"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.


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