Ki Moments Blog

Support for life’s “key” moments.

May 19, 2020

The Tao of Tea

The Tao of Tea

In my May 5 post, you read about Portsmouth Aikido's "Weekly Challenge" essay contest, one of the inititives our dojo is using to support members and stay active during the Covid-19 shutdown of schools and recreation facilities in our state. 

A recent topic--"Write about a time you used Aikido off the mat"--had twelve entrees, all wonderful examples of how aikido students use the principles of aikido in daily life. One essayist gave a physical example of how he protected himself while falling and came away unharmed. Another disarmed a potentially dangerous conflict between two customers at a bar. 

The winner was Jonathan Blakeslee, a long-time student at Portsmouth Aikido, whose essay, The Tao of Tea, is about someone else using aiki principles to disarm and redirect a difficult customer. As Jonathan puts it, I learned a lot from Veerinder, who in many ways inspired me to walk the path I am on now work-wise.

If you live anywhere in or near the seacoast of New Hampshire, you probably know Jonathan and his work. He and his restaurant--White Heron Tea--are a wonderful feature of life here. Even in the shutdown, White Heron Tea continues to offer healthy and organic signature teas (and delicious muffins, cookies, and sandwiches). Knowing this, I think you'll appreciate Jonathan's essay even more.

Whether Veerinder knew of aikido, he certaily understood how to turn an enemy into an ally, and how to advocate without attacking. Thank you, Jonathan, for the wonderful story.

The Tao of Tea
by Jonathan Blakeslee

One rainy winter, I worked as a cook at the Tao of Tea in Portland, Oregon. During my first few weeks there, I noticed Elliot, a customer who was difficult to navigate. He was impatient, rude and had made one of my co-workers break into tears from dealing with him.

On a busy Saturday, I delivered a plate of potato stuffed naan bread to Elliot. He complained that I had not cut the bread the way he wanted it and sent it back. I offered to make him another, but he could not be pleased, insisting I should have cut it “properly” in the first place. I apologized and slunk back to my stove.

A few days later, Elliot loudly reprimanded a server over how his tea should be prepared. It caught the ear of my boss Veerinder, who poked his head into the tea shop and calmly approached Elliot’s table. Veerinder spoke softly, his manner friendly.

“Elliot. Could I make you some tea next door in the Leaf Room?”. He showed Elliot to the quiet shop space across the hall, as if a special guest. He prepared a pot of tea and sat down.

“Elliot….you come into my tea shop several times a week. My staff are hardworking and kind people, but they cannot seem to please you. Why come here if you are not happy?”

“For the next thirty days, I cannot have you in my shop. I would like you to think about why you come here. If after thirty days you wish to return and can be kind to my staff, I will be happy to see you. If not, I wish you good luck. Thanks for sharing tea with me.”

Elliot, hat in hand, returned quietly after thirty days.

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Promote Optimism

I'm doing what I can to encourage optimism in this new world as we all learn to do life a little differently. Today, you might enjoy:

  • Some Good News: This delightful YouTube series starring John Krasinsky is now into its fifth episode. John offers snippets of (only) good news, gratitude, and insight. Episode 3 used to be my favorite, but it's hard to choose now. You can start anywhere.
  • No Corona: I hope you find this remake of the famous Puccini aria "Nessun Dorma" as funny and entertaining as I did. Great voices, too!

Good ki1

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