Your temae will be better if you can do it with a clear mind. My Sensei used to say that my mind was always cluttered and that made it hard for me to concentrate and focus. When my mind is cluttered there is no room for new knowledge to enter. I needed to clear my mind. But how do you do it? Just like clearing up the clutter in your house, there are many ways to clear your mind.
I have written before about breathing your temae. Just by taking a few deep breaths before entering the tea room, you can clear your mind. When you are in the middle of your temae, bringing your breathing under control also helps clear your mind. Breathe in when picking something up, breathe out when putting it down.
Another technique I use in clearing my mind is to think about the doorways or gates that I go through as I enter the tea room. Outside each doorway or gate, I mentally leave something outside. I let go of traffic, work, phone calls and texts, housework, kids, shopping, chores. I can certainly pick them up again when I leave.
Slowly counting to ten and then counting to one again is another way I use to clear my mind. When I am working out at the gym, counting reps or push ups, I count to ten and then count backwards as one set. Clearing my mind to just counting makes the reps easier as I don’t have room to think about how hard it is or tired I am. Like they teach you in meditation to count your breaths from one to ten and then start again, it will help clear your mind.
The act of purifying utensils can also be used to clear the mind. As I go through the movements of temae, I try to do only the movements. I concentrate on just picking up the whisk, or just emptying the water into the kensui without worrying how I look, or wondering if I forgot something. Without thinking ahead or worrying about mistakes, keeps my mind clear to just concentrate and focus on what I am doing right now.
When I am shooting arrows, I do much better with a clear mind. I can see it in where the arrows go if I shoot with a cluttered mind. Even the smallest loss of focus or distraction shows up in where the arrows go. A couple of weeks ago I had my best round with all five of my arrows in the gold with a score of 47 out of 50. All of them hit at the same angle in the center of the target. My mind was so clear that I didn’t even realize the rest of the class had finished up.
Clear mind is not just about focus, concentration and meditation. Clear mind is also about being honest with myself. Sometimes it is a hard thing to do. For example, when I make a mistake, to have a clear mind is to apologize rather than defend the mistake. Sometimes, I have a hard time asking for help when I really need it.
Clear mind also means being transparent, with no hidden agendas. Instead of asking my husband what would the neighbors think about my housekeeping since the kitchen looks so messy. I could ask him to clean it up or just clean it up myself.
Clear mind is having a clean conscience. If I hurt someone, I should apologize. Apologizing and trying to make it right, rather than covering it up and trying to get away with it is a way to clear your mind. Lying and carrying secrets are no way to keep a clean conscience.
Clear mind is having integrity and being in alignment. Part of integrity is your word. When you say you will do something, you will do it. If you speak, it will be the truth. The famous saying, “Do what I say, don’t do what I do,” is not being in alignment. Having a clear mind is not asking someone to do something that you would not do yourself.
Clear mind is knowing what you know and admitting what you don’t know. Sometimes I don’t own up to knowing about something so that I won’t have to take responsibility, or get involved. It is when we don’t admit to ourselves that we know more and should do more that clutters the mind. Likewise, clear mind is admitting what you don’t know rather than making it up or bluffing your way through something.
Clear mind is seeing things in perspective. It is looking at the whole rather than just how it affects me. Just because it is raining doesn’t mean that the weather is conspiring to make my day terrible.
Clear mind is living in reality rather than in a story. Sometimes we like to embellish reality to make it seem better than it is, or make ourselves look better than we are. Having a clear mind is acknowledging the true state of how things really are rather than concocting a story to fit our own wishes of how it is supposed to be.
Clear mind is free from anxiety. I cannot just say “Don’t worry, or everything will be alright.” Excessive worrying and projecting worst case scenarios clutter your mind. If you can keep worry and projection to a minimum, it will help to clear your mind.
These are all lessons we already know, but sometimes are hard to put into practice. A clear mind will spark joy. And isn’t that our mission, to live a joyful life?