Pebble Number Twenty-Seven: Being in attention is not the same as standing at attention

January 27, 2014


For almost an hour we walled in time until there were no more minutes or seconds. We were left with the hiss of air in and out of our lungs and the buzzing of electricity that is created when humans are in connection. Boundaries between beings become supple when so little space exists between us.

A Japanese Tea Ceremony is an act of art and grace. It is about slow steps performed with precision in an audience of love and appreciation. Our tea masters were an act of polarity. One was a young, agile, and budding servant who glided smoothly across the floor, while the other was much older and less flexible. Her body moved in short spurts as she pushed herself across the mat to bring us our bowls, yet the stillness of her bow commanded our attention.

Aren’t we all oscillating between these places? At times we writhe, twist, and bend into our experiences unencumbered. Our limbs move in sequence as if the dance lives within our bones and we are one with all creation. Then, at other times, we must be still if we want to stay in rhythm — our bodies fight against the choreography as age, will, and the subtleties of gravity take over.

There is precision even in stillness. The art is to remain in slight motion so that no space becomes weary. Either the breath expands the abdomen, massaging lymph and sinew or it contracts, pulling muscles back into alignment as we exhale all we no longer need.

Tea itself is an art of what is needed. We need communion with others. We need the simple act of being in attention. This is not standing at attention like rigid soldier frozen in perpetual salute. Being in attention is different. It is the act of sharing a mindful moments with others. It is the art of watching with one set of eyes as the ladle slides down between the thumb and forefinger until it rests in just the right place. It is the sound of the whisk swishing inside the bowl as the green powder blends into the hot water and then foams with agitation until it is brilliant and beautiful.   It is the feel of all eyes on your face as you sip the hot thick liquid resting against your lips that bursts into a thousand flavors in your mouth.

There is a buddhist term called Itai Doshin – many in body, one in mind. It is the idea that we can all be centered in an experience as if we were one being, perfectly attuned and at peace. As we sat in the circle together, we experienced Itai Doshin. It was something simple, whole, and good.

We all deserve moments like this. We all deserve times when we have the honor of experiencing something wonderfully sacred, where being in communion is a sacred act, and where silence is all that is required of us. What a joy to just BE without names or expectations. So much of our lives are spent being a role or label until we are the name tag pinned to our uniforms. We become a set of expectations, forgetting that we are so much more than that. We are spirit, love, and wonder that doesn’t conform to definitions.



2 thoughts on “Pebble Number Twenty-Seven: Being in attention is not the same as standing at attention

  1. I remember my first real Japanese tea ceremony. It was so beautiful and as you said “sacred.” In a world filled with text messages and Facebook comments, and cable television, we hold very few traditions as “sacred.” I remember that during my first tea ceremony, I looked around and for the first time in a long time, the group was all focused on the same purpose. This was a moment that was unfamiliar to each of us, but the newness was shared by all. Not only did we participate in a significant tradition, but we helped to keep it alive. Thanks for reminding me of this.

  2. I’m so glad that you’ve also been able to attend a tea ceremony too. They are absolutely wonderful! It’s nice to share sacred experiences with others, and to know of others who’ve shared them too.

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