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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

tea (again) ~

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I drink alot of tea. I like everything about it, except the colonial exploitation thingie… And I confess: I love the whole ritual of tea and tea time.

When I’m tired, a cup of tea will work as a gentle pick-me-up. Sure there’s caffeine — theine — but I suspect that the slowing down necessary, the focus inherent in putting it all together, is as important as the  theine.

You have to put the kettle on. It has to boil — that’s a couple of minutes, even w/ the glass fast-boil kettle we have. In the meantime, you have to get the tea tray out (well, you probably don’t have to, but what fun would THAT be?) and put a cloth on it. And that means choosing a tray, if you’re a magpie. And choosing a cloth for the season, and your mood. Then you have to pick a tea. AND a teapot. Unless you’re only wanting a mug, a different proposition entirely.

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Some teas, I would argue, just don’t go w/ mugs. Who can drink darjeeling out of a mug? Even a pretty mug. Darjeeling begs for the gracefully curved handle on a teacup, nestled in a saucer. Lapsang souchong? That will work in a mug: it’s strong (stout, even!), and quite happy you’ve provided it more … expansive digs.

Then, if you’re not being matchy, you need a creamer & sugar (at least at our house — we’re milk drinkers, most of us). Or a small honey pot.  If sugar, you need tongs. And you need a teacup. And then a spoon ~

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This will take several minutes, obviously. During which time your water has come to a boil, and you’re ready to pour it over loose tea in the filter in the tea pot. And then it has to steep… See what I mean? This is focused stuff!

But every time I do it, it rewards me even more than the first time. If I manage to set my attention on the process, the bubbles roiling in the glass kettle are so lovely. And everyone of my teapots (yes, plural — there are at least a baker’s dozen) has a story: who gave it to me or where I bought it or from whom I inherited it. I have my grandmother’s handpainted tea set, complete w/ individual tea trays that hold a cup & treats. Another of my grandmother’s handpainted sets that my great-aunt gave me. A pot given to me by my girlfriends in Saudi Arabia, several pots my husband has bought me over the years… Every one of them reminds me I’m loved… :)

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And teas? What mood are you in? Do you want something strong & comforting, served from a mug you can clasp in both cold hands? The Keemuns and Lapsangs or even the Puerhs. Or something soothing on a hot & fractious day? How about a light green tea? Not to mention the cosies! Why don’t Americans appreciate the functionality of tea cosies?? One of the problems with a mug is you have only your hands to keep it warm…

An old friend recently asked me to recommend some books for a Mormon beginning to explore Buddhism as a way to practice his own faith. There is no disconnect there, despite what some might think. (Kind of like being both a coffee & a tea drinker) He wanted to know how to begin to live a more contemplative, reflective, compassionate life: how, in other words, to follow the Buddha’s recommendations. Which is, ultimately, all the Buddha left us. Not rules, certainly not commandments. Just advice given to other seekers, from someone who’d spent a lot of time doing that, being there.

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And if this isn’t like tea, I dunno what is. There are so many parallels between tea & following a spiritual path that I’m not even going to point them all out — they’re pretty obvious. Do you HAVE to warm the pot? Of course not. It’s not a law. But if you don’t, the tea doesn’t ‘bloom’ properly, and you miss out on some of the ineffable fragrance. Do you HAVE to follow right speech? Nope. But if you don’t, you end up saying things you can’t unsay, and you miss out on a lot of connection. Neither will kill you, obviously. But both are… recommended. By folks who’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these things.

I’m not saying tea will cure everything. But it sure does help. You might want to fix a mug if things are crazy. Listen to the water singing. Take deep breaths of the steam. Enjoy a moment of calm. Who knows what your tea leaves might tell you…?

 

 

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