Why we were told not to step on the edge of tatami mat

So you were told not to step on the edge of tatami mat at our zendo and wondering why. Rev Ito told me that because the edge was more expensive to repair. I researched a bit more to find out the reasons why people were told not to step on the edge of the tatami mat.

  • Wear and tear: Tatami mat is delicate and especially the edge (tatami-fuchi) can easily get damaged.
  • Respect & honor: In Japan, there is an unspoken rule about where people should seat. For example, in our zendo, where rev Ito used to sit is considered as “seat of honor” or “top seat”. Usually these seats are offered to elders & guests to honor. The seat closest to the door/entrance is considered the “bottom seat”. Old days, the edge of tatami was used to determine top seat/section and stepping on the line was disrespectful.
  • Family crest: Some tatami mat has a family crest on the edge and it was disrespectful to step on the family crest.
  • Ninja assassination: Ninja used to hide under the house(crawl space)/below tatami to assassinate and they can determine where people were by looking at the light coming through the gap between tatami.  We don’t have ninja(s) hiding in our zendo so no worries.

Now we know.


We discussed what we are thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Sue shared a poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver8/=-0763zxcv

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?+

Mary Oliver
The Summer Day

Mind is like a pond

I participated in Rinzai’s online zazen-kai with my son, which priest Yokoyama led from Tokoji in Shizuoka, Japan.

His story resonated with us, so I shared it during our zazen-kai at Hakone Gardens.

He told us a famous story.

One day, a young man asked a monk, ” I can’t sleep well as I am worried and anxious. Would you please help to get rid of them? “

Monk replied. ” Sure, let me help you. Can you bring it out and show me “anxiety” and “doubt”?

Young man, “I can’t. How can I show you?”

Monk, ” Right, those things don’t exist. You are creating them in your mind.”

Mind is like a pond. If you stir, water becomes muddy. However, when the water is quiet and still, you can see things clearly.

Zazen helps to keep our mind quiet and still.

Remembering Rev Ito and 9/11

Ann talked about when Rev Ito visited the ground zero to pray. He flew to NY right after 9/11 to pray at the ground zero. As you can imagine, civilians were not allowed but he was determined to pray. Police officer offered to escort him to the site and when he arrived, he was in tears and couldn’t stop crying.

Rev Ito offered memorial services at our zendo for many years.

Uncertainty and Impermanence

Talk by Sue Anawalt

The Four Ends
The end of accumulation is dispersion
The end of building is ruin
The end of meeting is parting
The end of birth is death

Due to the spread of Covid 19 most of us have lived the last year and a half in a great
deal of uncertainty. How we lived our lives was thrown upside down. What was the most
normal of things to do became threatening. A visit to the grocery store created some form
of anxiety. Our behavior changed in major ways. The pandemic was death whispering to
us. To escape we turned toward greater isolation.

Buddhism constantly points a finger at impermanence. Often change comes so gradually
we don’t notice. It’s as subtle as one season slipping into a new one. What the pandemic
did was to highlight dramatically that life is constantly changing. Through such a world
catastrophe we have understood the truth of impermanence and that it is not escapable.
We will all change, we will all grow older. We all will die.

Knowing this on a visceral level can have a profound effect. There may be positive
outcomes from living through the pandemic. In knowing impermanence is part of life, we
may seek a path in which to live more meaningfully. Being present and aware of our
actions could be something we now want to develop in our lives. Alert to intentions may
circumvent regrets. In what way may you be going through this process?

Some other deep questions may have arisen for you during this time period. You may
have realized how inter-dependent we are as human beings and then asked how might
that change your way of being with friends, family, or even strangers. Or you may be
asking how can I be more present in my day to day living. My husband put a post-note on
our vacuum cleaner: A monk knows when he is vacuuming.