I'm very pleased to offer this guest post from Tanya Takacs both because I'd like to do more guest posts here and because it's about her creative process. Ever since coming to Zen, I've wondered about the relationship between shikantaza/just sitting (只管打坐) and the active, expressive nature of art-making. Are they opposed or complimentary? Do they support each other or distract from each other? Can I do both, or are they each asking for different ways of relating to my life? Here in the City, it seems more possible to explore this and maybe discover that it's not so much about one or the other, but about the rich and inspiring way they intersect and inform each other. Now, if only there was enough time...
Drink Tea, Make Art
by Tanya Takacs
About a year ago, the idea for an art project made of Mighty Leaf teabags came up while celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday quietly with tea and dessert. We admired the handcrafted silk bags. Seemed a waste to simply throw away (compost) the used bag. Instead, we opened one together and admired the bouquet of colors, textures, and scents. I saved this first bag and, in time, came to sew together the first square of 9 tea bags. With Sejiki/Halloween near, I’ve continued to collect, dry, and now incorporate tea bags into a costume of some kind. When people ask me what I’ll be for Halloween, I answer “Nostalgia.” Some friends and sangha members have started saving their tea bags for me and I’ve written sayings on some of the tags. For instance, when Doug and Aina were up from Tassajara, quite a few vanilla tea bags proliferated on our kitchen counter and on one of the tags I drew hearts and wrote their names (as it was shortly before their wedding.) There’s also a bag from a recent shuso tea. A set of two bags have been named “tentative returnings, surprising and pleasant reunions” after hearing a tale of two friends reconnecting at Momi Tobi’s after some time apart.
What has been the most unexpected part of working on this project for me is that it has brought up experiential memories of handsewing my rakusu five years ago—I think that’s the only other project I’ve handsewn—memories of the quiet, settled contentment I felt in bringing my awareness/concentration to such a simple and repetitive activity.
I’ve also been thinking about my practice history because I’m a few months away from embarking on a new transition on my spiritual path, my first practice period at Tassajara.