Discovering Pilgrim's Mind, a Journey to Tibet

Shotoku-an Chashitsu, Kyoto

Host and guests, same bowl
Boundaries designed to be crossed
Walking on damp rocks

Our first refuge on the road to Kailash is the tea house of Jack and Hiromi. Within moments of crunching up the stone path to their chashitsu I feel my mind and body down-shift from 2016 to 1906. The smell of long-grain wood floors, the moss of the garden, and the damp of the rain pulls you to the earth.

Jack's vision for this tea house seems rooted in authenticity. From the kitchen counter to the clay roof ridge cap each element is hand-crafted and fitted together with the finesse of fine cabinetry. The solidity typical of modern houses is conspicuously absent. Several of the walls are sliding screens of loose-woven reed - always allowing gentle breezes to waft through the house. The garden, and city beyond are never shut out, and I cannot hide a sigh or chuckle from the neighbors.

Jack and Hiromi open their home to those who wish to study tea. Indra (of Lithuania) and Tim (of New Zealand) encountered Jack and Hiromi the morning Angela and I arrived and came to class twice during our short visit. Hospitality is a state of being here, not an action.

My teacher makes tea
Reflecting Story Mountain
Cool bottomless lake

Jack Convery was my teacher in the early 80's when he taught at Vidya Elementary school in Boulder, Colorado. A carpenter and teacher by trade he later found himself at the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia at the same time my family lived in Halifax. Once or twice a year he stayed at our house when attending a program in Halifax. Over two decades ago, Jack moved to Kyoto to study the Way of Tea. He is still my teacher and the lesson evolves.

Hostess of patience
Hidden wish-fulfilling jewel
Precious Ladybug

Hiromi, wife of Jack, is a Kyoto artist who has exhibits from Japan to Switzerland, yet sells stamps to tourists at the Golden Temple. Her generosity making us meal after meal, filling our sake cup, (doing our laundry!) is inexhaustible. Jack is one of the luckiest men in Japan.

We define human
Over hot morning o-cha

"Welcome to a land blessed by practice." - Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Nearly every night of our stay at Shotoku-an is tea class. Anywhere between one and 10 students trickle in after dinner and begin to prepare to enjoy tea. Many travel an hour or four to attend class, some with poise, some with mirth, all with bravery in a modern Japan defined by 12-hour work days, personal gadgets, and long commutes.

Each time I visit Jack and Hiromi I dive a little deeper into the tea bowl. What I can share today traces the edge of the tatami mats in the tea room. The Ken of Japanese design gives the space an order that divides the room, the tea utensils, and the host from guests. The tamai (tea practice) resolves the duality by mixing hot and cold water, tea bowl and tea. When the tea bowl crosses the edge of the tatami from host to guest, duality is collapsed through generosity. The making of tea is defined by a series of sharings: a graceful mudra, the sound of water poured, the warmth of the fire, the tea, laughter, stories, space, Dharma and silence.

Jack suggested I make Turkish tea for his students to expand their education in their art. I found a Turkish rug seller downtown, Mustafa Tugrul (, who extended his hospitality by giving us two servings of his personal supply so I could make Turk Çay for Jack's students.

Climbing step by step
Tiny ants discovering
Great mist topped mountain

Telling people "I'm going to Tibet to walk around a sacred mountain." feels as outrageous as saying "I'm going to the Moon." Clearly I am crazy and should be locked up. Occasionally I am seized by fits of spontaneous chuckling at my peregrinations.

My path takes me so far outside my comfort zone I am genuinely afraid. Japan is too small, China too big, and Tibet too high. Certainly navigating a 110-year-old home with little shower, low beams, and ladder-like staircase is reshaping how I inhabit space. I suspect the extremes to come will shape my mind and body further, forcing a surrender of my agenda.

"In China we eat everything with four legs but the table and everything with two legs but the people." -proverb

So far the food has been amazing. Am I ready for REAL Chinese cuisine? Am I ready to navigate the largest city on the planet? (Shanghai population: 25 million = entire state of Texas), am I prepared to breath air equivalent to a pack of cigarettes a day?


Fear separates us
Generosity joins us
Rain pools on lotus

Soon we land in Shanghai. Along with a bag of pastries, KOSMOS chawan joins us on the rest of the pilgrimage (see for the story of a Bowl of Tea for Peace).

Thank you for reading this far and being witness.

Jason Winn and Angela Hartsell

Thursday, June 16 02016
Thanks to Jack Convery-Soko for use of several images for this entry