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  • Cheri Abrams L.M.T.,CCT

The Shakuhachi Flute

A while back I was looking for different types of flutes to start a music project. I did search for a while until I settled on some bamboo flutes made by this guy who called himself “Erik The Flute Maker,” at .Out of the four I received from Erik. I found myself gravitating to the largest one. This flute was almost too big for my hands and only four finger holes and a thumb hole? Well not much options on notes, so I though. But when I began to play this flute, its deep tones had this way of putting me into a meditative state. I could fell the tone vibrate from my core. It was like my whole body was producing the note and not just the flute. That was when I decided to find out more about this large and simple flute. The shakuhachi was created around the 9th century in China and was brought to Japan by monks. Later these warrior monks called Komuso (monks of Emptiness) played the shakuhachi in conjunction with the practice of zazen (sitting zen) and called this suizen (blowing zen). Playing this music requires many different breathing techniques. Playing the shakuhachi was a form of sutra chanting in the Fuke Temples. As such, the shakuhachi was not considered a musical instrument but a religious tool. What resulted from this practice was a large body of music called honkyoku (original music). In the purest honkyoku, primary attention is given to each breath-sound rather than to various musical elements like melodic progression. The Komuso centered their practice of shakuhachi on developing what they called their kisoku (spiritual breath) to such a degree that they would enter the state of tettei on (absolute sound) with the bamboo and everything else. Their aim was to experience enlightenment through the shakuhachi. So now I understood why I responded the way I did when playing the shakuhachi. I would feel centered, grounded and “in the now” when playing. And it was the perfect choose when Kumari Mullin (Animal Mystic/Reiki Master) ask me to write and record flute music for her Tele-Healing Project. The shakuhachi complamented Kumari’s guilded meditation beautifully. There is former training and teaching for the shakuhachi flute. I even found this wonderful website, , The International Shakuhachi Society. But for me I play the shakuhachi flute from my spirit or heart. While my spirit plays the melody, my core is working on radiating the tone to achieve peace, grounding, focus or even release. Whatever my spirit needs at that time. By doing this, it allow me to truly express my feeling or emotions in my playing. I always come away feeling more balance and centered after playing the shakuhachi flute. In closing I would like to say by no means am I a traditional player. I am just a musician who found beauty in this flute. And I look forward to years of learning more about this instrument. I think the enjoyment I receive is from the simple act of exploring the shakuhachi.

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” ~Ludwig van Beethoven

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