How to make a proper cup of tea

“Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.”

– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

In her book The Wisdom of No Escape, American Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chodron discusses the above quote as follows,

The quotation really made an impression on me. It was completely true: if you can live with the sadness of human life (what Rinpoche often called the tender heart of genuine heart of sadness), if you can be willing to feel fully and acknowledge continually your own sadness and the sadness of life, but at the same time not be drowned in it, because you also remember the vision and power of the Great Eastern Sun, you experience balance and completeness, joining heaven and earth, joining vision and practicality. …..One can hold them both in one’s heart, which is actually the purpose of practice. As a result, one can make a proper cup of tea. …..

Making a proper cup of tea means that you thoroughly and completely make that tea because you appreciate the tea and the boiling water and the fact that together they make something that’s nourishing and delicious, that lift’s one’s spirits.

When I feel in small daily chores, like washing dishes, folding laundry or making tea, a sense of ritual, a sense of awareness, a sense of sadness and light, the chore becomes a moment of presence. This is so difficult to remember when we are rushing and impatiently waiting for water to boil.

Every morning I make myself tea. I use a red kettle that whistles instead of an electric water kettle or the microwave.  This process takes a few extra minutes. The clicking turn of the gas stove, the small explosion of blue and orange light,  the cool feel of metal as I release the water waiting at the faucet, the weight of the kettle as I lift it and place it over the colorful circular flame, the blossoming heat that grabs the kettle, the hissing steam and eventually screaming whistle, all together compose a strangely active yet calming morning ritual.  How can I expand this sense of ritual, as awareness and presence, to the rest of my day? This is the challenge of the proper cup of tea, especially on days I find myself waiting for water to boil.




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