Mr White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland races with time.

Harnessing Time

I started learning chado (Japanese tea ceremony) less than a year ago. I often go on turbo mode when it became my turn to practice preparing tea since I am conscious that class time was ticking away, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t compromise my group-mates’ chance ofsqueezing in a practice before end of class.

One time, the teacher made a comment that stuck — “You’ve got to master Time, not let it master you.” She then sat to show us how it was done.

It was as if everything was carried forth with an internal sense of rhythm: Lift, pause; wipe, pause; place it down, pause; …like an internal metronome had held a steady beat.

On a separate occasion, we were shown how the inspection of the napkin (fukusa) was done. And, surprise, surprise — it was done to the rhythm of the breath! The process was so meditative that you could almost hear a pin drop as we looked on.

By Pier 8 in Central, on the lower deck, there’s a labyrinth that rarely gets walked. I visited last weekend. I was alone walking it, so no one but myself determined the stride and pace. Upon entering and walking the labyrinth, I found myself rushing at first, impatient when I had to turn yet another bend, wondering when I was going to get to the destination that felt like eons away.

Fortunately, I snapped out of it quick, reminding myself to find my stride, find my peace — as I relaxed, the journey around the twists and turns became much more enjoyable — while I followed the path that led me to the destination with ease.

Labyrinth by Pier 8, Hong Kong

I noticed how I was applying this mastery of time on my way to the Potato Head last night. Aware that I was running late for dinner, I kept my internal metronome going, to stay as centered and unfrazzled I could. So instead of thinking, shit shit shit, I gotta rush rush rush (to justify to myself that I am working the hardest I could to remedy my lateness), I focused on staying in the flow — which I credit helped me navigate the MTR exits and maps much more swiftly to get me to the restaurant than had I let my rush rush-shit shit mode take over. (You know what I’m talking about: when your brain ain’t thinking coz you’ve lost your cool and that inadvertently delays everything you’re trying to put in place.)

So voila, time mastery. Excellent practice.

Pork Skewers and Sambal (red paste/sauce in the back) at Mr Potato Head

p.s. We were wondering if the tall boss-looking guy behind the counter was ‘Mr Potato Head’ for which the restaurant was named after…how did the name come about? I enjoyed their Gado Gado, and their pork belly skewers served on a charcoal stove. The sambal (a handful of choices!) was great too!