Samuel Rugg is a Guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, Composer and song-writer, author, juggler, and visual artist from Toledo, Ohio. Graduating from the University of Toledo in 2017, Sam holds a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance with a Guitar concentration. He has played with many groups over the last few years, the neo-soul and funk group Soul Hustle, Jazz quintet Free Fallin', and currently with the progressive improvisational group, Box of Sol. Sam also plays solo Classical & Jazz Guitar, as well as Improvisational looping-based gigs around the greater Northwestern Ohio Region - some of these including an integrated juggling, saxophone, and guitar based performance. Sam currently teaches guitar studio lessons out of his home, the Buddhist Temple of Toledo, and Maumee Valley Day School and is accepting new students. He also offers composition, general music, and juggling lessons. Sam is a lover of stories, mystery, and the vast universe. He is practitioner and student of Jay Rinsen Weik and Karen Do'on Weik at the Buddhist Temple of Toledo. You can reach him at

Photo Credit – Aleah Fitzwater


Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Jamming some Shinoda Today

Original Entry:

Juggling and Music:

As when I first began juggling, music too is an exploration, a play, a spin of patterns.

All of juggling is juggling; in fact, no part of reality is outside of juggling from the juggler’s mind. It took time to unearth this perspective, yet now it’s active and alive.

So too, all of music is music. Music delves beyond any of it’s component parts; all of unified reality is music.

Patterns, scales, arpeggios, rhythms – all music. I play with patterns to familiarize, then I apply them to perceived stimulus in reality: songs I hear, natural rhythms, other musicians, what I hear in my mind…

If I ever become stuck, recall that the material that “binds” is simply a singular expression of music and remember change is my friend.

Current Reflections:

This entry is refreshing. Juggling has continued to inform my music making process over the years. Some of my Papadosio friends may remember a time before I learned to juggle, many more of them might have connected with me because I was standing in a little patch of grass, myself with LED juggling balls through sweeping sets of music at a time during some of the early Rootwire Music and Arts Festivals. Oh, I have so many stories about juggling at festivals. I remember one night after Govinda slayed a set and ended around 2 or 3 AM, I kept walking around the grounds and juggling until the sun rose. When I finally sat down, I remember nestling into the dirt outside of our tent on a little incline, classical guitar in hand, slowly picking “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles out of my memory. For the rest of the day, no matter what I was doing, I could still feel my hands juggling in some liminal space in front of my body where they had been dancing all night long.

Leaving my library of bizarre states of consciousness related to juggling aside, the process of juggling and the process of music making have always been closely related for me. I started to learn how to juggle during college in 2011, using 3 oddly shaped bouncy balls in the living room at my parents house at midnight. I continually tried to wrap my head around the process of juggling during breaks from writing papers for my comp class and banging my head against my chemistry homework, at the time on a pre-medical undergraduate track. I was going to be a doctor. Juggling and music were my solace from the overwhelming weight of school, and I spent as much free time as I could trying to deeply understand both.

After my first semester at college, I officially ditched the idea of becoming a doctor, had a brief fling with becoming a jazz saxophonist for a semester, then took a wild and fun gap year. It was nothing short of a miracle that I decided to go back to school – it would have been easy to keep on having fun, chilling, dancing, and working at a pizza place. Thankfully my friend Ryan Murray and I talked ourselves into going back to school to study music.

But that gap year was important for me. It gave me the opportunity to really dig into my understanding of music. That’s when I learned all of my major scales in all keys, figured out what arpeggios were, and began to unlock the fretboard. And I never stopped juggling; in fact, I juggled more, and more, and more, until I was dancing around local and distant concerts, running around the neighborhood, and studying new patterns arduously in my room, juggling like a madman.

For me, juggling and music evolved along two separate paths at that point: Music became rigid and regulated. I suddenly realized how much I didn’t know and was surrounded by a lotta cats who knew a whole HELL of a lot more than me. I was swimming for dear life in an ocean of unknowable depth. It felt like I had to work 10 times harder at my actual instrument to make anything remotely musical happen, while some of my peers seemed to shit beautiful sounds from their fingertips with their eyes closed. The environment was a pressure cooker. Sophomore year was one of the worst of my life, and my upperclassman years were slowly tinged with a hue of depression. All I could see was the benchmark I was missing, the next mark I would have to meet, and all of my shortcomings.

Don’t get me wrong,I learned so much more than I could have ever mustered on my own in my bedroom, regardless of how hard I was working before I decided to go back to school; but it was tough. Really tough. I almost quit my Junior year, but thankfully my teadher Jay Rinsen Weik talked me down and met me with some much needed compassion as I sat across from him on the brink of tears during one of our lesson hours that day.

I’m grateful for the hardship and the intense, diamond-forging heat that helped me arrive at this point. From here, I hope to keep growing with that same intensity. But I’m also recognizing that it might be more fun and sustainable to marry this academic intensity and drive with some of the free flowing, genuine curiosity that is my juggling process.

Early on I realized how unhelpful my anger and self-deprecation was for my process of juggling. I would drop the ball, look at it, and just seethe with hate. Stupid ball. I can’t do anything. Damn gravity.

Then one day, I dropped it, (HA) and realized how thankful I was that the ball didn’t disappear forever. All I had to do was bend down. I started picking up the ball faster and faster each time, making a game out of it, enjoying the opportunity to make a big scene of throwing all the balls up in the air. The pattern interrupt became a springboard to launch from during performance and a practice of patience in my study. I kept learning new ways to weave the pattern, locking one down into a stable state, then trying to imagine how I could build a layer on top of this sturdy pattern. I discovered I could walk, run, dance, and subdivide my catches to a beat. I found some ways to isolate balls, to hold them steady, to carry them, to swirl and spin them. And, by George, it was fun.

Juggling was a new skill, something I utterly COULD NOT do, that after some concentrated effort, became something I could do, arguably very well, compared to my profound inability at the beginning. I’ve actually made some money from juggling. Not a ton, but hey!

I learned a new skill, from nothing, just because I wanted to flow. And in learning a new skill, I got to peek under the hood of how I actually learned, what the process actually looked like. Let me tell you, it wasn’t how I thought I learned based on my early education and high school. It was hands on, sweat on the back, anger in the barrel, “fuck you I’m going to do this” gumption paired with breakthrough’s that were naturally rewarding. Strange states of consciousness emerged. Patterns clicked into place in an almost mechanical way. Progress was tangible, demonstrable, and could be carried anywhere. And by golly, it was still fun.

I’m still trying to push the edges of my ability, both as a musician and a juggler, and recently, I’ve been thinking of how I can bring the sweet flowing love of my juggling process into my learned and rigid tendency towards strict discipline on the guitar.

This is the evolution of this original entry. Everything that rises on the guitar, from your voice, or from your instrument of choice is music, if you choose to unconditionally love and see it as such. Multi-instrumentalist Art Lande told me once at a masterclass on Cal Arts’ Campus that it’s important to practice to let myself babble like a baby on my instrument, not to judge it. And pianist Kenny Werner talks about loving every sound that rises from your instrument unconditionally (Here).

In the same way, everything is juggling to the juggler’s mind, drops, throws, catches, stops, starts, conversations…

The question for me is still: how can I bring my practice of juggling through guitar; how can I bring my practice of guitar through juggling. How can I continue to understand and learn how to learn?






Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Original Entry:

Listening to this freaking gem as I write today 9/23/2020. Thanks Eric Joseph! This Record is pretty bangin’. Sounds like Incubus a little?

Original Entry:

Everything Ingrained:

Is music a creation of mankind, or did Humanity just notice a much deeper and larger pattern in reality? Everything I see is defined by humans for humans, at least in a cultural sense; here, in saying a cultural sense, I mean the collective culture of all of humanity and our natural progression, unfolding from nature. As we evolved, we began shaping the earth for our benefit.

So, in studying music and language, as well as my own awareness and relationship to the world, what am I actually doing? What is this process of deepening experience and growth? What are encounters within reality?

All of my life I have been learning to communicate through different languages, more languages, perhaps than I am even aware of. Recently now, I find myself aware of a constant deepening of the universe’s tendency to communicate.

So, it seems, you and I, we talk about and around something much vaster and greater than either of us could ever hope to say. Life is in constant interconnection and communication, gauged against remarkably impossible uncertainty.

I understand a “this,” a “that,” and then the potential of interaction between those seemingly separate elements. As we interact, banter, and encounter, we create an exchange. The use of Taoist tendencies towards opposites, as in black and white, allow one to both establish and shatter patterns of habit.

Patterns can deepen and grow, or they can shatter and recycle completely into something new.

Every choice I make either strengthens, transforms, or destroys patterns. Every choice I make does something else entirely.

If I start getting locked in a pattern of stagnation, I can apply eastern principles of opposites to the stuck pattern to transform the perspective.

In just talking to @Tyler Aukerman, I was inspired by some of his experiences with breaking patterns. When he gets locked down in playing, he’ll listen to some recordings and transcribe a chorus of a solo for inspiration on any standard or tune he is working on.

If playing becomes locked, listen. What situations can I apply opposites and balance to? What are my patterns and habits? What am I “stuck” in?

(Write down, compose licks.) (Here we have a little side note to myself.)

Listening to some Amos Lee as I transcribed this entry from my notebook

Current Reflections:

This entry is clearly orbiting around an ongoing interest I hold in Taoist philosophy and the study of Yin and Yang. Starting just this year, I’ve begun to actually engage with and read the I Ching (Linked here is the Translation my teacher recommended for me, for anyone interested). I’m still in the beginning of my first read through of the text, and I recognize that my understanding is still quite undeveloped now. So when I wrote this in the early 2010’s, this lack of awareness on the subject is even more pronounced. Even still, I was quite taken with the philosophy and ideas in ancient Chinese thought back when I wrote this entry.

At the same time, I was quite readily attempting to apply my cursory understanding of Empowered Language from Mark England – who I have definitely cited previously on this blog. It’s funny, in retrospect, to recognize how much of an impact Mark made on my life in less than a half hour of conversation. That one encounter completely shifted my perspective and approach on how my mind uses the operating software of language to tell myself stories about the world. Thanks Mark.

The result of these two elements – a flowering interest in ancient eastern philosophy, as well as a radical reexamination of my use of language in my relationship with the universe?

The original entry above!

And for just a little more background on the circumstances and context that invited me to write this original entry – At the time I was actively studying Japanese and instrumental Jazz at the University of Toledo as an undergraduate, and was also beginning my own personal exploration and practice of Zen Buddhism.

If I were to place the original entry in simpler terms today, I might boil it down to this:

  • Who am I, really?
  • This universe clearly expresses opposites, as documented in ancient Chinese philosophy, as in Yin and Yang.
  • How can I apply this ancient wisdom directly to my life now, especially as an artist in the ongoing development and refinement of my craft
  • How can I directly apply this wisdom to my development as a human being?
  • How can I fully engage with every moment, regardless of the contents or my reaction to it, transforming it into fuel for deepening my practice?

These all look like damn good questions to me.

As for answers or takeaways after all these years?

Well, first, I want to thank my teacher Jay Rinsen Weik for reminding me of the usefulness of the study of Yin and Yang, as well as for reminding me that our understanding of their relationship continually morphs, changes, and grows as we do.

Then, if I do become stuck in the creative process, I have an entire arsenal of remedies that I’ve collected over the years since I’ve graduated, embodied on an “inspiration alter” that I have in my office. It looks like this:

Inspiration Alter

And, posted above it, some ways of getting “unstuck” that have been useful for me:

Unsticking my process

My practices for unsticking myself are continuing to evolve. Now I might also include: Playing some Xbox for an hour, Practicing scales and permutations, taking a run, connecting with my girlfriend.

The creative process and the development of our lives is an ongoing project; hopefully the project of a lifetime. And I do have to say, it’s nice to have traversed the gauntlet of University Music School and come out on the other side. There is so much less pressure to achieve and more freedom to explore and speak.

What practices do you use to unstick yourself? Do some tend to work better than others? Do you feel recharged with you practice, or does it drain you? I’d love to hear!

Bows _/\_




Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Original Entry:

The Beings Embodying Music:

I embody different beings when I enter and engage with the field of music.

I am a being of craft. This is my technically proficient aspect, which focuses on fluidity, form, approach, and intimacy with the techniques involved with playing guitar.

I am a being of “student.” I learn and listen to masters around me and porously absorb their teachings.

I am a being of “teacher.” I “enlighten” beings as they engage with music with the “wisdom” of my own direct experiences.

I am a being of song; of melody and emotion, pure feeling of freedom, of expression, of my true voice – a love for sound.

I am a being of practice. With practice, I sift through myself and gently correct and redirect my flow, working with attention and intention to develop an ever deepening relationship with music.

I am a being of performance, an ego, a projection of my musical essence, observed by some audience.

I am a being of relationship. I am a spoke in a musical wheel, a part of the band. I am a voice that resonates and oscillates.

I am a being of ecstasy; I am high, one with the music and moved beyond words, formless as wind, as flexible as air, drifting with love as incense smoke.

When I practice, as I move through these different beings, these different aspects of myself, which parts of myself need loving, attention, and intention? Where am I weak? Where am I strong? How can I grow from and with the present circumstances?

Current Reflections:

This entry is an interesting one. Also informed by conversations I’ve had with my teacher, Jay Rinsen Weik, here, in the context of Zen Training and personal development. I remember attending a workshop at the Buddhist Temple of Toledo several years ago, a meeting after Sunday service; Rinsen was talking about setting yearly intentions and documenting the process in writing. I’m sure there is a podcast or recording of the actual meeting floating around on the internet somewhere.

For me, the biggest takeaway from the workshop rose in our investigation of the questions:

“What roles do I inhabit in my life?”

“What responsibilities do I hold in each of these roles?”


“How can I develop, challenge myself, and evolve in each of these roles in a way that is actually attainable?”

Roshi shared with us that he learned this process of inquisitive journaling, examination of life roles and responsibility, and setting intentions largely from his father, Otto Weik (Carpets by Otto, anyone?). He also shared that he has integrated yearly intention setting as an annual practice, one he engages with every December in the winter lull. This is a way and time for him to reflect on his current life trajectory and the projects associated with the different roles he embodies in his daily life.

This practice has been invaluable to me, one that I have adapted for myself every winter; here, in this entry, it is showing up in a microcosm, now examining the different aspects of my musical practice. The language is a little different, as I ask myself:

“Who am I, as a musician?”

“What roles do I embody and engage with in my artistic growth?”


“What are my strengths and weaknesses in these different roles?”

Today, would my roles change? How would I word it?

Roles of Sam’s Musical Life:

  • Craft – How can I work at the edge of my ability to stretch my capacity and technical finesse beyond my current limits?
    • Melody, Harmony, Rhythm – Many teachers I have encountered over the years have highlighted these three elements of music as three different technical baskets of training. This distillation into Melodic, Harmonic, and Rhythmic training is not the ultimate way of breaking down music, but has been a helpful way of engaging in practice
    • Fretboard Training – How the heck does the guitar work? Where do the notes live? How do different musical forms relate to each other? How do forms overlap and interact? How can one see this form in many different contexts?
  • Student – As a student, my relationship to the world has changed. I don’t have as many regular traditional lessons with teachers, though I still deeply cherish the lessons I do have. Now, I find myself as a student of recordings, a student of listening, as well as a student of my own students. I am finding that the more I teach, the more I realize the gaps in my own understanding and the places I need to evolve. As a student of recordings, I’ve been finding great nourishment in transcribing music that I love to listen to, music that inspires me.
  • Teacher – As a teacher, I find myself participating in and acting as a catalyst for the growth of my students. How can I take my verifiable experience as a musician and distill it into a way for my students to engage the process of music making, finding their own unique path? I like to think in systems. How can we bring musical systems online, from the ground up?
  • Composer/Arranger – How can I take my my technical knowledge and my emotional awareness and channel it into sound in a way that reflects a tangible feeling? How can I arrange existing pieces in new ways that evoke a deep and engaging feeling in myself and in the world?
  • Singer – How can I engage with and use my voice in a way that allows it to resonate best in my body? What technical adjustments can I make to enable the smoothest and cleanest tone quality possible? How can I use my breath to support the sound? How can I use my intention and emotion to convey the feeling and story in my body through sound and words?
  • Collaborator – As a collaborator and teammate, how can I best contribute to the creative moment in a way that is useful? Am I able to share my ideas freely? Can I let go of attachment to my own ideas and be okay with cutting pieces away, changing my idea, and working to best serve the collective musical creation? Can I get out of my own way?
  • Improvisor – How can I evolve my ability to speak freely through my instrument? How can melodic ideas cross harmonic changes? How can I speak freely over traditional standard repertoire, utilize rhythmic motivic development, and tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end, using only my guitar? How can I take my ability to improvise to the next level?
  • Writer/Storyteller – How can I use the direct experience of my life to communicate through my poetry and lyrics? How can I use the struggles, suffering, and practice of my own life to tell a story that matters – both to myself and to those around me. How can I use my art as a way to relieve suffering?

There may be other aspects to my musical life, other roles that I embody as a musician, but for now, it feels good to examine and outline the beings that show up for me in my own musical process.

What roles do you inhabit in your life? What responsibilities do you have? Where are you strong? What could use some love and nurturing? What is the edge of your practice? and How do we gently, yet firmly lean into the places that will help us grow?





Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Original Entry:

Sub-functions for Energy – Re-imagining Thoughts:

Thoughts of all types are abstract, ethereal, and intangible, at least in a certain sense. Feeling of Rhythm, time, gravity, density, and spaciousness are tangible anchors.

Perception seems to mesh together through 5 physical senses and a 6th mental sense of mind, of thought and imagination.

All too often I wander through my thoughts and loose my center, or so it seems. I am always centered, even when I’m not.

I change the basic way I relate to my thoughts.

Thoughts are like time; fleeting and perpetually changing. Thoughts are a reference points in reality, symbols to relate with, impermanent packets of ordered chaos transformed to manageable quanta with which we construct our schema of reality.

All perception acts as a reference point to harmonize with; tonics, dominants, extensions, people, plants, books situations…

I harmonize with all reference points of perception, toying with rhythm and content, with infinite potential to draw from, creating a life, a story, a song to offer to the universe, as the subtle and mysterious process it is.

Dissonance always points. Harmony Relaxes home.

Current Reflections:

Okay folks, here we go. It feels important to deeply acknowledge my process of growth over time – it’s brought me to this point and continues to propel me forward. Looking over these last few entries, it makes me smile, recognizing just how thinky I was during my college years. And maybe I’m still thinky even now, but there has a tangible and qualitative shift in the way that I relate to my thinking.

So, to dive into it –

Thoughts. What the fuck are they? Where do they come from? Who exactly perceives them and where are they perceived at? Now, in a way, it doesn’t really matter what the answer to those questions are. Regardless of the answers, thoughts are going to rise and dissipate. It seems that a more important question may be this: am I giving my power away to my thoughts? Am I letting my thoughts and emotions drag me around and create suffering? Because, regardless of their content, how can we stay present with the circumstances of our reality, exactly as reality shows up? And how can we meet whatever moment that is showing up from a place of generosity and patience? Can I show up in a way that doesn’t make the world a worse place for others or myself?

Now, in my original entry, after I introduce my subject of thoughts and their mysterious nature, I immediately focus on a feeling:

Feeling of Rhythm, time, gravity, density, and spaciousness are tangible anchors.”

From where I sit now, this is an interesting move that I pulled. Why?

Within the last few months, the Teachers and Sangha of the Buddhist Temple of Toledo offered a virtual teaching retreat for it’s members, focusing on the Home Liturgy outlined by the Abbot. I had the great fortune of joining for a portion of the week’s teachings, where I furiously scribbled poetry along with the teachings and conversations, using my words as a container for the wonderful wisdom that was being offered through the Zoom Retreat.

During the first day of teachings, the teachers focused in on the importance of ritual action and cultivating a feeling through intentional practice. In the context of Zen Buddhist practice, they were discussing the importance of creating a clean and aligned alter, creating a physical space of energetic power, and nurturing the actual feeling of the tradition within the body. This feeling is characterized by nobility, unity, grace, and ease, enabling the practitioner to skillfully use the alter and ritual action of lighting the candle, incense, and making bows as a means of empowerment and grounding, regardless of the circumstance of life in that moment.

In this moment, reviewing this entry from over five years ago, it strikes me as intriguing that within the first paragraph, I acknowledge the fleeting nature of thought and then immediately and subconsciously focus on ways of creating a tangible anchor in feeling. I had not explicitly received any teaching in my Zen training about this, though I was immersing in practice at the time. It seems that some of the unspoken and felt wisdom of the tradition was, even then, influencing my process.

Perhaps around this time, I had engaged in the formal process of becoming a Buddhist, called Jukai, taking up the 16 Boshisattva Precepts, encountering some novel ways of being in the world for the first time in my life. (Here is a picture of our Jukai class, I’m standing in the back wearing a blue necklace)

One of these novel ways of relating to the world I encountered at this time, came to me through a required reading called, “The Heart of Being” by Daido Roshi; There was a passage that spoke of the five sense organs and their object of perception, but also acknowledged a sixth sense organ – the mind – and it’s object of perception – thoughts. Framing the world in this way blew my mind at the time. Our mind is an organ of perception too? And it’s object of perception is thought? Just like our eyes see images and our ears hear sounds, our minds perceive thoughts? I was delighted at the revelation and spoke excitedly with my teacher, Rinsen Roshi; he smiled and told me “there is plenty more where that comes from within the practice.”

Now, back to the original entry, my intention here was to, at the time, and to the best of my ability, reframe the way I encountered my thoughts about music. I recognized that my thoughts were fluid and impermanent, always changing. So how could I center myself in my practice of music making, if not in my fluctuating thoughts?

Through ritualized practice. Through cultivating a feeling tone in the body, by invoking and evoking the tradition of Jazz and the musical ancestors that inspired me in a concrete and tangible way.

In my original entry, I say that “thoughts are a reference point in reality.” I don’t know if I would say it the same way now, perhaps I would leave this line out.

The juice? The nourishment?

All perception acts as a reference point to harmonize with; tonics, dominants, extensions, people, plants, books situations…

I harmonize with all reference points of perception, toying with rhythm and content, with infinite potential to draw from, creating a life, a story, a song to offer to the universe, as the subtle and mysterious process it is.

Or in other words, it is possible to harmonize with any moment in life, no matter the contents. It’s possible to meet the moment fully, in a way that, at the very least, does no harm, and perhaps at the best, actualizes good for others. Whether the circumstances are shitty, the notes are tense, creating augmented, droopy, diminished feelings, or divine, sweet, Lydian, sharp 11 major 7, minor 9 lullaby-esque sounds, or anywhere in between for that matter, it is possible to use the contents of the present circumstances as fuel for practice, as a way to express musicality and to transform suffering.

May the contents of the moment never hinder our ability to show up with compassion and generosity, and may it be so for all beings across space and time.




Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.


This entry in particular I am hesitant to share. It feels incomplete and perhaps unhelpful to me now, as I sit in 2020; or at least it feels unhelpful in it’s current state. Throughout this writing, I believe my intention was to explore how practicing my guitar could relate to a logical and almost mathematical way of thinking. I was especially interested in how I could break down the seemingly complex task of succeeding in a collegiate Jazz performance program. The problems I see with my old writing now? It feels young and earnest, though only partially informed. If you are in for a few chuckles or head-scratchers, followed by a reframing of the ideas, I would invite you to read on. If not, I don’t blame you for passing this one over.

At a few moments in the original entry, I sprinkle in some current reflections in italics.

Original Entry:

Bite Sized Functions:

I get tired, so I rest. I get hungry, so I eat. I get energetic, so I move. Any of these “Functions,” when overstretched create tension, gyrations (so to speak), a lack of balance. I overcompensate, spill the beans, tip the scale; I must to experience myself. I am aware of tipping points, “highs,” as well as deficiencies, “lows.” I gravitate towards releases of energy (dopamine?), then inhabit their “niches” like tube worms clustered around hydrothermal vents. I love energy.

According to the first law of Thermodynamics, energy is considered constant in the universe, implying that…what? Either energy is infinite? Finite? Nothing? Speculations. Energy feels quite certainly like something, and from that something, somehow, I emerge. Learning to recognize form and balance is a life-long process; language, physical balance, motor skills, social interaction, music, arranging color, space and sound, drawing, and focus are all activities that I still actively shape and hone, even to this moment. From the entropic haze of reality I emerge, aware of the mess.

Energy transfers are like functions; variables and constants interact and changes occur. For example: a tree grows a fruit, which eventually gains more weight than the branch that birthed it, and it falls down, down, down. Splat. Potential for new tree, nourishment for the creatures below. (Now I try to frame my idea into a concept, which, in the present at 2020, seems a little less certain and concrete.)

The parent tree is constant (within it’s own relativity) and is responsible for producing fruit. The fruit, it’s weight, it’s health, it’s shape, it’s self, is variable, as it’s breaking point. Gravity is constant. The fruit falls.

Learning vocabulary on guitar is a situation composed of the same elements, constants and variables. Or, perhaps it is useful to consider how the situation of learning guitar could map onto the schema of constants and variables.

Inherent NotesForms
Musical RelationshipsSolos
Sounding (Whatever this means)Melodies

As I observe exchanges of energy, not only on guitar, but between musicians, I observe uniquely operating functions.

I am my ability to observe and interact with infinitely varied functions. (This technique of language shows up a lot in this era, as I tried to frame my intentions with Empowered Language, something that Mark England exposed me to at Gratifly Music and Arts Festival (Turns out Gratifly experienced some hard realities too). His website is linked, though I honestly have no idea what he has going on now days. Here’s a Tedx Talk he gave.)

Because I am my ability to observe and interact with infinitely varied functions, I choose to engage with small and manageable functions that promote opening, deepening in every Dharma that arises, like a tree fruiting to nourish and plant seeds.

Current Reflections:

As my Great Uncle John might say, “Boy, oh Boy.” If I could, I would pat this past version of myself on the shoulder and say, “Good try kid.”

I was really trying to take my experience of moments, framed in a dichotomy of yin and yang, (linked here is the Britannica encyclopedia’s cursory entry), as an interplay of opposites. I was attempting to boil my experience into a simple if/than, dualistic, ‘profound,’ or even worse, ‘informed‘ equation-esque way of thinking. This I would plaster over my growing sense of discomfort at the scope of material that I was constantly demanded to learn, memorize, and execute during my college years.

The problem? Life is way more messy than simple “constant and variable” dichotomies, and perhaps much deeper than a “this” and a “that.” My graph above makes me shudder. Any of the constants that I listed in those neat columns could easily be variables, and vice versa. And my imagery of the apple tree makes me groan a little bit. The tree is a variable. It could grow in any way depending on the weather, the environment, the people who live nearby, etc.

As I continue to live, practice, and grow, I’m starting to recognize that maybe life is one big variable, one giant expression of change. Sure, some things seem to stay the same. We can use them as a reference point for measurements and calculations. For example, we can use the sun to measure time. People have been using sundials forever. I just looked up how they work with this cached Yale Scientific Article. The sun is pretty apparently constant, but one day, you know, that fucking thing is going to burn itself out. Sundials won’t work for shit without a sun.

Maybe the universe is constant flux. And maybe it’s useful to consider how ancient spiritual wisdom, like that of the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang applies to our lives right now, whatever our current endeavor.

But this original entry? Trying to frame some ultimate constants and variables? Pssh. There are thousands of different kinds of guitars. That’s a variable. You can tune the damn thing however you want. That’s a variable. Inherent notes? Eh…? Some systems of music use measured micro tones that fit into the cracks and spaces between our piano keys. Even Bach tempered his clavier so that the natural harmonics of the instrument would sound more in tune in all keys. And so on and so forth for the rest of that list above.

For me at the time, I was looking for some discipline. I was searching for a way to regiment and integrate the information I was encountering at music school – and it was a fucking lot of information. I needed to sit down and decide, “Okay, I am going to do it this way, with this tuning, with this feeling, with this approach and form.”

I needed this. I still do now, in a way, but especially then. Because before this time, I was just trying to figure out how the guitar worked with my own thoughts, ability, and mind.

Turns out there are a lot of heavy duty teachers and musicians in the lineage of Jazz, as there are across other musical traditions.

For me, deciding to learn music through the framework of jazz was a way to take the bull by the horns and say “listen here, Sam, you are going to learn the fuck out of this information in this particular tradition;” because ambling around noncommittally for a year was exciting and creative, but wasn’t really yielding the results I wanted. So I took it up and, by gum, I got myself through it. I’m still growing, struggling, and giving it my best; and, I actually use some principals of Yin and Yang in my guitar practice, but in a much more pragmatic way. Bows to my teacher for the practice.

So, the biggest take away from this, for me? My life is a constant process. Maybe change is the truth of the universe. And maybe intentional, critically-examined, and earnest ritualized effort is a vehicle for growth and actualization. And I see now that, not every stop along the way is the greatest place ever.

Sometimes I can be wrong.


Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Original Entry

Magnetic Learning:

I learn in a very mysterious way, through experience over time. I reference a knowledge body and relate new information to it. This information becomes magnetized towards me and my neural network and energetic library, or is repelled away from me and forgotten.

The emotions I create open gates for my soul, my center, my essence to draw experiences through.

“Negative” emotions are valid and insightful, creating a space of contrast for novel experience to emerge from.

Engaged and excited emotions quickly magnetize and charge, making learning embody a state of flow.

Lusting and “greedy” emotions draw towards a specific desire and nullify opportunities of opening and flowering in preference of one specific release. My question is this: can this ability for desire be harnessed in either a more helpful or less helpful way?

If I desire to play “better” or “cooler” music than what I already create, I disengage from reality and engage with impossible fluctuating standards. This is neither an excuse to curb the desire to expand and grow, nor is it necessarily helpful to catalyzing or enabling myself to expand or grow.

I define my standards and project them on reality.

I create a projection onto reality, reality creates an impression on me.

I am my ability to project and impress upon reality.

Because I am my ability to impress and project upon reality, I create harmony, commUNITY, and inspiration for the benefit of all sentient and unaware beings throughout all space and time.

Samuel Kogen Rugg

Projecting is giving energy, impressing is receiving energy.

Giving, receiving, and energy are empty.

I am silence, emptiness, nothing.

I am everything.

I am.

I III 3 delta

(Well, there was that Empowered Language Trip from Mark England showing up again, followed by some free association.)

Current Reflections:

Upon a few years of steeping and ripening, as I look back upon this entry, I can see that my focus in this writing is clearly focused on memory and learning. Questions like:

  • How do I learn new things?
  • Why do I forget some things, but remember other things so vividly?
  • Can I unearth a way to help ritualize the process of encountering new forms and practices?
  • Can I ritualize a way to integrate new forms and practices into my being and then directly apply them to my life in this moment?

At the time of this writing, I was intrigued with the idea of magnetic learning. What exactly does this mean, magnetic learning?

In my experience, it seems that the human creature has a very special ability. We can encounter new information, something we have never seen before, something that requires our body and mind to engage in a particular way, and something that then creates a specific novel result when actualized with experience. As we practice, it seems that this new form can become easier and easier, until it suddenly seems like it seems to show up on it’s own accord, with a mind and inertia of its own.

It’s almost like we this: We can engage so fully, so consistently, so consciously, and so regularly with a practice that we can literally wire up a new habit and plant it into our subconscious. All of our conscious effort and attention becomes so ritualized that we can offload it to automatic or subconscious action, but not mindlessly. Rather, we can offload it with full mindfulness. It’s like all of the hours of our consistent work, all of our full-contact, engaged, and present awareness – it never stops. We have created a version of our self that has no beginning or ending, but is always engaged in this particular form of our practice. And once it’s subconscious and automatic, we can engage with the process again and build on it.

Oh lord stop me.

Starting to sound like a Bill Evans quote my teacher Jay Rinsen Weik has taped to his office door at the University of Toledo:

It’s better to do something simple that is real. It’s something you can build on. because you know what you’re doing. Whereas, if you try to approximate something very advanced and don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t build on it.

The whole process of learning the facility of being able to play Jazz was to take these problems from the outer level in- one by one and to stay with it at a very intense conscious concentration level until that process becomes secondary and subconscious… Then you can begin concentrating on that next problem which will allow you to do a little bit more.

The full article is here. And it comes from a video called “The Universal Mind of Bill Evans,” here linked to the YouTube video.

For me, back in my undergraduate years at the University of Toledo, I was extremely interested in how our emotions effect our ability to learn. Do strong emotions help me learn and remember things more deeply?

If so, how can I cultivate a deeper emotional connection to the musical forms that I want to integrate? An amazing pianist, Josh Silver once told me that he likes to sit, close his eyes, and listen to a new tune he’s working on, imagining a film playing in his mind along with the music. This deeply struck me. At the time he delivered this wisdom, I was overwhelmed and out of my mind scrambling to get my shit together to just pass my finals. I tried his idea out once while I was learning the standard, “Here’s That Rainy Day,” Here from my senior recital.

A better one is Bill Evans, Here.

I haven’t forgotten the tune.

If I’m being honest, it’s likely rusty, but man, Josh’s insight really helped me out. And if you listen to him, he’s a, (pardon my language) a MOTHER FUCKER of a player. Deep respect Josh.

How can we create a powerful emotional connection with our art and craft, whatever it is? How can we make it personal, real, and meaningful? How can we use the building blocks of our craft and electrify it with our life? Maybe it’s time to take some of Rinsen’s, Bill Evans’, and Josh’s insights to heart.


Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.


Original Entry
Ethereal and Physical Bodies in Music:

My mind is part of a non-physical, energetic continuum that merges with a physical expression of this energy.

Before I play, I engage and focus my mind in sitting; I engage and focus my body in juggling, stimulating an experience of rhythm and harmony in motion.

Guitar is an intricate interaction of my physical and non-physical aspects of being, through time and space, in sound. Warming up and engaging both aspects of my being awakens fresh clay to mold with my intention and awareness.

Current reflection:

This is another short entry, so I thought I might unpack some of the ideas.

Around the time that I wrote this little snippet, I was first encountering some wisdom from my teacher, Jay Rinsen Weik, who was encouraging me to think about the different roles I inhabit in my life and the responsibilities associated with each. For example, at the time, I was inhabiting the active roll of undergraduate music student at the University of Toledo. Some of my responsibilities included: showing up to classes on time, finishing homework, and practicing. Pretty easy. I was also inhabiting the role of Zen Student, practicing with the community at the Buddhist Temple of Toledo; here I had a different set of responsibilities and roles, some of which included: taking care of my daily meditation practice, or Zazen, showing up to physical services when I could (this was back before the entire world was shut down from COVID), and sometimes filling liturgical roles, like clomping on a drum or playing certain bells during chants and moments of ceremony.

This entry, Ethereal and Physical Bodies in Music, was an extension and exploration of these, ‘The Roles of My Life at This Current Moment in Time – Sam Rugg, Undergraduate, early 2010’s’

Within my first sentence, “My mind is part of a non-physical, energetic continuum that merges with a physical expression of this energy,” I was appreciating the recognition of the apparent dichotomy that my body and mind seems to share. Clearly, if I sit and just think about how nice it would be to have a cheeseburger, alas, no cheeseburger will arise. But If I get my ass up and take some initiative with my body, I can bring my cheeseburger vision to life. As I continue to live, breathe, and practice my craft and engage with my Zen Training, my understanding keeps evolving and changing, but at its heart I think was really trying to acknowledge, “Hey I have a mind that thinks and a body that acts.”

At the same time that these two aspects of myself, mind and body seem to inhabit different spheres, I was also beginning to realize that, “Hey, maybe this mind/body split is less concrete than I have believed up to this moment.” I was starting to sense that my mind and body were woven into the same continuum, that their apparent separateness might actually be an incomplete perception. I started really diggin’ the thought that my mind and body were expressions of the same thing, but just across multiple dimensions.

“Maybe my body is the manifestation of my life through space, and my mind is the manifestation of my life through time!” I might think to myself.

Is it?

I don’t know.

But, however these two aspects of my being map out onto reality, I was feeling a deeper connection that I wanted to acknowledge, a seed of awareness that I wanted to cultivate.

The next line: “Before I play, I engage and focus my mind in sitting; I engage and focus my body in juggling, stimulating an experience of rhythm and harmony in motion.” Here, I am invoking some intentions that, if I’m being honest, sound really great to me from this current vantage point. I definitely have not been regularly framing my musical practice with these two warm-ups, meant to engage my ethereal and physical bodies before I hunker down to practice my instrument.

I reasoned that, if I took five or ten minutes to practice Zazen (my seated meditation), then I could effectively focus my mind and bring myself back to my center, internally. If I took another five or ten minutes to roll this focus into my juggling practice, (yes, I definitely have a juggling practice that I have been cultivating since late 2011) then I could engage my body with the natural rhythm of throwing and catching objects, spatial and temporal awareness, and the feeling of flow.

Focus the mind, focus the body, then hit the wood shed to sharpen my musical craft and training? Fuck yes. That still sounds great to me. Definitely have NOT been doing this over the last 5 – 7 years.

It’s funny, in this moment, I’m recognizing how wonderful it would be to intentionally frame my guitar practice with these specific, and almost liturgical practices: Focus mind, Focus Body, Warm Up on the Guitar, Shed my craft at the edge of my ability, then cool off, offer the merits, log the work, and close the book. Perhaps I was writing this entry, from all those years ago, to me now. I have the capacity and time to take this up. I wonder what this ritualized practice might yield for my life?

“Guitar is an intricate interaction of my physical and non-physical aspects of being, through time and space, in sound. Warming up and engaging both aspects of my being awakens fresh clay to mold with my intention and awareness.”

The coda. As I read over this entry and unpack it, I’m recognizing more and more the liturgical nature of this compact entry. In this last set of lines, I am tying up all of my intentions, tuning my mind and heart to a particular feeling-tone and quality that I would like to cultivate as I continue to engage with my spiritual, physical, and musical practices. In our own way, I think we each want to bring the best aspects of ourselves forward to the activities we cherish most in our life, striving to do the best we can with the circumstances we are given. Can we cherish all of the circumstances, not just the super-cool and most engaging moments, bringing our best to the most mundane and the most difficult moments of our lives?

May it be so.



Musical Liturgy #1

My mind is part of a non-physical, energetic continuum that merges with a physical expression of this energy.

Before I play, I engage and focus my mind in sitting; I engage and focus my body in juggling, stimulating an experience of rhythm and harmony in motion.

Guitar is an intricate interaction of my physical and non-physical aspects of being, through time and space, in sound. Warming up and engaging both aspects of my being awakens fresh clay to mold with my intention and awareness.”


Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.


“On Emotion: From the Evolution of Consciousness by Robert Ornstein:

[Emotions] are at the frontline of experience. Since they evolved to short-circuit deliberations, they spring quickly into action before rational deliberation has time to function (92).”

I am my ability to reflect my emotions onto guitar and musical ideas.
I am my ability to feel and remember emotion encoded in music.
I am my ability to direct and harness emotion with my experience.

This entry is extremely short, so I figured that I might reflect upon the inspiration that moved me to write this several years ago.

I was incredible intrigued when I first read the above passage in Ornsteins’ book. The entire work is a trip, “The Evolution of Consciousness.” To see in writing, this claim that our emotions have an evolutionary nature that allows them to bypass our conscious thought, this hit me deeply. And looking back into time, doesn’t it make sense that emotions would allow our evolutionary ancestors to automatically react out of, say, mortal fear of a tiger in the bushes. To sit and contemplate whether or not the tiger was in the bushes, whether or not the tiger was real, or whether or not the tiger is actually just a perception existing in my own mind, all of these thoughts are going to quickly remove this ancient hominid’s genes from the pool.

These aren’t my thoughts. I’m sure I’ve heard Joe Rogan talk about this too. It’s not a new idea.

But the capacity to engage with music, interfacing with my emotions? That’s interesting. Because if I can engage with music, interfacing with my body and my emotions, can I tap into this instinctual capacity to bypass my logical thought? If my emotions are engaged, if I am deeply feeling something, anything, and then I engage with art, if I channel my feelings into what I’m doing, isn’t that so much richer and deeper than simply hacking apart all of music theory and spilling all the guts and appendages of my instrument’s technical nature onto the music stand in front of me? I went to school for Jazz studies. I am endlessly fascinated by the inner-workings of music theory, harmony, melody, voice leading, rhythm, and how all these elements show up through the instrument in front of me. I can pull up my rubber gloves and pick at things with my tweezers all day. But lord, I sounds pretty dry and boring if that’s all there is when I play.

So what is this about emotions short-circuiting our deliberations? What does it really mean to “play with feeling?” And that’s not rhetorical. Seriously. How does that feel? How do you do that? Are there some ways that I can always emerge from a place of deep feeling, visceral emotion, living vibration when I perform? Can I make a marriage of my arduous effort to organize shapes, structures, cells, intervals, scales, chord voicings, harmony, voice leading, and the whole musical catastrophe with raw-fucking-throbbing-emotion?

This is why I wrote this entry. This is the impulse behind my, perhaps corny, affirmations – how can I harness my biology to help my ego and my thoughts and my sense of self get the fuck out of the way? How can I bring my life and the reality of my successes and failures, the constant turmoil of emotional waves, my fears and insecurities, my power and strength, the still and unmoving ocean of my being, and everything I have into my art. What the fuck does that feel like?


I’ve decided to share my musical inspiration notebook from my college years, one entry at a time. Some entries are carbon copies right from my notebook, others have current reflections added into the original entries, marked with italics.

Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.


Seeds of a Mental Construct:
My short time with Vector literally changed my entire perspective on reality and colored my subconscious. In 24 hours of “intense” periods of training, I was firmly enough enough rooted and wired efficiently enough to begin selling a product that I previously knew nothing about. Through a mix of listening and conscious interaction and practice, I was able to develop a strongly magnetized mental construct. I even dreamed of CutCo knives.
Maddie familiarized us to the product and the company. She taught us all about the sales approach, the marketing approach, had us practice from the manual, and gave us hands on experience cutting food.
I can utilize this approach to build my own musical and mental constructs. At this point, it is a scientific process; I am just trying things out, but with a cocktail of integrative practices and perspectives, I can develop and cultivate my musical intuition and my hearing-mind.
Perhaps instead of attempting to digest the entire of field of music, instead I could gear this first perspective towards digesting new tunes and material.

• For new tunes, I can familiarize myself to it through listening to a variety of versions of the song.
• Dissect the chord changes and read them aloud
• Play the melody with the recording
• Play the chords with the recording
• Establish a flow of scales with looper
• Play with triads through changes
• Play with seventh arpeggios through the changes.

Paving, excavating, polishing, building

This is a culmination of all I know. Each one of these bullets have infinite ways to open endless possibilities; is is a 3-day, 5 hour-a-day block of experience.

Each bullet should be practiced and thoroughly appreciated; there is no rush, but there is.

Hands-on playing can be balanced with critical (attentive) listening.

This approach can be geared towards classical materials as well.

I steep in exercise to promote growth.
I play as a listener.
When anger arises, I observe it and diffuse it by tracing and acknowledging its roots. For every anger, there exists a construct for translating, transmuting, and transforming emotion into motivation and understanding.

Here is a piece that was composed back in 2012. It’s a little bit dated now, but I hope you enjoy.


The Gorgeous orb of fire gently sank beneath the clouds as a serene shipwreck into the mountains dotting the horizon. Raphael gazed deeply into her misty blue eyes and felt his heartstrings plunge into his glowing center, which he was confident they were sharing; they always had been, and they always would. The emotion swelled in his throat and he felt his eyes glisten as they captured the fading rays of perfection. Perfection…Perfection…Perfection…Perfection…

His mind hung on the word, the three syllables cutting through a strange emptiness he now felt. In fact, his attention swiveled completely and he almost began to feel nauseous. Something felt wrong. Impossibly wrong. It reminded him of a picture; the colors in the sky looked gruesomely lurid, over saturated and bloody. Gazing at his scaly hands, an ethereal sensation washed across his mind and tingled down through his pulsing body, his epidermis crawling with a reptilian dryness. It was all moving so slowly, much too slowly. As she laughed, drops of spittle hung in the air like flecks of dust in an endless vacuum, her honeycomb giggle crunching across his eardrums. From razor blue to a fiery purple to a sickening green, her eyes splintered and fractured the seemingly barren light. He could see the blood pumping through the veins in his eyes and he could see the emptiness of her perfect form cutting a womanly puzzle piece out of the inflated image of his vision. Time roiled around the seams and he realized himself yet again, frozen in a snapshot.

This is what happens to the moment after it passes through us… The thought echoed off indefinitely and grew louder with each oscillation. There was no resolve, the moment stagnated more deeply within itself and his world began to crumble. Billions of thoughts rushed through his mind at light speed, and each consumed his entire focus; He was trapped, a never ending roller coaster. The shattered image of his life had long ago faded, and his environment had taken on a new shape, a new form, breathing, moving, alive, yet absolutely empty. What is this. The question felt more like a command. A story, a book. Impossible. Thinking back, he remembered every single fairy tale and novel, every motion picture, every single storyline ever, beginning, middle, and end. It always happens so perfectly, the guy gets the girl, they overcome evil, live happily ever after. The dragon is always slain. Did they ever realize they were only a story? No. They couldn’t have. The thought was sickening, dreadful, empty.

As he sat in the charged scene that was rapidly consuming his essence, he felt empty. The air was electric, volatile, reacting to his every thought, so he leaned further into the emptiness. The blackness wrapped around him and pushed away from the light, from the crazy scene in his mind’s eye; he felt fear move through him, yet it didn’t bother him. It quickly passed and was replaced by an unending chain of emotions. He didn’t want any of them. The thoughts began to solidify and create unending waves of potential. None of it. I don’t want any of it. I don’t want. I long for nothing. This sick game pushed him over the edge. He wrapped himself even tighter in the blackness. The tension surged through his body, then resided like the ocean waves, then rewound around his soul, and lapsed back into emptiness. A lulling motion, as a hammock, or the wind in the trees, or the pulse of sex, or…

He could feel a strange point ahead of him. A velocity. A familiarity. He wanted to explode. Its all a game…A dance, a fight. It takes two…Who is it that writes the story…? As his mind froze, he felt another freeze, not so far away, just around the corner. Whirling around his eyes pierced the blackness for the presence, yet all he saw was a faint flicker, just out of reach. What is that? He softly wondered as it drew closer. A gentle tug, something delightful. Something soft, warm, familiar. He leaned closer and the light ballooned into a brilliant hue of color and he felt a slither around his fingertips. The life returned to his body and his eyes, and the lush grass beneath him seemed to hold him tightly, he fit perfectly into the form that held him. A sharp gasp of cool air and…

Raphael sat up into an orange and purple sky and a cool breeze on his brow, loving arms wrapped around his chest.

“What is it love?” Sarah asked as her lover shifted. A heavy sob caught her completely off guard and the incredible love in her heart pivoted 180 degrees and a dreadful unease began crawling up her back. “Raphael?” She ventured, her mind alert and worrying. His green eyes pierced her soul, and the tension faded immediately when she saw the emotion that lay beneath. The child within Raphael gazed up at her as if he had never seen such beauty in his entire life. Sarah almost felt like crying suddenly, and she realized they were sharing a similar feeling, though in her mind she couldn’t fathom what it was or where it had grown from, but it didn’t matter. “Are you okay?” She smiled through misty eyes.

He nodded dumbly and drew closer, feeling her heartbeat reverberate in his lungs. They sat for awhile in the starry night sky, leaning comfortably on the tree they had collapsed onto during their laughing fit, until they both drifted off into sleep. Sarah’s dreams tightly followed the experience of the night, from the breathtaking hike to the summit of hawk creek mountain, to the joyous laughter that brought them to their knees to the mysterious emotion that had moved Raphael to tears.

But the story and the teller, they slept in absolute peaceful emptiness…