An Excerpt from Zen and the Art of Anything by Hal French

In this accessible guide to everyday Zen practice, Dr. Hal French describes a ritual that is a good example of the spiritual practice of kindness — and to things no less.

"In Japan, perhaps motivated by Buddhist and Taoist sensibilities, a large group of seamstresses has an intriguing custom. Once each year they go to a temple, carrying with them their bent and broken needles — tools that have served them faithfully in the practice of their craft. There they immerse them, tenderly, in a large block of tofu, to the accompaniment of chanting and the wafting of incense. It is a sacred ceremony, concluding with the ritual burial of the block of tofu in a caring farewell to these treasured objects. "How far do you go with this? They're just things, aren't they? But maybe you've driven a car for some years, and when it seems time to trade it in, you feel disloyal; you're parting with a friend. Or give yourself the exercise of clearing out a drawer that's so stuffed that you can scarcely open it. . . . Some objects you hold for a moment, and part with reluctantly, almost reverently. You have associations with them; they've been part of your life, but you can't keep everything; you really need to simplify. Can you identify in some way with the seamstresses in Japan? There's a Zen mindfulness here."