Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Unfortunate Art of Discernment

With the seeming blink of an eye, I've become an adult. At which point, I have to make a decision: Either I keep quiet or I do my best to inform people what I have learned at the risk of sounding like I know what I am talking about. This prospect does not thrill me, and I have avoided it to this point. Part of the story I have to tell is how to live your life. Or rather a version of “how to live.” I should point to my teachers. My teachers are many. Mostly because whoever teaches me is a teacher.

Another important part of the story is East meets West—specifically, Southern Taiwan and the Pacific Northwest. Here is an example. My life in Taiwan is divided into two distinct stages: before I knew how to live in Taiwan and after I knew how to live in Taiwan. People taught me how to live in Taiwan, mainly my teachers.

One of the most formative was Teacher Li. Teacher Li is still lives in Southern Taiwan today. He taught me how to take care of myself from a holistic Chinese medicine perspective. At that stage of my life, I was like a rubber band. I could go very far in another direction, trying things for several months before deciding if they were good for me or not. I changed my diet according to his suggestions, and this is really touching on how to live here. Knowing how to live is about knowing how to enjoy your life. Diet is so much a part of life’s enjoyment. I have met people who claim not to care about the food they eat. This is a problem. Teacher Li would say, “Give them the leftover dog food.” Ah, but you don't want leftover dog food? So there is some level of discernment. Good - that is the point.

How to Live” Tip of the Day: Constantly learn about food.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Spirit of Taiwan...

In a song by 張雨生 Zhang Yu Sheng (ZYS) called 我的未來不是夢。”My future is not a dream.”

因為我不在乎 別人怎麻說

I will attempt a translation:

Are you like me? Under the sun with your head hung low?
Sweating as you toil silently in your hard work.
Are you like me, often the recipient of indifference or a cold feelings, but refusing to give up on the life that you want for yourself?
Are you like me, busy the entire day pursuing...
Chasing after a gentle kindness, that you can't even comprehend.
Are you like me, having experienced great loss?
Time after time, hesitating at the busy intersections.

Because I don't mind what others say, I've never forgot myself.
The promise that I made to myself
To keep a grasp on love.
I know that my future is not a dream.
I earnestly live every minute of life.
I know that my future is not a dream.
My heart and my hopes create my action.

I've been familiar with ZYS for several years. He died in a car crash in 1997, but his music lives on. After my first stay in Taiwan, a dear friend suggested that I take some ZYS music home with me in order to improve my Chinese language skills. I wouldn't have predicted at that time - nearly 16 years ago - that I would still be moved by his words today.

Taiwan's Buddhist population is about 35%. As such, Taiwanese culture is heavily influenced by Buddhism. With lyrics like, “I earnestly live every minute of life” making their way into popular songs, we can see its influence.

Another very Taiwanese aspect of this song is the repetition of, “Are you like me?” with the common experience mentioned after it. It is an all-inclusive statement, unifying people by their common experience. The energy of “we are a group of brothers and sisters” is very Taiwanese.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

East and West: A Convergence of Cultures... in Eugene, Oregon

The Dalai Lama visits my home town; wow, the people of Eugene are lucky indeed! It was a great honor and privilege for Eugene to host the Dalai Lama as a guest and personally to hear his message. This would never have happened if it were not for the persistent work of key individuals who were able to convince him to visit Eugene. This visit was the culmination of a a ten-year effort, during which time he was less than excited about the prospect of visiting Eugene. Why not just visit a bigger city? Why not Portland? These were questions that the Dalai Lama himself was asking. Special teahouse sources have indicated that he would have never visited Eugene if it were not for the work of Lady Palmo, who not only had the ear of the Dalai Lama, but insisted that he visit Eugene. Let me tell you that many Eugenians are grateful for your efforts, Lady Palmo. Being born and raised in Eugene myself, I was very moved by the Dalai Lama's visit and I feel like his visit improved the energy of Eugene.

Though the costs associated with bringing the Dalai Lama to Eugene were exorbitant, the University decided in the beginning that the tickets for the event would be very reasonable. They made a portion of the tickets free to students, and offered the remaining tickets to the general public at $20 each. There was no VIP seating, no higher priced tickets for special seating and so on. This move was very democratic and very Eugene. The tickets went fast, selling out within an hour of their release. I was only able to get tickets through the generosity of a teahouse fan. The teabike was at the University of Oregon Street Faire on the afternoon of the event, but my trusty crew was able to cover long enough so that I could slip away to listen. Seeing him, I was filled with emotion. Somehow, just knowing that there are people like His Holiness is enough. As soon as he entered the room, waves of energy—as if a healing presence—filled the air.

Later, I had the opportunity to ask one of my Chinese friends if they were able to attend the lecture given by the Dalai Lama. “No way,” he responded. He went on to inform me that at one U.S. university, the Dalai Lama came to speak and many students from China went to listen. As a result, China nullified any degrees earned from the university. In the eyes of China, all of the credits were void. “Since he came here, we are all very scared.” Who knew Chinese nationals have so much to lose as a result of a visit from Tibet's exiled religious leader. Yet another interesting perspective revealed at the teahouse.  

Plan, Hope, and Visualize

What happened in the teahouse today?
We are in the process of consolidating our inventory in anticipation for the upcoming shipment from Taiwan. Organization is a constant aspect of our work at J-TEA.

Last week we had a great time at the University of Oregon Street Faire. We were very busy Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Many students were happy to try our iced tea selections, as the bike is mostly an iced tea affair. The weather couldn't have been more cooperative. When selling iced tea, hot weather is an essential component.

As many of you may know, my first child will be born any day now. Today a friend came into the shop and asked if I am ready for the future, referring the upcoming birth of my child. To which I responded, “How can one be ready for the future?”

His response, “You can plan; you can hope; you can visualize.”

There you have it: Plan, hope, and visualize. This is my lesson for the day.