After the gathering

It has been the custom of my sensei and indeed myself, that after a chaji, chakai, or a demonstration of chanoyu, to make sure all students and helpers have a sweet and drink a bowl of tea before we clean up. After the guests leave, there is still so much to do. And yet, to take the time to serve everyone is important.

I understand in some venues we must clean up and be out of the building according to a timetable, but not before everyone has had the chance to enjoy sweets and tea.

Everyone on the host side has done their utmost to make the guests feel welcome and comfortable. So out of respect and appreciation for their time and work, they are served sweets and tea. This pause for sweets and tea takes only a moment. I think we need this pause before the bustle of cleaning up. Enjoying tea is not just for guests, but for hosts and host helpers as well.

I am reminded of  Ii Naosuke’s article, “Sitting alone in contemplation.”

After the gathering “One should, with a tranquil heart, return to the tearoom, now entering through the crawling in entrance. Sitting in solitude before the hearth, one should for a time, with the feeling that words yet remain to be spoken, consider how far the guests have gone in their return. One should reflect that this single encounter of a lifetime has now ended this day, never to recur, and perhaps partake of a bowl of tea alone. This is the practice that is the ultimate core of the gathering. This moment is one of stillness; there only the kettle for partner in conversation, and nothing else. It is indeed a realm that one must attain for oneself.”

Indeed, we have precious little time to “sit alone in contemplation.” There is so little stillness in our lives that are constantly in motion. After an intense experience, your resources and energy are at a low ebb. To take time to absorb the experience makes it all the more meaningful. This time of contemplation and stillness is nurturing and also refreshes our inner spirit and gives us energy and strength for whatever is to come next.

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