A day after friends gathered for incense and tea, I hesitate to put away the assembled wares. With the golden light of a cold January day streaming through the windows of my apartment, each object seems to glow against the blonde wood and white plaster. Hearing the gusts of swirling wind outside, I want to stay indoors, and in the still of the day I sit to meditate. It is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in the United States, and a meditation seems fitting to reflect upon a man who promoted nonviolence. As the warm light cascades across the table where I sit and read excerpts from a speech Dr. King gave in 1962 to an assembly of the Wholesale and Department Store Union in Monticello, New York, sunlight touches a Japanese 鬼萩 Oni-Hagi (“Demon Hagi”) teapot, a gold lacquer-repaired porcelain 宝瓶 hōhin (handleless teapot), an American-made 茶碗 chawan (teabowl), and folded paper envelopes of incense.
“There are three major evils…” King spoke… “the evil of war, the evil of economic injustice, and the evil of racial injustice.”
As light shifts and moves along the beetle-green ceramic edges of an ash-filled incense cup, my mind focuses on these words.
Not much has changed. Such evils continue to grip this nation, keeping people of all genders, races, occupations, classes, and creeds locked in mindless competition and conflict.
In tea and in incense, there is no competition. In the meditative mind, we only sit with ourselves.
Comparisons, desires, and greed can be observed and fall by the wayside. Our daily work, when done full-heartedly, brings its own sense of dignity.
In the tearoom, we leave our worldly trappings and our markers of status at the door.
One sheds a layer of red dust and enters a pure space.
Sitting amidst the quiet, on this day, a bittersweet contemplation rises. In the cold of a bright and shining Winter’s midday light, sadness sits peacefully side-by-side with joy.
To be part of a practice that honors peace such as tea, to be part of a method such as nonviolence, and to walk in this world in such a way, brings questions to the meditative mind. How to use each moment as if it were your last to further such causes? How to touch the heart so as to redirect one’s spirit towards love? Where will our future be when our present is currently such?