01 April, 2009

Just Doing

A good tea session has a certain quiet power, a method of affecting the mind in a very positive manner.

This morning, I rose and plumped myself down behind the tea-table. I was full, filled with thoughts of the writing I had planned for the day, filled with the thoughts of the jobs that needed doing in the house, filled with the thoughts of the omelette that my dear wife was anticipating.

Being so full, there was no room for tea. I was pre-occupied and elsewhere.


Heidu


The infusions passed. I watched tiny droplets of steam rising from the slats in the tea-tray, caught in the warm beams of the low morning sun. I wielded the heavy kettle. I wiped the little teapot. I poured into the thin neck of the wenxiangbei [aroma cup].

Before long, I noticed that I was just doing, being there, participating in moments that had otherwise passed unmarked. My thoughts and concerns had gone by themselves, and here I was, sat behind my tea-table. No longer elsewhere.

Drinking tea is an essential part of my day. I'm not certain that it sounds entirely sensible to friends ("you drink tea? for an hour?"), but there's something in there, a little bit of magic, that just makes it somehow right.

Now, how about that omelette?

14 comments:

charles brynan said...

Beautiful post. Introspective. I've been following the Half-Dipper for about three months and have since started working my way back through the Half-Dipper archives hoping to glean somewhat of an education on tea but more importantly enjoying the journey and excellent prose.
I teach Tai Chi and serve a mini gongfu cha during my classes (as my teacher did) and would greatly appreciate a recommendation for a good but not overly priced oolong - no tea shoppes locally.
You mentioned in today's post "writing I had planned for today"...may I be bold and ask of what\for whom do you write?
Charles
from the other side of the pond Philly-burbs, PA.

Tony Shlongini said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that your favorite omelette would be........... mushroom.

Hobbes said...

Dear Charles,

I really appreciate your kind words. It's interesting that you combine tai chi and gongfucha, as my taiji teacher (Zheng Manqing's Yang form) did the same during my undergraduate time. The two work very well together. I assume you take tea at the end of the class?

I've been hoping to get back into my daily taijiquan routine. Legs and arms aching from long sessions in front of my word processor keep reminding me that it's been some time since I got out of the habit of daily practice.

Regarding my writing, since you ask, it's mostly to do with engineering and applied statistics. If you're still interested (!), I'm a few weeks away from submitting my DPhil thesis on Extreme Value Theory, and am working on a trio of related journal papers in parallel. Busy times...


Dear Tony,

Hah... why stop at just mushroom? :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Hobbes said...

P.s. Wulong recommendations... hmm. I don't drink a huge amount of wulong, but the ones I have at the moment are from Teamasters and Yunnan Sourcing, which you might look at for quality and value, respectively. :)

charles brynan said...

Dear Hobbes,
Thank you for the quick response and I will check on the two sites recommended. I do follow the Teamasters blog as well. Very heartwarming to see you do Taiji even if you've taken a break from it for a very worthy cause - DPhil thesis in engineering, way over my head. Very best of luck! I work for a civil engineering and surveying firm what seems like my whole life but quite on the other end of the spectrum from what your studying.
I teach the Yang long form 108 learned from my teacher Master Ho, Tsong Yuan and actually have the gongfucha just prior to doing the form after we've done warm-ups, 8 section brocade, tai chi walks and kicks, ect.That is inside practice. Outside, tea will be served at the end of class.
I also write a newspaper column for our local paper titled " Tai Chi With Me ". If you are interested in reading one, especially with all your free time, I would be happy to attach.

Charles

Hobbes said...

Dear Charles,

I'd love to read your article, please do let me know if I can access it on-line (or perhaps you'd be so kind as to e-mail to me: hobbesoxon AT gmail DOT com).

The Yang 108-form is on my "to-do" list, but I am resolved to complete my interrupted studies into the taijijian [pointy sword] form. This article shows my mother-in-law with the jian that she later gave to me - not a lady to cross!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Lewis said...

Extreme Value Theory - how cool! I've often thought that if I were starting college now I'd want to major in statistics. It's what the world needs now: clear thinking on what to expect. Why high schools in the USA teach trigonometry and not probability/statistics I'll never understand...

charles brynan said...

Dear Hobbes,
I checked out your post from June 1, 2007 and noting Chinese Mama's grip on the jian, the swish of the tassel and blurred vibration of the blade, yes I would agree to give her due space. I teach a sword form as well and applaud your endeavoring to study such a noble weapon, elevated to the highest level of Taiji practice.
Charles

Ecclenser said...

Hobbes,

To me, this post conjures reflection. Cut through the words and see the imagery, and you have practice from all walks of the world.

Funny how one hour can seem like overkill from the outside in... It is easy to be consumed in the art of tea, a sort of healing ritual.

I say take your time...

Freely,
Ecclenser

Hobbes said...

Dear Lewis,

Statistics and machine learning (generally: "information engineering") are very exciting fields at the moment. Everybody (industry, Government, healthcare providers) has vast quantities of data. They rabidly collect data. Yet, they have very little idea of how to turn terabytes of acquired information into meaningful knowledge. As traditional disciplines (electrical engineering, civil engineering) begin to wane, the new information-related disciplines are flourishing.

I don't think many schools are conscious of this shift, and the most that they typiaclly do is teach "IT" (how to use tools such as spreadsheets, web developers, and word processors). Show children some videos of Eurofighters performing 9-G turns, or working models of human organs, and they get a much better idea of where their stuffy old mathematics classes can take them.

It's one of school's little ironies that the most tedious subjects to study can lead to some of the most interesting eventual subjects.


Dear Charles,

Thanks again for the article - it was a great read. I look forward to future instalments!


Dear Ecclenser,

Absolutely. My wife says "A morning spent drinking tea is a good morning", with which I wholeheartedly agree.


Toodlepip all,

Hobbes

Tony Shlongini said...

Chienses characters always confuse me, but you may be referring to the same form I learned- Chen Man Ching short form. My instructor, Bill Phillips, studied under Chen Man Ching (a student of Yang Chenfu) before he died.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqLxMPIVAlo

Look familiar?

Hobbes said...

Dear Tony,

That's him! Cheng Man Ching is his name written in old-style (Wade-Giles) format. He was personal physician to Zhang Jieshi / Chang Kai Shek, and known as "The Professor".

I love how humble and unassuming his form appears. Thanks for the link.

Did you read his book? "Cheng Tzu's 13 Treatises"? It contains some dodgy mechanics, from an engineer's perspective, but some fascinating and invaluable insights otherwise. It's famous cover art appears in numerous photos on the Half-Dipper!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Tony Shlongini said...

Small world (but I wouldn't want to paint it).

My instructor said that the longer you practiced it, the more compact the motions would become. Sometimes it seemed as if he were hardly moving at all. Very relaxing.

I read the book around twenty years ago, but recall little.

charles brynan said...

Tony,
I have taken work shops with your teacher Sifu Phillips. I have much respect for him and his Taiji heritage.
Charles