Sensei's Dojo

If people knew how hard I worked to get my

Mastery it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.


Practice it is what is needed in order to achieve Mastery, and practice is work, the amount of time you work in your practice it will depend on the seriousness of your intention, and the will you exercise in to it, and that’s  practice.

My Aikido, and Zen teacher, will scratch his head when a student with false expectations would abandon the Dojo after a few lessons, realizing it will be impossible for them to acquire easily the skills necessary to be like the heroes of the many Martial Arts movies that at the time where big hits, but now days are a dime a dozen, and shaking his head my Sensei would say:

“Don’t they understand? It’s only a movie!”

Media it’s so powerful today that is easy to forget most things require a great effort to be achieved, at least those things that have any value, they require long time and much practice, be these working as a chef, fishing for crab in Alaska, become a great musician, or a great artist in the diverse fields of Arts, or simply following a Spiritual path.

The results of most enterprises will depend on the amount of time , effort, and work you put on any task at hand, period. To believe otherwise is to be fooling yourself, and setting yourself for disappointment

Excellence has a price, and you got to be willing to pay the price, otherwise you are wasting your time, another great anecdote from my Sensei come to mind.

Concerning a female friend of his who decided to study ceramic making with a great Sensei living in Japan, she announced to him she was leaving for Japan in order to become an apprentice with such Master.

A couple of years later he run in to her at a bank, my Sensei was very surprised to see her since he expected her to be in Japan at the time studying as he was told by her, after a brief conversations they went for coffee so she could explain to him why she was back, and here is what she told him.



“I was very naive at the time, I loved the beautiful ceramics and thought I could learn this beautiful craft just going over there and learn it easy, but to begin with as you know my Sensei live in the mountains far from populated areas, one of the reasons is that in order to set the ceramic pieces in the kilns a lot of wood it is necessary for the fires to keep them going day, and night for up to a month of work.

As I arrived in the mountains realized how rural, and simply my Sensei lived, there was no electrical power, no modern conveniences, or appliances  of any kind, even the simplest tasks like cooking with firewood, or washing clothes by the creek in the cold waters of the mountain had to be done by hand, the same way with cleaning the wood floors, or mats, on your knees and with wet rags, also we had to care for a plot of land where we grew vegetables for use in our cooking, we cleaned, cooked, mended clothes, and all kind of chores necessary to run a household, plus taking instruction from Sensei about pottery making.


You go to bed after diner basically and it’s necessary to do it early because you got to get up very early every day of the year at 3:00 AM in order to go out and collect firewood, every one is required to bring a pack load of wood more or less the equivalent of your weight, and because you can’t just go and cut a tree you are only able to pick dead branches, and for that it’s necessary to walk for miles, up and down the steep mountains with hardly any tracks for you to walk bringing the wood from miles around, in the summer months it’s not an easy task, but in the winter months with the snow well…you can imagine how hard to find the wood in the snow, and darkness,  dig it out, and to carry such heavy weight through the snow back to the house. Not to talk about how cold it gets out there, your hands and feet are numb all the time, and with chilblains, it’s brutal. 

frozen forest Japan


During the summer the Master will put the completed ceramic pieces in the kilns and set the fires burning that required vigilance and attendance 24 x 7 for weeks to feed the fires and make sure the temperatures of the kilns will be correct, and everything would go according to Sensei’s orders, of course that mean we couldn’t go to sleep guarding the fires until the whole thing was done, this was an ongoing thing for a whole month!

Excuse to tell you we hardly slept at all for the period and we where totally exhausted by the end of it.

During that time I did a lot of thinking about my vocation to be a Master ceramist, specially when I found out it will take twenty years of my life to live along Sensei in the conditions described, with no life but the study under Sensei’s rules, but what about my own life, and being a young woman. what about finding a husband, making a family, visiting my own parents in America was troublesome, so with heartbreak, and sorrow come to the conclusion being a Master ceramist wasn’t mean  for me, and here I am…

Japanese kiln in the mountains

In a time when we are so removed from simple living by the use of technology we almost live in a virtual world, wherever you go you see people walking holding their new gadget that allow them to live in cyberspace for hours at a time. Our tastes are now dictated by media like movies, and TV, where actors portray fantasies that are confuse with reality by many. We choose to follow the example of fictitious characters portrait by actors in movies, in my city the joke says every waiter it’s an aspiring actor, rock musician, script writer, plastic artist or at  least a poet, but in fact I had run in to many other occupations who are in pursuit of the fame dream, or rag to riches dream, I use to meet casually at the place I work before the crash of 2008 with a lot of phone stock market brokers, now a not so popular occupation, who dreamed of making scripts, or movies, and at restaurants and cafes all kinds of people are in search of a person who may connect them to the right place in order to pedal their dream wares, there is an industry now who prey on these dreamers and help them put together a script, or a small movie, shot with aspiring actors looking themselves for their big chance, and all kind, of advice, and seminars in how to achieve your dreams. If you haven’t watch Zizek’s “The pervert guide to cinema” you should.

To have a vague fantasy of something you want to do, will no turn to be what in reality it is, confused by the romantic side, or the glamour of certain activities, like acting, or being a rock idol, have a way of confusing people’s minds in to believing something unreal to be real, deluding themselves in to making things work according to their fantasies.

When concerned with life as it is, as oppose as how you imagine things to be, things take a turn for the unexpected and we learn a lesson in humbleness after hardship, and enduring trials, and tribulations when you pursue anything of value. For those who go through such experiences there is something gained, even the knowledge that such thing wasn’t for you, or having grown up, character building, a great inner knowledge, and satisfaction of learning a precious thing about yourself.

And for those that endure to the end and Master whatever they choose to do, there is even a bigger reward of Spiritual worth.

Achieving Mastery



About theburningheart

This entry was posted in Cultural Attitudes, Direct Spiritual Experience, Dreams, Illusions, Infatuation, Inner Journey, Inspiration, Know Thyself, Mastery, Mysticism, Personal Story, Reality, Self, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Wisdom and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. kutukamus says:

    Can’t agree more, surely (about that Pervert Guide, it’s smoking!) 🙂
    (PS: nice gravatar, by the way)

  2. Carol King says:

    I’m not surprised the woman did not want to complete her mastery of pottery after seeing how long it would take and the conditions she would have to live in for the next 20 years. Some people may think it’s worth it. Some not. Some things are not for everyone. 🙂 I know I would have left.

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, things are not like we think they are, reality bites they say. Thank you for you visiting, and your comment! 🙂

  3. So true… like 2 worlds aligned, yet poised to collide :-/ ♥ ❤

  4. sherazade says:

    Leggo molto bene Inglese ed il tuo articolo è molto condivisibile.
    Grazie anche della tua attenzione 🙂

    • theburningheart says:

      Io lotto con la lingua italiana, ma più o meno ho capito bene, vi ringrazio per il commento! 🙂

      • Nina Trema says:

        Se vuoi fare conversazione in italiano in cambio di conversazione in inglese, si potrebbe fare uno scambio vantaggioso per entrambi.
        If you’d like to have conversations in Italian in exchange for having conversations in English, we could agree in way that is useful for the both of us 🙂

      • theburningheart says:

        Your English is excellent while my Italian is poor, although I am more comfortable with my native tongue Spanish. 🙂

      • Nina Trema says:

        Thanks, you are too kind 🙂 I spoke a little Spanish, in the past. Now is gone along with all my scholastic notions of maths 😀

      • theburningheart says:

        In any case here we are for anything we may help you with, thank you for visiting, and being so nice 🙂

      • Nina Trema says:

        Thank you. Have a splendid weekend 🙂

      • theburningheart says:

        You too dear 🙂

  5. Have never heard that Michelangelo quote. It’s a keeper.

  6. Amy Reese says:

    What a brutal existence this woman had following the Master Ceramist. Your post makes me want to spend more time writing. Great post!

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, in Japan the Uchi-deshi .( “inside student”) is a Japanese term for a live-in student/apprentice who trains under and assists a Sensei on a full-time basis. The system exists in kabuki, rakugo, shogi, igo, aikido, sumo, karate and other modern Japanese martial arts, as well at any art where the object of the training it’s to acquire Mastery of the art.
      Uchi-deshi usually live in the dōjō or the home of the teacher, or in separate accommodations near the dōjō. He serves the teacher all day, every day. Duties may include cleaning and secretarial work, and menial tasks necessary for the running of the place, like cooking, washing, painting, repairing, etc.
      Whatever it’s needed the students take care of it, in this way they show respect, and commitment for the art, and the seriousness of their intent.
      In Japan it’s a long centuries old tradition that has being working to produce excellence in many fields, granted it’s not in tune with our contemporary mores, and the training it’s usually quite harsh, and demanding. Not for everybody, my own Sensei lived as an Uchi-deshi in Japan with his teacher.

      Thank you for your comment Amy, we appreciate it. 🙂

  7. natuurfreak says:

    Thanks for this interesting post.

  8. Choosing says:

    I am sure I would not have endured either 😉 but I admire those who can. I guess that is the true meaning of “passion” 🙂 But even in this very soft life we are living in the Western civilisations one can feel that things that are earned by long practise and/or sacrifice feel more dear and valuable than the ones that just fall into our laps.

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, enduring hardship it’s always a challenge, and we learn through the process valuable lessons, mainly about ourselves, there is no shame in realizing certain things are not mean for us, on the other hand you are very right pointing out we appreciate more what we acquire through effort, Mastery of a craft, or art, definitely requires such effort.
      Thank you for visiting my blog, and your comment, we appreciate it! 🙂

  9. paintdigi says:

    good article, beautiful site … Bravo
    Welcome to see my creations

  10. Alice VACHET says:

    So nice !!! (Even if I’m french 😉 )

  11. leebalanarts says:

    I enjoyed reading this wise essay and story about Practice. The advice has certainly proved effective in my own life and search. Thanks also for checking my blog, “Red City.”

  12. Tom Schultz says:

    Recently, I read an anecdote about baseball that relates to this. Eddie Murray, a Hall of Fame player, won a game with a bloop hit that brought in the winning run. A fan of the opposing team yelled at him, “Murray, you must be the luckiest hitter in the league!” Murray calmly replied, “You must not watch batting practice.”

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes my own Sensei used to say: “Good technique you know when it looks very easy to the eye, but actually it’s very difficult to achieve, you require many years of practice!”

      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  13. masha says:

    Great post, I don’t think that we ever think about the amount of work anyone puts into being successful. Thanks

  14. What a great post! As a landscape painter I often get asked to teach. On rare occasions I agree. An honest student once said they expected to be able to paint like Monet right from the start, after all – how hard could it be? I was unable to answer but only smiled as my memory ran back over all the years of study and practice that started when I was 14 years old in an adult oil painting class. I do not have enough time left to become as skilled and inspirational a teacher as I have a painter.

    • theburningheart says:

      Where I am from we have an aphorism: “As the old man said, if things were so simple anybody could do them!”
      Thank you for your great comment! 🙂

  15. Interesting story and I don’t blame her for deciding against that pursuit. I actually don’t like the term mastery as it implies that we are done and there’s nothing left to learn. I prefer to think in terms of practice, that there is always something more to learn, to give our attention and devotion to if we chose. In imperfection lies the creative possibility and mystery of becoming. 🙂

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes the work to perfection it’s never done, and there is always something to learn, however it’s necessary to understand the use for Master, and mastery in Japan to be more in the context of our Medieval craft guilds, a tradition than in Japan is kept alive to produce excellence in craftsmanship, and Arts, unlike in our Western society, when guilds were destroyed by the industrial revolution, Master carpenters, Master masons, etc. Were common schools for trades and crafts, now almost defunct in our society with the exception of few countries like Germany, and maybe others. In Japan these traditions are still hold in high regard.
      As an example you can easily watch a National Geographic documentary entitled: The Living Treasures of Japan (1980) in Youtube.

      Thank you for your interest, and comment! 🙂

      • Yes, I understand the role of Master and the wonderful dedication to preserving the art of a skill versus simply the technical know-how. My head just wanders when I think about practice as mindful attention to improving all parts of life where mastery is perhaps more elusive for most of us. Thanks for the morning musing 🙂

  16. dishdessert says:

    I liked your blog, good article, I invite you to my blog:

  17. My favorite post here. The road to excellence paved with gold is built of ordinary devotion every time. Lovely pix.

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, devotion!
      An almost forgotten word when it come to understand excellence.

      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

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  19. Christy B says:

    Indeed, there are many sacrifices that must be taken to reach an expert level in something. I sometimes lack patience and wish I could reach a mastery level in less time than it takes in reality (my dance class is an example) but I am learning to be okay with slow progress as it is, after all, a progression toward the goal. Excellent blog post – as always!

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes every Art requires dedication and constant practice and much patience, here a Zen tale you may enjoy to illustrate the point.
      A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:
      “If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to reach Enlightenment”
      The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
      The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then ?”
      Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
      “But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?” asked the student.
      “Thirty years,” replied the Master.
      “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?”
      Replied the Master,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
      Thank you Christy we appreciate your comment, and the great effort you do in the blogging community! 🙂

      • Christy B says:

        Thank you for sharing the zen tale and I am nodding along with the words. Your posts continue to be one of the highlights of the blogging journey for me. Wishing you a wonderful start to the week!

      • theburningheart says:

        You are very kind Christy, and thank you again for your interest! 🙂

  20. menooneblog says:

    All things are not that easy as they appear to ones’ eyes already blinded by as well as brains, receptive yes but, white washed by the on going strong influence of media, which may not be good in the long run .. #sotrue !
    We are in times wherein in we, our minds, our likes & dislikes, our thought processes are under such influences that has harmed our natural thinking as we get so dependent on the same. It’s a great read, sir! Loved the quote by Michelangelo 😀

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, there is no time to waste on idleness, apply yourself with effort, if you want to succeed and achieve something.
      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  21. kelleysdiy says:

    Ohh, I love those pics!

  22. Christy B says:

    I came back to read this one again today and have to say it’s so true that there is a lot of practice that must go into becoming the “master” of a craft, if that is even possible. Practice is what it takes to look effortless at something ~ and that is the irony of it!

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, you need a qualified teacher whatever you may have in mind to practice, then you need to learn the basic techniques, that support the craft, or Art, and you should be able to know them well, and as you progress in your practice, you should start discovering the hidden secrets of the craft, or Art, hidden for those who lack the ‘eye’ or expertise to see the secrets not evident but to a Master.
      Beginners, neophytes, in most cases can’t even tell the difference between a bad school, and a good one, since they cannot appreciate the fine details, of the Art.

      And yes a lot of practice, and effort, it’s required to grasp proper, and good technique, and become an Art.
      My Teacher used to say: ‘It should appear to the untrained eye, to be very easy, and effortless, but in reality it’s very difficult.’

      Thank you Christy for your interest. 🙂

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  24. In the discipline-of-mastery, there is “mastery”, and there is “discipline”. However, one is not the other. In my observations of those whom I would consider to have achieved something I might call true “mastery”, it seems that there are always a convergence of three aspects — skill (that acquired through discipline), talent, and enthusiasm. The source and the meaning of “talent” could, I suppose, be debated. But that latter aspect of enthusiasm, that’s what I would argue that your aspiring master pottery-maker could not find within herself.

    I once found the self-discipline to “master” something for which I had an adequate talent. But the result brought no satisfaction… because it wasn’t an endeavor of enthusiasm. Rather, it was motivated by the refection of some other human drive. I think it easy for motivations to become confused when we aspire to things. And it’s probably for the best to stop what you’re doing if the satisfaction in the achievement isn’t enough to overcome the hardship.

    “A man cannot understand the art he is studying if he only looks for the end result without taking the time to delve deeply into the reasoning of the study.”
    ― Miyamoto Musashi

    • theburningheart says:

      I totally agree, that’s why at the end of my post wrote:
      “For those who go through such experiences there is something gained, even the knowledge that such thing wasn’t for you, or having grown up, character building, a great inner knowledge, and satisfaction of learning a precious thing about yourself.”

      Even if this may imply the stuff you were pursuing, wasn’t meant for you, be these as many reasons you can tell, as lack of enthusiasm about the subject, that you can find within yourself, just as liking food does not imply necessarily it means you love cooking, and washing dishes, to abandon the study, and this if any, brings knowledge about our own self, which it’s good enough.

      Thank you for your comment, we appreciate it. 🙂

  25. Candia says:

    Thank you for following my posts.
    I am humbled by the devotion some devote towards their art, or craft. They deserve success.

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, people who work devotedly toward their arts, and crafts deserve our praise.
      Thank you for your nice comment! 🙂

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