• Flattened spoon
• Bowl for holding sieve
• Extra incense ash
Remove your incense bowl from your altar and place it on a well-lit surface. Begin cleaning the bowl by using tweezers to remove the fragments of unburnt incense sticks from the ash. Take the tweezers and sift through the ash until you find a piece of incense. Lift out the piece with the tweezers and place it in the sieve, which should be suspended over another bowl to catch any ash sticking to the tweezers or the incense. Tap the tweezers periodically on the rim of the sieve to remove excess ash.
Continue sifting through the ash thoroughly until you have removed all of the incense pieces. Make sure you have worked through the entire bowl, loosening the ash at the bottom. If the level of the ash seems low (your bowl should be about three quarters full), you can add more ash to it.
Next, using the flattened spoon, smooth and level the surface of the ash. Gently run the flat part of the spoon over the ash. Itʼs usually easiest to begin at the edge of the bowl, rather than the center, and work inwards in a roughly circular motion. Donʼt press hard: the incense should not be packed down too tightly. Continue until the entire surface of the ash is uniformly smooth and even.
When you have finished, you may want to lightly wipe the rim of the incense bowl with a damp cloth. Return the bowl to your altar. The incense pieces in the sieve may be thrown away or burned in a fireplace. Store the tweezers, flattened spoon, sieve, and bowl in a convenient place near your altar. Ideally, you should repeat this process on a weekly basis.
Kasey Ryoen Jueds, a poet and educational assessment specialist, lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two cats.