It’s when I play shakuhachi in nature that I experience the full power of it. Why? How?Continue reading Playing Shakuhachi in Nature
Category Archives: Daily life
Let’s Celebrate Milestones!
When comes the end of the year, let’s take a moment to look back, reflect and celebrate accomplishments!
What milestones did you reach this year? What new pieces, techniques, did you learn? Can you be grateful to yourself for your efforts? (and your teacher’s?)
Even holding on to your practice is already an accomplishment. More, (more pieces, techniques, etc.) is not always necessary.
Or was it blowing RO? Gaining in awareness? Listening to yourself? Releasing excess tensions?
Is there anything related to shakuhachi, even small, that can you celebrate?
Think about your work, your personal life, your social life,…, what milestones can you celebrate?
Doing less can also be an accomplishment: what things, thoughts, did you let go of that didn’t serve you anymore?
Did you make space for new things, or just made space for… more space in your life?
Could you pick up (up to) five milestones and celebrate them? What were the five most important things for you this year?
Allow me to celebrate with you my top 5 shakuhachi milestones!Continue reading Let’s Celebrate Milestones!
Dark and Light in 2020
What a year!!
More than any year I have been struggling this year with the question of the usefulness of being an artist. The pandemic situation revived in me the urge to do something for others. What could I do as a shakuhachi player?
Insecurity is already part of an artistic life, whether you like it or not. So maybe, as an artist, I was better prepared to deal with the feeling of insecurity caused by the pandemic. This shows us how fragile – and strong- we are. Playing shakuhachi helps me to accept my vulnerability. At the same time, the deep breathing with long breaths quiets my mind and gives me strength. “A long and healthy breath to all” has become my daily prayer. Just blowing one note, RO, is enough to connect to the deep peace inside me. When I play ROBUKI online together with my meditation group, I feel my sense of groundedness increasing, I feel the energy flowing through my body and the negative emotions being chased away.
Connecting to people became suddenly challenging. Coping with the lockdowns and the constant changes of situation throughout the year, months after months, has been really difficult. I am grateful that some of my students followed me online and that I could continue teaching and interacting with them. I am grateful that I got to know new students from different countries. The closing of physical borders opened a digital world of Zoom lessons ; travel issues turned into Internet connection stability and digital sound quality problems ; but still we remain connected and this feels good.
As a teacher, my best reward is when I hear students connect deeply to the shakuhachi. It can be during a few notes or an entire piece and it has nothing to do with technical level. During these magical moments, it doesn’t matter that the sound travels through the microphone and speakers of the computer: it just goes directly from heart to heart.
2020 = SHARE
So what could I do? Nothing else but keeping on doing my work, as good as I can. Teach, compose, inspire, send good vibes and share shakuhachi music.
SHARE has been my main goal for 2020, the one I set at the beginning of the year in January, it has been my mantra, my good resolution. I am grateful I had one because it truly helped me through the year. Although it turned out differently from my intention in January, things happened that not had happened without the current situation.
Shakuhachi at home
I hope this post finds you well. The situation in the world at the moment is so chaotic, how are you coping with it? I am grateful to be healthy. Where I live, I feel reasonably safe. Of course, there is always a little risk, but we stay at home most of the time, are very careful when going shopping and hardly see anyone from outside. We are not locked down in the Netherlands, and as my husband and I live very close to a nature preserve, we can enjoy the beautiful spring in the early morning and late evening, when it is very quiet. (photo: Wim Scheenen)
As I am used to working a lot at home, I thought that it wouldn’t change too much for me, but actually it does. I think that the main difficulty is the uncertainty. How long will the current situation last? I fully realise now how much time I normally spend planning and organising things on a long term basis, and now, it is week after week… The second difficulty is the social distancing. Luckily we have computers, phones and media. I must say that the daily online Robuki has become a great meeting point to blow together and stay connected. In all these circumstances, the shakuhachi and its wisdom helps me go through these difficult times. What does it bring to me?
Robuki in the Time of Covid-19
When most of us on the planet are more or less locked down at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when lots of stressful information are endless released all around the world, I was wondering “what can I do, as a shakuhachi player?” And then I got this message from Kiku Day:
“We are a group of shakuhachi players who did a little brain storm and we came up with the idea of a ROBUKI WAVE. We suggest to make a ROBUKI WAVE across our planet as a gesture of solidarity, contemplation and healing of the situation with Covid-19 we are in at present! Join us playing ROBUKI at 12 noon your own time for as long or short as you want. We start tomorrow Monday 23rd March 2020! We will at least continue for a week and see if we continue further. Imagine as the Earth rotate there will be people playing robuki at 12 noon across the whole planet. […Facebook event details…] We will try to make a video with ROBUKIi across the whole planet afterwards.”
I immediately loved the idea of blowing RO together to connect and join our efforts and thoughts for the planet. I passed on the message to my students and friends in the Netherlands & Belgium and some of them reacted with a strong enthusiasm. This made me think that it would be nice to meet up online to blow together. I had never used ZOOM before, so it was a good opportunity to learn quickly how to use it and set up a daily Robuki-meeting!Continue reading Robuki in the Time of Covid-19
This is my first post of 2020, so I am way too late to wish you a Happy New Year, even the lunar one! But I do wish you health and happiness for every day in your life.
I did want to write a “Happy New Year & Good Resolutions” post, but it didn’t work. The main reason for it, I think, is that I was in “winter mode”. Not only the actual season for the Northern Hemisphere where I live, but actually this part of a cycle when you gather and restore your energy, preparing for the rest of the year, when you are not in “production mode” but in “silent mode”. It is definitely a necessary period for creativity and growth. Even if you have the feeling that you are not making any progress and you are not getting anywhere, you actually do.
Continue reading Winter Mode
Floating Souls (2)
Last year, I presented the fantastic work of my colleague and friend Fiore Seichiku De Mattia: “Floatings Souls” (Anime Fluttuanti), a project conducted as part of the Music Research Laboratory in Psychiatric Community, Fondazione Emilia Bosis (Bergamo). Since that time, Fiore made and uploaded 3 new videos about this project, chosen as the most representative ones. In these videos, he plays original shakuhachi solo compositions of Fukuda Teruhisa: Kanjinhijiri, Roro no Shirabe and Hijiri.
The spiritual inspiration of Fukuda sensei’s compositions, the “floating sounds” of the shakuhachi and Fiore’s profound reflection about the mystery of the other guide us to find the connection to these “floating souls”.
It is moving and beautiful. Continue reading Floating Souls (2)
Playing shakuhachi at funerals
We don’t really like to think about death. Although death is part of life, it is quite taboo in our society and a difficult topic to address. Like it would bring bad luck.
Two and half weeks ago, I gave a shakuhachi presentation in a zen center in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). I gave explanations about the history of the instrument, played a couple of honkyoku, and guided the participants to make their first sounds on the shakuhachi. We also had a very nice talk about the relationships between shakuhachi and zen meditation. It was a very rich experience for all of us. At a moment, while I was playing, one participant became very emotional. Afterwards, the organiser of the workshop, who is one of my students, told me that when I was playing, he was thinking that shakuhachi would be very appropriate to be played during funerals. “Actually” I answered, “I played a week ago during the funeral of my cousin. I am quite used to play at family funerals. Before, I used to play the flute, but now, playing the shakuhachi adds a spiritual dimension I really appreciate and need myself.”
I also told him about the time I was asked to play for a nature funeral of a total stranger.
During my demonstration at the zen center, the piece the participant became emotional with was Azuma Jishi (Azuma no kyoku). Was supposed to be. I did start playing it, but in the middle of it, as I was playing by heart, I mixed it up with Kumoi Jishi, which was the piece I played for my cousin’s funeral, and couldn’t come back to Azuma Jishi anymore, so I ended up playing Kumoi Jishi.
My student’s comment about thinking of a funeral while I was playing and the participant’s reaction during this piece make me think that there was still a lot of my sadness from the death of my cousin in my shakuhachi play on this day. Continue reading Playing shakuhachi at funerals
Review & Goals
Happy, Healthy and Harmonious 2019 to all!
The end of the year / beginning of the new year is a good moment to take some time for your personal review. What did you achieve this year? What are you aiming at for the coming year?
You can do it for your personal life (there are videos on YouTube about this topic), but also, if you are a shakuhachi player, you can do it as well for your shakuhachi journey. What did you learn last year? What technics, music pieces, insights, experiences, skills, personal growth? Can you remember how you were playing one year ago? What did shakuhachi bring to your life in 2018? And what are your goals for 2019?
Sometimes, we are so focussed about what we cannot do (yet) that we forget to look at what we have achieved (so far). So take a look back, and don’t hesitate to be proud of yourself! Be compassionate if you didn’t achieve as much as you wanted. Do you journal and/or record your practice and experiences? It’s a good way to keep track of your journey.
In the shakuhachi learning process, the journey is the goal. So continuing your shakuhachi journey in 2019 is already a goal! Which path would you like to follow or explore this year?
Defining your goal will help you to actually go in the direction you want and not become overwhelmed by all kinds of other things that will definitively come in your way in the coming months, with as consequences ending up the year with the feeling that you didn’t quite do what your good resolutions were. But keep an open heart and mind, new things coming along your road can open new areas of investigations!
So better not to plan too many things at the beginning of the year, in order to keep some space for the unexpected. And keep on regularly reflecting on your resolutions, checking your inner compass, and making some adjustments if necessary . This way is my good resolution for 2019!
Don’t hesitate to share your experience in the comments below.
Recently, my Italian colleague and friend Fiore Seichiku De Mattia sent me a few links about his current project “Floating Souls” (Anime Fluttuanti), a Music Research Laboratory in Psychiatric Community, Fondazione Emilia Bosis (Bergamo). When music can be a wonderful tool for non-verbal communication and to find ways to connect to people whenever words are barriers, the shakuhachi proves to be a very special music instrument to go even deeper in this connection. Continue reading Floating souls