Jan 28, 2015

Letting go

"Some people think that holding on is what makes them strong. Sometimes it is letting go."

Last year my father passed away and last weekend his longtime companion passed also. I am still at a loss after caring for my father for 10 years, and getting to know his companion in that time.  They were a quite a couple and now they are gone. I  keep asking myself what more I could have done, but letting go of that, I can return to happier memories.

I recently had to end a relationship. I had not known this person for very long and I thought that she shared my enthusiasms, but I had come to find out that we disagreed quite radically.  I was willing to agree to disagree, but she wanted to convince me that she was right. The language that she used to convince me was quite disrespectful. I stewed for quite a while before confronting this person and she did not take it well. I am sad about letting it go, but in a way I feel unburdened about not having to defend myself every time we communicated.

I am comforted by this Zen scroll:
hanatsu no shizen  "Release this and everything will be of itself so"

This letting go is one of the hardest lessons for me. A lot of the time when we talk about not having desires, it relates to material things: bigger house, nicer car, the newest gadget.  But letting go of desires also means letting go of expectations, of the way things "should" be. 

"Everything will be of itself so"  or What is, is. Looking and accepting what is, rather than being disappointed for what isn't, or what I want it to be.

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn my back and slam the door
And here I stand, and here I'll stay
Let it go, let it go
The cold never bothered me anyway

Jan 19, 2015

Seeing with the mind's eye

I went to a play the other night and the person next to me was recording it with their phone. Besides being annoying because the light from the phone was very bright in the darkened theater, the person recording it didn't really get to enjoy the play.  At the intermission, I asked this person why they were recording it, and they said that they wanted to share it with friends.

So rather than friends going to a live performance, one person records it so they can view it on a tiny screen as a virtual experience. Have we come to this, that the virtual experience trumps the actual experience?

Last week, we used the elevated tatami tables that Mr. SweetPersimmon made for us.  Because of where we set up the table, the sunlight came through the windows and illuminated the temaeza as the teishu was making koicha.  It was like a bright spotlight on the teabowl.  Imagine this: as the teishu scooped the tea and turned it out of the chaire, little poofs of the powdered tea arose from the center of the teabowl.  The chaire itself revealed a rainbow of colors in the glaze.  And even as the hishaku was steaming from the kettle, when the hot water was poured into the teabowl, it sparkled.  Inside the teabowl, you could see the intense green of the matcha as it was kneaded into an incredibly smooth and shiny thick tea.

Do you need a video to share this experience? I can replay this whenever I like, without a device. It is all in the mind's eye.

Jan 9, 2015

The art of the thank you note

As a child, my mother sat me down when I received any gift or attended any event to write a thank you note.  It was drilled into me that I MUST acknowledge what someone else had done for me by a hand-written thank you note.  That training has stood me in good stead.   It is very seldom these days that we receive a thank you note from anyone.  It is so unusual that I have received thank you notes for sending a thank you note.

As part of the etiquette of attending a chakai, the thank you note from the guest to the host after the event is essential.  I have written and received many, many thank you notes and there is an art to writing a thank you note.

As you can see from the example above, the thank you note doesn't have to be very long.  This example is very sophisticated and perfect for the occasion.

After the greeting, there is an acknowledgement of what the person is thanking you for.  The next sentence is making a specific comment about what the person enjoyed, and how they enjoyed it. The next comment is something that they learned that they didn't know before, and finally how the event affected them.  Closing we have another expression of thank you (in Japanese!) and a simple sincere closing with signature.

As  you can see, it is a handmade card. If you have an appropriate card, please use it.  A handmade card will do just fine.  A blank paper will do as well.  You just need to take the time, and address it, put a stamp on it and send it off.

Here is another example of a thank you note I received for Hatsugama:

Dear Margie
It was such a wonderful Hatsugama chakai this afternoon., and I feel calmness settling in my heart as I reflect on the gathering.  I'm fortunate to be surrounded by treasures of tea friends and wonderful tea utensils.  The Spring Bulb bears much energy to grow, I look forward to pursuing Chado together and growing further.  Thank you for setting a springboard, gracefully prepared, for me take the great first step of the new year.
Best regards,

The author of this thank you note incorporated the theme and names of the utensils into the thank you note.  Spring bulb was the shape of the chaire, and "first step" was the gomei of the chashaku. It shows that the guest was paying attention and how it affected them.

Please do not waste time in sending your thank you note.  Sit right down after the event (as the author above did right after the event. I received this in the mail the very next day).   If you have procrastinated more than a week in writing your thank you note, do not just forget about it. Sit down and write it now.

Finally, for those who struggle for words on paper,  it is the thought that counts. Write what is in your heart. A sincere thank you is the most appreciated.

Jan 7, 2015

Hatsugama 2015

Hatsugama at Issoan Tea room started on Saturday January 3 with teachers and experienced tea people.  Sunday January 4, there were  three seki for students.