden entry gates outside of Shanghai. This is a generalization of course, but it offers insight into the role of shapes in garden design that can provide you options on how plan your own garden.

The Shapes of Music:

Likewise, music presents its own shapes. There are the common, chordal structures perfected by the west featuring linear patterns, and melodies that take sharp turns. Then there are the often meandering, circular flow of chords and progressions, even non-chords and non-progressions, and musical patterns of the east.  The synthesis of the two are at times attempted to be expressed in modern jazz.  However, western jazz maintains its biases from its origins and while it proposes a best effort to synthesizes the two, it tends to de-emphasize the meandering nature and musical flow of the east (e.g., traditional Koto and east Indian music) without even knowing it. Thus, the concept of koto jazz rears its creative head– a melodious journey, but not beholden even to modern jazz progressions!

Thus, koto jazz tunes can often fit more appropriately into the genre commonly known as new age.  While new age has taken a popularity hit with the closing of society and its mis-representation of new age as being connected to some type of religious agenda, even cult, this is only a temporary passing misappropriation. From what I’ve observed of the new age movement, there is no agenda, except to offer people some peace of mind with soothing sounds and melodies! How’s that for an “agenda”. That said, eastern styles of music are finding their way into the North American and European music worlds quite independent of the new age trends.

Indian Bollywood:

Take for example, my friend Prashant’s Bollywood Dreams Entertainment and the dance style of modern east Indian Bollywood music. I could not help but notice the circular and meandering motions of this invigorating, high energy dance style. This is consistent with the musical melodies of many popular Bollywood songs (see Bollywood Dreams Entertainment), which likewise meander, wander and move in circular melodic motion.

While this koto jazz blog does not concern itself with business achievements, it’s no accident that the likes of Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs admitted to having strong eastern influences in their lives. This, I believe, is where there is a collision of creativity into real world situations, such as high end physics, engineering, architecture, and various sectors of business ventures.

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 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 21: Moss in Japanese Gardens

    In Japanese Zen gardens, “each element in the Zen garden is symbolic; stones represent mountains, sand represents water, and moss represents islands” (source: see Moss Acres link below). Each element plays a role in a miniature natural scene of great beauty.

    My favorite, the fern moss, is a spitting image of larger ferns with broader frays narrowing toward pointed ends. The fern moss is ideal for shaded areas and needs minimal sunlight. The fern moss, which are relatively flat, can be complemented by other moss. The tree moss, or Hair Cap moss, has the appearance of a miniature tree. Each unit grows taller and in clumps, which more effectively represents the look of an island. Likewise, the Cushion moss, grows in distinctive rounded clumps. This gives the appearance of islands a midst the bear earth or sand, which may represent the water or sea. The moss featured in the photo above of the famous Ryoan-ji Zen Garden in Kyoto, appears to be tree moss. This particular rock has always reminded me of the famous Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

    Mosses in Japanese rock gardens provide a very clean design and manicured appearance. Unlike grass, most all mosses are highly resilient and adaptable, and less vulnerable to extreme weather conditions of heat or cold. They simply go dormant. The moss’ unique biological structure enables it to grow places where most plants cannot, as it prefers nutrient-poor soil. Moss is able to absorb pollutants such as nitrates and ammonia, as well as humidity and nutrients directly from the air. This is why you find mosses growing virtually anywhere and on anything!

    A useful tool for our daily lives, is a simple ritual the monks of Saiho-ji (near Kyoto) established for their visitors. Reminiscent of my own childhood calligraphy lessons in Tokyo, visitors to this famous moss garden and temple sit and write or trace the characters of a Buddhist scripture (sutra) while the monks chant in worshipful trans-formative music. Looking back at my calligraphy lessons at Japanese public school, this ritual is related to the calligraphy art form, which emphasizes a spiritual connection by the calligrapher with the peaceful flow and natural order of each Kanji character.

    From here, visitors walk the paths of the temple and gardens, and perhaps meditate at the most famous dry Zen garden, Ryoan-ji. “Moss is the grounding element, an island of green around many of the 15 iconic rocks edged in raked white gravel,” as elegantly described by Susan Heeger of Garden Design Magazine (see link below).

    Here are a few informative websites about moss:

  • Ryoan-ji Zen Garden (rock and moss garden)
  • Moss Acres
  • Real Japanese Gardens
  • Garden Design Magazine
  • Photos: Ryoan-ji Temple moss garden
  • Thoughts on Service & Spirituality

    The Shinto- Buddhist philosophy on life is that all sources of good, evil, and spirituality come from within. If you read between the lines it is also true of the Judeo- Christian traditions.

    … After all it is the well known Buddhist guru of the west who spoke of the way to the kingdom. ” The kingdom of heaven is within.”
    The evolution of the east and west spirituality each have their own diversions. It is worth noting them as integral parts of who we are and where we’ve come in this age of east-west harmonic convergence. And we need only see inside our self for clarification. What does our heart tell us in the midst of this age of distractions? Do we affirm we live in a time of spiritual and natural reconciliation, recovery, and renewal.

    Life has its choices. In my own life, in every hour of the day, I have the choice to make good decisions for myself, and to be a positive presence in other people’s lives. I have the ability to take the right intuitive spiritual path. We have the opportunity to keep the whole of our self intact and yet take a chance on giving a part of it away; sharing a part of the soul and spirit with another person (giving and risk taking).

    While volunteering has been a lifetime service goal for me, in the 90s, I spent 3-5 days per week over a 6- year period volunteering at homeless shelters and soup lines. I had the good intention and idealism of good ol’ fashion American apple pie volunteerism. It was exhausting. Part of me was subconsciously competing with my siblings for my jesuitical dad’s approval (a Stockholm Syndrome-esque co-dependency). I had a sister who spent two years in Africa as a Peace Corp volunteer, a brother in the Air Force and now works for the Army, and another brother whose professional life is working to service Asian American communities at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS). Tough competition. My error among many, was that I subconsciously saw it as competition. Service is never competition. If anything, it is antithetical to competition.

    While I may have done some practical good servicing the needs of others through my own volunteerism (I’ve been volunteering since I can remember), my belief about doing good in the small world of which I’m a part is now more centered, more spiritually focused. After all, how really good is volunteerism of any kind without imparting the long term permanence of the spiritual food we all seek and need? At the time, despite all the volunteer service I was doing, I failed to connect with people and truly give them what they may have needed the most; what all of us need the most — spiritual food.

    The physical handing out of food that I did almost robotically, had its limitations. It is the giving of food that “dies at the vine,” and unfortunately, my way of giving as I did in the 90s also died at the vine. I learned this hard spiritual lesson/experience by my own ‘re-experiencing’ the food bank in my own life as a receiver on the other side. In my own time of need, I went through food bank lines and saw the empty, blank, almost fearful stare from a number of people handing out food to people like me struggling to make ends meet. It felt dead and full of judgment. The experience of going through a soup kitchen felt dead, demeaning, humiliating. It was something I never want to do again.

    It matters how I showed up (in my case how I failed to show up) so many times at various soup kitchens, drop-in centers, food banks as a young aspiring volunteer in my 20s and 30s. This is not to say I didn’t do good. It is to say that in my current healthier spiritual state today, without the drama and the big ideals and sense of ego-boosting purpose behind my charitable volunteering in my life, my volunteerism is doing just fine. I am absolutely certain I am bringing more to the table of brother/sisterhood today in my daily life walk, than I was ever capable of during my younger idealistic years of volunteerism.

    So I guess the message here, to circle back to the Buddhist- Shinto message (not a “lesson”, but a “message”), is that we must be wary of where the thinking resides when “we do charitable deeds”. Do we “do our charitable deeds before others to be seen by them?” Do we do our volunteerism to self- congratulate, or to self- nurture (huge difference)? It all does have its own built-in rewards. But when we do our good, do them in secret (meaning free and independent of our ego states and self-congratulating), and the good “Lord who sees in secret, will reward us openly”. The bottom line is, can we simply give and love in our own, simple day to day lives? That has to be enough for the Lord within.

    I can only only speak for and represent myself (nothing like a statement of the obvious, but it’s amazing how so many of us today try to speak for/ represent others), I must first and foremost seek the spiritual place of centered Love within, this kingdom of the Creator, and if I do so sincerely, “all things will be added” to me – the physical, emotional, the spiritual food that sustains life.