Last Wednesday, Mrs. Islander and I attended our usual akido/kenjutsu class. After the aikido class, Pierce Sensei held the weapons class two doors down the street in a room with mirrors lining one wall. It was unnerving but helpful to work out in front of the mirrors. It's great to be able to keep an eye on your posture as you move through an awase.
When the class ended, the students trooped back down the street to our usual classroom. I grabbed a vacuum cleaner and went back to the mirror room and began vacuuming it out. I was alone for 10 or 15 minutes, pushing the machine back and forth, up and down the long room. Alone with the whirring sound of the vacuum, focusing on the threads and lint that had fallen from people's dogi while they practiced, I reflected on the practice of cleaning the dojo.
When I was a child, one of my teachers told us that Japanese children spent the last 10 minutes of each school day cleaning up the classroom. We were all aghast. Couldn't they afford janitors? At that age, school seemed to be a great burden on my free time. Cleaning it up every night seemed to imply that Cinderella's evil stepsisters had moved to town and gotten elected to the school board. All that gum stuck underneath the desks! Ugh!
But nowadays I see things differently. Cleaning the dojo after class shows respect for the school, makes us responsible for the conditions under which we practice, and allows us to participate in the space in which we learn, not just the content of the lessons.
It was nice to take a few minutes to reflect on where I had been and where I was. I finished the job, wound the cord, and returned to our classroom to put it away.
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