Satsuki Shibuya is an artist and spiritual thinker based in L.A. We are in awe of Satsuki’s intuitive watercolors, her constant willingness to go deeper, and her incredibly thoughtful approach to work and life as a whole.
In this interview, Satsuki tells us about her morning, bedtime, and exercise routines, as well as love as a form of self-acceptance, what it’s like to see the energy of others, her unique approach to her life schedule, her mother’s universally wise beauty advice, the lifestyle change that helped clear up her skin, nourishment, stress, and so much more.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
I find myself being right in-between, but veer on the side of things being more open and free within a loose schedule. It is dictated not so much by a 9-5 setting, but more dependent on what my body is communicating for the day. I’ve found that the more I am able to flow naturally, without resistance, better work is produced.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
My mornings are usually the same — wake up sometime between 7 and 7:30am, wash up, meditate/journal/read for about an hour or some light gardening. Around 8:30am, start preparing breakfast for the household and eat while catching up on some articles online. By 10am, I am warming up to start the work day.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
Not a bedtime ritual, per se, but I do find my biological clock the happiest when I am in bed by midnight. Any later and I will wake up feeling groggy. Unfortunately, some of the best messages come through from the Universe around this time and find myself writing clear into the witching hour.
— We read that you have a unique approach to your work schedule. Can you tell us about it and why it works for you?
Sure. It’s not so much as my work schedule, but life schedule as a whole. As I am quite sensitive to energies, especially from people, as much as I love being with others, I also need a lot of down time to recharge, otherwise, burn out. The best balance I’ve found thus far is to have a point system where each time I am interacting with another, depending on the intensity, receives a particular number of points.
For example, going to a doctor’s appointment would be 1/2 a point since there is not much interaction, overloading of the sensory system, and is one-on-one contact, which doesn’t require too much processing of different energies. On the other hand, if I am scheduled to do a talk or to meet people at a large gathering, it would be 2-3 points. The points correlate with how many days it might take me to recover and recharge. 1/2 point would be half a day of recharging afterwards whereas 2-3 points would be two to three days of recharging necessary after the event.
Then, I go week by week and figure out how many points are available for social interactions. If a week is only 3 points maximum, then that might mean 1 meeting and 1 doctor’s appointment (1/2 point + 2.5 points) and the rest would be downtime, meaning minimal outside interaction.
Depending on where my entire being is (body, mind, soul), the weekly points, or I usually go monthly, will fluctuate. If I am getting over a cold, there may only be so many points available to a week, but if balanced, there may be more available.
When I first started this system, it was more rigid, but now, relaxed as it has become second nature. This helps not only to keep a balance, but also to set boundaries in order to create space in my heart.
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – Something light, centered upon veggies and fruits with some grains. I usually opt for some gluten free toast, an avocado with hummus, and either dried or freshly cut fruit or miso soup with rice. Light and simple.
Lunch – The heaviest meal of the day and usually containing either a plant-based or animal-based protein. It can be anything from a rice bowl to a large salad, but usually a variety of ingredients.
Snack – I have a soft spot for chips or crunchy nibbles so like to have something around 3:30pm and/or a piece of fruit.
Dinner – A medium sized meal, usually Japanese-based, but other times adventure elsewhere. Mostly veggies and some protein, usually not much carbs as it tends to make the digestive system a bit sluggish before going to sleep. Some tea afterwards while doing dishes is always a treat.
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
I am not able to partake in caffeine as it makes my heart pitter-patter like no other, but do love the smell of coffee or English Breakfast tea.
— Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, how do you keep it in check?
I used to have a horrible sweet tooth where if I did not have at least one thing sweet each day around tea time, whether cake or a sweet bean bun, I would be the crabbiest crab of the land! I’ve since stopped eating sugar (going on 4 years now) due to health reasons and thankful for the difference in my health — it is night and day!
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
I see a Naturopathic Doctor regularly and through her, work with supplements, herbs, and tinctures/tonics, which do truly help to keep my body in balance. Otherwise, on my own, I find meditation, working with crystals, burning incense specifically from Ryōan-ji temple in Kyoto, and spraying Aura Cleanser from Botanical Alchemy works wonders for my overall well being and energy. I do know this formula may be different for each individual due to our aura body make-up, but currently, this program seems to work best.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I wouldn’t say I’m a gym bunny, but do love the feeling of working with the body/mind simultaneously and yoga seems to fit the bill quite nicely. Still a long ways to go, but hoping to be able to integrate yoga into my morning preparations for the day.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
I wish I could say I love to exercise, but in truth, it does take a lot of willpower to get myself to do physical activities. I’ve never been very competitive in nature and therefore sports did not appeal as a possible opportunity for exercise, but since meeting yoga, feel I’ve finally found something that speaks to my spirit.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
I believe the internal comes through to the external in all aspects — if our organs are taken care of, our skin clears, if our emotions are balanced, our smiles appear, and when our soul is nourished, our being glistens.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
Simple seems to be the way my entire being prefers things, including skincare for face and body. I’ve been a huge advocate for natural skincare and use one that consists of face wash, toner, moisturizer, Balancing Oil for night time and eye cream. Sometimes spot cream for blemishes and face scrub/face pack a few times a week. For body, I use a 5-ingredient, shea butter bar soap.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
No sugar. This alone has cleared up my blemish-prone skin considerably.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
Nothing much, except for beauty advice my mother has shared since I was young, “Invest in your skin, trim your hair often, and moisturize your elbows.” I continue to follow her advice.
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
I try my best to keep a balance in my schedule, not overload it with activities and make time to tune into my higher self.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
To close my eyes and tune into my breath. Speak slower. Concentrate on one happening at a time. To hide away in the bathroom for a few minutes and catch my breath. Check-in internally and focus on my root chakra. Ground my energies into Mother Earth. Also, to understand that nothing is permanent and the stressful situation, too, shall pass.
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
Eat shiitake mushrooms, drink a hot tea of lemon with manuka honey, down some bio-available vitamin C, up the liquids including broths, and consciously raise my energy. Also, lots of sleep.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
Work/life balance is key to my well-being. I continue to let go of rules that I have placed upon myself in order to feel complete in the world and instead, tune into what makes me feel whole. Saying yes to what resonates and no to the things that do not fulfill my spirit. My approach is to tune into my intuition and let it be the guide towards where I need to go next.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself.
The simple answer to this is love. Not so much the cliché love we think of, but of accepting oneself for where we are currently and not force ourselves to be someone we are not. With acceptance, comes letting go and by letting go, we are able to fill in our space with a being entirely made up of our true selves. When this can be done, we are able to share love with ourselves and in turn, share love with others.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
To not worry about success in terms of monetary gain, but of spiritual awareness.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
Allowing the lack of inspiration and procrastination to take me where I may go. Not to try and stop it, but to experience it fully and understand where it is originating. I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing — sometimes we need rest to appreciate our next step.
— What was your path to becoming a painter?
After being on hiatus for a year and a half due to an unexplainable illness, I received a message to paint. After reconnecting back to my childhood self, of sensing and seeing beyond the physical realm, leaning into this part of my being opened up new ways of communicating beyond and through this, the message came through.
— Intuition plays a key role in your watercolor work. Why do you find it to be crucial to your approach?
The medium has shown the necessity of letting go, trusting the process and understanding that there is more than what we can see in the physical realm. By approaching my work intuitively, it becomes almost meditative, channeling energies beyond and appearing as is, without any manipulation.
— Can you tell us a bit about the energy readings that you do? When did you discover that you have the ability to feel an individual’s soul energy and aura?
It was by accident. I’ve always been able to read others’ energies and since young, would do so to the detriment of my own health. I found myself at the doctor’s office, when often, every other week, to which many times, no illness could be found. During my year and a half of being ill, I began to understand what I was sensing since young and honing in, began to receive messages in code.
After deciphering many of these messages in my journal, I decided to share my internal self with my mother, who was in the dark about this internal world, to which she was extremely shocked. It took her a good week, after speaking with many of her friends who have known me since I was born, to figure out that she was actually the only one not recognizing this ‘other self’.
After coming full circle with my mother, during a gathering consisting of elder buddhist practitioners, which I attend with my mother from time to time, I shared my spiritual insights with the group. A woman sitting next to me whom I met for the first time that day, asked if I could read her energy. I’d never explicitly read another’s energy before and did not know what to expect, but agreed as I, too, was curious as to what would come forth.
I saw images, colors, movie-like scenes, shapes, sensed emotions, all flashing, happening and shared, as if a translator, all I was seeing, experiencing simultaneously to her. After finishing, she looked at me and said, “How do you know all these things about me?” To which I said, “I don’t know. I just said what I saw.”
Since then, I’ve done many energy readings and now have a better understanding of what happens during a session. I liken it to a translation of the other’s energy, subconscious, and higher self; sometimes beyond. What is important to note, though, is that all the things I see, sense, and share are things the individual already knows, whether consciously or subconsciously. I just bring it to the forefront and at times, help word it in a way so that the message can understood in the best possible way.
— Besides being a painter, you also write poetry, play music and make books. Do you feel that all these disciplines are interconnected for you, or do you treat them as separate entities?
Yes, they are all interconnected, all coming from the same source, just expressed differently. I would say painting is the most direct form of expressing what I experience internally, without translation. The next being words — a way of describing what I am experiencing. Music being another translation, although not as intuitive as painting or writing. Books are my passion and feel it is a way to leave energies in this world even after passing onto the other side.
Fun and Inspiration
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
I love watching Japanese comedy shows and dramas, while eating chips. In an ideal world, though, instead of chips, I would be eating a fruit tart.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
Song/Album – All Things Must Pass by Rourourourous
Movie – Laputa by Studio Ghibli
Piece of Art – Any of the older pieces created by Agnes Martin
— What are your favorite places to eat in LA?
Rice in Manhattan Beach
— We are captivated by Joan Didion’s compact travel packing list. What are some essential objects that would be in yours?
- a comfortable eye mask
- slippers and socks
- pressure point bands
- iphone for listening to music and audio books
- bottled water purchased after passing through security
- flat shoes that are a bit more dressy, but still comfortable
- small travel pillow as I have a sensitive neck
- food stuffs for my dietary needs (I have a many food allergies)
- book, journal, pencil case
- tshirts, long shirts, under shirts, and extra underwear
- a warm top
- and anything that allows me to be comfortable while still feeling in line with my own style
- slippers for usage in room
- warm socks as my feet tend to get cold
- room wear
- pyrex for heating up my own food
- liquid dish soap for washing dishes/utensils
- one set of semi-dress up clothes, in-case
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Artwork by Satsuki Shibuya. Photos by Sisilia Piring and Women With Superpowers / Tasya Van Ree + Nitsa Citrine.