In the practice of tea, one is nourished on the many simple and everyday pleasures that come from brewing tea. To boil water, to assemble tea objects, and to taste the resulting brew is enough. In observing what arises through the passing of time, one can learn everything that they need in this life and, in this meditation, one can truly find all that their mind requires.
In these past months, my mind has felt restless, if not uneasy, as I mark the more than fifteen years of practicing tea. For almost two decades, the daily practice of 功夫茶 gōng fū chá and 茶の湯 chanoyu have played a critical role in the shaping of my consciousness, from the enjoyment of the mundane to the exploration of the vastness of time and space. In my recent restlessness, I have attempted to break out of these daily practices to investigate other arts, namely that of 香道 kōdō (the Way of incense), only to feel the edges of my own knowledge. Similarly, while my practice is mature, I feel only at the very beginning stages of my comprehending chanoyu. I still make mistakes and I continue to stumble along the long and twisting path.
Today, feeling this way, I sit and work-out this unease with something more familiar to me: a Winter-harvested 台灣高山烏龍茶 Táiwān gāoshān wūlóngchá (Taiwanese high mountain oolong) from 杉林溪 Shān Lín Xī brewed with a large 黑泥《西施壺》 hēi ní “Xīshī hú” (black clay “Lady of the West pot”) Yixing teapot. The teapot, which I named 座蒲, zuò pú/zafu, “meditation cushion”, is the perfect tool to realign my way of thinking and my approach to an art and practice.
Pulling forth an antique bamboo teascoop, I issue a healthy amount of tea leaves, just enough to break through the barrier that seems to be blocking my mind.
Each step in this process feels reductive. Adding tea leaves into the pot feels like a weight lifted.
Each second the leaves steep they expel their complex flavor and vibrant color.
Sealed within the black walls of the teapot, all seems to disappear into a boundless void.
Poured out into a Korean 분청사기 buncheong-jagi sookwoo (water cooling vessel), the tea liqueur is pure.
The exposed and opening leaves left to cool within the pot seem as if they have just begun to give that which they eventually will offer.
The three cups merely hint at that which has yet to come.
What I felt was an apex in my practice has revealed itself as just the beginning of a longer path. To climb a mountain and to see another, loftier summit in the distance. How terrifying. How refreshing. A world without limits. Never to see the end of the horizon. Returning to a beginner’s mind.