…because some thoughts are worth remembering
When my husband eats from a plate that wobbles or slides slightly on the table and I notice that there is only one hand engaged in the act of eating, it bothers me tremendously. My husband is bothered by my being bothered about such a small thing. I was bothered because it did seem like a small thing, and a thing for which I did not seem to have a satisfactory justification.
Pouring each others’ drinks is a big part of Japanese culture. I was taught that if someone pours you a glass of something, you should hold the glass with both hands, as did all the children growing up in Japan. I understood it to be a polite marker of thoughts: this gesture signals to the other person that you are being polite. I thought it was respectful.
Foreigners looking to conduct business in Japan are often taught to receive the meishi or “name cards” (business cards) with both hands. I told them it is a sign of respect.
I didn’t think about why it would be a sign of respect. In many cultures, reciprocating a generous or respectful gesture is considered polite. The business card is often presented with both hands. It seems like an appropriate thing, then, to receive it with both hands.
It took this Japanese native, who traveled to Canada, lived in the US, married an American, moved to Denmark, listening to a Buddhist podcast, to connect the dots back to mindfulness.
When I receive a cup of tea, a gift, a name card, with both hands, I am not doing anything else but to receive this gesture. I am bringing all of myself to accept whatever it is that I am presented. The other hand isn’t hanging onto a smart phone, or carrying a bag, or holding onto a plate. At that moment, I am being mindful of the act. My mind represented through my body by both of my hands. All of me there. Showing respect. Replicating the posture. Being polite. Mindful.
When I take the time to cook, I want my husband to appreciate it. “It’s delicious” is good feedback, but not as satisfying as both hands engaged in the act of eating, mindful of the ingredients, the flavors, the effort that resulted in the wobbly dish before him.
Photo: One of my favorite restaurants, Pig & The Lady, exploring Vietnamese fusion cuisine in Honolulu, Hawaii