Illustration ©2009 Jennifer Sauer
I JUST FINISHED READING the book The Republic of Tea: Letters to a Young Zentrepreneur, by the company's original founders, Will Rosenzweig and Mel & Patricia Ziegler. In a series of whimsical faxes exchanged during the early 1990s between Mel (as mentor) and Will (as mentee), Mel describes not only how to build a company from the ground up, but how to craft a life: "sip by sip, not gulp by gulp." As the book progresses, Mel invites both his colleague, Will, and his readers to consider the benefits of Tea Mind-- the state of mind one enters at around cup number five, according to Tang Dynasty poet, Lu Tong who wrote, "At the fifth cup, I am purified," in his poem, Tea Drinking.
"I want what I have," Mel petitions the reader, through his advice to Will. This statement is at the nucleus of Tea Mind, and the raison d'etre of creating a tea business, particularly in a severe economic downturn. Wanting what you have provides relief, particularly when you need a distraction from thinking about what you may recently have lost or might lose in the unknown future. Tea is a wonderful tonic for any depression, be it economic or physiological. Tea Mind comes naturally from drinking tea and taking time out of one's day to be quiet, observant and resident in his or her own stillness. It comes of itself, as easily as the steam. Tea Mind is enduring and even more important now than it was during that puny recession of the early 1990's when The Republic of Tea book was written (and the company founded).
Tea Mind is wanting what you have rather than angling to get what you want. This small shift in words nudges the reader toward a huge yet simple segue in thinking and values. You find that wanting what you have is much more gratifying and takes much less energy than wanting things to be different. "I want, I want, I want," says the incumbent monkey mind. Yet when you sit down and sip a rare, hand-crafted oolong made from the ancient trees of China, you suddenly look around, and although life and its present challenges are still the same, you somehow settle into yourself, and the need for things to change somehow evaporates like streaks of steam rising then disappearing from your cup. Suddenly, you are still and empty, and simply enjoying the gorgeousness of the steam itself, its aroma mingling with the comfort of your favorite books sitting on the shelf, and the lovely color of your living room walls.
Life has changed, and you didn't do a thing, but drink some tea and start thinking differently. "Wow," says Tea Mind. "Steam, color, smell." Tea Mind is that simple: "I want what I have."
~Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither~