Ichigoichie and the opportunity for opportunities

A while back I was taking part in a calligraphy lesson at a Zen temple where we were asked to draw a simple circle, but only with one stroke. It’s amazing how much this simple exercise can tell you about your emotional state, if you are able to draw it well, it usually shows you are in a clear state of mind.

We were told that we would be gifted our drawings (they add the temple stamp and make it all fancy), so naturally, I wanted to make the best one possible. But of course I screwed up and stopped too early. I asked the monk whether it was ok to draw on top, and he forbid me from doing so. So I started again.

In any endeavour, be it creative, business, or for personal joy, we need opportunities to try. But each opportunity needs to be treated with respect. If you know you have many opportunities, you become complacent, and you can become sloppy and lose focus if you’re not careful.

There is a saying that is quite apt in this situation that is very common in Japanese tea ceremony, Ichigoichie. Ichigoichie is about respecting the moment for what it is. It’s about taking the time to respect the people with you, the season, the tea in front of you. Not worrying about yesterday, or even something that happened seconds prior.

While we may get the chance to practice things over and over, Ichigoichie is based on the premise that we only get one chance to experience this moment. Better make the most of it.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 


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