Groundedness (Glimpses series)

This glimpse came from a conversation with Una Chung. I can’t tell if they are Una’s thoughts or mine. I think they are more or less shared and I attribute them to both of us. But where I quote her, I find humor in the experience of another.


“The tea ritual is sort of a gift for clumsy people. It has built into it a certain amount of sloshing. It has a little bit of a rustic quality.” -Una Chung


When we’re doing various things in our day, putting our attention here and there, there are always transitions. Transitions are always interesting. Good or bad, they provide opportunities to get carried off into all sorts of different things. There is a gap in what we are doing, and then what happens? If we turn our attention to our tea set, and sit with a steep, what happens happens slower. There is a tether, and we don’t just flitter away. With a tea set and brew that outlasts our other tasks, there is continuity from before, through during, and into after. Our day has continuity. 


When we are really delving into something, we can get lost in our work, in our thoughts, in our research, in our exploration. Sometimes we are interrupted. Getting interrupted by a teacup is like getting interrupted by groundedness. 


There are always gaps in our thought patterns. Moments of stillness, and maybe freshness, or maybe just a fleeting moment gone before we notice at all. Tea let’s you stay in the gap, rather, it doesn’t let you out of it. You hold to the teacup you hold in your hand, because a) you wan’t what’s in the cup, and b) there is a slight threat.


“Without threat there is something missing.”

“I don’t want domesticated tea.”

“I’m not ambushed by my clumsiness.”

“Why is there a tray with a hole? Why is there a cloth? Not that it is supposed to spill or not. It is all in the world of tea.”


Tea has lots of volatile elements. You need to pay attention, especially if you have live coals for example. I’ve broken a ceramic or two in moments of agitation or lapses in care. But truly a spill can be a joy. And if you are present, and grounded, you might not spill. If you are not grounded the spill might change that in a most positive kind of interruption.