Monday, December 29, 2014

Facebook Insights from 2014

When I go through an experience that moves me, I let it sit in my body. Then I do some soul searching, trying to articulate to myself what about the experience makes my body vibrate, giving me that "ping" you feel when the outside world resonates in some way, good or bad, with my insides. It's usually something deep - some lesson or insight. By the time I'm ready to talk about it on Facebook, the experience is distilled to something that is at the core of who I am.

2014 was a big year - I did not know this, till I was able to look back.

Thanks for following along. If you want to see the comments, feel free to check The responses were half the fun!

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Sushi Chef
The sushi chef tonight lit up when we told him we're musicians. We had a nice conversation about music, and he beamed talking about the music he loves, including Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Carmen McRae and Chick Corea. It dawned on me that this happens a lot - music opens doors.
January 11, 2014  

How to Make Mochi 
(This entry became a separate post here.)
January 27, 2014   

Who You Really Are
Lately, I've been watching people I admire - I mean, really watching them, so I don't just listen to them, and I don't just look at them, but I try to feel what it might be like to be them. And as much as I respect them for their technique and skill - their intonation, perfect pacing, the grace in their movement - that is not what inspires me, and I've known this for a long time. But only through this exercise have I been able to finally grasp why some people move me: It's their power of being. It's a live energy, a strong will, a current inside their body that is so deep and so real. They are strong from their heart, their gut, or, as they say in Hawaiian, their na`au. It's a kernel of power that over time they have managed to grow into something that, when you encounter it, takes your breath away. It's not what they do - it's who they are. You are simply experiencing who they are through what they are doing. ... I've come to understand that even though the world may venerate you for the contribution you've made to a specific field, for the role you've played, you should not allow your identity to be wrapped up in what you do; the real imprint lies in the power of your being, in who you are.
March 21, 2014  

When We Fight
Sometimes in our fight over ideas, we lose sight of the humanity of the other person we don't agree with. This feels frivolous.
March 26, 2014  

Sunset Serenade
At Jameson's By The Sea, the waitress noticed my uke case and asked me to sing a song, so I serenaded the dinner crowd with Wahine Ilikea as the sun set. And luckily, I just got my business cards in the mail yesterday and was able to give her one when she asked for it. Love how this little instrument has brought such charming moments to my life.
March 30, 2014  

Creativity Question
I have a creativity question, and I'd love for you to indulge me. What are the forces or circumstances that move you to act, to set yourself in motion to create? Or perhaps not just create, but simply progress? Like with exercise? Or with cooking? Or with any project?

Here's some background for why I ask: I made a pot of soup today, a soup I fully "designed" it in my head before I chopped the first onion. So, I started cutting the vegetables, and every act that followed was simply a materialization of this picture I had in my head. I powered through like a demon trying to "write" out this idea in my head. Norm noticed this and articulated he has a different style, that he just starts taking ingredients out of the fridge and "designs" as he goes; it's very in the moment, not unlike jazz improvisation. I find both styles interesting, and I'm sure there are many styles. I've known this about myself for some time, but seeing this small kitchen scene unfold and recognizing what drove me to complete a pot of soup was revealing for many, many other aspects of my life.

Goodness - that was long-winded! But if anyone's up for sharing insights on their own style for "doing things," I'm all ears. This is so interesting to me.
May 1, 2014  

The Medium is the Message?
Too many people say "texting doesn't convey tone," but I've received many a text with a kind tone to it, and they weren't always from wordsmiths. We've been at this - email, texting, social media - for much too long for people to blame the medium. It's time we take a bit more responsibility. I think thoughtfulness finds its way to the other person, if the intent is there in the first place.
May 30, 2014  

The Long, Long Story 
I am here today because of the fearlessness of my parents and their stories, and the stories that came before them, branching through lineages going back thousands of years. I am the culmination of this fearlessness. I am the culmination of millions of stories.
June 14, 2014  

Quirky Norm
After observing Norm's near-surgical consumption of his Hamachi Kama tonight, I tell him, "you're a good eater of kama," to which he replies, "it's because I'm kama`aina."
August 11, 2014  

My Futon
A futon is where you rest. It is where you lie down, limbs limp, thoughts adrift. It is where, after the world has allowed you to be sifted out from its arbitrary rules of meaning, you fall in comfort, feeling the quietness of your perfect being. Tonight, music was my futon.
August 20, 2014  

Expanding Cells
I played lots of piano and uke and sang my guts out all weekend, and I made progress on a film project. I should be tired, but I feel so awake, as if the insides of my body - every cell - is expanding. This has been good for me in ways I'd never have been able to see.
September 21, 2014  

I am becoming more and more fascinated by "intelligences" that are sensory. If you can provide any insight, please send me things to watch or read. I recently went to a workshop where the trainer was from Waianae (btw - I am proud to say this is my hometown) and explained how Hawaiians are naturally aural learners, and he expanded by saying they take in their world by seeing and feeling and hearing. I've always been drawn to this kind of intelligence, and growing up in Waianae, I loved how people just knew how do to things, like throw luau with great efficiency or make friends with complete ease at the beach or get intel from others through rather deft conversation. These days, the closest words I might have for this is being street smart or having situational awareness, but I know it goes deeper than this. I think cultures institutionalize these things, whether the learning is linear or aural, as described by the trainer. I don't want to put one over the other, but I will ask the question - how many of these qualities have I suppressed trying to operate in the dominant culture that prizes specialization and a certain kind of productivity? I am not looking for any hard answers, but just want to open up a discussion. ... And of course, I want that reading material. Hmmmm .... wonder if Dr. Suzuki's Nurtured by Love covers this to an extent ... I just started reading this.
October 9, 2014  

Where Truth is Found
The truth - what actually was, is and will be, and not what we as a human race constructed or believe to be truth - is embedded in the smallest structures of our existence, reaching back to the beginning of time. This is one of many thoughts I will be exploring over the next few months. Since this summer, I have been working on articulating my "framework of everything," and it's beginning to get quite interesting. Will take some time, but stay tuned.
October 29, 2014  

Floating Through Our Apartment
(This entry became a separate post here.)
October 30, 2014

Cherish the Love
If you find someone, anyone - friend or lover, who cherishes your feelings, never take that person for granted. Life affords you only a few of them; they are treasures.
November 4, 2014  

This is what I've come to believe: When something is so beautiful it brings you to tears, it's because that very beauty was somewhere hidden deep, deep inside of you, lost. You live your days with a heart stirring, yearning to find this lost thing, and only when encountering it in your world can this hidden beauty that was always a part of you be found, finally known. Who wouldn't cry?
November 13, 2014  

Listen Closely 
It's hard to know the intricacies that make someone awkward or unable to navigate social situations. But sometimes, these are the very people with the most interesting things to say because they simply see their world differently. They often are the quiet ones who are perfectly content when others have the floor. But try giving them your ear. Ask them questions and be genuinely curious. You might find yourself delighted to be told stories and ideas that shake your thinking.
November 25, 2014  

Measure of Judgment
The measure by which you judge will be the measure by which you will be judged. This has no meaning till you, at some point, slip up. If you live a life of grace, you will be afforded grace when you fall. If you live a life of judgment, you will be judged when you fall. I learned this lesson the hard way. These days, I strive to be more like those I admire most - those whose hearts are a large well, filled with grace.
November 30, 2014  

It's 1:30 in the morning, and I'm high on all the things that happened tonight. How can anyone fall asleep when your body is filled with good vibrations? You just have to let your body experience the waves till they dissipate, slowly lulling you to sleep.
December 3, 2014  

Unlikely Songs at a Downtown Bar
Last night, a group of people sat at the bar at The Dragon Upstairs, and one of the guys pointed at the other and told me, "he sings." After a little discussion, we got him on stage, and he asked me to play Unchained Melody. He said he didn't need the microphone, then I began a simple intro on the piano. Two notes in, and we were surrounded by this beautiful, lush voice. It was an honor to play the large landscape of this song with this stranger who knew every part of it so well. I wasn't joking when he was finished and I asked him, "Did you win Brown Bags to Stardom?" He laughed and said no. Then he did his hana hou from his barstool, an Italian aria sung a cappella. Still smiling the next morning over this musical exchange at a downtown bar.
December 10, 2014  

Lunch Conversations 
One interesting thing about eating alone in public places is you get to hear how other people relate to each other. Sometimes, I think people overlook the treasures right in front of them. They are not curious, so they don't ask questions of each other, let alone empathize. I know there is more to human interaction than conversation; sometimes, just sitting quietly with someone can heal you. But everyone who has lived long enough to speak has an interesting story inside of them. What wonders are we missing out on when we fail to be curious about the people we think we know?
December 18, 2014  

The State of Truth
Truth does not require belief or non-belief. Truth is simply a state. Some can see it sooner than others, and some never see.
December 21, 2014  

Building Blocks
What if the very building blocks that form how we think and see are in themselves constricting our sight? Perhaps to truly see, we need to disassemble the structures and throw the blocks away.
December 27, 2014

Beauty Unseen
Last night, four local girls stopped in and sat in the cozy far corner, listening to every song. From their seats, they sang along to Wahine `Ilikea and Kuhio Beach (I'd later find out three of them were Kamehameha School graduates!). After I was done with those two tunes, one of them requested The Nearness of You. I put my uke down and turned to the piano to sing. When I was done, she walked onto the stage and gave me a hug, tears in her eyes. "This song always reminds me of my father," she said. Naomi told me this morning what I missed seeing, as my eyes had been closed throughout the song. This beautiful woman in street clothes, warmed by her white cardigan, shared hula just a few feet away. I can only imagine.
December 31, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

The House You Go to After You Die

Last night I dreamed that I died.

I dreamed that all people who die gather at a house located in a place very similar to Makawao, Maui. The house was reminiscent of the homes I saw on Maui growing up, with wall paneling that emulated high-quality wood and with carpeting that was grey-yellow and flat. The house was humble, a three-bedroom single-story home. The backyard was small - a green lawn the surface area of a single carport. Looking beyond the lawn, I saw trees - not pine trees, but mango trees. The sky was overcast. Looking toward the trees, there were shadows and darkness - not an evil, ominous darkness, just darkness caused by the trees being so thickly planted next to each other that they made shadows on the dirt.

I didn't recognize most people in the house. I only recognized a high school friend and the boyfriend she was seeing during her high school years. They died when I died, so they were about in their forties when they came through the front door. The feeling in this home was one of being at a casual gathering. People were just sort of hanging out.

Some people believe that when you go to "heaven," your body reverts to its most ideal physical shape it was in or would have been in, so, for example, the healthy 20-year-old version of yourself. But what I learned was that the physical shape you were in at the point of death is the shape you ended up having in your afterlife.

What was nice was that I could talk to the living, including Norm, who explained to me how I died, that it was because of some careless action I'd taken. He explained this to me in his typically diplomatic, careful and kind way. He told me, "Just don't do  it again." There was no sadness because the communication between us had not really changed.

I was also able to zoom into the life of those who were still living. I zoomed into an office that my brother Mark had been working at, now years after I'd died - a skyscraper somewhere. He had gotten promoted several times and had become an important executive. I was able, then, to zoom out, and I was suspended in the sky. I saw the building he'd been working in, perhaps a 40-story building with pinkish-gold mirrored windows. It was glorious. Seeing Mark's success warmed my heart. I felt so little separation from life and afterlife. I was in a state of euphoria, feeling the breeze across my body as I floated so high above the city.

Throughout the night, I woke up several times, and each time I had fallen back to sleep, I yearned to return to this house - and each time I did return. If there was one vibe that permeated the house, it was the sense that everyone there had ended a past life, leaving it irretrievably behind them. No one was required to do or be anything anymore. The feeling was sobering and refreshing at the same time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beauty, Lost & Found

This is what I've come to believe: When something is so beautiful it brings you to tears, it's because that very beauty was somewhere hidden deep, deep inside of you, lost. You live your days with a heart stirring, yearning to find this lost thing, and only when encountering it in your world can this hidden beauty that was always a part of you be found, finally known. Who wouldn't cry?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Leaving Your Faith and Self-Loathing

Recently, a friend posted this article on Facebook, and the content of it really hit me:

The sad, twisted truth about conservative Christianity’s effect on the mind

I can relate to this at a visceral level, and though it's harsh in its accusations, I'm certain this brings some soothing comfort to those who've experienced what's described in the article. I do think that when we all finally heal, and when I say "we," I mean our society as a whole, not just former believers, we have to find a way to acknowledge and dare I say love what Christianity has brought us from a cultural standpoint. Even for those who've left the faith, it's so much part of our psyche that it is who we are, to some more deeply than others. Still for all, as a culture that has lived enmeshed in this institution of thinking for centuries, it's part of our evolutionary past. It's like embracing the family member who hurt you, perhaps unintentionally, but who also made you who you are in the end. To stop at the anger stage would mean that we are doing just as this article describes, which is to engage in self-loathing.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Floating Through Our Apartment

Not long ago, I had an awful day. Norm came home late that afternoon and presented me with a red helium balloon that said in cursive, "I love you." Seeing him in the hallway holding the string was so quaint, so boyish, I gushed realizing that no day could be awful with this person in my life. The balloon had been floating around our apartment for a week when one day I noticed that at the end of the string was something white. When I looked closely, I laughed and smiled. This was so Norm to take a scissors to a paper towel and with his artistic hand cut out a ghost with such an endearing face and a ghoulish presence. I named him "Ghostie." Happy Halloween, everyone! Hope you are treated with moments of friendship and love wherever you may be.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Intoxicating Ravel

Even in its tranquil moments, it's the dissonance and strain of irresolution that make this music intoxicating. To yearn for this kind of beauty is human. Truly moved just thinking about what I heard and felt in the concert hall this past Sunday afternoon.

This is the preview article about the concert written by Star-Advertiser writer Steven Mark:

Hurricane Ana threatened us all weekend, and by Sunday afternoon, Honolulu was covered by dark gray clouds and occasional rain. I've always said that sunshine makes me smile with my eyes but rain makes me smile with my heart. And it is in the rain that I can know the depths of what the music tries to convey.

I am a lucky soul to have sat in the hall, house lights low, as the orchestra and Fabio Bidini performed this work. For my body to sit there and absorb this beauty was almost more than I could take. It's euphoric, your heart aching with a yearning and sadness and sensuality that can only be compared with being in love.

Growing up, I was not exposed to very much classical music, and the little I did know, I resented (this is a separate blog entry entirely, but an important one, nonetheless). This is why I am in awe of my life journey, which placed me in the audience at this concert hall yesterday afternoon. This is colorful, soul-changing music I would have otherwise not known. But these days, I drive my car, and in my head, I hear Ravel; I walk to the office, and in my head, I hear Ravel. I told Norm this afternoon that this second movement sounds like the way that I often feel in real life. How an artist can make this mystery known in the material world is a god-like power, one such power I hope to use while I am alive on this earth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Raising My Eyebrows at the Makeup Counter

Last week, I went to the Nordstrom Ala Moana makeup counter to buy an eyeliner brush. I asked the makeup artist to show me how to do a catwings eye look, explaining that I ultimately wanted to do a pinup look, which means neutral eyes, strong eyeliner, big lashes and red lips.

She decided to do my whole face, not just the eyeliner. I was pleasantly surprised because I'd be singing a few hours later at The Dragon Upstairs.

For starters, she got a dark brown pencil and started drawing into my eyebrows. I'm Okinawan, and I didn't think I needed anything added to my eyebrows. But, I thought since she was a pro, just go with it. When she was done penciling my eyebrows in, she gave me the handmirror. Wow, my new eyebrows were dark and well-defined as to look rather drawn in, almost forceful. They were so ... severe ... that they almost seemed to throb above my eyes.

She continued doing other parts of my face, but now, as I watched her eyes and facial expressions that revealed her mind full of imagination, just a foot away or closer to mine at times, I started to have all these fantasies about how my whole face would end up looking. Like extreme fantasies. Her fluffy brush on my cheeks went over each side many, many, many times. And she took the eye shadow brush to all parts of my lid from lash to brow to lash to brow. How smokey, oh so smokey, would my eyelids be?

So then I began to prepare myself for not liking the final outcome. I practiced my reaction mentally, silently. I love it, I would say with a smile and a big breath. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, as I am an artist, and I know how you pour your heart into your work. I was practicing in my mind how I'd smile in the mirror and convey utmost and sincere enthusiasm for something I wasn't enthusiastic about. This rehearsing in my head went on for about 4 minutes.

So when this was all over, she gave me the handmirror, and boy was I ready to act out what I'd been practicing in my head. I raised the mirror directly in front of me, and ... wow, I was that pinup model I wanted to be! She ended up doing quite a beautiful job. So, the words came right out of my mouth, "You are so good."

I gave her a real smile and a real affirmation. So glad.