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Who do you invite for tea?

My list is long and wide, and it's always open to new people, including matcha neophytes and matcha sommeliers.

I love having tea with people ... it's at the heart of the whole endeavor here, in a big way. I even have a fantasy of one day emulating Japan's great wandering zen monks, some of whom set up little tea kiosks alongside the road and just made tea for anyone who wanted it. A quite famous one was the poet Baisao -- I especially like this one from him:

Seventy years of Zen
got me nowhere at all
shed my black robe
became a shaggy crank,
now I have no business
with sacred or profane
just simmer tea for folks
and hold starvation back.

That fantasy aside, I read a wonderful metaphor about tea invitations from the Colorado-based zen monk and teacher Christian Dillo. "Thoughts don't tend to knock, they just show up in the house," Dillo writes. "The host's job is not to barricade the door but instead just not serve any tea."

And indeed, thoughts are often like that -- in they come, unbidden, and completely take over whatever semblance of equanimity we just had, especially if they produce feelings of anxiety. We can't control our thoughts, of course; they just arise on their own. But, as Dillo says, we don't have to entertain them ... nor do we have to to offer them tea.

Another metaphor I like is from James Low, the great Scottish meditation teacher, who likens thoughts to a fashion show. They sort of sashay up, do a little twirl to show us what they've got, and strut right back out. Tea is optional here too.

What about thoughts we like to linger on? Loving kindness thoughts for people (and animals), some act of kindness that surprised us, marinating in the love someone has shown us ... do they get tea? Up to us, but I'll whip out the tea set every time for those!

Thoughts come, and then they go. The practice, at least for me, is learning to step off the ride, to wake up to the fact that I'm lost in thought, and dwell in that open space that's always just there, always present. Till the next thought takes over.

I guess the practice won't ever stop.

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