Trips around the Sun…

 

It has been a while since I posted. Life happens! Since today is the anniversary of my Sun orbit cycle for this passage, it is as good a time as any to do a new post. Maybe the best timing.

A lot has passed since my last entry. It is hard to find a beginning spot that matters if any does. The last thing I recall here is I was just ready before going back to Nara. I did I bit of Takuhatshu there, before going to the temple to play for OMatsuri at Sempai’s local temple. That was interesting. I always enjoy these small local things. They are like a small mini time travel session. I did my small bit of playing shakuhachi for the group. which was larger than I thought. They were as always impressed that I could play and was there. Everyone was nice. Details are on the Komuso Blog.

Shortly after I went to the Kobe Blues session. I do not go often do to the distance and cost of travel, besides the next day hassles of early the night before if I do not stay over at a friend’s. It is fun the session, but there is usually a feeling of empty at times. Hard to explain sometimes it is great, other times…lacking

And now after my birthday dinner and most of a bottle of sparkling wine, I can not recall must of that time anyway.

Ok, so rather than trying to fill in what I do not recall I will start from where I do. Yesterday, for my birthday my wife took me a Greek restaurant. There have been very good reviews from the locals. There are very few Greece places in Japan. This is one of 3 that had good ratings. Also, they usually had a mix of Italian food not just Greek. Coming from The bay Area where we have a lot of Greek deli type places I give it a rating of 6 on a 1-10 scale.  10 being the best! it was good and a nice change, but the Greek in better in Cal. Even from the Deli. I really wanted a Falafel !! Oh well.

The other night there was a session at Snafkin. It was really a night were the IYO band was playing. However, we were going to slip in a practice session for my band, which was performing in an upcoming concert at the beach for Snafkin. It is an annual thing. So we were going to get in a practice before and after the AYO band played. He, the keyboard player, plays for them mostly and a solo acts himself. That is the thing in Japan no one just plays for one band unless that band has a national name.

We, my new band, got in some practice time and it went fairly well. One song sounded like we practiced it more than just once today. I was surprised. I was expecting to play once more or so after the AYO band finished, but I find out I am requested to play as a part warmup act for the IYO band. I was not expecting that. Ok quickly considered what to do. I drafted the Bass player from IYO’s band. He was very hesitant! Saying he did not know the song. No big deal I said. It was weird. He was reacting the same way I do when asked to sit- in on a Jazz piece. This was just a Blues and I gave him a chart. Anyway, he agreed finally. I was going to play a song where I got to use Shakuhachi. I always need the practice live. We started the song slowly, I was having a lot of trouble getting a sound from my flute. OHG, so embarrassing!! This was a was my Zen and Kung Fu training kicked in. Do not panic, breathe, think! I fiddled with the mic and tried several times to blow but no sound. Ok, I got a drink, as if I needed it, then just started to sing. As I sang I gave the flute a few tries, and finally was able to connect. I played for just a small bit, and then I lost the sound. As in Kyudo when you miss the shot it is usually something about “you” that is the issue, not the equipment. In the case of the Shakuhachi, this is so very very true. the problem was me! There are no parts or anything with the Shakuhachi, it is a tool of truth, you can get a sound, or you can not, it is not the lacking of within the flute.

I play a little then again lose it, I did not panic, never panic. I decided to switch up and play the Harmonica. I went over to the table to get my harp and as I reached for it, I knock over my Bass which was next to it them. I laughed, the keyboard player laughed. I rolled with it and kept singing and made the switch. Things went well… of sorts. I Kept having issues with the Mic adjustment location. As the Keyboard players were doing his solo, he started dropping papers and stuff. Again we laugh, but the song goes on. That is how we roll. LoL!!

Overall even though I still had a few issues with hearing myself, we finished the song and for the most part it turned out ok. I did not realize that until afterward when I listened to the video. All that stuck out for me was the suck parts when I could not get a sound! After listening to the recording I find it was not so bad 🙂

Our next song, was really just the new band. Really a trio today as we had no percussion. We did a cover song by Stevie Wonder. This our second time playing ever, today. Surprising it turned out good. Like we knew just what we were doing, helps when the band members lesson to each other. I did this same song with one of the other bands, the Kuruzeders, we did not sound as good then as we did with this Trio!

The next day I am chilling, very limited Facebook interaction. I am planning to enjoy my birthday break. I spent the day, a small bit of gardening, mostly just working on my ceramic pieces. I hope the person in charge of firing at “club”  did /does so over the break. I now have about 8 pieces that need to be “baked” before I can take the next step and do the glazing before putting them up for sale and seeing if there is any interest. That would really really give me a boost if there was interest in buying. I could actually have something artsy that was marketable. Music is a difficult Art route for more than pleasure.

Speaking of music that is the other thing I did over my Sun circumnavigation trip anniversary. I discovered a song I want to do as part of my solo set and maybe with the new band, I am just recently asked to Join. So I worked on that song. I put down a beat track and a bass track on my looper to give me something to work from. It went well, that another song which I started with one of the other bands.  I just realized I am connected to several bands: The Kursaders, The Saki Band, Mr Joe’s girl band, and my Kaze Band, oh and sometimes the Dirty Deal Blues Band.

The other big musical thing I did was some work to my Bass. I have been thinking about changing my bridge to a Gold Brass one. I have been putting it off and off, finally, I went for it. I was nervous about doing it correctly, there are many adjustments to set and this was my first time. I took my time and it went well. I could tell a difference in the sound right away.

After all my years of playing, this is the first Bass I have made truly mine! Not just mine as in owning, but mine as in changing stuff just to my taste. Cool it is!

So all in all at this time in Life, things are pretty good. Making music, Kyudo, Ceramics, My WaterWorld life is pretty much a wash:-(, as is my Kung Fu teaching. I guess I should just consider myself retired from those fields. Oh well, one can not have everything they say. I am sort of getting a new change of plan for Japan travel. Since I can not do it by sailboat, perhaps by motorcycle. Since I have had my eye surgery I am pretty sure I can pass my eye test for a Japan drivers lic. However I do not have a motorcycle, but it would be easier to get and keep than a boat. Still, there is the money thing and with a set budget, it is pretty much in the same realm as a boat…an out-there-dream! Yet, things change as you live and breathe. One never knows what the tide ( Heaven ) will bring in…Amituofo

 

 

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The local news…July


Wow, time flys! I just noticed it has been a while since I posted. The blog quandary, if you do nothing there is nothing to blog about. If you do stuff, you are too busy to blog. The last post I see was the monthly Shakuhachi meeting, and now that has just past for this month.

 
So I will need to backtrack and do a multi-section update.
 
Starting from the last post. This month’s meeting of the Shakuhachi Society was interesting. There was another new person and one less than last time. Our group is growing. The new person this time was another new player. My new friend the priest returned again. He will be a regular I am guessing. I have been invited to return to his place next month for another dinner after the Zen Cafe. I am thinking, I will need to miss this next month as it will be held on a Friday. Bummer. Oh well another month, if God wills and the creek don’t rise.
We went through our range of songs a usual at the meeting, then had drinks and snacks. It was fun. I had thought briefly about not going. The only English speaker was not going to be there this month, so I would have no help. Then I thought that is ok, I can deal. I am glad I went. It was all good. I got by easy and I was given a new Shakuhachi by Omoto-San the flute maker. It is different from my others. It has a large bore. It is also cracked. Which is why I was given it, free! It has been repaired and still plays well. Once at home I went through several moods with it. At first, I liked it, then not so much, then liked it a lot.! I have a spot of it in my Shakuhachi arsenal.
 

On other Shakuhachi music and such. I was asked to play at the club one of my bands has as a home base location. I was asked to play in a Bon Odori event. Sort of Japanese summer festival.

I was asked to play bass with the band on three Japanese folk songs. Also to play something on Shakuhachi as a solo. Ohhhhh. I was surprised by that but agreed. Learning the Japanese songs was tricky, but I was able to pull it off. One song I only had a couple of days to figure it out. I was lucky my wife was able to find the song music chart.
The Shakuhachi solo part was interesting. I had to speak to the people as an intro. That is always scary for me. The groups always have a chatty section, my Japanese is not that good. So I always shy away from that but get in a few words an have some type of connection with the viewers. I played two songs. One song I explained was an old Komuso song, I would play it two ways, once again n a traditional style, the second time with a hip hop beat from my “looper”. The second song was a classic American song, Summertime. I played all the backup instruments on the loop beforehand so I was set. Both songs went well.
 
On other band news, things with the Seiki band have been quiet. However, there was an event with the Kuseders band at the pub Chicago Rock. That went over ok. We had fun. I did not think we sound that good. We really need to practice more. Still afterward, listening to the recording I did, parts were good. We had a sax player sit info a few sets. I am not a big Sax fan, but it did give a nice another dimension to our sound. It would have been better if the Sax player had also done a rehearsal with us.
 

I have been told the sax player with be joining as a member another band the keyboard player is forming for a show in Late Aug. I do not know if it will be a one-time affair or what. This is the idea of the Club owner to form this band for a show there at the club. The keyboard player and I will carry all the lead vocals for this project. It will be nice to have a bit of different sound.

In other news, I have been going to the ceramic club for two months now. It is ok. I am pretty disappointed in the speed, of the firing sessions. I have completed three forms that have been ready to fire (bake) for the last month. I can not continue with the next step, the glazing until they get the first firing. Now we are on break until Sept!! Crap! I want to get at least these three (four, soon) done so I can see if there is any interest in them. I have figured out to market the items under the Osaka Lohan Chan Charities, as a way to help bring in donations and support for the organization. Seems fitting, a charities setup via donations from Shakuhachi, also support by another Art form dealing with shakuhachi. I will not go into what that involves because I do not want my idea taken as yet. So no pictures of the Projects.

I will a fair supply soon, enough to test the interest. Time to give some thought to what other things I want to do. in clay. Perhaps it is better not to have a wheel so everything will not be based on having to “throw” something. More interesting things can be built by hand. I do wish I could mix my own glaze like we did in school. Also being able to do Raku was nice. Anyway it is all new here and yet old having done the foundation in college.

I did pickup something the other day from watching one of the members. I got the idea to make my own slab form press. I did a quick one as a test the other day it worked well. I just need to get the right size sides. The test was thicker than I wanted but still usable.

 
I am back to labor work for the city for the summer. Two days a week. It is helpful for the house budget and me getting up and out early. I have been lucky so far and the temp has been reasonable…so far!
 
Kyudo, no change, just practice…daily! Even just three arrows, same as with the Shakuhachi, even if it is just 5 minutes of one or two notes. Like Meditation even if just 10 min, daily discipline is the key to improvement.
 
Amituofo

Playing in the mud


Playing in the mud 

 

When I first started thinking about moving to Japan, there were a few things on my to-do list. Study Zen, Kyudo get my Yondan, Sail the inland sea, play music and study Shakuhachi. There were some other things that included the boat, but those were more business related, like teaching Martial Art classes. It could still happen and it did for a while, but it dried up. I have pretty much been blessed to have done most of those things. Even on a small scale.

I have gotten to sail the Sea of Seto, not as much as I hoped for, but I did do some. My Zen studies continue although not Japanese Zen so much. But I did have some exposure to it. The Kyudo is an on-going struggle. I am with several bands on and off as well as having and developing a solo music career. Shakuhachi is included in that along with finding a teacher and becoming a Komuso. Something I had not thought of but find rewarding, Spiritually.

Finally, I have joined a ceramic workshop. Not a class perse, but a workshop, where I can practice and develop my skill and projects. It is in the next town and I can ride my bike to the location. which is very nice. I started a couple weeks ago. I have some Art project I am planning and I have free rein on what I want to do. So that is very cool. There is no wheel in the class, and tools are limited, but that is ok. The project I have in mind are all hand built items anyway. It is good I had some background in that. As I look back on my former study I learned and was exposed to quite a bit in my college classes. I had a small introduction to ceramic as part of my Graphic Designer major. I enjoyed it to continue with additional classes outside of my required credit.

So another item checked off on my Japan bucket list.

Terra Zen


Terra Zen

 
This is a new term I have coined. There I standing Zen, motion Zen, SuiZen. I am now referring to gardening as earth meditation. Maybe it should be Terra Fauna Zen. Hmmm. Doubt if it matters.

It is that time of the year for planting here at Osaka Lohan Buddhist Hermitage.

I am actually almost done. Having tested things for the last several years I know what I can grow and plant according. Kale, Tomatoes, basil, Shiso, peppers, lettuce, are the main crops. With a few herbs here and there. I am also keeping it down to 1 plant per pot this year mostly. The multi in one pot did not seem to work well. Therefore growing several plants of the same in different containers is my next step. Hopefully, that will increase my harvest. Another thing I am doing different this year is by using chicken manure instead of fish emulsion. In just a couple of weeks, a couple of the plants have really taken off.

 

There is a simple pleasure and peace about growing one’s own foods, even if just a small amount. Care for the plants, nurturing them. It’s all very Zen. Of course, everything is Chan. It is everyday life. Even though I am working on a tiny balcony garden, I feel like I am in my mountain field. Just outside the temple grounds doing my Zen work practice for the day. I can for certain can feel a connection to the earth and nature when doing gardening. We are all part of the same source-ness. It is that same type of feeling form doing ceramic working with clay. I understand how the Late Roshi at Chozenji would include that as part of their curriculum. If I had such a Place I would have. Chan ding ( Zazen), Ceramics, Gardening, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Shakuhachi, Tea. It was a dream at one time to have such a retreat on an island in Japan.

 

I never dreamed when I was a child on my grandparent’s farm helping in the garden behind the house, I would be in Japan growing in my little home garden. Life is interesting, things we carry from Childhood into another time. I was just getting started at that time in life and now I am putting the wraps on it. Interesting.

A Garden is one thing I found to be missing from Chozenji grounds. Unlike Sonoma Mountian Zen center which has their own garden and most of the vegetable dishes are prepared from that.

Anywho…the Hermitage garden is off to a good start. Soon the bug wars will start…not fun.

 

…and Now for Something Completely Different

 

 

Shakuhachi Blues in the Temple Cafe

Now getting back to Japan life. There is a lot going on, it has already started a few days ago. Several band performances, Just finished one at the Sakai city Blues festival. Maybe a post about that…maybe. Up coming a performance at My SuiZen temple, Myoanji and just finished a small prayer, and visit and performance at the temple of a new friend.

Via my Komuso Sempai in Nara I made the acquaintance of another Priest Shakuhachi Player. He has a temple that is not too far from here. Just below Kobe. I go out that area from time to time, because of the Band, or Boating. Shibata Sensei’s temple runs what they call a café, once a month. Hot drinks, snacks, misc items for sale, neck massages, card telling, musical entertainment. It runs all day. From 11- 5:00. Very casual and low key.

This Priest is looking to bring more of the Shakuhachi into his Buddhist practice. He already plays at some of the temple services. He is not Zen he is of the Jodu sect. He holds formal weekly services.

I contacted him via FaceBook and made arrangements to attend the next Café, so we can do a face to Face meeting and chat. He spoke no English and my Japanese is basic and poor. However, I have nothing to lose by going and giving it my best shot to communicate. What could go wrong…

The day arrives I get directions with the help of my wife and I set off on a mini Shakuhachi adventure. I found the location rather easy and entered the Temple Yard. I was taken with the large Buddha statue. That was my first stop, bow then on to the temple. I heard voices when I enter, but I saw no one. I looked about a bit and saw through some glass and reeds people leaving a small garden. They were just on the other side of what could be a small tea room or sitting room.

I made my way to the door they were heading toward. There I met Sensei. We did the intro formalities and I was taken up stairs. There was more people than I expected there. A few sitting around a large fire pit, roasting coffee, then in another connecting room which was a large space, there were several small booth tables, food, etc out from there chairs. Next an open space which was the “stage area”, off from that a table with chairs. It was quite the place. The Sensei introduced me, then we went into another section. This was the temple “Heart”, where the ceremonies are done. We talked there for a while. I might have been asked to join now or the next ceremony, would I play?? or something. Anyway, a pray/chant, something started, a few people came. We took places at the “fish” drum/beater. Sensei explained some things, I did not understand also about following his beat.

OK we started he started chanting, then started the beat on the drumette. We followed. those who knew the words or could read them chanted along. Me I made the sound and beat the drum. It felt cool. I did not feel out-of-place, for some reason. It felt very “Native”, very basic beating this drum and chanting.

Next Sensei asked me to play. Hmm ok. I did the Tamuke offering, Fuu style. I was not bound by any “rules” on what or how to play. I was able to use a headset, which was cool. I could hear clearly what I was playing as could those in the temple hall. I dig that I could hear and so I did not think I just played.

I did not clearly know what was going. I said, I would play another tune and did something contemporary. I thought this was all part of the ” TempleCafe“. Even though I was not asked. I thought something for the Buddha, something for the folks, since I was there. Turns out I did not have that over my head.

I finished the second song and then the guy managing “the club” came in and ask would I also play in the Cafè. I thought that is what I did. Now I had used up the one non-hyukyoku I had prepared. Oh well. ON-ward, breathe…

Ok I said. We then, all in the temple hall, moved to the other section were, others sat, drank, ate, listened to the ukulele player.

I met a few other people there , one of who spoke English. I grabbed a chair and watched the show, also chatting with Sensei some. Also with the show “MC” he spoke just a little English, but we communicated. He would like me to play a song after the next act. Did I want the Ukulele player to help me? I said sure let have him and I play together. I had been thinking that for a few moments after listening to him. I felt I should have something other than “Fuu’s Tamuke” to play or any Honkyoku. Also I had done Summertime already in the Temple. Having thought I was doing the performance. Yeah, so I was only planning to do one song this time. I figured quickly to jot down a few simple cords changes on a paper and give it to the guy. Basic I/V/IV.

I said yes, we can play together…ok.

I sat through the next act. This was the Ukulele player and a woman who played an old style flute that was like a “gourd”. She was/they were pretty good.
I was up next. I was not nervous, I felt pretty relaxed during the intro…and then show time. I counted off and we started. The guy played pretty good and I tried to blend into his pattern and the changes. It went ok. The people enjoyed it, I was not that please, as it was “all just then”, birth on the spot.

It is kind of a “Mindmelt” with playing with strangers and a new piece of music. Even if it is just two cords, behaps that is more of a challenge. One reaches out with your spirit to touch another(s) and create another form, eity. This song, this vibration, and share it, giving it to humanity. It is weird, interesting amazing when one thinks about it…

I was ok with the piece. I heard a small bit of the recording. It was i the beginning, unsteady… Like a child walking. It started to find it’s balance just as the film was cut.

The people enjoyed it, it was one time vibration they experienced. So it was successful. I was asked to play one more. ehhhh,

oh snap, what am I going to play now? I thought…

Ok I fell back on Summertime. Since no one there heard it before other than Sensei. Also I never play it the same way. A little longer version with a bit more “flavor”. So it was done. People were impressed I think. Surprised for sure. Good chi was raise, so…cool

I was just pleased they enjoyed it and I did not lose face. I figured I would be asked to play that is why I brought my shakuhachi. This whole meeting was about Shakuhachi. Ok I was done. I played in the Temple for the Buddha offering and I played in the Cafè for the people. It was very Buddhist in for the benefit of society way. It was engaged, but private, sort of like doing Komuso Missionary.

I hung out for a while longer afterwards and just watched. When leaving I came across Sensei in the temple Hall with some others. He was telling them about … something to do with the shrine there. He brought out a couple of long Shakuhachi for me to look at. They were quite nice. He played a song for the couple. Amazing Grace. Japanese seem to like that song. Hmm gives me an idea for the next visit.

I put the wraps on my visit and made my way out.
I will return…Amitoufo

 

Return to Paradise…Kung Fu Kyudo Sunday


Return to Paradise…Kung Fu Kyudo Sunday
I was looking forward to Sunday and shooting with the Kyudo Kai people. Real Kyudo, decent equipment. I was emailed the address, which turned out to be walking distance close to the hotel. However, first was a visit to my Tai Chi Mantis brothers. They were meeting on Sat. and on Sunday. I did not go on Sat as I wanted to go to ChoZenji and the hope to do Kyudo or at least something else of interest.  So Sunday morning it was. They started at 7:00 am. I thought about it and figured there was no reason for me to be there that early, I went in at 8:00.
 As it turned out there was a marathon race that day, so early morning travel was disrupted somewhat. I was not sure I could get to the park or if they were having the practice even with the race going. I was somewhat thinking, this may be another letdown. I figured I hoped it would not affect them and found out I could walk to the park in about 30 minutes. It was not a big deal! So off I went. It was a pleasant walk almost a direct line from my hotel. I found it easily. The group was also easy to spot even though it was just three of them. 
I walked over and asked for a couple of people mention by my Sempai in the States. They were curious and cautious, who is this guy?  I introduced my self, they were very welcoming after that. Turns out I am their leader’s Sempai. We chatted about this and that, people, from, kung fu, philosophy. It was pleasant almost like a family reunion, meeting cousins you had not meet before. I got someone to do a form so I could film it. I wanted to relearn having forgotten it from lack of practice.  We talked more about the differences between versions from different schools and philosophy. I did a standard basic form, Bumbo, to compare with theirs. It was a nice visit. I did not stay long as I did not want to interrupt too much their training. We took a group picture so I could post and send to my Sempai in Cal, to show I did make it by.
From there I went back to the hotel to rest more. I would go to shoot with Kyudo group later that afternoon.
After another nap, I set out for the Kyudojo. It was another easy walk from the hotel. About 25 min. I came across a few interesting sights on the walk. Including a Whole Foods market where I picked up dinner for the evening, after Kyudo practice and lunch for the next day. Coolness and yummy vegetarian stuff. I missed that. I use to eat from there often when living in Ca!
I locate the dojo. It is in the parking lot of a veterinarian hospital which the guy and his wife own. It was a nice setup. Comfortable and although outside and open, it was private! The owner lent me one of his Yumis. He was a large guy so the size was right also the ya!. Many of the group from the other night were there. We had a little concern with a rain shower but it did not last. It was one of those brief and light Hawaiian showers. Unlike the two I had been in after the Chozenji class while waiting at the bus stop a couple of nights!
When I first went up to shoot, I could feel all eyes were on me. New bow, new environment, pressure…my first shot hit center! Yeah, cool I thought…total luck! My next shot was a miss, but that is ok. I stepped off the platform. Others took shots. Some hit some did not. There were about 10 people there but only four were shooting the others were new, and had not even taken their first shot as yet I make ready for another shot. This time the elder guy, the sensei from the dojo, suggests I need to press down with the base of my thumb and not the tip so much, so it would open a hollow in palm better. I thank him, and shot again, of course missing when doing a new adjustment. However my form was ok, and I was relaxed.
The rest of the time was spent chatting with a few people there. Which was ok, I had gotten to shoot a few times, and a small bit of instruction. I was pleased. I would have shot more, however, after being asked about a couple of the new people if I thought they were ready to take their first shot. I agreed they looked ready the Matos were raised so that the shooters could stand closer and not try to start with the full 28 meters. With that being done, I decided it was time for me to leave. Several others had already taken off for the day. It was very casual shooting time. People came as left as they wanted. I was offered a ride to the hotel earlier but turned it down having said I walked and wanted to go to Whole Foods on the way back. Since there was no rain, it was ok for me to walk. 
I walked back and settled down with my dinner and a little TV. It was a good day. I was feeling the trip was worthwhile. The ChoZenji visit was not that great, disappointing in fact, but the other stuff went ok and I met some nice folks.
Monday would be the last session, then back to Nihon. The weather was nice, but I was sort of ready to return to Japan. All that I wanted to do was mostly done. I did not get to sail, my sailing friend was still in Greece and the Shakuhachi/ Kyudo master was traveling. I had heard he was maybe in Japan. Oh well!

Return to Paradise…getting real on day three


Return to Paradise…getting real on day three

I killed time on the third day. Really do not even recall what I did, besides sleep, maybe a little shopping. Ahh we/ I move to another hotel where we would stay the rest of the trip. We had a nice view this time. Part view of the ocean overlooking the marina an park, plus the city. The marina /ocean view made me nostalgic for my Waterworld days. Sigh. I have a friend who lives here in Hawaii and has a sailing business, the boat I believe is docked in this marina. However, just like several of the other bad timing bummers with this trip, he is on vacation in Greece! So no boat ride for me. Sigh, oh well. More to roll with.
So back to ChoZenji for the second day. I made the trip there with no problem. I did not arrive as early but still within good time. This time I sat in the community room with a few other before class and got to speak briefly with a few people there. I was told I could join the class session if I wanted to after the sitting. It was called Zen and Aloha. I did not really know what it was about, but it was not something I had originally planned on attending. However, since I had my whole plan disrupted, I figured ok why not join and experience what the universe was giving me. Then it was time to do Zazen. I did my entry as I should and took a seat. I did have a little help with something or another by an older local man. Older as in about my age and experienced there at the Zen Center. Then we sat. I received a bit of straightening shortly after sitting, but not like the first time. It was not as bad this time, the long sit. However, it was going to be a long session. I was told beforehand, the session would be the standard 45 min, then some breathing drills, then another sitting session! Then whatever the class session stuff was. I was not really looking forward to 1.5 hr Zazen but, it was training so I ready my mind to deal with it! 
After the first sitting, we walked around, not slowly and mindfully like with the Soto group I practiced with before. This time starting slowly then speeding up and staying close-ranked. It was sort of weird I thought. However, I went with it. I found out later from the older guy, named Les, this is the Rinzai way. Also changing direction. Start slow for those whose legs are not quite there yet. Then the speed up close file.  followed by another 45 min sitting. Legs hurt, but not too bad. I could cope. 
One surprise about this sitting was as we started, someone started playing Shakuhachi. Wow, I had seen this on the floor earlier in the community room, but I not inquire about it. It was petty good playing. It was not a tune I had heard and did not sound quite like an Honkyoku. It went on for the full 45 min we sat. I figured it was something else made up by the Shakuhachi master there, or the person playing was improvising. It was pleasant to listen to that and do Zazen. I asked the young head priest later as I was leaving if that was him. Yes he said, I gave him the thumbs up.
Next started the class, we did some seated breathing drills, some with making vowels sounds. Basically while seated we raised one hand then the other in a half circle. Sometimes silent, sometimes with making vowel sounds, or a hmmmm. Totally unlike any Chi Gong, I had experienced. I did not really feel anything other than a little weird. Not from being self-conscious about the drill, but that felt no Chi change.

Next, we stood in a circle held hands and did some Hawaiian call and response chanting. After that we sat and did introductions around, who was who, was who, your name, where do you consider yourself from, and why are you here. That was sort of interesting, where do you consider yourself from, sort of like what was your face before you were born type of question when you thought about it. After I did my part in the circle sharing we did some movement drills, is the best way to describe it. Moving around the room in a line, not in a line, avoiding someone else moving around the room with their eyes closed and try not to hit them. It was explained as a drill in awareness. Like moving through your life, trying to get somewhere, but needing to avoid some random item, issue, person, a thing. Needing to be aware of it and that it is coming, but continue to move forward.

The last section of the class the leader asked about who wanted to do some Tai Chi or do some chanting. I wanted the Tai Chi, but the group wanted the chanting. So I remained quiet and went with the flow to learn, experience something new and different. I have never been big of chanting. Maybe to self-conscious, weird for a person who sings in a band. Anyway, we sat in a circle. We were given a book of chants. A bit was discussed about the nature of the chant. It was not about the words, in some cases, the words have been lost. It is about the sound, the vibe. The body as a sound chamber. The same as what is being done playing Shakuhachi as SuiZen. It is not the music it is the sound, the vibe.
We chatted for a while with the leader banging the fish for the timing. It was interesting, more so now that I am thinking back on it.
We ended the session with another Hawaiian hand-holding group call and answer chant.

The class session name “Zen and Aloha Spirit” makes sense now. It was not what I was looking for, but I got something out of it. I learned something, which was part of the point of going to this Hawaiian pilgrimage.

“Sometimes times one learns what they need, not want they want.”…Brown Buddha

…Amituofo

 

Return to Paradise…the Pilgrimage so far


Return to Paradise…the pilgrimage so far

 
Alohaaaa. Made it back to the islands. It was a loooonnnnngg trip. Yuk! The first day was miserable! 8 hour flight. That was not so bad, tiring, but smooth and faster than planned. We had a good tail wind I am guessing. We arrived 1.5 hours ahead of time, so really only 7 plus hours of flight. Next off to the hotel. The shuttle was way more expensive than planned or told in the guide book! Once at the hotel at 8:00am we had to wait until 3:00pm to check in. Yuk yuk yuk! We went to IHOP for breakfast! Another price shock!! Breakfast at IHOP use to be fairly cheap, maybe still is on the mainland. Not, not, not in Hawaii! More pricing shock! I was also surprised, hmmm forgot how fat Americans can be! Most of those in IHOP were as big as the native Hawaiians and Samoans here! Wow!
 
Back to the hotel afterward to sit in the lobby for the rest of the day! I was not in a good mood! Cranky! We had left our bags at the check-in in the parking lot. I had no books, no iPad, no internet! I just sat! Not the Zazen type of just sitting. I did not use the time wisely. I should have just went into a Zanzen state of mind. That would have been wiser than the irked just sitting state. Oh well… I did manage to nap a bit. I did not want to walk around the area, we were in tourist land, and I had no interest, so I just sat, breathed, sat, settled, breathed… not a happy camper. Finally decided even if it was a hassle to do for the people at the storage. I would get my hand carry bag, with my books, I could at least read. I got my bag with no hassle for them or me, and when I returned to the lobby, the room was ready! 2:00 pm …Sigh.
 
The room was ok, it was a free room due to the points my wife had, so could not complain. Noisy street view. However, free is free! Only there for two days so….oh well, roll with it. We Settled in.
 
Finally ChoZenji 
 
The next day after chilling most of the day. I located how I was to get to ChoZenji and took the bus. It was to be an over an hour ride by bus. It was different riding the bus with the locals, all kinds, all kinds, imported and domestic! Some interesting, some scary looking. Public Trans people are the same all over the world. I rode to the end of the line with the bus on the route I had. Then I had to walk about 15 min into a valley to get to the ChoZenji temple. I was early.
 
The person I had been in communication with came out to meet me. She had me fill out some form and was told I could just walk around and hang out for a while. She said she would change and come out to find me. I was told a little about the location and the small hill which was sort of the center of the grounds of two acres. It was deemed a power spot by local spiritualists!
 
I walked a bit up the hill to feel the vibe and take in the view. I took a few pictures and looked at a few of the statues. My guide came shortly and she took me around the grounds and filled me in on the history of the place and the founders. It was impressive the backgrounds of them. I was shown the shrines, the house built for former Abbot, told the story of the peace bell, and the Chinese fat monk statue. Then I was taken to a small meditation building. I was surprised I was the only one. I was told the formalities of their style of meditation. We chatted a bit then did meditation. I was surprised when she stopped us, as I was expecting 45 min but we stopped early, really only about 15 min. I was told we would now go to the main hall and join the group there. Ohhh I thought!
 
Over to the main hall, they were just finishing the setup. There were about 15 people, myself and another woman were new. The other woman said this was her second time, I heard her say when we were getting the lineup to enter the hall. She did not want to be first in line. So then we entered, bowed and seated ourselves with the formalities.
 
My meditation is usually done with eyes open, this was done with eyes partly opened. I was told so to be aware of one’s surroundings but still not be attached to them. Not sitting facing the wall, but still the half-closed eyes sitting in a square in front of a small Altar and the leader of the session.
The room grew dark as time passed, the wind blew, it was “interesting”, aware, not attached, alert, not attached. Then the lead person came around. My guide bent over and receive the stick smack. Hmmm I disliked that, but figured unless I asked I would not get hit. I was told later another time and session that it could be a choice or not. When it was not it should be viewed as an act of compassion for various reasons. The lead came in front of me, then walked behind me, then back in front of me. He adjusted my position, placed the stick behind me for alignment, adjust me more, then left. I was now much straighter, and not comfortable, but correct. So I stayed still. I was told earlier once in a position they do not move. That is part of the training. Very Japanese. In the Chinese style, if you need to adjust yourself one does so, but in a manner not to disturb the others. So I forced myself to be still, go beyond the pain, discomfort, whatever. I knew that stuff already. Ignore the itch, the loss of feeling in legs, pain in the back…become one with stillness.
It was interesting to sit with eyes open, yet lose sight of anything, watching it fade into nothingness, and snap back when I thought of it. The wind blew, the building spoke with the wind, the trees joined the song, as the rain fell. Then finally the bell, the clappers sounded and it was over. I made it. For me, it was an hour sitting, the other 45 min added to the first 15 at the other smaller Zendo. I was not sure if my leg would allow me to stand. I did so without falling, a success. I notice another person limp as we returned the mats to the stacking place.
 
The group readied the area for the Kendo class. I would not be allowed to join any classes until after my second meditation session. I was asked when I wanted to return. I said I would return tomorrow and stepped out into the night.
 
I walked back down the hill to the bus stop. It was dark and quiet. After a while, a woman comes and sits on the bench with me. She speaks, hello and then goes into her own world. I could hear her talking to herself as she wrote on a piece of paper. Hmmmm. Another one who talks to herself aloud I thought. Jheeze. She talks and writes…I ignore her.
Then it starts raining again. Oh crap, oh well. I think nothing I can do about this, other than get wet. There was a big tree across the street but no leaves hardly. The woman opens an umbrella from somewhere and slides over next to me so I am covered also. The Aloha spirit! I thank her, after a moment she says you can hold it, so I did and she returns to writing and talking. Now I can see what she is writing, it is not something readable. It was also all over the place, sideways, between lines. Totally weird! I thought hmmm oh well. I also notice that the umbrella is falling apart, spokes are broken in places. Hmmmm, oh well, just be alert, I thought. The rain stopped after a while and the bus arrived. She discarded the umbrella and boarded the bus with me and took a seat.
 
The bus, for the most part, was empty. One other person who was chatting with the driver a regular local. I made it to my stop and I got off the bus, as did the umbrella woman. We both were transferring, but she went across the street to take another bus. I waited on the opposite side since I was going in another direction.
I found my bus stop and waited. Another woman I had passed while looking for the stop was there. She was dressed lightly. She did not look so homeless like the last woman, but still for sure not uptown. She wore a dress/skirt and a shoulderless top. The wind picks up and the rain starts again. This time, we are under a covered bus stop. Still, with the wind, we felt the rain. After a short while, another woman comes up. This one is dressed casual “normal”. The wind picks up and so does the rain. The woman in the light dress reacts to the wind and rain, the new woman, who has an umbrella, looks at me and figures out we are not together and holds the umbrella in front of the other woman to shield her somewhat from the elements. She thanks her and says, it was nice when I left the house!
 
About 10 minutes later the bus arrives and we all board and ride off into the night to our different destinations. Ships passing in the night…on the same sea but different courses…Amituofo
 
 
 
Next return to ChoZenji, “the adventure” day three.
 

Return to Paradise…the adventure begins


Return to Paradise….the adventure begins

 
My wife, it is her thing to set up cheap trips. We are heading to Hawaii now. It has been over 10 years since my last visit there. This time for me I had no interest in doing sight seeing. Having lived there for a while and visited afterward a couple of times, I have zero interest in sightseeing. This time for me it is all about training. Well at least 95%.
 
My last visit I wanted to visit the Hawaiian Kyudokai group. However at that time, they were no longer functioning. So no go! There was also a place called Chozenji. It is a Zen center. I called and spoke with someone about shooting, and doing some Zazen. I could not arrange it. I do not recall why, but it was a no! 
 
This time, the Hawaiian Kyudokai is back in operation. I finally after a long long time of tying to get in touch with someone, it was arranged for me to visit and shoot. I was hoping to get some help from a senior instructor on my shooting, in English. To see if I was missing anything. So it was arranged and set for me to visit…however…more the however later.
 
I was also able to contact ChoZenji successfully and make arrangement to visit. Chozenji has classes in Kyudo, ceramics, Taichi, Zazen, kendo, Aikido, Chado, and some other misc arts, and Zen training. Another, plus for the visit to ChoZen the archery instructor is also a Shakuhachi teacher, yeah, how cool is that? Heavenly training in Paradise…however…
 
There Is always usually a however. A yin to a yang.
 
Another thing, I was able to sort of arrange. My Kung fu sempai, with the Tai Chi Mantis federation his father was one of the seniors with the late grandmaster of the system. He had a school In Honolulu. There are still students there training on weekends in the park. My Sempai gave me the location, which is somewhat near where we are staying. So I can go train with them on the weekend, way cool!…no however!
 
Lastly, another friend runs a sailing school. He knows I am coming and said he would take me out on his boat! Another coolness. I will finally get to sail in Hawaii…however , yup another one 🙂
 
The however in this is my sailing friend is in Greece on vacation, maybe he will be back before we leave, maybe not!
 
The ChoZenji visit. Was arranged, thee are three howevers here. One they do western archery and call it Zen archery. They still o Kyudo archery but not all the time. I do not know when that happens. I asked about if they do real Kyudo, o was told they do both. That the end is the same, or something like that, the function is the same or something, hmmmm. My reply was hmm ok thanks. I do not know who it was that was telling me this. I do not think it was the instructor. Another however is the Tai Chi that they do, is not a standard Tai Chi. It is a 10 movement, not even the standard yang 24, something came up with by maybe the founder of the cente, who was supposed to be a high level player in many Martial Arts. I thought, well there is always something to learn, I will attend and roll with and open mind to learn something. The final however is, since my time is short I wanted to get into the center and busy asap. I will be arriving in town in the morning, the first session is not until evening. I figure great I can attend. Their prerequisite for attending any class is two 45 minute sessions. Not a problem, so I thought. There is a Zazen at 6:00pm the day we arrive. However I was told I could not attend, I needed to go to the introduction to Zazen class first. When I first contacted them I told them I was an experienced practitioner and also from the Rinzai linage. I was told I HAD to attend the intro to Zazen class. Sigh, that would not be until Tues, we arrive on Monday. So that is one day in the hole. I would miss the Taijiquan class on Monday. The Kendo class on Tues I would be in time for I really did not have that much interest. I can learn a few basics while in the islands, but I have no desire to continue once back in Japan. Even if I would be able to learn the principles, and use elsewhere. In a beginning class there are no real principals just very basics, stance, holding, etc. so really not that much of interest. Other than putting in the Zazen time, the day would be nothing of interest or new. Oh well…roll with it. Perhaps once I am there and go through their mandatory sitting, I can work out some kind of arrangement to at least practice, train on my own on the grounds for my stay. I will need to leave it up to the “Force” to provide the way.
 
The other “however”. The Hawaiian Kyudokai group had a scheduled special training class, session for beginners. They were unsure how many would show up fo part 2, the day I was attending. I could still attend and was welcome, I was told, but I would be limited to Makiwara shooting. Sigh, ok, better than nothing. I would get to meet the group and at least practice on my own…in effect roll with it.
 
The one last thing on my agenda for the visit was to visit, my linage home temple, where the sect first started in the States. I asked my abbot if there was still someone there I could see, or visit, or something I should see or visit. My Abbot passed away suddenly before I could get an answer. Sigh. So my plan for that was changed. I will still go visit the temple, pray and burn incense for my Abbot and my teacher from the linage who also passed away , maybe last year, I think it was. Whilst at it I will ask if I could speak with someone higher up than jut a regular monk and inform him of the passings and please pray for them. So rolling with it and making the best from what I was dealt. Yeah, pretty much the Cha’n way, and all we can do, under all circumstances. In sailing term, we can not control the wind, we can only adjust our sails…this is how we move forward with life…
 
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So I am on the plane now, the adventure begins.
 
Amitoufo.
 
 

弓道 – Sometimes you are the bird…

…sometimes you are the statue!

There was a large Kyudo Tai Kai (tournament) this past weekend. There were several dojo attending. It was cold, brrr. I had been out the day before doing Komuso stuff in Nara. I played it smart and after much of the day spent walking, I took a hot bath and went to bed fairly early. I needed to be at the Kyudojo by 8:30 am. This meant getting up at 5:00 am. Zazen, stretch, breakfast, gather my stuff and walk to the train. it was a little over an hour ride. It was also raining and very windy before I left. The rain stopped but the wind did not. that kept up most of the day as did the cold!

I arrived at the dojo in plenty of time. I got changed and went out to see who was there that I had not seen in the changing room. There were maybe 8- 12 of us from Kishiswada. Not a big turn out but ok. we settled in and the header gave instructions. I had no idea what was being said I just figured I would roll with as always.

There was the big group lineup and everyone took a spot with their group. Announcements were made, etc, etc. and we got started. The best shooters went first. I was not in that group. After a bit, I figured out there were maybe 6 rounds for each school. I mostly just hung out, milled about, watched took a few pictures and hung out by the heater, a popular spot for the day.

Finally, it was my turn. I settled myself and got in line. I was in the middle. That was good because I need to see what others are doing, I like those in charge knew that. Ok, we went on the floor. that was smooth. then the shots. Four arrows, I miss three and hit the last. sigh, oh well. At least I got one. I am checking out the hit rate afterward. someone else only got 1, several got only two, even the Kaicho got only one on his turn. So I did not feel so bad. One more group then a lunch break. I went with my group to gather arrows, I knew that much from other Tai Kai it is something one does.

I sat in the changing room for lunch, along with several others. It was warm there, I was not about to go elsewhere. Most of my group ate somewhere else together. Which was fine with me, I was warm, I had a comfortable seat. I was not about to move on my own choice.

lunch was over then another round started. Again I got a middle spot in near the last round. this time I got a big zero hits. I felt bad, not like we as a group were doing all that great but still not even one hit was a poor showing. Hmm, need to rethink about the next shinsa. Not feeling like I will be ready. More training, more waiting.
Once I finished shooting a classmate says something as I was getting ready to go get arrows. I had no idea what she was talking about. I finally figured out I was being told to wait I needed to shoot again for some reason, this time only two arrows. Again another miss. However even though we took out two arrows, we only got to shot one, then we were finished. This was my one really feeling weird moment. I was so lost in thought of hitting my second arrow, that I did not notice no one else had knocked their second arrow, only me. I had to backtrack as everyone else was just standing there in ready position…oops. I have no idea what that was about. I did notice that one of the sensei clapped afterward even though we/I missed. So it was over for the most part. I gather my stuff to leave, hung out by the heater and clapped for my team-mates. Another round for others, then the big lineup. My goal for myself today was to support my school and examine myself. As far as that goes I was successful. As far as hitting, fail! It is interesting the more I try to do well, the worst I get. The desire factor makes a big deal. Like it is said, when you sit to become enlightened you go further away. Shooting for the prize all your skill fails. One needs to sit with no goals, shoot with no care. I did a lot better the day before when just practicing. I was back to 50% hits. I thought I had figured out a major issue I was having …nope. Oh well, back to training, or just shooting for fun. Shooting to Shoot, sitting to sit. no mind, no goals, just sitting, just shooting. Easy to say, hard to do.Amitoufo

up coming training in paradise.