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Tea Class Recap: Wabi Sabi Through the Lens of Disability

Tea Class Recap: Wabi Sabi Through the Lens of Disability

May's captivating event at The Cultured Cup, titled “Wabi Sabi Through the Lens of Disability,” bestowed upon us a truly extraordinary occasion to delve into the intricate intersectionality between disability, mindfulness, and the beauty found in imperfection. It is important to understand that a disability is not a flaw or imperfection. Rather, the concept of wabi sabi can offer valuable perspectives on embracing and finding beauty in the lived experiences of people with disabilities.

Life, like wabi sabi, is not stagnant. Disability can be seen as a part of the natural human experience, in which health and abilities may change over time. Embracing this inherent transience within the realm of disability empowers individuals and their surrounding communities to embark upon a journey of acceptance, adaptability, and profound growth amidst new circumstances. When encountering the world, a person with a disability traverses a unique path, necessitating alternative modes of interaction.

A person with a disability may need to interact with the world differently. Joy Moonan’s usage of a wheelchair relies on a tapestry of aids, such as ramps, curb cuts, and terrain stability. Joy depends on visual and vibrational cues to navigate her wheelchair. Sidewalk cracks, leaf piles, and grass density shape the wheelchair’s path. Even in Dallas’s constructed suburbs, nature leaves its mark. Angles must be roughly estimated to combine with the torque needed to navigate through potholes, ditches, and steep slopes. The interweaving of Joy’s wheelchair and the environment underscores the intricate balance between disabilities and personal agency, reminding us that even a shared commonality such as our natural world can result in different experiences because perception cannot be standardized. This variation is what makes a person unique beyond the cluster of oneness that society can sometimes default to—except humans aren’t assembly line items that can be replicated using a precisely-detailed blueprint. This notion is embedded within the philosophy of wabi sabi and nature itself.

Nature was the central component to Joy’s portion of the session as attendees sipped on iced Strawberry Gogi tea. The goal was to decompress amidst stimuli from phones that demand constant attention at all hours of the day. Nature provided its own soundtrack, with birds calling to one another to the sway of tree leaves after a gust of wind. Participants were encouraged to embrace sensory aspects based on their bodies’ individual sensitivity to the outdoors. This theme was fitting considering that history has frequently pitted humans against nature, whereas wabi-sabi advocates that the two forces can manage to coexist.

Mel Finefrock, who is blind, uses a cane in facilitating both her mobility and independence. Mel was able to deconstruct her world for us by taking us through a guided mediation that allowed us to channel our focus without the need to multitask or receive visual stimuli.

The theme of Mel’s discussion was further enhanced through her readings of three original poems that highlight the connection between the physical body and emotional states of being. An ever-present theme was the classic idea that humans are either in fight or flight mode as we react to different situations or circumstances. Rarely is there emphasis placed on “rest mode,” or the change to recharge. As Mel unfolded her discussion, she artfully contrasted her own narrative with that of her grandmother, Paula, whose journey with Cone/Rod Dystrophy offered a contrast to how two different generations dealt with the same hereditary disability. Through their personal and intertwined experiences of gradual vision loss, the impact of 11 generations was evident. History, politics, and social attitudes have influenced their paths, underscoring both the progress achieved and the continued efforts required.

Mel’s guided meditation was paired with Crème de Earl Grey to promote introspection in allowing the audience to connect in ways they might not have otherwise, even though many of them were meeting each other for the first time.

Lane Pitman, one of the participants, shed light on the matter from a male perspective, noting the absence of encouragement for emotional openness among men. He pointed out that society often expects men to exhibit stoicism and neutrality as the default disposition. Pitman suggested that this societal pressure to suppress emotions can hinder the ability to effectively communicate the “appropriate” emotional reaction in specific situations.

The event served as a beautiful demonstration of wabi sabi in appreciating the diverse abilities and perspectives of all individuals.


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