This glamorous and beautiful tea life

I am reminded almost daily, that not everything associated with Chado is glamorous or beautiful. The other day I was sifting damp ash for the ro and making a mess of it. While making damp ash occurs in heat of summer, by the time November comes around, my ash has dried somewhat and clumped together. I was trying to rehydrate the ash and sift it so that it becomes the lovely, soft, fluffy ash used in the ro for sumi demae.

My husband came out and asked me what I was doing. When I told him, he said that it was not pretty and it is a good thing guests can’t see me doing it. After I finished with the ash, I cleaned up and started to prepare for class. That meant washing all the tea utensils, cleaning the upstairs bathroom, vacuuming the carpet and zokining the tatami, making sweets and many other things.

“Sensei says, “Eighty percent of tea is cleaning.”

In fact, just about everyday (even when I am not teaching class), I zokin the tatami and clean the tea room. I clean the mizuya, as well as have my students clean the mizuya. All this cleaning and preparation is not what the guests see in the tea room.

Guests don’t see me peeling beans or stirring a pot of bean paste for hours, before I make sweets for tea. They did not see me out this summer washing the ash in a bucket and spreading it out to dry, breaking up lumps in my hands before sifting it several times before storing for the ro season.

“修行 Shugyo, for important, yet dirty, tedious, and unglamorous tasks that need to be done, not just in tea, but in everyday life, too.” ~Bruce Hamana Sensei

I put housework and pulling weeds in the yard in the category of shugyo, as well as cleaning toilets, ironing, laundry, and the millions of other necessary everyday tasks that need to be done.

And yet, there is satisfaction in the doing of these tasks. Preparations in the tea room and mizuya means that there will be tea later in the room. Even if there is no tea later, having a clean tea room and mizuya means I won’t have to clean it up later. I am happy when I get up in the morning to come to a clean kitchen because I washed the dirty dishes and scrubbed the pots and pans before I went to bed.

My granddaughters are in the school musical and they had their opening in night last week. They put in hours and hours of rehearsal, built sets, worked the lighting, made the costumes. We did not see their shugyo, but the performance was a magical thing to behold and took us out of our lives for a couple of hours.

Shugyo also means sacrifice and things that take time. Driving across town in rush hour traffic to get to tea lessons, I consider shugyo. It is always tedious and frustrating, yet I am always glad that I made the effort to attend lessons. Not going out with friends and saving money for tea lessons was also worthwhile to me. Working two jobs to earn money for my first trip to Japan was shugyo as it was a transformative experience for me.

Everyday there are tasks and things we don’t like to do, yet are necessary. It makes it easier if we choose to do them and use them for fuel to transform our lives.

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