Days in the Life

I spent most of the day doing gardening. When one reads that you would think I have a big yard . However it is quite small, my rear Balcony mostly. There is a small front yard. In this case I am speaking mostly about the vegetable space which is on the rear balcony. The front yard space gets too many bugs! The rear space is manageable.

So I spent most of the  day there and doing related stuff instead of going to Kyudo. More on that later. The veggie garden is a good source of Chan awareness of life, interdependence and a sort of meditation. Working the soil, watching something grow, nurturing it, then eating it. A life cycle. I picked up a bunch of chicken poop for plant food the other day. Cheap. I was not getting the results I wanted with the Fish poop. I am hopefully this will be better. It is what the farmers use around these parts. I also picked up new soil for some bigger pots I got for tomatoes, and some new shelf making items. I did not really do much planting , just getting organized for the spring planting and arranging some things for the autumn stuff. There are a few things I can grow pretty much all year round, like Kale. It is a blessing to have mild winters.

Right now I have some cayenne peppers I am looking forward to harvesting I picked a few here and there now drying. Also just did a new group of lettuces plants. My one pot of Kale is recovering from the caterpillar attack this summer, and planted some news one that are coming up well. Yeah the Bamboo mantis Veggie garden is doing well.

 

 

After 4.5 years of experiments I have a good sense of what is needed, and what will work. Part of the time was also spent going to the store and picking up a few things for the gardens, front and back. It was good to do and a blessing to have and do…Amitoufo.

Kyudo…

In other news. ( that more readers care about)…Kyudo. The next shinsa is a few weeks away. I have a different attitude about it this time. I am less mental intense, but at the same time, more focused. I have gotten some new adjustments I am working on, angle of the Yumi after release. If it is the wrong way it means I messed up during the release and most likely opened my hand. This I was told by Yamashita Sensei.  Do not when going from DaiSan to Kai bring the Yumi straight down the cheek. It should be away from the face until at the lip line then brought in to the face. Left arm is completely straight, the small twist comes when pushing the left thumb toward the Mato. Not from turning the arm which makes the shoulder rise. Yamashita Sensei, Nanadan told me the other day. Your hitting on the right side of the mato is a good thing , even missing. Hitting on the left is not so good. There was a because stated, but I did not get it!  Anyway little by little it is coming together. Even if it is not time yet, when it is time, I will be awesome… Amitoufo

 

Music:

Two of the three bands have gigs schedules, so that is picking up, sort of. I had one practice session with band 1, Sieki Band, the other day. It was ok, not everyone was there, some it was very loose. But ok, by way of just reconnecting. The 3rd band has a gig next month, we will practice a couple of days before that. The gig is the same night as my Shinza. Then up at 4:45 am the next morning, Monday to go to work. It will be a looonnnng day, really a long two days.
Casually thinking about my own solo show. Slowly getting a song list together. I am really more focus right now on Kyudo and Shakuhachi.
I really have no goal plans for shakuhachi, just to get better. The goals I had were learning to play the right way , not just by ear, and self-taught and then becoming a Komuso. I got both of those now, it is just to improve for the sake of improving. Also explore more of the Sounds and Meditation/healing aspect.

Music life has two parts. Pop/Blues and Shakuhachi…The Spiritual Side. It is not as fun, but it is an internal spiritual thing. The reward is different.

I am planning a trip to Muroji next month to do Takuhatsu and visit Matsutani Sensei. I am looking forward to playing there among the Autumn colors. I hope I can time it right. We have a trip to Cambodia also coming next month. It is be a busy interesting, hopefully fun month.

The survival job…

Work at the silver center goes on. At least for another 2 months before I am off for the winter. I am up at 4:45 so I can do my morning thing and get to work by 7:00 am. There after I do my morning greetings and check in, I find a quiet spot for some Qi Gong and a bit more stretching. Then find another spot to just sit and meditated. This spot is sometimes right there with the Lads who are chatting or just off to myself. Everyone is pretty friendly with me at this point. I am one of them some have taken to calling me “Chan” instead of “San”.

I from time to time get asked to do some Qi Gong/point Pain relief for some. Sometimes interrupting my meditation, but it is ok. I am usually looked out for when refreshments are being gotten for the crew. I have a good relationship there. It is much more comfortable than working for Marina for the zen “master”. Much harder physically, but that is ok, I look at it as training and exercise. It is all perspective and gratitude…Amitoufo

At lunch I usually go off to a quiet spot and sit alone. Depending on the location. When I am alone I can eat for 30 min, practice Shakuhachi for 15, nap for 15. Sometimes I grab a selfie for my SuiZen @ Lunch photo series. Once in a while depending on the location I just eat and nap like everyone else.

 

 

 

 

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Solar circumnavigation celebration…

 And so another Solar circumnavigation is done, and as one thing ends another begins. Here I am in Japan at sixty plus something, feeling blessed. Sailing on occasion, Shakuhachi study, Kyudo Study, Still able to do Kung Fu, although not teaching. Still it is a part of my life. It was my first stop in the morning of the day to go to the local Shrine and practice yet another form of Meditation, “Motion Chan” aka Kung fu. The grounds are peaceful, most of the time, but early morning had that extra quality about it. Under the shade of trees, the sound of the birds, danced in my ears. It was going to be another hot day. Even early it was already quite warm and humid.

I have four items to practice, that I have made as my “practice”. Yang 24, Chen 24, Hsing Yi, Bum bo Mantis. I have been getting in Tai Chi in the mornings on the way to work. But it has been a while since I have done my full practice. Today was good, I wet down with oil the mosquitos do not like and was able to get through the sets without being bothered. Even into playing some Shakuhachi and grabbing a few pictures I was unmolested.

The next morning was fairly much the same. Less humid maybe, I did not sweat as much. or it was the clothes. I played more flute. I figured since it was the first day of Obon I should as a Komuso play a few traditional Komuso songs. I played Tamuke the offering song for the departed. Even though I was at a Shinto Shrine not a Buddhist temple, it still seemed fitting. Thanking the spirits there for letting me practice on the scared grounds.

I returned home with my top almost soaked from my water-loss, in the humidity, but it was cool. I felt in a good place having got my full practice done. I had done a little garden work in the morning before I left to train. I had a turf battle with a horde of caterpillar which had invaded my parsley. I was surprised that they tried to bite me when I went to remove them. I was reminded of a saying. ” your arms are to short to box with God”. As such was the case with them. I am very good with chop sticks!! The conflict was short. Banishment was carried out.

Next on the list for the day was getting a sail in. I was looking forward to it, but not overly so. I did not want to go to the “master’s” marina, or see him. More so not see him, and the boat was going to be hot hot, no shade, no cover. However, since I was able to take advantage of that perk as a instructor, I did.

There was not supposed to be much wind that day, however the wind was perfect I should take advantage of the opportunity. I was able to sail at a nice clip even under just the main sail. I was feeling lazy and mostly just wanted to get the sailing “chi” but did not want to work much. As in trimming and tacking, putting the extra sail on off and away. If there was a roller jib that would have been nice , but no, none. So I just used the main and it was perfect. I got the vibe, the energy, the Chi without a lot of work.

While there was good wind there was also a lot of chop. I could feel myself really needing to focus on the horizon a lot, even with taking the seasick pill. I did not wear my wrist bands, I should have. maybe I needed that little bit of “xtra”since I had not been out on the water in long time. No sea legs I guess it is called. Even still it was a good sail, a good reconnected to the water element and wind. Feng Shui of the earth. I felt like the return of Capt Zen.

I was exhausted when I got back to the dock. I am glad I had chilled water with me. I did not work much but the heat and sitting in the sun took my strength. After I got the boat put away I went to one of the seaside shops there at the marina and had a “softcream” cone. and relaxed in the a/c for a while. Once a felt normal again I mounted my bike and headed home.

My wife and I had dinner plans at a restaurant we had received free dinner tickets. They were given to us as part of thank you for attending a funeral of an “aunt”. Interestingly it is the start of Obon, a remembrance of the deceased time in Japan. We had received the tickets a long time ago but it worked out to go now for a couple of reasons. So it was like a birthday gift from “auntie” for us. My wife’s birthday is the next week.

It was a mediterranean meal. For me perfect! I ate a lot it was an upscale buffet type setting. Somethings had meat , but enough other things did not, so I got to double down on some things. My wife was not as pleased with things as I was. She was also surprised how busy it was, because the place was so new and Obon was the next day. Anyway I enjoyed.

It was a good day, a blessing. As one gets old, one understands more how short the good days grow. On the other hand, in Zen it is said, “every day is good”. But I am talking number not quality. Live so to enjoy each one, we can not see the bottom of the cookie jar….Amitoufo

 

 

What a Long strange trip it’s been…Happy New Year 2018

What a Long strange trip it’s been

あけましておめでとうございます

It is almost a new year as I start this writing. Maybe it will be the New Year, year of the Dog by the time I post this. Year of the dog, btw, is suppose to be a good year for me. I am not dog year, I am Tiger but we are compatible. Going by Chinese horoscopes. Which I have dabbled into. But that is another story time… This one is about the changes in life, paths we walk, the many lives, not just one. I am writing a book about the sailing adventure. I had not put in much background about before sailing, maybe this will go in the book…

 
I was going through some old pictures trying to clean up my iPad which is on the blink 😦 . I found this old shot from when I was in boarding school. A photo of me and my posse. We were a collective of gang members, who formed a mini “club” inside the school. More like, part of a club. We did not form it, not the founders. There were two groups/clubs. We all got along, but just had different members. I never did “get” why the two groups. Human tribal thing?? All the members where from different gangs out in the “world” ( The streets of Philly ). It was at times unpleasant being in this school of thugs. Like when the dorm header, an adult was gone for a weekend off. We the students would get called into the rec room , by the senior in charge for “boxing” which was really just a time for people to get out their grudges they had with other people.
This is were the “clubs” came in handy, making sure things were kept fair. There was a certain style of boxing one followed. I believe the reason for this was so that the school counselors could not see the marks/bruises from fighting. The style was called “creek boxing” two people would bend over, put their heads together and slug it out. supposedly no face shots, but sometimes it did not stay that way. One benefit of these clubs and the school really was that one met members from gangs all over the city. You became friends with them thereby could travel all over the city and drop names when you needed for safe passage. Within “Yin there is always Yang”
 
I am pretty sure that 90% of the guys that I hung out with there are dead or in jail now. I was not really a formal member of an outside gang perse, mostly in it by default of my area, but I knew most who were. Knowing the guys at the school was a big (hard earned) benefit for my loner travels about town.
Then there was going to sleep and waking up with my toes on fire. Everyone thought was funny watching me wakeup in terror thinking I was going to burning up, from the little fie they had set on my toes with lighter fluid, as a joke…that was really funny to all involved.
Anyway I survived, that, those and other “interesting” times and places in the city of brotherly love. Although many times I thought I would not.
 
So all this from the picture, got me to thinking, how many, “trips”, “paths” I have been on in this life…
 
I spent time in Virgina. That was perhaps my favorite part of being a kid. Living and working on the farm and properties of my grandfather. I had no fear of gangs, or people having come from the big city. Also my grandfather was well-known in the area and I was his oldest and favorite grandchild. He owned a farm, a gas station, and beer garden ( sort of like a bar). I worked on/ in all of these places when I stayed with him. I loved it. Open space, greenery, I learn to drive on a tractor and that was my “car” since I could drive on the road with no license. Sometimes it was sort of harsh , and Gramps was pretty strict, but I liked the environment much more than city life.
 
The layout of my gramp’s places. I am taking this picture standing in front of the service station, on the far side of the house is the Beer Garden, to the left of the house was the farm.
Living in both places gave me a real taste of the yin and yang of living, city vs country, and I could survive in either. Adapting to both when needed is an important lesson. Being at one with your environment is very “Cha’n”, it is how you survive in bad times. My siblings could not, most disliked the country life.
 
At that time other than playing music from time to time, I was all about fast cars, and wanted my own repair shop, which I had gotten a taste of from working at Gramp’s service station.
 
Once in LA, where I had always been drawn toward. So fairly young I moved. I worked as a mechanic until the music bug hit me again hard this time. I set out on the musical path, mostly for a time doing R&B. As I started getting more into the California hippie life style that changed over to Rock. Living in Hollywood, and being a musically hippie. Yoga, meditation, camping, skinny dipping, etc etc. I did some coffee houses soloing, trying to get discovered and get a contract. Never happen. But I had fun, I learned stuff.
 
My next turn-step when I figured out being a working singer songwriter guitar player was not going to happen for me. was to play bass. I really started playing because I wanted bass on some demo tapes I was doing and it was hard to find someone to play what I wanted. This taught me there were a lot of guitar players around but not many bass players. I started playing bass and started getting work with bands. From there went on tour a few times, got some small studio gigs, night clubs, road tours. yeah it was fun. Not much money but some.
 
The not much money part lead me to think what to do that I could make money and still get to play music. With this thought and a chance encounter with a well-known Martial Artist and TV person put me on the martial art as a teacher/ business path. I had been involved in Martial Arts since my days in high school but never thought of it as anything , but a way for me to protect myself. This person showed me the business side of things. However told teaching was not the way to make a living easy. He ran a health food store, martial art supply store and a MA school. I became involved with the business, ended up as the general manager as well as a teacher there.
This educated me into the world of health, business, herbs, healing, and Chinese Philosophy. I pretty much put aside music at this time. I was all about M.A., and the like, and training. However I still recall clearly a time playing a bass for something at the dojo, and someone saying wow, your whole face being changed when you started playing, you should get back into that…
 
After a time I was ready to move on from the Dojo, I wanted to set out on my own, I remarried and moved to Va. I became manager of a moving company, taught Kung Fu part-time, worked in a health food store, and played in a band for a very short time. I felt really, really out of place in Richmond, Va and ended up moving back to Ca. having found a job with the same moving company I was with therein Va. The main headquarters was based in Ca. The branch I was going to work for was in the S.F. Bay area.
 
I opened another Kung Fu school and took up training again with my last Sifu/Sensei. He was from the same style I had been teaching so it was a continuation of my past training. The Chinese Philosophy studies continued, with the addition of Feng Shui, and slowly music came back, with bands and schooling. Slowly becoming more dissatisfied with the business management life of a moving company, I took up graphic design training. After putting myself through college and receiving a degree in design, I became a full-time graphic designer with much struggle, and still playing music when possible.
 
The Kung Fu school slowly was dying. I was not really a good business man, a good teacher but not a businessman into promotion and the like. I finally got a good job in a large cooperation as a designer and put most of my money into maintaining the school/dojo. This went on for a while, in hindsight too long.
 
Do to the need for a place to live, I had been living in the back of the Kung Fu studio. I ended up buying a boat, and from that getting involved in the sail boat world. The economy collapsed and I lost most things including my job, condo, etc.
 
At this point getting up in years it was not easy to find a designer job in a bad economy. I became a security guard, a part-time assistant harbor master, sailing instructor and still taught a small Martial art class at a community center. We lived, now re-married again, in an apt on the beach for a while before moving on to the boat at the marina where I worked. It was the plan at this time, for the last four or five years to move/sail to Japan. The music life had pretty much stopped when after the last band I was with, for several years, the leaders moved to Hawaii. Now it was for me mostly water world, Boating, Kung Fu, Kyudo, Chan/Zen and making ready to go to Japan.
 
During the disastrous attempt at sailing to Japan, after making it down the coast of Cal., we spent a stormy Christmas in Half Moon Bay Ca.. We were lucky to just make it into the Marina.
Afterwards continuing down into Mexico. There we lived on the boat for four months. From Mexico we set sail for Hawaii. We ended up using the last of our money to fly to Japan after having to abandoning our boat during the rescue at sea. This was our was our home, and dream plans for a new business in Japan, we had to leave it at sea. Having lost steering with at sea with 6 meter waves approaching from a storm, the environment was in charge. There is a saying in Tai Chi Chuan, and the Tao Te Ching “Yield and overcome”…
 
So now, here we are in Japan, that part really did happen, but not without help ( some of which from people I have never met ) , sacrifices and a lot of effort. What a long strange trip for a little colored boy who grew up in the gang streets of Philly and the farmlands of Virgina to be in Japan, a Chinese Zen Buddhist priest, musician, sailboat instructor, gardener, martial artist, and Komuso.
Life is change. Life itself is interesting and what we want to make of it. Some of my dreams are gone, some are just dormant, some are just out of reach, some have yet to speak. It took a while to have dreams again…now even small dreams are good. They are seeds for life and growth.
Now 2018 is here. I recall thinking when I was a teen how old I would be when the numbers changed to 2000. Now 18 years into it. Back then I did not see me where I am now, in no dream…
All in all though what a long strange trip it’s been. Still the road continues and the river of life flows. One can not control the wind, you can only adjust your sails.
Next …the New Year Kyudo 108 arrow – 2018

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Rain Falls, Kaze Blows

 Typhoon 24

The rain had started, as promised, the Typhoon is here. It has been raining steady all day. Not the little wimpy rain that you can not hear. This has been serious rainfall. I have enjoyed it. The rain, I always find calming when I am inside dry and warm. I have to add that since I have been out in Typhoons, on the water, soaked to the bone!, NO NO NO fun!

I digress…

The rain has been steady all day. I have been inside, lazy in some ways. Listening, remembering other places and times. Mostly playing my Shakuhachis, watching Zato-ichi and listening to the rain. I has been nice. The storm will be past in time for me to go to work tomorrow, Good, we need the money… sad, because I do not like the work. I do not hate it, but I do not like it. I am grateful for it though without question. Things are very slow at the boatyard, I am totally only on call for work. Having the silver center job is a blessing. That will be ending for the winter soon, then it will be ready tight. I am already making cut back on my travel and expensives. The unpleasant part of riding the life waves, with no money.

Things are tight, but we live simple and can live simpler when need to. Things would even more challenging if we were in the States. I think about that sometimes, sometimes too much. All that was lost to get here, and the real life that is here not the facebook one. 4.5 yrs into this, I still feel it is good (better) to be in Japan. Even mission-less. Yet, being the mission is to find the mission, or understand the mission. I am not mission-less, I am being empty, receptive, but not a void. Perhaps the Kyudo term of “Tsumeai” – Uniting the firming points of the body, is a better analogy…or wu wei…or just tripp’n.

Anyway just rainy day thoughts between the notes and the drops…

On such a winter’s day


This n that….on such a winter’s day.

 
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I have been looking forward to going to Kamakura. A visit to the Engakuji, not just to see the old Zen temple ground but to see the Kyudojo. Dream perhaps dare to dream of a chance to shot there. We have friends from the states that moved nearby, so besides visiting the Great Buddha we were going to hang out a bit with them.
 
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LZ has made the arrangements we are set for April! It will just be a short stay , but even with the disappointment of the Kyudojo at Engakuji, the trip will, be interesting a short pilgrim for me to the Zen Temple. 
Oh, what’s that I did not tell you about the disappointment of the Kyudojo ? Well, I had Lz do some research and ask a few questions about the Dojo. It turns out it is there and anyone can view it from the outside. The club itself has changes as the an old priest who ran it passed away. The new priest does not do Kyudo. The space it rented out to a private club, not taking new members. Sounds like the shrine I tried to join when I first arrived in this area. They, the temple staff, say they do not know how to get in touch with the club. Of course that is BS , but I get it. Oh well. Another life item to be viewed with non-abiding awareness. The Great Buddha I just want to see for the photo op and say I been there, kind of thing.
 
So yeah , it will be fun seeing our friends. It has been awhile.
 
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Shakuhachi,
Recital next week, I know the piece but not by heart. I still have a week to focus. I have also been working on a another piece called Cho Shi. I am learning this to play with my acquaintance the Komoso in Nara. He has been kind enough to offer me the extra gear, hat, sandals, etc, I need to be a kumoso for a day. I was able to score a plain black kimono. I need to learn the piece now. I am slowly getting it. I will be able to focus more after the recital. Also not having a Yon-dan shinsha staring at me will help. This will come I think shortly after the Kamakura trip…or before. Which will be in April.
I was pleased to find out Golden week is in May, so I may make it to the Kyoto Tai Kai this year.
 
Waterworld
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The weather has really sucked down at the marina as of late. That is hail in the picture above this.
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However it is good to have the couple of days work. More so since the City Park work has dried up for the season. Working inside the boat on some bad weather days , really reminds me of my own boat owning past. The rain on the cabin, the sway of the boat, the comfort of a heat small space. Watching the boats through rain streaked glass, in the marina dance with the waves. I wonder some time will I ever own again. I have noticed a pattern with things I have “owned”. They all go away. My clock is running out, as has my build-able income. Yet, one must stay open to gifts from the Universe, because one never know what the tides will bring.
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Kung Fu dharma world is once again quiet. Not surprising, disappointing but not surprising. This is a different world here, and I am in a way different area. Anyway it is ok, I still keep my feelers out, but return to having my practice for me, improving me. It seems selfish when I say it like that but, that is reality. Use this knowledge and training to keep me healthy and supported in my other practices…
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Music, Chan/Kung Fu study, Kyudo, these are part of what I wanted for my retirement years. So I am mostly there and I am indeed feeling blessed to be able to do this. More so with the oncoming darkness of the Trump years ahead. I am missing the sailing part, but I also have that sort of since I can borrow a boat from Aoki Corp if I want a day sail. So mostly just missing doing ceramics. I ant at some point get back into doing some clay-work, however Kyudo is my big challenge right now. Even though Shakuhachi, is also and will most likely give me more payback as far as actual use. Kyudo remains my big challenge. So mostly things are as I hoped for in Japan, it is rare anything turns out just as one plans, but in life like sailing , one can not control the wind, but one can adjust your sails.
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Anyway with approach of winter all one can do is hold on to their inner light as long as they can have faith in whatever one believes in, even if is just duct tape. Then see what the universe has in mind for you.
 
…for now, it’s winter
 
 

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 
…And we are off on a new adventure. It will be an interesting time ahead. I am not going to even go into the political stuff. It is way too much and like poopers, everyone has an opinion. Like poopers, some are pretty crappy.
 
As for me…sigh. 
 
The student that I thought was going to be fairly dedicated, quit. He said he was going to just do some basic exercises. I do not understand, what it is with people they want , well they say they want to learn something, but then find out, yes one does have to practice. They quit. Art any art does not just happen, there is no Matrix like pill you can take and suddenly you know Kung Fu, Karate, Kyudo, play an instrument, paint, dance whatever. Yeah, life happens but you deal with it and find a pace to study, practice that you can work with and keep on keeping on. 
Then there are the people who sign up to stuff, or even to get info, but do not respond to questions, like, what are your goals in doing this? I am tired and a bit depressed, I will get over it. No matter, I will retain my practice for me as always and not concern myself about passing on any knowledge. It does make me feel I am letting down my Shifu though, but I am sure he understands and has most likely been there. It if is meant to be more, it will be.
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My Kyudo practice status does not help my mood. I thought I was improving, but my last few days of shooting went down hill again. I will not give up, I will not even think of it. However I am developing an attitude of acceptance, this maybe as far as I can go and just shoot to shoot. No thought of Shinsa, pass or fail, just better my form and shoot. That being my only goal, perfection of form. Hit no hit, no matter. Sort of like doing Zazen.
The goal is the journey not the destination sort of thing. It is said when you sit and meditate and your goal is to be enlightened, you move further away from it. Sit, meditate just because you can, not to gain anything. Perfect one’s form, back straight, breath, slow smooth and deep, non-abiding awareness of mind, no goals, no attachments, perhaps other than just sitting, connecting to all that is. Still that in itself is a goal, no?
There are times when meditating, that one disconnects and yet connects to the source. It is the briefest of moments, because when it happens and one because aware of it and thinks, this is it, you disconnect and it is no longer there!

Yet, I see people shoot and hit and hit and hit. However when one just focuses on the hit and do it, they are classified as target whores. They are not just letting it happen, they are focus on making it happen. One has to focus on not focusing to make it happen…headache come from analyzing that thought too much. Still, it is frustrating knowing I shot better before, years before now, yet now after all this training and effort, my shooting sucks. I am walking the “plateau”

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I did the annual 108 arrow shoot at my home dojo. It was interesting… again. I go through sections of the shoot with a different mind-set. Not on purpose, but it just happens. I observe. Starting with attention to every detail. Focus trying to improve my form, because working with the makiwara is all about one’s form not hitting.

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Then counting and shooting to get it done then back to focus on detail, mindfulness, a return to purpose, not just to shoot. It is over all quite the learn experience. Touching on the spiritual meaning of doing it. A stand-on for the 108 strikes of the bell at the Buddhist temple for the 108 “sins”, distractions. However done with arrows instead of a gong.

Shakuhachi, there seems to be a couple of ways to approach playing. Perfection of a sound, a note, the melody, as music does not matter. It is a spiritual tool. Perfection of a musical piece, the musician way. The expression of the song, the melody. Another, the use of the breath. The flute is a tool to controlling the breath, the variables, benefits, associated with that. Sound does not matter, melody does not matter, only the breath, the source of life matters.

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The Shakuhachi is a tool for controlling, developing that. The breath is our connection to the universe. We live because of our breath. God breathed life into the clay and gave us being, it is said. There is yet another side, that of the sound, the music being an offering. This was mentioned to me by the Komuso in Nara. I spoke to him of doing my yearly pilgrimage to some Komuso Zen temple and was told, there os one in Kyoto. I could visit the ground, I could not enter without a teacher, permission, a pass from the teacher something like that. However I could sit in the garden and play, make a “musical offering”. I had that “sense” when I visited the temple in Wakayama last year, and played at the hall entrance, but I did not put it into a named thought of making an offering. Giving something of myself, my breath in to sound as an offering to the Source, to Buddha. Not Buddha as a “god”. But Buddha as the Spirit of life. We do not worship Buddha as a God in Zen. Buddha is an enlighten being, an awaken soul, Buddha is us , we are Buddha, Buddha is everything, yet nothing. Form and formlessness.

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I am not sure what I am doing these days and sort of frustrated, sort of depressed, sort of goal-less with a sense of time fading away, being on a fruitless journey. The Journey is the fruit and that is all there is until the end? I guess. I do not have that many years left, to figure, work, achieve, what? Maybe 15-20 if lucky or unlucky depend on one’s view-point. WWW 3 happens, the world in left a bed of ash, poison and radiation, doubtful if surviving would be considered lucky.  
 
“The purpose of life is service to others”. Nice thought. I thought I had found my way to do that, several times. I had more of a plan, a dream before coming to Japan. However the path keeps dissolving, and the dream fades away with the tide of life. So it must not be the “right” path. According to the 8 fold Buddhist path, to lessen/reduce suffering, one needs the ” right” job. Easy to say, difficult to do. There is no one “right” for everyone. With limited language skills voluntary work is limited as well. I had thought of free meditation, or Tai Chi classes, those skills I can share. Yet people put little value on things that are free. Perhaps the answer lies with being a faceless Kumoso giving pleasure via the sounds of the Shakuhachi, sharing my life force for donations, which in turn would be given to charity. A faceless service to those who suffer and giving some value to my appointment as a priest and talent as a musician. Well the quest continues, as does the New Year. All I can really do is continue to step, train and keep my heart, mind, spirit open for guidance. That is all any of us can do really. Strive to improve, to take another step, stay linked to the Universe, stay healthy to take that next step and be ready for whatever is on the path.
Happy New Year! Strap in for the ride. May we all do better. _/|\_
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Sept Update – the good, bad -N- ugly

Update – the good , bad and ugly

It is easy to lose track of posts and, time, what blogs, and the like. I know more people are interested in my Kyudo challenges, oh well. Life is not all about Kyudo, nor about posting for unknown, unheard folks. A lot has been going on recently not all pleasant, yin /yang, that is the way of life. Perhaps if I wrote more about funny stuff or tragic stuff I would have more readers. People like to hear about another’s troubles so theirs does not seem so bad, or like to hear funny stuff to forget their own issues. Right now, just babbling to get started, so you can ignore the above. Just out loud thinking.

 
Good, 
I had a couple of good musical events. One was for the Snafkin cafe Sakura beach festival. I do not know why it is called Sakura, when this is summer. Anyway, it was fun. I almost did not make it. I said I would go then, I had to back out, then I could go again. My favorite people to play with backed me up. Alas no drums though. I asked one drummer that was there who played with a gospel group to sit in with me, he punked out. Wimp. So I had my favorite Sax player, keyboard player and a guitarist. No rehearsal we just went for it.
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Considering all, it turned out ok. I was able to get some video footage.

 

The other was a Show in Kobe, with the blues band. This had been a year in the planning. It was the drummer’s high school reunion. There was talk of rehearsal but it never happened for various reasons, which i will not go into. One of which the “Doc” did not like the rehearsal studio, he just wanted to play at the Overheat club as a rehearsal. I could not make it, another story…bottom of page.
 
Also a week before this show, the brother of the Doc’s blues band drummer, his twin and also a drummer, asked me to fill in for his Bass player. He was short members. They are a Jazz group. His keyboard player was also going to be out. I said ok. There was also a another keyboard player going to sit in. A friend of theirs who was just in town visiting. A skilled player, who had not played in a while. Also from the same school.
 
I was also asked to learn another song, by Bob Dylan just in case. Then another song by the old band “Chicago”. So i have 5 songs to learn in a week. Really less because I had to go do a boat delivery from hell for 3-4 days. More on that later.
 
So yeah, I got the songs pretty fast, they were fairly simple. Show night was long. I got there around three in the afternoon, did rehearsals with both bands, had a short break then played. I left around 9:30. The blues band was first up for me to play with. It was decided by the Doc and the drummer I would carry the vocals. Hmm what is the point of calling it the Matsuo Blues Band if I am doing most of the work. I sort of snapped at him when he started to tell me how to do one song dropped on me suddenly, instead of one he was going to do. ” you want to do it that speed, fine, you sing then” My patience is low with that these days. We did ok considering, for the most part no practice. After two songs, the keyboard player joined us for another two songs. Now we sounded good. The best we have ever, to me. I even pulled the stops on my vocals, I felt inspired.
 
Right afterward the Jazz band was up. That was fun fun fun. The keyboard player who continued over from playing with the Blues Band and I hit it off and were in sync. Even when the group messed up and got lost where we were, we pulled it back together like what we did was on purpose and part of the arrangement. That is how it is done, you roll with it.
 
We followed the jazz tunes with a couple of other songs. You got a friend, and I am a Man. It was a nice variety and so nice to get out of just a blues bag. I kind of got the vibe the “doc” was not pleased me being with another group. Oh well.
 
No pictures, from the show, oh well. There is a 15 sec vid, taken by the “doc”…
 

LZ and I got to travel a little bit, we went to a very famous Osen place in Arima. This is part of her writing review jobs. It was just a overnight stay but relaxing. This is from the town near by. I am not big on public Osens, but hte massage chair was the Bomb!
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 The Bad:
My mother passed away last week. I suppose not really a bad thing, she was old and tired and ready to check out. Not really sick per’se memory was mostly gone. She was in her own world when I saw her last. She said her legs hurt most of the time and was not eating. I was expecting it as were my family sooner. I was pleased I made the choice to go when I did to see her and say my goodbyes. What is bad is, some questionable finance handling of her estate. This is not the place to go into that. However it does seem that some property issues can be worked out without it all going to probate court. Within bad there is good, within bad there is good. Within Yin , there is Yang.
 
I have not been getting any Kyudo practice time in these days. Not full none, but very little. A mixed bag of reasons, which do not matter. The next Shinsa is in Nov, i am seriously considering waiting until spring. I can spend the winter more focused.
 
Ugly
 
My spirit was shattered, that is the best way to describe my disappointment at someone who I had thought was my friend and I trusted and respected. I was almost killed, and not so much as even a sorry I mis-judged the weather or thank you for your work. That was the most painful!!
I had a boat delivery assignment, which I wrote about on my sailing blog, so I will not repeat here. If interested you can go there. Both LZ and I were disappointed at events, that took place. Me more so, I was very depressed for several days. Not just from a friendship level, but lost of respect for someone on a Zen master level. I am not fully over it, however slowly my Chan training is kicking in to accept, “it is what it is”, unattached and move on, in more ways than one. Be unattached in the present, mindful of what I am doing, stay centered, be open, for guidance from the Universe, where I need to be, go, do.

On such a winter’s day

On such a winter’s day…
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I decided to do something different today for a change of scene, change of pace. I am at the Snafkin Cafe for lunch. Once upon a time I could go down to my boat to sit by, the water have a meal, chill’n out, kick’n back, lounging etc, whatever you want to call it. Now being boatless a change is needed to do that. This is my first time coming here during the day and just to hang out. It is pretty quiet and nice, chatted a bit with the owners. One day I want to sail down here for lunch then back to Tajiri. Once the weather warms up.
I was told I had people coming in to look for me to be playing. It was my Japanese Sensei, I had forgotten I told her I was going to be playing here earlier this month and that it had changed. She came in with some others, I guess from the class, but I was not here. My bad for not remembering. I hope they still enjoyed the visit. I have spoken via email with her since then and apologized. 
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So here I am, chilling, seaside. There are only a few people here, everyone was quite surprised to see me. I got a nice small table by the window. 
 
And the band played on…

Yesterday we, the Blues Band played at The Overheat club again. The night before or perhaps early that morning I get an email from the Doc., he had given me a couple of songs he wanted to do for the show. I said ok. That morning he gives me two more, and says I want you to sing this song, done slow. This is the same song I got pissed off about last show, being told to do it at the last moment on stage. However that was only part of my irritation. So I told him thanks for saying something before getting on stage, however if he wants it done that way he needs to sing it. His response was he is not ready. Ok, so I had to break it down to him (street talk for explain it). I said when I am being paid to play/sing, I do it however the employer wants. When I am doing something for free, I have the right to do it, play/ sing however I want. otherwise, I am not told how to do a song. When the band is working as Matsuo Blues Band and I am getting paid, I do as I am told. If I am not getting paid, doing something for free, with no benefit to me, then I do not have to do as told!
 
LZ thought I was being a bit mean. What if he tells you to leave then, what would you say? My reply was: BYE! So I had to break it down to her also. When band/ group is named after someone, the band members are backup for the “leader” it is all about him/her. The members are employees and have no say, because they are employees on a job. When a group is name for example The Sennan International Blues Band, then everyone is equal, No one is “told” what to do. It maybe suggested, discussed, but no one is ordered what to sing or play. Asking, requesting is ok, but I can also say no! There maybe a leader, but there is no boss, when there is a boss, the other members get paid and do as told. This group is call The Matsuo Blues band, it is about him, not the group. How many times have I heard him say to someone, that is my Bass player! If I am not getting paid, I am not an employee, who is told what to do. There is an etiquette line which has been cross. He may not be aware of never having been a professional working musician, mostly been solo and this is all just fun for him and maybe the Japanese youngsters he has played with before never said anything.
She got it then.
 
So did the Doc. He wrote back, oh, thanks for reminding me, he says. I have not paid you guys lately. I was thinking of paying you blah blah for the show today. I said ok, thank you, shacho! What other songs do you want done? The drummer who is part of this email, jumps in late and says ok, guys, let’s chill out. Your point is taken, let discuss this calmly and just go play and have a good time. I thought I was being very calm. As far as I was concerned it was settled…I had said my piece got resolution, understanding and it was done…and the band played on.
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We had a new member join us, on piano that day. The Doc said he was a piano genius, he could play any song hearing it. He was to my ears just ok. I was not impressed. I could not hear well when playing at the time, but later I listened to a recording and the first two songs sounded muddy and there were some clashing or disharmonic cords. The final song was ok, for a first time playing for all of us song. I do not know if he will be a permanent member or just sitting in from time to time, like for the up-coming big Blues Festival we will be doing in April. It is nice to have the extra instrument, and he seems a nice guy, hopefully he will work on his Blues cords.

You can’t stop the music…

A few weeks ago, I went back to the Ozaki Jazz society gathering. It was a Valentine night session. I arrived just a little past the starting time. When i open the door at first i got a bunch of stares, from everyone, especially the new faces. Then I was surprised by applause from those who recognized me, others after a few quick whispers. That was quite shocking and somewhat embarrassing, at the same time a nice little ego boost. It was a weird experience. I entered and greeted everyone I knew including the owners who welcomed me. I took a seat at the bar in the corner to watch and listen. It was a slower night than last time so now as packed, still a nice crowd. As I hoped for I did not get called up right away and got a chance to relax and enjoy.

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After several other I was asked to come up. I gave out the music I prepared and pulled up a few players to help out who were not already up on the stage. We did the first song easy, it had a nice groove and was enjoyable. I am more relaxed about being up there now and getting the groove I want. The next song, I had changed from what I said I was going to do and play piano. I liked the keyboard player that was there. We did a slow blues, I was surprised at the good response when I said what we were going to do and also a couple of other players joined in. Ended up with three guitars, keyboard, congas, and drum. The trumpet player sat this one out, and no sax player came forward. Ok on all accounts. The horn player tends to be somewhat flat and I am not a big fan of Sax unless they are good players. So it was well and good. After two songs I sat down so others could perform. Later I sang one song with another group of players and also did some harmonica with a couple of songs. It was a fun evening. In Japan everyone is given chocolate not just sweethearts as in America. There was candy on the tables and bar, and I was given extra to take home. I am not a big chocolate eater, so took it home for LZ.
 
I left but the music played on.

A Working Christmas


Christmas sail

 
It has been a long time since I worked on Christmas. Japan is a different flavor when it comes to Christmas. Unless you are going on a date which is the big thing among the youth for Christmas, it is a pre-holiday event for grownups. Along with eating not much is done. Here the place, many places in Japan shut down for the New Year. 
 
Anyway I worked on Sat. An easy day really, I changed a reefing line on one boat. Then the main event for my day at work, taking a new owner out on his boat, a Zen24. I got to spend a lot of time on the one in Alameda, it was nice having that boat. It sailed really nice and was comfortable. Not comfortable as in soft and snugly, because it is a bare boat, no padding, no cushions. However comfortable as in sailing. It is a sailing boat not a sit at the dock and hangout boat. I recall doing a sail around the Island on New Years on day. 
 
 
It was part of an annual sailing community of Alameda area event. LZ and I took the Zen24, we got stuck in the mud along with several others. This was common in this event as the water is quite shallow at some parts. The timing has to be right. We ending up get loose with some help, however drained a lot of power from our electric engine batteries and needed to get a tow back to our dock as the wind for the day sucked!
 
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Today’s sail was less eventful. We had a new Honda outboard, and good wind. The new owner has here at the marine for the last couple of weeks while we put on parts. The boat came by truck inside a container which was how it was shipped from Vietnam. We then added the sailing stuff to the mold. Sort of like buying a boat from IKEA. The new owner came and just watched, sometimes in the way of our work. I saw him today early just sitting on the deck of the boat , while everyone was getting ready for the handing over to the owner ceremony and launching.
 
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BTW : I have noticed from doing several used boats to new owners here in Japan, that Japanese do not have the same superstition about renaming a boat. They want a new name , take off the old one and put on a new one. Simple as that.
 
The sail was easy, enough wind to make it pleasant. Although a bit chilly and somewhat overcast, and cloudy it was a good day for a sail with periods of Sun and steady wind. We went for a couple of hours. The new owner did not want to helm the boat he was too nervous. I pretty much had to insist he do so. He is a sailing student of mine. He has had only SBD class, which is basically docking. Still he purchased this brand new boat. He is scheduled now to take BKB class from me after the Holidays. Good I can use the two days of teaching work. I hope we use his boat for the class, makes sense if it just him.
 
It was a good short sail. We made it back in time enough for me to get off early. I went home and could eat and casually prepare for my night gig with the band…Chicago Rock
 
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I arrived in time to setup without being rushed. I like that! Once everyone was set we started. I did the first song. I usually will not start the set, I dislike that. In this case a friend had to leave, she was sick and asked for me to do a song. I agreed, and did our only Christmas song. We had agreed to do “Merry Christmas Baby” since it was bluesy and easy to do. The lads did not want to put in too much effort. It played ok. Slow blues is hard to mess up.
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It was a pretty low key evening, only a few people. More than I thought some were “guest” so no income for us. Oh well. Music wise the evening went ok. Well ok for a band that does not practice. The Doctor, tend to drag on a song, way too long, a couple of time the drummer and I had to do a forced ending to get hom to stop. It was really bad when someone turns a video comera on him. Kind of funny. It is his band so it is good for the customers when he gets up and roams out in front playing his leads in their face, or in this case right into the camera. Just do not drag out so long!

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There was a guy there who I had seen at the other club, “OVERHEAT” I am thinking the doctor invited him. He took great interest in my 6 string Bass. He is a player also but I am not sure what. He was also pretty “faded” whole sitting there drinking more and nodding out a couple of times.

 
There was Christmas cake, we got paid enough for my train fare one way, the owner gave us a DVD of last month’s gig. Shocking some songs were not bad. All in all it was a pretty good evening. I just really wish we had it more together musically as a band. Oh well it is all practice. Maybe this year coming will open better doors with other musicians hookups.
 
Tomorrow I go back to the Mahjong 24 club, for the Jazz society band Christmas party. I have been busy for the last two months so have not been able to attend. I am looking forward to it. Nice people, good musicians.

In the shadow of the Typhoon…

I usually keep my sailing stuff on its own blog for the few of my few readers who care. However just for a change-up I will do a Photo blog on my resent sailing adventure with a Typhoon alert hanging over our heads, on a sail from Tajiri, Osaka, to Sanan, Yamaguchi, in the shadow of the Typhoon!

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