There is a give and take to Tea; while one prepares the cup, another accepts it. Together, host and guest, kneel and listen—to the steam rising from the kettle, to the bamboo whisk against the tea bowl, to the song of birds outside. Friend or foe, together they remain in the silence.
When participating in this ceremony, the world of financial worries and health crises, of marital problems and political turmoil, fades—until time itself stands still. Tea Ceremony brings one into the unseen present.
In December our house was flooded with 35,000 gallons of water, spewed by a broken water filter. When I searched through the weeping mounds that once was a home, I discovered a few of my Tea utensils—a thin bamboo tea scoop and a fan. They are worth nothing of course, but at that moment they represented beauty to me.
During times of distress, we may forget what is important, consumed as we might be by terror or grief. But, as I have discovered, we can be rescued by a keepsake, a sunset or a sunrise, a kind gesture or a warm embrace. A heart-holding moment can return us to ourselves—and to the world we have not been able to see.
When I found the Tea utensils, I wiped them dry along with my tears, and then I sat in silence. Numb though I was, these simple tools are what brought me back to an experience of peace.
I did not realize the attachment I had to household belongings, until they were no more. But, as the weeks have passed, things have become increasingly unimportant to me. The perfect couch is after all, just a couch. The comfortable easy chair, just a chair.
With this realization, I’ve begun to see that more than belongings were taken from me. I had grown comfortable with the way things used to be, and living with dis-comfort has helped me see: the homeless, the lonely, the hungry, those who are disenfranchised—like you and me.
As walls and floors are slowly restored, I’m grateful for the contractor and his teams, but more than anything else, I am grateful for the restoration occurring deep inside of me.
I’ve learned that gifts sometimes arrive in unwanted packages, but their preciousness awaits our readiness to receive.
I wonder, will I grow comfortable once again? If I do, I suspect another gift will arrive to awaken me, for storms carry the much needed rain.