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  • Writer's pictureOlga Lehmann, PhD

What a broken tea bowl taught me about repair & letting go

I didn't look for it. My time for Kintsugi and its wisdom on repair and letting go took me by surprise. Or, I'd rather say, by distraction.

Having a bowl of freshly whisked warm matcha as I wake up is my most treasured self-care ritual. At times, it precedes meditation. On occasion, it precedes a writing session for the many articles and books on the making that burst in this creative spirit of mine. Rarely, such on the very morning of the incident, as I sip my tea I answer e-mails that I have been composing in my mind over the night, in an attempt to be careful with my words, and less impulsive to communicate. This itself is topic for another blog.

I could not recognise its sound breaking against the wood, and looked at the pieces of ceramic in disbelief. My mind's eye left immediately my living room in Norway and went to the monastery in Nara, Japan, where I had bought my tea bowl, also known as chawan, years ago.

How naïve is the mind to trust that what is precious to us will be everlasting. How naïve I was to place my black-and-green-shadowed bowl on the wool blanket as I were to write.

I picked the pieces of ceramic with hope and put them into safety. Once I was back to my computer I googled for Kintsungi and ordered a repair kit from France.

I checked the post daily, as if waiting for a love letter. I put myself to work as soon as I figured out the instructions. After mixing the golden powder to the glue I brushed the mix to the first and largest piece of broken ceramic. I held it together with the other piece and waited for some minutes. The process was harder than I thought. There was a technique to it that was foreign to me. There was a patience to the process that I searched for. I persevered and failed. I persevered, again, and disarmed the last pieces before the glue would harden. I thought I had a brilliant idea. I failed again. Drawing golden rivers in the ceramic felt poetic, so I left the pieces overnight, in the company of the yellow moon.

It was my partner to share the bittersweet news the morning after: "I think it is time for a new tea bowl", he said as he smiled with equal doses of compassion and resignation.

The pieces of the ceramic puzzle did not match any longer. I woke up optimistic, and glued the smaller pieces apart, and when I wanted to incorporate them into the new masterpiece, the angles did not correspond. The golden rivers of glue were so abundant that they have crafted a piece of their own.

What if I let go? What if, as in life, at times getting new tools and embarking the process of repairing relationships with friends, with colleagues, or with other persons that had been dear to us, does not work? Discerning whether to try harder or letting go is one of the toughest parts of being human. As in my attempt at practicing kintsugi, the perseverance, the creativity to illuminate

imperfections and craft beauty with them, the commitment to repair, all these values into practice helped me to surrender.

There are some ruptures and transitions that won't call us backward, even if trying hard (or at times stubbornly). Some ruptures and transitions call us forward, either to find a new tea bowl as a self-care companion, or new jobs, new friendships, or romantic relationships that nurture us, that receive us and can see the goodness in us. Where others would remain committed to misinterpret you and look for only the fragmented pieces of you they need to see in order to preserve their stories and their own interests, others will find you as a rare handcraft worth of appreciation, companionship, and care.

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