Jul 2, 2015

Time stands still

I have been reviewing the early entries of this blog, some were written more than eight years ago. I am surprised at how they have held up and the entries are as relevant today as they were when they were written years ago. 

I  have also been looking at the blog statistics.  Some of these posts have not gotten a lot of traffic, and I'd like to highlight them for readers who have not read them before.  If you have been reading from the start, here they are again, like old friends. 

Please try to stay cool this summer enjoy your holidays and enjoy this cooling image of the tsukubai in the summer

Shoshin, the beginner's heart

How can I cherish this moment?

Appreciation, the forgotten art

No trivial acts


In search of authenticity

Living with ambiguity and no right answers

Jun 12, 2015

Do your best

I was recently talking with a friend who was working on a project for work.  Her heart was not in it and she was just putting in the minimal effort, which made the project drag out.  Every day she would go to work and there would be the project waiting for her.  I asked her how much time it would take if she really put her best into it.  "Oh probably a day and a half" she said.  I thought, why not put your best into it, get it done and then you wouldn't have to dread going to work for next two to three weeks.

It doesn't matter what the task is, do your best.  I recommend this article written years ago "Focus on the Journey," by Tom Peters, author of "In Search of Excellence."  Satisfaction can be found even on the most mundane tasks if your mind set is making everyday an adventure in pursuing excellence in everything you do.

From SweetPersimmon
It makes this scroll "nichi nichi kore kojitsu" even more profound and uplifting.  Every day is a good day. Every day is a good day to do your best, to improve your life, to live an adventure, to pursue excellence. 

What is the best way to have a happy fulfilling life?  Do your best, everyday.

May 17, 2015

10 things I learned at Midorikai

I look back on my time at Midorikai and I thought about what I had learned there. Some of the lessons I learned there have nothing to do with tea and yet they have everything to with tea and life.I am still striving to put these into practice every single day.
  1. Be open to the experience that life presents to you. Say yes more often than no. Opportunities may not look like what you expected or wished for.
  2. Be thankful everyday for the life you have. Gratitude, even for your troubles because they help you grow.
  3. Be kind to other people. It doesn't take anything away from you to encourage, listen closely, say something nice or do something for someone.
  4. Do your best, all the time. You cannot live life at half-speed, there simply is not enough time.
  5. Leave something for people who follow you. If you develop knowledge or expertise, pass it on. It does no good if it dies with you.
  6. The people you don't get along with are your teachers. At the minimum, it is good training for you to learn how to handle people and situations you don't like.
  7. Excuses are a waste of time.
  8. Be generous. You will be amazed at how much comes back to you.
  9. Be careful about acquiring things. The more you own the less space you have. What you buy or accumulate says a lot about you.
  10. Learn to let go. Of grudges, of mistakes, of behaviors that don't serve you, of people who are no longer good for you.

May 15, 2015

Return to Kyoto

I recently returned from a visit to Kyoto.  It has been many, many years since I last visited there.  My husband went with me, and together we explored the city.  I wondered how much it had changed, he discovered this charming city for the first time.

We ate very well including this cheap Japanese breakfast

The city has changed so much.  For one thing there are a lot more English signs, and now Korean as well.  The old Kyoto station with its wooden walkways and stairs have been replaced with a super modern and huge station and now the subway goes East and West as well as North and South.

And yet much of the city has remained the same.  There are the small narrow alleyways and courtyards of the Pontocho and Gion and much of the charming architecture of the city still remains.


The Teramachi shopping arcade is still there,

the department stores along Shijo and the Nishiki food market. Oike senbei, favorite senbei shop, Tsurugaya, Oimatsu and many of the the sweet shops are still there. As are Ippodo, Tsujirien, and Fukujuen tea stores.
I also had the opportunity to sit in with Midorikai for a few days.  I was lucky that the first day we practiced Shaza, my favorite shichijishiki.  It is an ensemble exercise with 5 people.  The second guest arranges flowers, the third guest lays the charcoal, the first guest does incense, the teishu makes koicha, and the hanto brings in and takes out all the equipment and makes usucha for the teishu. So much fun. The second day, I got to see the temae, gozumi shomo, or second laying of the fire by request.  The teishu cleans out the ro from the first laying of the fire and invites a guest to arrange the charcoal for the second time.  I had never seen this procedure and I was asked to lay the fire.  It was an honor and not so hard because all the previous fire had been cleaned out and made very neat.  And it boiled the water very well!.'

The third day I got to attend the student chakai.  I had forgotten that all morning we cleaned the tea rooms, machiai, garden, tsukubai while the teishu and hanto prepared the mizuya.  Since the sakura petals had recently fallen, we ended picking up individual petals out of the gravel walkway in the path leading up to the tea room. The chakai was lovely, with the uguisu serenading us at the break. How magical it is to attend a chakai in Japan!

Apr 13, 2015

My first chawan, ichigo ichie

I think I had been studying for about 3 years when I thought I would like to acquire my first teabowl.  In those days there was not the internet nor eBay to purchase utensils.  So we had to ask someone to buy it for us in Japan or find some other way of acquiring utensils.  I used to haunt antique shops and estate sales because living on the Pacific rim there were many people who have traveled to and from Japan.

Not the original bowl but similar
In an antique shop one day I found a modest brown and white chawan.  Though I went to look at it several times, I didn't want to buy it yet because I didn't know if it was a good one or how much I should pay for it.  In those days, I wasn't making much money and the $40 price tag was rather a large commitment for me.  I asked my sensei to look at it and give me her opinion.  So she went to the shop and talked with the owner and came back and told me it was a good bowl for me to get and that she had negotiated the price to $30 because I was her student.  Yay!

I went the the shop and purchased the bowl (it had no protective box) and brought it home. I was so happy.  To thank my teacher, I gave a chakai and invited her to tea at the tea house at the Japanese garden.  It was a lovely chakai, and sensei said that the bowl had presence and she was glad to drink from it.

At home, after the chakai, I was unpacking the car.  The tea bowl slipped out of the protective wrapping and dropped to the driveway, shattering into dust. There were so many small pieces, I could not even pick them up.  I had to sweep them into a dust pan. There was nothing left to save.  Truly ichigo ichie.  But at least sensei got to drink from it one time.