Today I observed a zen master in action. He wasnt a monk. Nor was he a martial artist. Rather, he makes coffee at Thammasat's Dome Snack bar. He is a master.
Its a sublime pleasure to watch someone like this do their stuff. His movements, his eyes, his posture... all communicate a deep absorption in what he is doing. He doesnt go through the motions like the "baristas" at Starbucks.
This man considers coffee making his art and he has indeed raised it to an art. The end product is fabulous... the best "ice latte" Ive ever tasted... a perfect blend of espresso, milk, and condensed milk.
In fact, before serving the drink, he always samples the mix with a small spoon.. to make sure the taste is perfect. Ive never had anyone do that at any other coffee shop (and Ive been to many).
But its not only the end result.. its the swift, unhesitating, confident way he moves.... he's fast but doesnt seem to rush. He never looks distracted... while he's making the drink that is all he is focused on.
Ive encountered this kind of mastery only one other time... in a Post Office in Seoul, Korea (Yangjae-Dong). They had a man who would pack things for shipping. You brought him a box, or a pile of books, or clothes, or whatever... and he packed it up.
But the WAY he did it... wow!
First of all, he custom made every box from large sheets of cardboard. The boxes were ALWAYS exactly the right size when he finished. Hed measure the contents with a stick.. then, in a blur of focused activity.. set to work on the cardboard: bending, cutting, folding.... then zip, zip, zip with the packing material and tape.
As with my Thammasat coffee maker... he was incredibly fast and capable but never seemed to rush. Likewise, his concentration never wavered.. he never had a bad day, or got distracted, or screwed up.
Whatever you were shipping, you had 100% confidence that he would take care of it.. you knew hed pack it perfectly and it would arrive unharmed (it always did).
The Zen Masters of old are right... there is a strange and mysterious power in doing simple things with complete absorption and attention.