Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tea; one shot; and the heart

One of the first teachings of the Japanese way of tea (chado, cha meaning "tea," do meaning "way," from the Chinese "tao," and the same character used in the name of such better known arts as judo, kendo, aikido, and kyudo) is "Make the best cup of tea that you can."

I've always found this to be a very intensely profound concept. It's not "make the best cup of tea that can be made," or "make the best cup of tea that has ever been made," it's "make the best cup of tea that you can make, right here and right now, with the tools before you."

One of the most powerful sayings in kyudo (the way of the bow) is "Issha zetsumei." It's usually translated "One arrow, one life," but more literally, it is translated "One shot: life ends." It's not about elevating what you're doing to the heights because it's your one chance to make it big, or anything like that; it's about -- and I know I'm not even close to what it's really about--offering yourself fully to the shot and with the shot, because "one shot" is what you have to give.

Another esoteric thought, this time from the realm of Chinese medicine: The Heart official, according to the school of Classical Five-Element acupuncture, is the Emperor. Being the Emperor, it is also our connection to the divine; but more immediately, the Emperor is in charge. The Emperor is In. Charge. Of everything. To be in charge is why the Emperor exists. And if there's one sentence the Emperor can't tolerate, at all, it's "You can't do that."

Thanks to a perfect storm of circumstances (not starting with, but capped by, the MS), my Heart official has been battered by a lot of "you can'ts." And the Emperor isn't at all happy. With anything. He has been hurt, hurt badly, hurt very, very badly; and now, he's hiding--from the world that hurt him, that continues to hurt him. And he's also hiding from me.

And yet: I can still make the best cup of tea that I can. Whether that cup of tea is the cup I used to make, or might have been able to make absent the MS (or whatever life threw at me), has nothing to do with anything. I can still make the best cup of tea that I can.

I still can offer one shot. Doesn't matter what that shot "might have been." That shot doesn't exist, never has existed. Wouldn't exist anyway, because not matter where I am or what happened to me... I can still offer one shot.

Now, the task before me: get the Emperor to listen. Perhaps I should hand him a cup, a scoop, a pot of hot water and a tea whisk; perhaps I should offer him a bow and arrow.

But maybe, the first thing I should offer the Emperor... is a hug. Which of all the things in the universe, all the things that have been, are, may be, or will be... is what I think he wants the most, right now.

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