Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Thank you. There has been such an outpouring of family and community support during this incredibly mysterious time. It has been impossible for me to keep up with thanking every person and honoring each gesture or responding to each phone call, letter, text message, and email. Please be patient with us, and please know each and every aspect of you reaching out and offering yourselves, skills, meals, love, etc. is our anchor right now and is deeply felt and known. Life has been full tilt and my energy begins to wane with baby here any moment. Basically we both (our whole family) are eternally grateful for everything that you all have provided. Please know as the months unfold our response will hopefully be more adequate and appropriate, the thank you cards more consistent, and the connection won't be so one-sided. I know you understand it is just something that circulates between Phil and I on a daily basis, the lack of us expressing our gratitude thoroughly or enough. Phil is very concerned about this but cannot do this himself at this point and I honestly have not been able to keep up.

My friend and I were talking about how in other European countries the government would take better care of a disabled family with a child on the way. So far it has been a pretty big battle with mountains upon mountains of work here in the U.S. So far not much success on our end. I have faith that if I keep trying and persisting this will hopefully change course. Also, we've been mostly immersed in the western medical model (of which I have thanks for as well -- it saved Phil's life initialy) the deeper healing comes from the world outside of the hospital walls. Each funny piece of artwork, drive to a rehab appointment, massage for Phil, nourishing meal are what is healing his brain and cells. There isn't a "cure" for his circumstance but there is healing in a myriad of creative ways.

Our community and family are what keep us afloat on a daily basis. Your love and effort is the silver lining on the cloud of our recent misfortune. Your support restores my faith on a daily basis. Your embrace is composed of the arms that hold us through this trust fall of life. The phone messages, donations, letters, benefit concerts, flute auctions, craft creations, emails, cards, artwork, and creativity keep me going -- I cannot express my gratitude enough (and I know Phil would too if he could).

This photo above was taken in Hardiwar, India. We set this tiny leaf boat afloat on the Ganges River as an offering for our possible baby-to-be last April. It is filled with flowers, candles, and wishes. We watched as it joined the hundreds of other candle-lit leaf boats floated down to the nightly puja where thousands of pilgrims joined for music and devotion. Many pilgrims save money their entire life to participate in this gathering -- arriving bone thin, wearing nothing but thread-bare clothing, shawls, and bare feet. We learned so much from that journey.

More on Phil and the baby soon...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Benefit Concert and Worshop for Phil in Montreal this weekend

We are blessed with so many creative and generous friends and family members. One of Phil's dear friends, Michael Gould is hosting a benefit workshop and concert in Phil's honor in Monreal this weekend 3/12-14th. Phil was planning to teach in Montreal last month and was quite excited by this opportunity. Obviously life had different designs. This is such an honor and a gift. The shakuhachi community has been incredible in their efforts to keep our life afloat. Below you'll also find a humorous piece by another friend who offered a donation for the workshop, even though he won't be attending. Pretty clever.

Thank you shakuhachi friends!

We have finalized the details for the workshop and concert. It's never too late if you would like to join us.

Time: Friday, March 12~14. First session: Friday evening at 7:00pm.
Place: School of Architecture: 815 Sherbrooke St West, there is an entrance to the Frank Dawson Adams lobby, via a bridge. We will meet at this lobby at 7:00pm, friday evening. Rooms will assigned and posted the first day of the workshop ...

Benefit Concert for Phil James:
Place; Tanna Schulich Hall, 527 Sherbrooke St. West, School of Music, McGill University.

If you would like to purchase a $10. ticket as part of the contribution please use the paypal button on Phil & Lara's blog and notify me by email if you would.

*AUCTION: We will have a flute auction at the concert of an Al Ramos Hocchiku donated by Brian Ritchie. Bidding starts at $300. If you would like to bid, you may send them beforehand (to me in private emails, please). You'll just have to make an offer and hope! So, for those not able to attend, it will be a silent bid. You may start the bidding NOW.I'll keep you posted daily as to the highest bid offered. More details about the flute later today.

A special thanks to Chris Moran who purchased two seats in the workshop even though he can't attend.

Thanks for your help!

Michael Chikuzen Gould
(313) 600-2610

Zen Seating™ @ Nyokai Benefit Concert In the true spirit of "form is emptiness," the infernal and persistent organization otherwise known as The Chinese Fire Drill for Phil™ is still offering an opportunity for you to participate in the March 12-14 shakuhachi workshop ... AND the Afternoon of Shakuhachi Music benefit concert even if you cannot be there! Empty Seating™ .... what a concept! So Zen! an Empty Zen Seat™ for the whole weekend workshop (that you can't be present at in form) is still only $180.00. (Blow empty shakuhachi in an empty seat all weekend long!) But wait there's less ... If you cannot attend the empty shakuhachi workshop all weekend, you can still have the opportunity to purchase an Empty Zen Seat™ at the Afternoon of Shakuhachi Music benefit concert for Phil at only $10 (or 1100-Yen) per Empty Zen Seat™! And, if you act now, you can buy extra Empty Zen Seats™ for ONLY $10 (or 1100-Yen) each. Buy an Empty Zen Seat™ for your wife or girl friend, your husband or wife, your dog or your cat, your delinquent son or your wayward daughter! The more you buy, the more you save! ... and because the seats are Empty Zen Seats™ ... it's like saving absolutely Nothing! So join me in a Zen Seat of True Empitness™ and go to Phil & Lara's blog: Phil Nyokai James Family Emergency Fund PayPal Button And we won't see you at the workshop or the concert, but we'll be Empty™ there with you!

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

The great derailing

These days are wildly up and down. One minute a breath of fresh air from a visitor who brings organic chocolate truffles and a renewed faith of our situation and the next despair over the gigantic tangled mess of our life. One minute I'm crying the next Phil is crying and the next we're so excited to be folding something called "onesies" (this is a little one piece baby outfit with snaps to change the diaper for those of us who are not baby literate including me). One day we're able to both physically walk on the beach in Maine on a 50-degree day and soak up some sunshine and salty air. The next day we're both lightheaded, limping, and struggling to get through a busy Boston street for a neurology appointment. The roller coaster doesn't cease to exist. I know we're all collectively on this ride, the ride called life, but we're just in "heightened awareness mode" as a therapist puts it. This awareness is the stuff the Buddhists are trying to teach us, to just be present to each sensation, each moment, no judging, just a presence to life breath by breath. Our new kind of awareness is spiked and fed with shots of on-going tentative emergencies. On three different occasions I have had the phone in hand to call an ambulance for Phil due to an obscene amount of pain in his head, or him describing buzzing in the brain that just doesn't sound right? But alas, no more ambulance rides yet. As far as major life experiences go, I am also very near my natural "birthing window". After March 11th (four days from now) I could go into birth at any moment, and it would be perfectly normal (although early, normal) hmmm...

I have thanks for this edge, this awareness. I recognize I'm not sitting around complaining about a customer's behavior at the restaurant where I used to work or bitching about a driver on the road, I simply don't care. This awareness has its beauty because life is raw, so real, and you can let the small stuff slide off your shoulders much more easily. You cherish a decaf cappucino with a friend, petting a cat, or simply reading a book with a fresh perspective and appreciation. This is all good but I'd love for this awareness to flow from a place of balance, rest, and peace rather than sitting on the edge of a cliff of trauma and stress.

Lately when I can't sleep or relax an image of a train keeps arising. Someone mentioned the grief factor we must be experiencing arising from this significant derailing of our lives. I keep thinking about that image. It's like we were on a train heading down the tracks on a specific route chugging along. All of a sudden the train had an accident and each car teetered and tipped and screeched to a halt and time slowed down and stood still. Luckily the train didn't completely crash or burn (so close, so close) it just was derailed and has to be rerouted, on a new handbuilt track. This train derailed in a desolate field somewhere in India or Mongolia. No one has any control over the situation, at all. At first there is a lot of action, people running around, screaming, crying, finding their loved ones. Then you figure out the food situation. You suss out who's got the goods like chocolate, booze, and cigarettes and meanwhile others settle in and start signing and rocking their children and accept. Some run up and down the tracks pulling their hair out and freaking out burning up their precious energy. Mind you, this is the kind of place that cell phones don't work and nor do iPhones or blackberries, we're out in the middle of nowhere in a field. In the middle of this chaos others start slowly fixing the tracks. This is going to be an agonizing, grueling, slow process -- pulling and prying up each old railroad tie (with an inadequate amount of tools) and moving them over to place them down by hand, one by one. Each tie takes what feels like FOREVER! In the crowd of passengers you realize a very pregnant woman stands and a baby is coming any moment. Knowing babies don't care if you're in the middle of a mess, a nowhere field, or the perfect clinical hospital setting -- when they decide to come, they're coming, you have no control and it’s NOT on your time, it’s their time from now on.

So here we are in that field. The resources are being shared, the work is being done of laying down a new track by hand tie by tie, the acceptance and nurturing comes in fits and spurts, the praying and meditating and music is happening, the food is being shared, and the baby is still coming -- on their own time. The days and nights roll by and we know a completely new life, new track, and new destination is being laid. Right now we're not so sure what tools we've got, what resources are around, what food is there, when the baby will come, how our life will unfold (but we do have a house full of chocolate thank god!) (For those of us who know Phil and I, well I think we were on the Indian railways to begin with. It was a pretty funky ride, pretty inspiring, pretty colorful and loaded with street food and chai and had it's fair share of ups and downs. Maybe in our next lifetime we'll jump on one of those Japanese bullet high-speed, efficient and organized kinds of trains.

What is your experience of a great life derailing? We've all had them (or will I promise...)Was it a loss of a job, a death, or even a birth, a divorce, a big move, enlightenment? I'm curious.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shakuhachi -- radio interview

Three and a half years ago our apartment was filled with the presence of a talented radio journalism student and her wires, microphones, and computers. After months of recording, questioning, and following Phil around the student completed her radio documentary segment about “Phil Nyokai James and the shakuchachi” and techniques of listening to sound in general. This piece was aired on Weekend America through National Public Radio in 2006 and here is a link: http://weekendamerica.publicradio.org/programs/index_20060902.html

If you scroll down the page you’ll find Phil’s piece (about 7 minutes long). I had completely forgotten about this interview. A Portland friend reminded me that she listens to city sounds through a different lens based on Phil’s words in this interview. This was a big a-ha moment to dig through our old emails and pull up this interview. I love to hear his voice, his thoughts, and touch down on the Phil that I remember so vividly and one that is possibly re-emerging again although with a new form and shape.

Also, this year Phil had a performance at the gorgeous Isabella Stewart Gardener in Boston for a New Year’s Eve Blue Moon/Full moon art opening and show. Anyhow, as a result Phil made it into the Style and Fashion section of the New York Times! For those of you who know Phil, style is not usually his forte. Out of all of the sections featured in the New York Times we were both equally amused at the fact that THIS was the section he appeared. He LOVED showing me this photo to make fun of all of the times I’ve nit-picked him over his sloppy, mismatched, random clothing selection and crazy hairstyle. He said "Oh yeah, who made it into the style section, you or me?". It’s good to think of a time that Phil could make great fun of me (although I think this facet of his personality is once again emerging…hmmm…not so sure about that). Phil is in picture #14 in the top left corner. You may need to squint a little...http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/01/10/fashion/10partiespopup-1.html?ref=fashion