Does a mindful cup overflow?

We undertake many mindfulness activities in the woods. We are especially interested in what we call double-loop activities – those which mutually re-inforce each other. By this we mean activities that reconnect ourselves with nature at the same time as reconnecting ourselves with ‘self’. This could also mean that a particular activity works on several different levels but are connected in some way. This is one of the distinct qualities of our work.

A good example of this is the humble wooden cup.

We use wooden cups or ‘kuksa’ in our tea-ceremonies. These cups are made from same trees that encircle the forest glades we hold our ceremonies in. Kuksa, from this practical point of view, are tough enough so they don’t easily break in transport, stable enough to place on the uneven forest floor and the wood is a good insulator to keep hot liquids warm (and also unlike metal which conducts heat/cold – not hot or too cold for lips to sip from).

On our more advanced sessions we carve items from wood. This is a mindfulness exercise that is based on ‘flow‘. This intense activity is not only a practical skill, it has a mental, spiritual, environmental and even cultural context*. It connects carvers on many levels to themselves and to nature. It is also intensely rewarding. And you can drink your wild forest tea from it too.

So, in answer to the question, ‘does a mindful cup overflow’ – well yes and no. Emptying your mind, freeing up from the regrets of the past, the worries of the future and the assumptions of the present allows space in your life to live, to learn and appreciate the ‘now’ rather than feeling overwhelmed.  Nature is full of abundance and is truly fulfilling. So much so that there is more than your cup could ever hold. But it is a fullness that there can never be enough of. It fills but can never over-fill.


*Kuksa (the Finnish word, also ‘guksi’ in Sami or ‘kåsa’ in Swedish) are traditional wooden cups usually carved from birch burl. This makes a tough and durable cup which is less prone to cracking. However birch burl is pretty rare so I carve cups from other parts of the tree. The Kuksa is a cultural icon from the Sami people of Lapland. In many ways these cups have come to represent the union between a nation and their arctic wilderness. The making of the Kuksa is part of the Duodji tradition – a centuries old Sami handicraft, that dates back to a time when the Sami were very isolated from the outside world. Duodji tools and clothing accessories served a highly functional purpose. But this did not mean that the Sami handicraft was not artistic. Sami doudji artists were able to bring function and art together in such a refined way to create beautiful works of art in their own right. These functional items include, knives, cases, ladies bags, wooden cups and certain articles of clothing. However, Duodji items were made and meant to be used in an everyday work environment.


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