What is your relationship with your breathing? Do you ignore it, train it, observe it?… Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your awareness about your breathing in any way?
Blowing the shakuhachi is a deep breathing training. Over the years, I notice that my breathing’s awareness and quality have improved, and as a result, the connection with my breathing has increased my inner peace, my ability to manage my emotions, and more generally, my feeling of happiness.
Since February 2022, I give live meditation sessions of the app Insight Timer. I share with the participants the deep breathing meditation training in relation to the musical tradition of shakuhachi, which combines the unique sounds of the flute with inspiring music. Being connected with people from all over the world at the same time is really special.
These sessions are FREE, so don’t hesitate to follow me and attend my sessions!
You can also train by yourself anytime, listening to my audio meditations on the app. Keep reading to discover how.
My new CD “Reflection” is live !! This project started in the last trimester of 2019 with the composition of the first meditation pieces and it followed me into the Covid-19 period. Just when the pandemic started, I was about to perform some of my new pieces during a meditation concert that got cancelled. The first one of a long row… But these compositions and this recording project supported me day-in day-out, until I felt that it was time to release them into the digital world.
So here it is and you can listen to it through this link on your favourite digital platform. Or listen and buy your favorite tracks on Bandcamp.
The beautiful cover photo was taken by my husband Wim Scheenen. Please have a look at his inspiring website.
A short review by Elizabeth Brown (December 2021)
These days, I often find myself turning to Hélène Seiyu’s new CD, Reflection. It’s beautiful to listen to in order, as a whole–or, you can choose a single piece and let it repeat endlessly, as meditation.
Seven of Hélène’s compositions are anchored by two traditional pieces, Neri Sashi and Higo Sashi, all played in a resonant setting on large instruments. Her own compositions sound both freely improvisatory and firmly rooted in the tradition; only a shakuhachi player could write these pieces. I love Hélène’s playing; every sound and every pause come from deep in the heart. We all need this kind of music now.
WORLD SHAKUHACHI DAY on October 8 – Let’s blow 108 RO!
Blow away Covid-19 !
This week there will be the first World Shakuhachi Day. We will blow 108 R0 to “express condolence with victims of Covid-19, sympathy and encouragement to infected and hospitalized patients, and to dedicate a heartfelt thanks to the medical staff and hope for a solution to fight back the disease. Let’s blow 108 Ro with the spirit of bowing away this global pandemic.”
As my ROBUKI practice lasts normally around 10 minutes, I trained counting until 108 RO and it took me 27 minutes (4 RO / minute). I didn’t have difficulty to count, putting a mental mark every 12 RO up to 9 times. Keeping a regular breathing rhythm and relaxing in the sound help me to stay focused.
For my following sessions of 108 RO, I put on the timer on 27 minutes, with a bell ring every 3 minutes (=12 ROx9). This helps me to hold on to my rhythm of 4 RO / minute and enables me to notice immediately if my breath becomes a little more shallow or my lips tense up.
On Thursday October 8, I will be celebrating the World Shakuhachi Day online at 8:30 PM (UTC+2) with a ROBUKI of 27 minutes (108 RO). If you would like to join, just contact me. All you need is a shakuhachi and a computer or a tablet with a webcam. Let’s blow 108 RO together!
Next to this event, ROBUKI is is part of my regular shakuhachi meditation. I like to put on the timer instead of counting how many RO I blow because it allows me to concentrate fully on my favourites meditation practices, which are the Loving-Kindness and the Tonglen Meditations.
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 andwe 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!
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)→
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→
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→
I sometimes get questions about the style I play and the school I belong to. As I don’t speak Japanese, I searched for a translation of the term “Hijiri” and here is what I found (Encyclopedia Britannica):
Hijiri, (聖, Japanese: “holy man”), in Japanese religion, a man of great personal magnetism and spiritual power, as distinct from a leader of an institutionalized religion. Historically, hijiri has been used to refer to sages of various traditions, such as the shaman, Shintō mountain ascetic, Taoist magician, or Buddhist reciter. Most characteristically hijiri describes the wandering priest who operates outside the orthodox Buddhist tradition to meet the religious needs of the common people.
She lies in her bed, in the living-room, close to the window with view on the garden. I’m playing for her, from a distance, very softly, I don’t even see her under the blankets. I don’t know if she can hear me. In a couple of weeks, she will be dead.
I met the family in a sunny afternoon of October, after I received a unusual and touching email. “My wife is dying, she asks for live shakuhachi music to be played at her funeral, is this something we can ask you?” Continue reading A nature funeral→