Doing the work

When I do tea presentations at different venues, I need to set up the tatami, shoji and tea room as well as set up the mizuya. It takes about an hour to pack every thing up and load the car, an hour to heat water, clean and set up at the venue, an hour to do the presentation, and about an hour to clean up, pack and load the car and about an hour to unload, unpack and re-wash all the dogu at home. That is about 6 hours of work not to mention the time it takes to get to the venue and get into kimono. I also teach at rented space where I have to do the same set up before class, and pack everything up after class. For a tea lesson, it takes just as much time for me to teach one student as it takes 3-4 students.

As I was setting up the other day, I had a student helping me. She said, “I had no idea it was so much work to get ready for class. How can you do all this work just to teach an hour and a half class?” For me, the work and the discipline to do the work is just part of tea. It is like weavers, you need to warp the loom (string the vertical threads on the loom) before you can start weaving the horizontal threads. You cannot weave without vertical threads, so warping the loom is an essential part of weaving.

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

Cleaning before, cleaning after and cleaning during tea, that is just part of the work. As we are setting up in the mizuya we are cleaning. As we are wiping the tatami, we are cleaning. In the acts of cleaning, we are preparing ourselves to make tea. When we are cleaning up the mizuya, wiping tatami afterwards these are acts of respect and gratitude.

Taking care of your dogu doesn’t just apply to tea utensils, it is how you treat everything in your life. Like the famous baseball player Ichiro:

The man whose first name has come to symbolize greatness in hitting might also be the most meticulous player when it comes to caring for the tools of his trade. He rubs the soles of his feet every day with a rounded wooden stick. He cleans his own spikes and glove after games. And he prefers to carry his own bats, which are cut from Japanese ash wood called aodamo and custom made from specs chosen by Ichiro on a tour of the Mizuno factory in Japan in 1992. “I’ve never seen anybody that I’ve played with take care of their equipment with just carefulness, thoughtfulness. Most guys throw their gloves around. Not him,” he said. “He told me that when he cleans his glove up after the game, that means he’s already thought about the game that day and while he’s wiping it off he is wiping off the game that day.”

Doing the work doesn’t just apply to tea. Doing the work can mean the emotional working things out in relationships. It can mean doing the work of keeping up with friendships. It can mean making the hard decsions, being on time, and doing your best.

In our life, doing the work of adulting, of cleaning up before and afterwards are acts of preparation, respect and gratitude.

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