Sep 10, 2007

Appreciation, a forgotton art

While the guests at a chaji or tea gathering are appreciative of everything that the host has done, there is a part of the gathering that is set aside specifically for the appreciation of the tea utensils called haiken. During this time, the guests get to examine closely the utensils and the main guest will ask the host about them.

At first I was not sure exactly what it was the guests were looking at when the tea bowl or the tea container and bamboo tea scoop were passed around. I watched as the guests viewed each item and even turned the teabowl over to look at the foot. I thought, how rude to look underneath at the bottom of the bowl. There were murmurs and sounds of approval as they were passed down the line. All I could see was a brown bowl, slightly out of round with a drippy glaze that surely a third grade child could have made. The tea scoop was just a simple strip of bamboo with a slight bend at the end. Why were these guests making such a big deal over these not very impressive implements?

As I learned more about chado and tea utensils, I began to learn about how to appreciate these things. Looking closer at tea utensils, I began to see the beauty in ceramics as they turned from carmel to umber in the drip of the glaze. I realized that slightly out of round felt very comfortable as if it was meant to fit my hand. That strength of the brush line in a calligraphy character said so much about the calligrapher and his state of mind at the time he made it. It taught me to see the beauty in everday things. It taught me not to make judgements right away, to let things settle. The more I looked at things during haiken, the more I was moved by the beauty of spirit in them. But I had to slow down and take time to appreciate it, to look deeper than the surface of the first glance.

And this can apply not only to things, but to people as well. How many times have I made judgments about people that when I took the time to get to know them turned me completely around? I need to slow down, take time and look deeper than the surface in order to appreciate people and things in my life.

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