The Dojo Is a Sacred Space

SINCE I’VE LIVED alone, I’ve called my studio apartment — first in San Diego, California and now in Osaka, Japan — my creative dojo.

My studio in San Diego is where I wrote my first book. My Osaka dojo is where I record my podcast.

It’s where I cook, sleep, dance and learn. The dojo brings me joy. It helps me think. Inspiration flows freely, tears fall amongst friends, coffee burns, beers crack, and the sound of rain echoes on autumnal nights.

In Japanese, the word dojo literally means “place of the Way.”

I didn’t know this before I started calling my San Diego studio the dojo — it just felt right.

In the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, the Way is the middle path — the beginning and the end, being and nonbeing.

Quite ambiguous, I know, but I think that’s the point.

To follow the way is to allow ourselves to flow with what’s natural and derives from the soul: our own, and that of existence.

The following lines are from the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao Te Ching, the essential text of Taoism. The translation alternates between him and her from chapter to chapter.

“The master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.”

We all require a space, irrespective of how small, to be ourselves. Our home should be a domain where we find solace and inspiration; it should lessen anxiety, not exacerbate it.

My dojo is where I do my work, but before the doing, the space must be clean and orderly so my mind can follow suit.

“The space where great work is done is holy,” writes Ryan Holiday in Discipline is Destiny.

“We must respect it. Because a person comfortable with a messy workspace will become comfortable with sloppy work. A person who doesn’t eliminate noise will miss the messages from the muses.”

This is why I find it beneficial to have a small space. My motto is to clean a little, and clean often. Things can’t pile up, or else they’ll be a distraction. You notice when it’s dirty.

Making your bed isn’t about others seeing it. It’s about respecting the dojo, running a tight ship, cultivating a mindset. The same applies to clothing; less is more.

Fewer pieces, less clutter; more charm, greater respect.

When I open up my smaller closet full of items which have seen the test of time, traveled the world and been repaired, warmed me on the coldest nights and brightened up my days, I’m filled with joy.

My clothes and I have stories together. We’re not finished yet.

“Clothes that have been worn and loved have more personality to me,” writes Anda Rowland, managing director of London tailor Anderson & Sheppard.

I read her words in this article years ago and her message has become a core philosophy of mine.

“Frayed shirt cuffs, well-polished shoes, which have been fixed and repaired, have a lovely quality to them, much better than brand new and gleaming.”

I love this because it’s about your personality, your charm, your character which makes the clothes, not the clothes which make you.

Wear what makes you happy to wear. Live in a space that makes you grateful to be you.

That’s the spirit of the Way — an art form which shines through all things — the way you walk, talk, dress, live.

My space isn’t perfect, rather perfectly imperfect, perfectly me. Honor the place you call your own. Make it so you smile when you walk through that door.

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