In Japanese Zen, it’s sometimes said that there are four kinds of Buddhist practice. One is priest practice, one is monastic practice, one is layperson’s practice, and the fourth is “teahouse practice.” Teahouse practice is the practice path of the old woman who runs the teahouse by the side of the road. No one knows why they like to stop there for some green tea and a small sweet cake. The fragrance of the tea, the freshness of the cake, are good, but nothing special. The old woman wipes the wooden counters with a clean, soft cloth and the wood glows a little, and each person who enters is met with a friendly and slightly curious look. “Who are you?” the look says, and “What can I bring you?” and something in it is also like the look of the truck stop waitress who calls everyone “Dear,” and means it. If she also sees far into them, it is into who they are just as they are.
Writing poems is a teahouse practice, for me. A way to look at my own life, and the life of us all, and find them larger, more spacious, and more multi-directional than I had realized, and more dear.