Harpist, composer and scientist Masayo shares how she regained her creative Purpose, inspiration and motivation after the trauma of losing her beloved husband and becoming a single mother. Today, she has her own YouTube channel, publishes her compositions, and her future is bright!
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So welcome Masayo Honjo. - Hi Diana (laughs). - Where are you? - I'm in my house, I'm in Southern California. The name of the town is Newbury Park, and sitting, this is a dining table, actually. - (laughs) I love it. - This real life, our whole goal with the podcast is to show what a regular creative life actually looks like day to day. And you're a wonderful harpist, composer, you make videos you have built your own harp and you did it. You have written out your music, so it's available. I'd like to go back in time, before we go forward again to your journey. I go back in time, and if you could tell us a little bit about your life, about how you came to the creative path what's it been like? - If I go back right before Bright Knowledge? - Sure, or even further back as well. - Further back, well, I was attracted to harp for a long time. Maybe when I was like six years old, I went to see the orchestra and it happened to be that there was a solo best harpist. And she had a beautiful dress, white dress on like a wedding. And she was in the center and I almost did not hear her. It was more like a visual thing, but I just loved it the whole atmosphere. So that was... And then I was studying voice when I was in college and I saw my friend accompany herself with a harp and I said, "That's what I wanna do." (laughing)
You were inspired by seeing other people do the thing. - Definitely, I could tell it's difficult to sit down and sing at the same time, but she did it. And it was really amazing. So immediately I started taking harp lessons. I was at the Mills College at that time. (indistinct) - Yeah, wonderful. And so I wasn't practicing really adamantly, just off and on student but I ended up teaching harp therapy, school lessons it's by Christina Turin.
And I guess I started maybe like nine years ago, maybe eight, nine years ago. And it took a long time for me to finish because life happened. And after that, I was in a rut for artistry or motivation in general. It was a difficult time for me to live. I think it's like four years ago, I received your email about harp Circle and then I was like, "What is this?" (laughing) It sounds like good, so before BKHC, I was completely stuck and I almost did not wanna play. I did not wanna play, there was no inspiration, but I knew, harp is a good thing. So- - So you felt there was still a little bit of a pilot light on perhaps, but the flame wasn't fully engaged.
- I mean, you've had a very interesting background in that you've also been a scientist, for a lot of your career. And so you were (indistinct) saying, being a scientist a career woman, I'm also a mother and a wife. during your harp journey, your husband sadly passed away. - Yes. - And this is a very sad event for anybody and can really impact our creative life. Could you speak a little bit more to that?
Yes, so right before I got the(clears throat) I was trying to complete the Harp Therapy School. He was sick for 10 months and he had passed away. (clearing throat) So I was just trying to survive. - Yes - And (clears throat) excuse me and I could not play, I could not listen to any music. I just did not have that part of my mind turned on. I think I said my V favorite song is, a clear the loom part of WC. I could not look for a CD or listen to any music even that song for a year and a half. - Wow, what would happen if you heard music?
- I just don't engage to it. And I don't think I did not feel it, anything is beautiful, I just could not really listen to it. So I did not have energy to go and look for that CD. No, I know it, I know that song, but I could not hear it, I could not listen. When I could not listen to my favorite song, I knew my brain was frozen, just trying to survive. (indistinct) - It felt like I was just climbing a rock with nails and just trying to survive. But part of my mind, always looked for the time that someday I want to play. I have that part still alive, but not much. So- - I mean, I think sometimes of course we just have to let the grieving process take the course that it's going to take. And there are going to be those times, when from the outside it looks like we might be frozen. And even from the inside, it might feel that way too. So there is that part that I think does need to be honored, it does take its own time. And then there is that other part where there is a little bit of a pilot light still on - Yes. - And take advantage of, so how how did you actually grow that flame again to the point where now today, you have a YouTube channel, you have all kinds of things going on, you're doing a lot of performances, you've done workshops, talks, the list goes on, really. (laughing) - It doesn't feel like that much just yet, I feel like I'm still trying to get my pace. But first of all, even though I wanted to speed up the process of recovering or come back to normal or whatever that is, I'm different from before. So I am going on a path that is different from before but I think I listened to my intuition. And when I saw the email from you, there was a little light (laughs) I did not join that moment. I waited half year, and then when I received it second time I say, "Yeah." And so, I am so happy, I listened to that voice says, "Yeah, this one, this one"(laughs) - So honoring your intuition was a very big part of regaining your momentum on your(indistinct)
- Yes, I agree, because there was nothing else. No logical mind was going really working at that time. So the intuition follow the intuition, was it? I think, and I'm so lucky. (laughing)
- Well, we're so lucky to have you with us. And as you've been working with our both system and Community, could you speak a little bit about how those two things, are playing out for you? - The BKHC and what you said? - The Community. (indistinct) - So we have aspect, you know where we work the five steps and learn about the five essential elements. And then, the Community is the other part, obviously they intertwined greatly. They are actually two different ideas. - So first of all, tuning into the purpose was like the most important thing. And yes, I think I know it, but actually writing it down - It's totally different (laughing) - It's amazingly different, to write something down. - I think so, too, yeah. And I'm so glad that I did those exercises and my purpose is very short and clear (indistinct) a lot of dig in. - (indistinct) would you share with us? - Okay, to realize and express sheer beauty.
- Yes. - Yeah, so to me, what I realize is to see it or to feel it, that's how I interpret that word. - Yeah, so much depth to that, I mean, I could go on about it forever (laughing) - And I hadn't changed since I joined the BkHC, maybe someday but I'm not sure yet. And to know that there are a group of people who have joined at the same time, or they were there before, current students are doing the same exercises with me(laughs) - It is encouraging, isn't? - Yeah. - Yeah. I'm not alone who is lost. Well, I felt like I was lost, maybe not other people but I can't speak for the other people, but no I didn't have the clear purpose and slowly building it up and communicate with it actually prints where harpist really. I didn't have them before(laughs) - You know, I really believe it is an essential thing in our creativity to have Community around it. I know that there's perhaps an impression of the lone painter out in the field painting and that's good enough for them. But whenever you research the biography of artists, of creatives, of all sorts there was always a Community around them. It didn't have to be a Community of hundreds of people, but there was always a core Community that supported their vision, helped encourage their vision. And sometimes even in sort of a friendly rivalry with each other, where they would like you color on and create even more as a result. I'm not a big fan of competition but I think there is something to be said for seeing other people do something you're like, Oh, I'm that? I would like to try that as well. - Yeah, I agree. Mostly I'm feeling comradery, just being, reading the same thing, talking about the same thing showing videos together, just chat, was so important for me. And- - Really is, like you said something that is absolutely essential and quite overlooked in many ways, in many types of teaching a lot of the reason I created the Circle was after I finished my PhD, I thought my big, next project is find out why people don't wanna practice. (laughing) because they seem to love coming to lessons. And they like going to concerts, they like hearing music. Why do they only practice for a couple of days? And then they fall off the wagon. And then I encountered this incredible Indian classical music violinist, who had a school teaching Indian classical music, the traditional way. And the students would come to the house every day and they would all hang out with each other and there was a whole community factor going on. And I realized, wow, in our more Western style of learning music, we have a lesson once a week and then dead silence between the next lesson. - Yeah. - And not only that, there's silence between the teacher and there isn't even a Community at all around this. So I came to realize how important that was. - Yeah, that's like life the musical life, that they're living together. Not it's amazing that they can do that. And then you create it that with a harp Circle here, it comes as close as that. (indistinct) - I realized that, people will not gonna welcomed to be able to to my house every afternoon. They wouldn't be able to be physically there but we could find a way to do this online. And so, yeah, we've already been doing this strong for four years and now with the virus, more and more people are working online but we've already been doing it for that long and the real Community. And I feel people are discovering you can have real community online.
- Yes, I think you're right. And I can imagine, the time that we did not have zoom conference or Skype maybe people were, alone in their islands. - Yeah. - It's such a blessing that I can be with friends and we are to use it. You know, some people want to resist the online meetings. Not safe, It's not personal, there are all
kinds of reasons. - And again, that's like anything in life. I mean, we could feel unsafe in a group in real life as well. So I think the culture that we create in our communities, is really important. So one of our rules is to only share from personal experience. So we don't get a lot of articles going back and forth that are kind of hearsay by somebody else.
Instead people are sharing from their direct experience. And from that, there's immediate integrity to what they're saying, because that is their experience. Even if we have a different experience they're having a particular experience of their own that we can trust that that is their reality. And so we can truly connect as real people together. And there is that safe guard of people sharing information that does have integrity because it is part of their reality. That's one part, I think that causes the kind of atmosphere of a sanctuary that we've created. And the other part is always having a growth mindset. We always believe that we can grow that we can learn, things aren't fixed. And even if you have a complete disaster in one area that's a temporary thing, we're going to go ahead and grow. So limited thinking is not something that we engage in the Circle. So I think that as well creates this atmosphere of safety and possibility. - Yeah, I agree, it feels safe in our grip that's for sure. - Yeah, I think it's really important. The most important thing actually for a Community to be a real Community, is that feeling of safety and trust. So cultivating that very deliberately is a must, I think if we kind of just hope that'll happen(laughs) - Yes, you cultivated it. - Yeah. - Yeah, very accepting. - Exactly, exactly, yes.
- None of their judgmental comments coming in, maybe you had the sensor, I don't know. - At first, as we were getting into the culture sometimes a little bit of a comment like that might slip through, but of course 'cause we were watching all the time we would really quickly act on that and talk with the person and talk about how we really believe in a culture of constant growth. And it's never gonna be shutting someone down, it's going to be coming from a place of connection a place of sacred reciprocity. And so, I feel like it's been something that people embraced very easily actually. we don't spend much time clamping
down on comments or anything because I think people are hungry for that kind of connection. And I've also found that when people are coming from their place of purpose, which is step one in our system. And so everybody takes step one. Even if they don't make it to step three they will make step one. And so they know what their purpose is. And when we act from our purpose we're acting from our best selves. And we see that presented, I think, in our group. - It feels like people's comments coming very naturally and very lovingly.
- Definitely, I think those are natural states, honestly. So could you tell us a little bit about some of your projects you've got going on right now as well as some that you're looking forward to? So just today, so this week is, I was thinking about my late husband who we're having this week 20th wedding anniversary. So I was thinking about him and there is a song that I made about a year ago called "lament". And it was just so sad. And I said, I better look at that music, and I did, I pulled it up this morning and I played and I feel like this is the one that I need to make recording first. And so I'm listening to my intuition right now because I had some other song in mind to record "gems on harp", which I but this one is also very, very short song, but I feel like I need to record it and just store in the YouTube or something. It's like a card to play now kind of feeling so that's today.
And then I think I'll do the other song very soon. "Gems on harp". And like you suggested, I'm still thinking about making videos. I think that I'm thinking about, I don't know what - You've already made a number of beautiful videos. - Yes, thank you. Yes, I did make a video of this cardboard harp And it was a process of making that cardboard harp (indistinct) Yeah, I never thought of talking to video before Diana. No but (laughs) so I don't know maybe because this working on purpose and everything else just building me up to have a gut to just do it. - And I think you feel excited to share, your message, your creations, the sheer beauty, and as you think about, well, how am I gonna share it then video becomes a very natural medium. So it's really still all about your purpose. It's all about your creativity. And we happen to be doing it through video right now, who knows how we'll do it in the future. We may have holograms, I don't know. So yeah, it's still coming right down again to purpose. So you also have a wonderful video where you're talking about (indistinct) and you play (indistinct) and you connect that to women's suffrage and so much great material that you have. - Yeah. - I wonder if you might feel comfortable sharing a little bit about the current journey that you're on. You've navigated the incredible challenge of losing your husband and in fact, making beauty out of that with the song "lament", amongst many other things would you feel comfortable sharing a little bit about the current path that you're on?
- Are you talking about... I'm not sure exactly what it is- - With some health challenges. - Oh, health, yes. So I have a condition called glaucoma in my eyes and that's genetics and it's inherited but mine is manifesting very early. It's been diagnosed, I think, like 20 years ago. And I always went to a very, very good doctor, but it's unstoppable, my right eye is blind already. And the left one is following and I'm seeing the sign of distortion of the vision and things like that. So maybe from like two or three years ago I started going to braille Institute. And right now I take maybe two or three classes a week and learning how to use the cane and things. I have a pink cane. (indistinct) (laughing) - When I think of it, it's depressing because no matter what I do, it is going one way and also think about how am I gonna play harp. There are brilliant harpist or blind but I- - Maybe one of them - Right now, I don't feel it that way. And maybe I'll be different from this brilliant players. And I have to go with my heart, not from technique. I don't think I can catch up with that, that's my thought. I taught some blind people at the Braille Institute in Santa Barbara. And I still think about those weeks that I taught them. And I think I have to learn how I am going to practice harp before I teach them again. And so that's been a journey, so often very depressing but knowing other people, who had gone through what I've gone through, but I still know the purpose of the harp and I have to conjure up something that is going to, how do I say, I just have to keep on with the purpose of the harp and in life in general. - Right, I mean, this is how life is. We would love for it to not have challenges and sometimes incredible challenges like what you're facing. And yet the challenges are there and still we can remain creative, still we can live our purpose and keep walking the path. And yeah, the reality is there are moments when that does feel depressing and upsetting and those are realities, we don't wanna deny them. And there's a way to not feel that all the time and to give up, you don't have to give up and you haven't, you're finding all kinds of ways to keep moving ahead. In fact, you're moving ahead really diligently with the video making. There's so many things you're still going to be able to do. And so we wanna capitalize on those things make those things happen, at the same time while saying yeah. There is also the sad side that we mourn. We don't want to sugarcoat that or invalidate that because actually that's part of your story
- Right, you know, it's natural, if you're losing something you wanna hang on to it it's not easy to let go of something. I think that's natural for everybody. But I don't wanna be caught up in trying to keep it because, it wastes a lots of energy. So yes, I am preparing and learning more ways to use a computer. And I'm keeping in mind when I practice, what if I'm
not seeing, okay, what's the interval, slowly I'm training myself and be able to reach the right place. (laughs) right now, it's just one eye it's hard. (indistinct) So I think I was told I'm going on tangent I was telling you, there are some swords man in Japan, in history, some of them were one eyed and they had patch and maybe certain... But now I find that, they usually did not go and fight. They practice, but when there is a war, those are the blinds and they don't go out and fight(laughs) So they knew how to conduct. And Yes, I get to conduct my heart and technical wise I'll figure out something. - Absolutely. - The heart has to go first, right. - That's always the place of the biggest connection the most important connection. - Yeah.
- From there, everything else flows in service to that. - Yeah, I wanna go with that route(laughs) - Well, I think you're such an inspiration, Your work is just so beautiful. As you know, I just love your compositions when I've done solo concerts, I've included your compositions in my playing and I will continue to do(indistinct) Really understanding what the harp can do. That's always what I'm looking for in a composition - It's inspiring that you played for me- - Thank you. - (indistinct) you playing it. - Oh yeah, thank you, it's was a pleasure. So yeah, I recommend everybody visit your website which is your name, maceo honjo.com and hear your music watch your videos, download your music, read your bio. And yeah, this is a little bit of a story behind the scenes, look into your life.
I think it just makes me admire you all the more. - Thank you so much, you've been such a light for me. - I mean, that's our mission, right? Is that we, we shine so that we can inspire others to shine as well. And it's just great to back and forth(laughs) - You're doing it, yes. And you teach me and then I want to be able to do that whenever I can for others too. - Thank you so much Maceo. There's a couple of things I would like to ask you before we wrap up one is, what is one misperception about creativity that you would like to dispel for people today? - I would like to say the idea of being stuck, maybe misperception. - Can you say a little bit more. - That itself, Because I thought I was stuck and there was no creativity coming, I didn't even think about creativity. I was at the place where, I can I play this song(laughs) that's already written, can I play it, technically? Or can I read it? That's where I realized and nothing really coming from myself. And from there, slowly, I am cultivating how to interpret the songs or how to even listen to the song that plays in my head. And I think it was like over a year and half ago but like 15 tunes came from my thoughts. And I was able to write them down and some of them became songs and it's yeah. So being stuck, maybe misperception. - It's just a temporary situation at most. Beautiful, thank you. And what is one thing that you would like people to know going forward with their creativity could possibly be what you already said? - I think being open to new things, it's okay. Yes, of course play the songs that you like. But for me to record video (laughs) was beyond me, even a year ago. I didn't think that was possible, yes. - You've done it a number of times now. - Two years ago, really, I think you told me to make a eight second songs, for your VHS and I'm like, what does that mean(laughs) - Yeah, so for a virtual harp summit we wanted to have a little intro music before every video and other kinds of videos. - And you told me the due is tonight like 11 O'clock . - I just knew you would write something gorgeous and you did.
- Yeah, I was really doubtful, so I told myself I'm gonna give myself just two hours of constant writing. (laughing) And I really did it, two hours, I was trying to figure out where to put the the mic, I was looking inside of the harp. (laughing) - And so much came out of it as a result, your open attitude. - I was surprised myself, so you prompted me and I tried. And so I think everybody else can try something new, audacious things. (laughing) - Thank you so much Masayo. Your journey continues to inspire me greatly. And thank you so much for generously sharing about your process. - Oh, it was pleasure, thank you so much. - Yeah(indistinct) - Bye. (laughing)