I once had a teacher instruct me, “When mediating, think of a big blue sky. Imagine this. A deep, clear, spotless blue sky. Soften your focus and widen your gaze so as to be expansive in all directions. In this sky, clouds may come and clouds may pass in front of you. Observe them without focusing on them. Let them drift naturally.”
Today, when I lead guided meditations, I often call upon this teaching. Paired with tea, I find this helps to settle the restless mind and inspire a mind of wonder. Set against an azure-colored 茶布 chá bù (tea cloth), the assembled tea and teaware for this morning’s meditation become the drifting clouds.
While making tea, we may need to momentarily put these items into use, it’s important not to focus on them.
The Yixing teapot, which has over the years been dedicated to brewing countless steepings of 烏龍茶 wūlóngchá (oolong tea) may feature in the process of brewing tea, but it, itself, is merely a vessel. Empty until filled with tea (and intention).
The other wares, too, have their role, but are not the primary purpose of tea nor a meditation with tea.
A teascoop is whatever you may find that conveys tea leaves into a teapot. Your hands will do just fine.
The wooden coasters upon which one places a teacup can be anything, from a leaf to a rock to nothing at all.
The cups, too, are not necessary. Even I have been known to drink directly from my teapot.
And the tea, yes, even the tea, is just that, perhaps nothing more. Don’t invest too much value into this lest it becomes yet another distraction.
All that is left, really, is nothing. No tea. No buddha. Just the blue sky. Expansive in all directions.