Musings on rain, Zazen, and teaching

Boat deck in the sunset

pastel & charcoal on paper

Hello friends,

I imagine you are enjoying the arrival of a beautiful autumn. Here in Northern California, I yearned for the rain, and in recent days, there have been a few events of blissful drizzle. Every time I stepped out of my house,  I felt that every pore of my skin was renewed by the memory of the familiar sensation: cool, moist, and gentle music from the sky. The moisture in a single drop of rain could nourish a spider. So this intermittent short-term rain must have been a blessing to many beings, small and large. 

Speaking of beings, Steve (my husband) and I resumed our musical collaboration. We are calling our duet TokiMono. “Toki” means Time, and “Mono” means Beings. We are all made of Time, and in that way, we are all equal. I made up the word to reflect the Buddhist teachings I take to heart. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and YouTube. 

TokiMono found an amazingly creative partner.  His name is Kent Brooks. He is a superbly talented sound engineer and videographer. And a great human being. Since meeting Kent, Steve and I have recorded some of the best versions of our original songs and videos with him. Please visit our YouTube channel to watch “Don’t Let The Dawn Break You.” Steve wrote the song, and I sang in it. Kent did all the editing, sound mixing, and camerawork. 

For the video production of “Don’t Let The Dawn Break You,” I made charcoal drawings and added stock images to create storyboards. They looked amateurish but helped us make coherent and inspirational visual presentations of Steve’s lyrics. After the arduous process of making storyboards, I have renewed admiration for Disney and Pixar animation teams! I got exhausted by making only 4 or 5 panels. They must make hundreds! But it was exhilarating. 

Guitar in the dappled light

Charcoal on paper

Now we are onto our second project. We will record and make a video of my song, “Stranger In This Country.” Please visit my blog to read why I wrote this song. I wrote the song many years ago. I expressed my sense of isolation and yearning as a newcomer to this country. Loneliness seems to be a permanent condition given to us all at birth. Was it a gift or a test? How do you meet your loneliness? 

Girl outside the window

Acrylic on wood panel

As you can tell, I have also been busy doing art. Drawing and painting have been my first love since I was a little girl. Please let me know if any of my paintings moved you somehow. There will be no negative or positive criticism as long as you are authentic. I can take frankness. So please open your heart and tell me what you feel.

As a music teacher, a revelation came to me just a few days ago. Teaching a student is a form of Zazen. Zazen is difficult to describe. It is not the same as meditation. The founder of Zen Buddhism, Eihei Dogen, who lived in 13th-century Japan, said, “Zazen is the body and mind dropping away.”

Dogen Zenji

The founder of the Soto School of Buddhism

If you are curious, please read this article, but don’t worry if you don’t understand. Zazen is more an experience than a concept. A Zen teacher can explain it and show you through their wholehearted practice. Honestly, I’m not sure if I truly understand without their guidance.

Teaching music is like zazen to me. My mind sometimes wanders (and I’m guessing that happens to my students, too). But then, the presence of another being leaning toward me snaps me back to the very moment. 

It is the result of my body and mind NOT dropping away. I am also prone to the assumption that the same student I see weekly will be the same person. How can I assume that? I’m learning and changing every day. How can I not believe they also carry new moments every week, kindly bringing their new self to me? 

Pretend that you are me. Feel that your teaching becomes laborious. The other person receives hap-hazard involvement from you. You are not breathing with ease while you are in the studio. You ask, why the heaviness? Where is that coming from? Do you wonder?

I wonder all the time. 

The sun shines. The river flows. The mountain sits under the sky. These beings nourish, protect, and save many creatures by simply being in their true nature.  A teacher teaches. Can I be like the sun, the mountain, or the river? 

I am happy that I made the discovery. I will enjoy making an effort this way from now on. I am grateful for all my students to participate (without noticing!) in Zazen. 

Thank you for reading my long musings to the end. I hope you continue to enjoy receiving my occasional ramblings. Please give me your feedback. I always learn so much and feel loved whenever you give me your beautiful, unique, authentic replies. 

It is getting colder, and the Covid virus is still going around. Please continue to care for yourself. 

A smile from me in place of a bowl of steaming soup.


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