Tag Archives: Zen

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 . . …

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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 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
  • KotoJazz 20: Flowers of Japanese Gardens

    Ikebana
    Like bonsai, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, or Ikebana, derives from Zen aesthetics and design. Carefully placed flowers are arranged elegantly with a combination of grasses and flowers. Some of these flowers are described below.

    Japanese Irises
    Irises are a classic – like cherry blossom and chrysanthemum, you’ll often see them in Japanese crests. Irises are used in water gardens, around the edge of a pond – or in dry gardens (rock, moss or gravel symbolizing a pond). Irises planted around the edges expand on the image of a pond or dry gardens as the sea or ocean. Unlike the western bearded irises, Japanese irises are commonly smaller, thinner, more delicate, and not bearded.

    Chrysanthemum
    Chrysanthemums, the national flower of Japan are symbolic of long life and health. The flower also symbolizes the autumn season. Native to China and Japan, chrysanthemums are hardy flowers, able to subsist in zones 5-9. Flowers include red, orange, yellow, white and lavender.

    Lotus
    Japan holds the lotus to be sacred, which comes from Hinduism and Buddhism. The lotus flower is likewise represented as sacred in Buddhism, symbolizing the progress of the mind toward Enlightenment. It grows from muddy depths through the waters of experience and “blooms in the sunshine of enlightenment,” according to Religion Facts. Lotus can be white, pink, red or blue. Some lotus can be perennials; survive cold winter months.

    Azaleas & “Rhodies”
    Part of the same evergreen family, azaleas and rhododendrons have similar leaves and blooms. However, azaleas, like the ones pictured above lining the garden stone steps, are much smaller in size. These are popular shrubs used in Japanese gardens. White flowering azaleas and rhododendron are used the most. Both of these flowering shrubs can be white, pink, red, orange and purple in color.

    “Hana ni arashi” (literally translated means “a storm over blossoms”), is a shortened version of, “Tsuki ni muragumo, hana ni arashi”. ” These popular Japanese proverbs mean “Life often brings misfortune at a time of great happiness” or “Nothing is certain in this world”. It is reminiscent of the popular phrase “shikataganai”, meaning “it can’t be helped”. This is the fatalistic nature of the Japanese people; fatalistic, maybe not from a western perspective of the meaning, but a general acceptance of the inevitability of things to come.

    KotoJazz 18: Japanese Garden Bridges

    Japanese garden design is strongly connected to spirituality. Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism are often the source in the creation of different garden styles. They are intended to be places of peace for meditation and spiritual contemplation and prayer.

    While bridges have become path ways linking garden visitors from one part of the garden to another, bridges do have spiritual meaning in Japanese gardens. Some bridges symbolize the path to paradise and immortality. The famous Kyoto garden bridge, Byōdō-in, connects the Phoenix pavilion with a small island of stones, representing the Mount Penglai or Mount Horai, the island home of the Eight Immortals of Daoist teaching.

    Other special islands in the Zen Buddhist tradition, such as the crane and tortoise islands, are sacred and not accessible by bridge. If one sees a bridge to an island in this type of garden pond, these are ordinary islands called nakajima (since they are accessible to the public). See KotoJazz 9: Island of Japanese Gardens for more information.

    Bridges can also simply serve as functional links between different eco-regions or sections of the Japanese garden. Stone bridges are called ishibashi. Wooden bridges are dobashi. Arched bridges are known as soribashi and flat bridges are hirabashi. While most bridges are not colored, the red painted temple bridges come from China.

    Here are some interesting links to information about Japanese garden and bridges:

  • Origins of The Japanese Garden
  • Hoi An Bridge, VietNam(a famous Japanese garden bridge)
  • Elements of the Japanese Garden Bridge, Bowdoin College
  • Yuugiri Japanese Garden Bridge
  • Monet’s famous images of Japanese Garden Bridge Painting
  • How to Build a Miniature Japanese Garden
  • Where To Buy Garden Bridges, GardenBridges.com
  • Where to Buy Garden Bridges, Hay Needle
  • Koto Jazz 17: Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises”

    Although I have added a few new music samples to the Koto Jazz blog, see “Sample Sounds” and “Buy My Music” pages of this web site, here I take another brief break from the Koto Jazz theme to honor an artistic genius in the film medium.

    Here are some Koto jazz and related music about flying and the wind:

  • KotoJazz 8: “The Wind and The Spirit”
  • Koto Samples (“lightness of flying butterflies”)
  • “Matsukaze” (”wind in the pines”), by Taiga Yamaki III (also known as Yamaki Kengyō), and Matsukaze
  • Koto House Flying Sword Music
  • Tori No Yo Ni (‘Flying’ Like A Bird, by Sawai Koto Ensemble
  • Breeze, by Mitsuki Dazai
  • Tori No Yo Ni (Like a Bird on piano), Kotojazz by Kenji

  • Also, have a listen to my newly posted short sample tracks while reading on about my take on “The Wind Rises” by Hiyao Miyazaki:

  • Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor, George Winston style
  • Springtime in the Dead of Winter
  • Black Pine Bonsai, and
  • Wandering Kabutomushi

  • I had the opportunity to watch Hayao Miyazaki’s final movie (admittedly, I may be the final Miyazaki fan to actually see his final film), “The Wind Rises” (for sound track, see The Wind Rises by Kaze Tachinu and other items about “The Wind Rises”). Despite the apparent limitations of the anime platform, Miyazaki proves again the seeming unlimited capacity for creativity and beauty. His presentations offered magically colorful and stunning scenery. Miyazaki’s art team presents a realistic natural world, and adds a bit of Shinto magic, with the actors revering, honoring, praying to Nature throughout the movie.

    The movie speaks of love and innocence in the midst of the global turmoil surrounding the world wars. Miyazaki deliberately steers the movie away from the darkness of the day into a dreamland of gorgeous flower laid meadows, and shimmering streams. Poignant was the time Naoko prayed to the forest pond for Jiro to appear. As Yoda would say, “appear he did.”

    Even Jiro’s ongoing dreams about flying and building planes showed reverence to the nature of the wind’s powerful energy, and his building planes pays honor to the wind. We join as active participants in Jiro’s flying dreams. In the film, Jiro’s dreams feel as real as real life. Jiro is the main character in the movie, based loosely on aerospace engineer, Jiro Horikoshi. Miyazaki again nails it with his unique ability to interweave near realistic dreams into the surreal reality of the characters’ life experiences– more realistically than any director (I would argue), and again, more realistic to the real life experience.

    It definitely hits a chord with the integral role dreams play in our lives (see Carl Jung’s work on the “Interpretation of Dreams.” While his colleague Sigmund Freud’s interpretation of dreams focused more on the “retrospective”, Carl Jung’s dream approach is and I quote the above link, “‘prospective’– it treats dreams like a map of the dreamer’s future psychological evolution towards a more balanced relationship between his ego and the Self.” This approach is very apparent in Miyazaki’s film.

    The story may have glossed over the pain and suffering of his dying lover (Naoko), dying communities during wartime, and the insane violence surrounding war, but this was intended and done so elegantly as the story was not about death and war. In fact, it provided the back drop necessary to evoke the story of a champion of perseverance and Zen-like focus in a world where, at times, there appeared to be none. It brought out the true authentic, peace-loving nature and Shinto spirituality of the Japanese people. In real life, war deceptively shrouded this fact by the blind powers of Japan’s relatively small military industrial complex (small at least compared to America’s own still lingering military industry). There is a message for each of us again, to look inward rather than outward for reflection and resolution.

    Given Miyazaki’s place of prominence with this final movie, it is appropriate to comment on this masterpiece and the majesty of his life’s work.

    KotoJazz 14: The Serendipity in “Order Out of Chaos”

    I know I’m not alone in this. I know that many people, artists, designers, engineers, express their deeper, at times darker, life experiences through their art or trade of choice. My big lesson while playing the piano, is facing and overcoming fear. The first step is to know how fear is present in my life. It helps me face them. I find it is often tied to something that happened so long ago that I have unconsciously carried it with me unresolved over years, decades. So much of it stems from childhood trauma.

    So often I sit in fear of imperfection, fear of sweet imperfection; not playing this or that tune or melody just right. I at times become paralyzed, as if it is better to not play at all if it can’t be played perfectly. My piano playing experiences are a microcosm of life’s lessons.

    There will always be imperfection, and through that imperfect journey, that stumbling, prodding, and wandering into the unknown and uncertain, I have the opportunity to learn its innate perfection. It is the imperfection of the journey that makes it perfect; at minimum, it brings out perfection. The imperfection carries with it uncertainty and chaos. Out of the uncertainty, unclarity and chaos, inevitably comes the impeccably clear Mastery of Serendipity (discovery by accident).

    It reminds me of “chaos theory”. Just like 1977 Nobel Prize Winner Ilia Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ book titled, “Order Out of Chaos” states, “the two great themes of classic science, order and chaos”, which coexisted in near conflict since science began, scientifically and mathematically coalesce into a “new and unexpected synthesis”. As Edward Lorenz puts it in his definition of “chaos theory”, chaos occurs “when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

    More reading about creativity and chaos theory is available here at Creative Chaos. If you dare to venture into a story line about “chaos communities”, how about a book on the Burning Man event?

    Out of Spontaneous Serendipity comes the rare and unique, the innovative and delightfully unknown perfect masterpiece. When music lets go of the predictable, releases, or liberates itself from certainty of pattern or predictable stroke, only then does it venture into the unknown; only then may the genius of Serendipity coalesce into the uncharted territory of the perfect Masterpiece.

    When we consider the great masters and creators of jazz, rock, or classical music, for example, we see that the great musicians follow the “chaos theory” in music quite profoundly. And when they have taken a slightly divergent course as proposed by “chaos theory”, only then did they reach a place that transcends what JFK called “the stale, dank atmosphere of normalcy”. Only then did they re-direct and advance the currents of our time. When that happens, profound spiritual, social, and cultural changes occur.

    We live in a time of rapid, often chaotic change. Perhaps, we live in a time where science and art, where the technical and creative, where the image, the design and the real, where “The Head and the Heart”, truly converge into an harmonious co-existence of “order out of chaos”.

    East-West Nation & The Next American Revolution, Part II

    A continuation of the last “East-West Nation” blog, equally alarming is how much even some of the more progressive elements of our society choose to ignore Asia in the global discussion. For one example, so much is talked about health care in other countries, now at the highest level due to recent health care reforms. But the statistically healthiest country in the world is completely absent from the discussion.

    So much is talked about the health care systems of Canada, the UK, France, but not an ounce of discussion about Japan or China, even though Japan maintains a more technologically advanced and advancing medical industry and health insurance system similar to that of the U.S. (in comparison to the aforementioned countries). I wrote in my book published by the National Conference of State Legislatures on Japan’s health care system. The WTO’s designated healthiest country in the world, Japan, has the world’s highest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality, but was never part of the health care conversation! Not much more you can say about that . . . . wow!

    Take for example, Jon Stewart’s humorous but astute observations about CNN’s coverage of the Malaysian Airlines crash. CNN has effectively turned it into America’s favorite pastime of “CIS”-ification of finding “possible” airplane parts in the ocean.

    And yet we have a twisted way of creating paranoia around the rising power of Asian countries; first, Japan in the 80s, and now China and India. We speak of them stealing our livelihood as if they are responsible for decisions U.S. and international businesses are making to use their know- how and hard work. This seems to be the only way we can give credence to the Asia Pacific region.

    The problem lies in the fact that even the parties intellectually attuned to Asia, find little incentive politically or otherwise to recognize or acknowledge Japan, China, India, Korea or other Asian influence. The United States establishment is too deeply entrenched in a Euro-centric world such that most international relations and comparative analysis occurs only in relation to our European partners and/or conflicts in the Middle East. The oddity and insanity of it is that all of Europe is more focused on Asia! The result is we keep banging up against the same boring ideas, theories, solutions, and angles. The extremism in the west bangs up against the extremism of the Middle East. But notice that when we turn east to Asia, there’s no more banging!

    The banging up of egos become tempered by cooperation and conciliation, and it’s deeply rooted in eastern mysticism and spirituality. Even the Muslim conflicts with the west which are filtered through the conflicts in the Middle East are suddenly sifted through the more rational, less extremist and more conciliatory nature of Asian Pacific Island countries and people (e.g., Indonesia, India and Malaysia; Indonesia being the world’s largest Muslim country).

    I’m not so sure there’s a point to banging my own head on this subject, but someday it will not matter, even though in today’s environment, there is a critical need to shed light on the subject. What I’ve learned from my amazing, physically tiny but spiritually giant Japanese mother is, “Dai jobu dai yo. Shimpai shinai de; shi ka ta ga nai” (it’s ok, just let it go. Don’t worry; it can’t be helped”). Time to get back to piano playing. I just posted my version of the famous “Kodomo No Hi” (Children’s Day) theme song, “Koi Nobori”. I also have a few koto jazz gigs coming up this summer at a venue near you. Keep coming back if it works for you. 🙂

    East-West Nation & The Next American Revolution:

    This blog entry departs from talking about music for a moment of reflection I wrote about back in the 90s at a boutique publication, “The Asia Pacific Economic Review“. For a nation so attuned to new frontiers since its revolutionary founding, few people here really see the next revolution transforming our country in our everyday lives. In many ways, it is more an evolution since so many influences have been taking place over a number of decades.

    It is sometimes subtle, sometimes “in your face” blatantly obvious. It’s in our food, media images, our tv virtual reality shows, our music, our children’s comic strips, toys & tv shows, our very way of life.

    When was the last time you and your family went to dinner for sushi, kalbi, dim sum, or teriyaki? Or stunned to see your very American as apple pie next door neighbor design a beautifully polished Japanese garden in their back yard? Or to find out your former U.S. Marines buddy is deeply immersed in daily Buddhist meditation?

    When was the last time you found your children couched like potatoes in front of a popular Japanese anime tv show or Japanese video game? Or your child begging for the latest Transformer, Pokemon or Hello Kitty toy? When tv surfing for the next tv show, did you land on a virtual reality show; more specifically did you stop to watch Iron Chef or the next American Idol? All of these things have one thing in common. They all originate from Japan, China, and other parts of East Asia. The original virtual reality shows were on televisions in Japan long before they washed onto the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean.

    We might have been threatened by it in the 80s when the Japanese corporate “invasion” of buying up landmark American properties was in full swing. Or the popular conversations about new business management approaches, such as those of UCLA scholar William Ouchi’s “Theory Z”. It was a threat then to America’s political, business, intellectual, and media establishment, but less so to the masses on the street. To put it bluntly, it threatened the American intellect, but not the heart of America.

    In the 70s and 80’s, we saw the long term and permanent impact of martial arts and eastern health care, yoga, eastern meditation, naturo-pathic medicine, physical therapy, eastern spirituality (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Asian Islam, Confusionism) take its place alongside western culture. Even before this time, Japanese anime began to influence the American psyche as early as the 50s. Then, we saw the longstanding Asian influences in modern architecture and landscaping take hold, beyond Frank Lloyd Wright in the 20s, then I.M. Pei, and an ongoing toying with the influence of Zen-like, minimalist thinking to modern architecture, landscaping, art, and culture.

    The Next American Revolution is more psychological and spiritual than physically tangible. Remarkable is how much our western cultural origins cloud our vision to be almost completely oblivious to this next American revolution. If it is brought up in general to the mainstream media and leaders, even those known to be the more progressive leaders, completely trivialize or only quietly acknowledge its impact.

    A good majority of our media and American consciousness simply ignore it, but it’s turning American culture upside down, or should I say it has already turned American culture upside down. For that matter it has transformed all of western society. It is equally pervasive in European countries, even parts of South America. Talk to the American media, including Hollywood, and they might give you a blank stare. But talk to them about all the things that make up our modern society today and you will find a high awareness of all things Asian as long as the west can claim it as their own. It leaves a deep streak and indelible mark at the core of our society. Things of Asian origin and the Asian influence has become so much a part of American life that it’s Asian origin is almost indistinguishable from it’s American-‘ness’. It pervades our entire society and our entire way of life. It goes well beyond our children’s obsession with Pokemon, Mario, and Hello Kitty. It leaves a permanent imprint far broader than our teenagers’ obsession with anime tv shows or video games. The song “I think I’m turning Japanese; I really think so” is no longer a joking mockery; it is an omnipresent, all pervasive occurrence from the main streets of our rural towns to the high rises of our largest metropolitan cities.

    So what is behind this oversight and what lies within these insights?

    This week I plan to visit North America’s first sanctioned Japanese Shinto Shrine, the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Granite Falls, Washington (a suburb of Seattle). I hope to be lead back to the Shinto spiritual nature- immersion into the beauty within the leaf of a red maple tree, blooming cherry blossoms, the flow of crystal clear glacier water, a stone lantern reflected upon still waters embellished with garden flowers, and possibly the serene sound of koto music in the background summoning the mind, heart and spirit to let it all go. 🙂

    KotoJazz 8: The Wind and the Spirit

    While originally secularly founded by Yatsuhashi Kengyo in the early 17th century, Koto, “the music of Japan”, flourished in the 1800s. Koto composer Nakanoshima Kengyo (1838-1894) created and dedicated “Matsukaze”, “the wind in the pines”, imitating the sounds of Gagaku, Japanese court music (see http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~rgarfias/sound-recordings/japan.html). It is a composition in continuous gentle, fluid motion, sometimes wandering yet never searching. It is as confident and steady as the wind in the pines, bending but never breaking; as subtle yet serene as a cool ocean breeze (though I believe the vocals does this piece a disservice). 🙂

    A few additional koto and other instrumental tunes worth noting about the wind and the Spirit are:

  • Kozan No Kaze [or Alpine Wind (Storm)] (the 1st song in this medley, more “chaos jazz” than koto jazz),
    – Koto Jazz medley live at the Brass Tacks, Seattle (July 5th). Kozan no Kaze is inspired by world renowned jazz piano player, Li Pui Ming’s style of jazz which I call “chaos jazz”. I will also feature this piece at the Royal Room, Seattle in September (see events section)
  • Kaze no uta (Song of the Wind), by Sawai Tadao, from Spell of Spring: Selected Works of Sawai Tadao (Volume I).
  • Whisper of the Wind, Bali Spa- Kecapi Meets Koto, Volume 6.
  • Song of the Wind with Shakuhachi and Tea Ceremony, The Satsuki Odamura Koto Ensemble.
  • Matsukaze, “The wind in the pines”, Taiga Yamaki III (also known as Yamaki Kengyō) performed by Namino Torii and Minoyu Otaka, with assistance from Steven Otto and Hiromi Sakata.
  • Yamato (Japan): III. Fu (Wind), by Aiko Hasegawa, Relaxing Sounds of Japan
  • Ballades for Koto Solo – Summer – Under the White Wind, by Miki Minoru
  • Temple Spirits, by Ameritz Sound Effects, Music of Japan
  • Kitaro’s Spiritual Garden album;
  • Dream Wind, by Taka Koto Ensemble
  • East Winds Ensemble, by Youmi Kimura / Yumi Kimura and Joe Hisaishi (theme music of Hayao Miyazaki Anime)
  • Breeze at Night, by Circus Band, Sound of the Orient
  • White Winds – by Andreas Vollenweider
  • The Wind and the Wolf – by Keiko Matsui
  • Nanbu Wind Chimes – by Victor, The Sounds of Japan
  • Kaze No Oshaberi – by Ayaha, The Sounds of Kyoto: Maboroshi
  • The Spirit – by Peter Kater
  • Aerial Boundaries – by Michael Hedges
  • Wind Machine and Voices In the Wind – by Wind Machine

  • New to “Sample Sounds” is a brief excerpt of a beautifully performed melodious composition by a very, very special, gifted person. While I attempted to give insight into the basic western chordal structure and show how many songs are based on them, this unique musical talent composed a piece called “Wind-chimes”. Wind-chimes graces with delicate simplicity and inspires with its spontaneous peace and joy. Though you can discern smooth, flowing patterns up and down the scale, the melody captures a gentle breeze tapping the tunes of flower pedal-like wind-chimes. The second “windchime” sample called “Rain Drops from Trees” evokes images of a cool breeze releasing rain drops from branches of a tree, or a tributary trickling downstream in a fresh green mountain meadow and gurgling over creek pebbles. It is a “must hear”.

    John Denver spoke of the wind as “the symbol of all that is free,” in his masterfully sung spiritual ballad, Windsong. Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) suggests that we “listen to the wind of the soul” in his spiritual journey called “The Wind”. To introduce a hint of the trans-formative nature of the wind, I reflect on the western tradition. Probably the most telling story-lines passed on through perhaps hundreds of generations is the story about Jesus who spoke of the One who is to follow. He said we may speak wrongly about himself and the Father and it will be forgiven us, but we may never speak wrongly about the Spirit. There is only one description in the good book I know of where Jesus explicitly defines the Spirit in human terms and that is, “The wind blows where it wishes and we hear the sound of it. We know neither from where it comes nor to where it goes, and so it is with those of the Spirit.”

    The wind is the breath of this small and fragile home we call earth and is not to be tampered with nor taken for granted. If we feel the wind and the Spirit in our own lives, we live in unison with who we are intended to be, what we are intended to do. Then and only then, regardless of where we are or who we are, we are part of the living Spirit through whom we truly “breathe, we move, and we have our being.”

    Let us dare to care for the wind, take heed of each moment it pays us a visit as if it were the One who is to follow, and in JD’s words ” welcome the wind and the wisdom she offers. Follow her summons when she calls again. In your heart and your spirit let the breezes surround you. Lift up your voice then and sing with the wind.” (Windsong)

    KOTOJAZZ 1: KOTO JAZZ DEFINED – SPIRITUAL ORIGINS

    Hatchidori Wa Hana Ka[ra] Hana [e tobu] (Hummingbird Flies from Flower to Flower) and Kabutomushi (Rhinoceros Beetle) are musical tunes that attempt to capture the energy or images of the natural object; in this case, a hummingbird and a rhinoceros beetle. I believe staying true to the spiritual origins of Koto is paramount.

    Spiritually, Koto jazz seeks to bring out the Japanese Shinto-Buddhist spiritual nourishment derived from connection and reverence to nature as well as ancestral worship. The western influences of jazz, in part, have their origins in western Judeo-Christian ideals and institutions. It is my opinion we need to bring these two together into an harmonious whole of “yin and yang”, bringing out the best in both traditions which lifts us to broader spiritual growth and learning.

    The best written description/ representation of this that I’ve read to date is the a #1 New York Times Bestselling book by James Redfield called The “Celestine Prophecy“, and our evolution toward a global non-religious spiritual awakening.

    KOTOJAZZ 3: KOTO JAZZ DEFINED VS. JAZZ KOTO ARTISTS

    Koto jazz is variations of popular traditional Japanese koto music and melodies synthesized with western jazz and rhythm. These include Sakura, Tori No Yo Ni, Haru No Umi, Rokudan, Midare, and a score of others. Kenji takes these musical pieces and plays them on the piano, varies the sound and tone with western influences of rhythm and beat. He has also created his own Koto jazz pieces Hatchidori Wa Hana Ka[ra] Hana [e tobu] (Hummingbird Flies from Flower to Flower), Aki no Ho (Toward The Autumn Season), Shiodamari To Kaze (Tide Pools & The Wind), and Wandering Kabutomushi (Rhinoceros Beetle).

    Koto Jazz is not to be confused with Jazz Koto, which integrates the koto instrument and sound into western jazz tunes. In addition to the famous rock musicians such as David Bowie and the Rolling Stones who occasionally used the Koto instrument in their songs, Jazz Koto became popular in the 70s and 80s by such notable western musicians as

  • June Kuramoto (also see June Kuramoto’s website),
  • Dorothy Ashby,
  • Reiko Obata and East-West Jazz,
  • the fusion jazz band Hiroshima,
  • Eugene Yamamoto,
  • Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto (also see her as a member of the Murasaki Ensemble).
  • Brian Mitsuhiro Wong, and
  • Masako Naito.
  • Koto jazz is the opposite. It is its image, as a reflection on still waters.