Tokokazari - March 29, 2018

“Dust Off”. This scroll reminds me of one of the things I love most about coming to tea class – the ability it gives us to step away from our daily routines and into a calm and peaceful setting. The dust could also be thought of as all the worries and stresses that accumulate over the course of the week, that coming to tea class each week allows us to leave behind. As we practice tea, it is important that we focus, so we must shed whatever daily concerns we have as we enter the tea room, which is what this scroll encourages us to do. I found this scroll to be particularly relevant this week. We just got back to campus from spring break, and a week off of tea class, so I felt out of practice both with the tea ceremony itself and with the process of removing myself from my daily stresses so I can take time to focus on tea. The scroll reminded me that I still have all the skills we've been practicing, I just needed to shake off the dust that settled over the past week, focus, and remember.

~ Paige

Tokokazari - March 15, 2018

The scrolls for this week, hana or "flower" in the 4.5-mat room, and mei reki reki or "light shines everywhere" and ro do do or "dew in its purity covers everything" in the 10-mat room, speak very much to the simplicity and beauty of nature as compared to the more abstract concepts such as those found in Zen teachings. Together, the scrolls appear to emphasize something like a morning scenery, and they serve as a nice reminder that for as much as we may like to contemplate about our nature, it is also important to just go outside and enjoy nature.

~ Felix

Tokokazari - February 22, 2018

This past week in tea class the scroll in the small room really spoke to me. Translating roughly to "Without self; without ego". Since the start of the year life has been so hectic, from the day to day happenings both at home and around the US. To often I have felt that I had to much to do or that what I did was being judged and had to be perfect. While I knelt down in front of the scroll I was able to become more mindful of the moment. I found myself focusing more on the moment, losing myself and all that is attached to me. I feel that this ties right into the tea, because in the moment we need to lose ourselves and any ego and surrender to the act of making tea for our guest. Because in the moment we lose ourselves we are able to truly find our path.

~ Christina

Tokokazari - February 15, 2018

"The fisherman's life depends on the use of fishing pole." This word is from Ikkyuu, a famous Japanese priest. For serving and practicing tea, we do not need so many fancy things. We just need minimum Dogu and Kokoro, just like fisherman can make a living with a single fishing pole. We need to think of what our poles are. I sometimes feel jealous of other people who seem to be doing pretty well in their lives, and they have skills or knowledge I don't have, and I try to be like them. However, what is most important is to enhance what I already have and think about how to use it in various ways. With the even single piece of a bamboo fishing pole, the experienced fisherman uses it in some different flexible ways for different fish. Life should be creative. We should overcome difficulties in life by applying our own strength in various ways.

Also, to use the full power of what I have is connected to the other scroll of today, "Wherever you are, be your own master." I've been recently interested in theories for better performance in the workplace, and a certain book says to be responsible for your job and do everything you can for the task. It sounds ordinary, but can we always fully responsible for what we do? We sometimes think, "There is a problem, but someone else can solve it, or I can do it later." This type of thought is not responsible. So, the words of the scroll reminded me what the book said.

~ Shunto

Tokokazari - February 8, 2018

"Eshin" 廻心

When I saw this scroll, I felt that I should stop and take a deep breath to focus on myself and try to have a wider viewpoint. "Turn your mind around" sounds easy, but actually it is difficult to practice. This is because "kokoro" is sometimes changeable, unstable, and unpredictable. But I believe that we can change our kokoro. It depends on how we look at things or the situation.

"Yuki-bare" 雪晴 by Hideharu Mori

"Yuki" means snow and "bare" means sunny. When I saw this beautiful drawing, I felt anticipation for the warm spring. This drawing is very appropriate during the cold winter in Champaign. We should appreciate that for a moment that we can feel the spring even if the weather outside is very severe.

"Hakuun yuseki o idaku" 白雲抱幽石 by Sensho

"Hakuun" means a white cloud, and "yuseki" means lonely stone. As Gunji-sensei said, this is a juxtaposing metaphor. Two different feelings can be together. Sometimes we need to be flexible like a white cloud. Sometime we need to be stubborn like a lonely stone. The most important thing is that we need to consider our situation carefully and chose our appropriate behavior.

~ Tomoka


Eshin

The characters for "Eshin" are translated as "Turn your mind around." The calligraphy strikes me as bold and playful, and different. It is in the spirit of the meaning of the words that invite us to think differently, to break free from our mental and emotional ruts. As Gunji Sensei explained, the second kanji is often seen on other scrolls we view at Japan House in the sense of "kokoro," meaning mind-body-spirit-heart. When the kokoro character is paired with other characters, it is pronounced "shin." The idea of Eshin is central to the practice of Chado. When we learn to practice and perform the tea ceremony we practice turning our minds around. For example, we learn different was of performing everyday activities such as walking, drinking, eating, and sitting. We learn how to use and handle familiar objects such as bowls, plates, and utensils not as common kitchen items but as works of art and tools requiring skill. It can seem counterintuitive at first to hold a tea scoop a certain way or to set the bowl down with this hand, not the other, but with practice the reason becomes clear.

After we have been practicing one style of tea ceremony for a while, the movements become more natural. The mind might even go on autopilot sometimes, executing the moves without thinking or intention. That is why it can be good to learn a new choreography of tea ceremony, e.g. tenchaban (a version of table style) or chabako (box style). With over 1,000 variations, the mind should never get dull; there will always be a new challenge to keep it sharp, keep it turning around.

Might practicing tea confer health benefits besides the oft-cited antioxidants and vitamin C in the matcha itself? Studies have shown that learning a new language or musical instrument may reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. One could argue that learning tea is like learning a new language, the body language of bowing for example; indeed, for some of us learning Japanese vocabulary for tea literally is learning a new language. Learning to "play" the water with the hishaku, to produce the staccato note of the scoop tapped on the side of the bowl, are something like learning to play a musical instrument. The tea ceremony is like these activities because it challenges our minds. It goes further by challenging our hearts and spirits as well.

~ Jennifer C.