The Middle Way

Zen Spot #183— Mindfulness, meditation and my first cup of Tibetan butter tea April 13, 2018 00:00

Po Cha: Tibetan Butter Tea ©

Danish visitor

Rune was a seventeen year-old high school exchange student from Denmark. His visit to our home provided a check-mark on my life’s bucket list where no action item had existed. For ten days, in 2003, he welcomed our family as warmly has we welcomed him.

Speaking six languages, his brilliance was matched by his charisma. Among a group of twenty Danish exchange students who visited my eldest son’s high school, Rune was the best. To be sure, no contest existed. But, his laughter and joy was infectious, attracting everybody with whom he came in contact.

Rune food

My son’s mother is an incredible cook — truly outstanding. In addition to a remarkable talent for cooking healthy gourmet meals, her talent for baking is astounding — cakes, cookies, pies and more. Equally talented with an ability to transform both tofu and brown sugar into delightful meals and treats, her efforts are designed to please the American pallet.

During Rune’s visit, he struggled with American food. In particular, sugary treats drew facial contortions. What we considered mildly sweet seemed to burn his tongue. Perhaps prepared for his experience, he brought confections from Copenhagen. Salty confections, the likes of which brought facial contortions to my family.

Culture is a funny thing.

Reading about the Himilayas

I’ve come to the conclusion that, in my practice, submission to a tradition is not necessary. At times, however, it is welcomed. Immersion offers knowledge unavailable elsewhere — and it can take many forms. I make the point about submission in the context of my comparing myself to other practitioners, especially those who dress and practice traditionally. Among my avenues for learning is extensive reading — online and offline. 

In reading about Lhasa, the topic of butter tea came up repeatedly. And, since I like both butter and tea, my curiosity was piqued.

Salt, sugar, yak butter

Using the recipe below, I prepared my first taste. With Rune’s spirit standing beside me, I took a sip and my face contorted. So as not to put off others from trying the recipe, I will refrain from describing the taste. Had I taken on the same experiment when I was younger, my response would have translated to a disqualification for further pursuit of the path.

Tradition holds that, when butter tea is served, a guest’s cup should always be filled to the brim. Thankfully, when I brewed my drink, I was alone. Despite my dislike for the drink, and my view of traditional practice, I admit that I felt closer to something in the collective practice of mindfulness. 

Make the tea. See what you think.


Butter tea recipe

I found the recipe below at Take a peek. See what you think and let me know.


  • 4 clumps of traditional Pu-erh tea (can also be found as one large brick)
  • 2 -3 tablespoons Cow Butter (in lieu of yak butter)
  • 2 teaspoons himalayan salt (or salt to taste)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2/3 cup half and half or light cream


  1. In a medium sauce pan bring 4 cups of water to a boil
  2. Add 3–4 bricks of tea, and bring down to a simmer
  3. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes (can be simmered longer if desired to create a concentrate called Chaku)
  4. Stir in creamer and salt and bring back to a boil
  5. Place butter in bottom of French Press
  6. Strain Hot tea mixture into French Press through a fine sieve
  7. Churn tea in French Press for at least 2 minutes
  8. Pour into teapot and serve in tea bowl
The recipe above was found at:


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

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Zen Spot #104 -- Mindfulness, meditation and Tibet via North Philadelphia February 18, 2018 00:05

There’s no such thing as East Philadelphia

On the east side of Broad Street, in North Philadelphia, a spirit glides through the neighborhoods leaving hand-crafted directions to the home of the Dalai Lama. I discovered the street sign shown above, with the word “Tibet” improvised from metallic decals, near the corner of 5th and Spring Garden. Another smaller sign, handwritten in white paint on a rusty piece of iron, was tied to a bush in a small, shady, abandoned lot used as a summer respite by locals.

My gut tells me the signs are half art, half reminder and half hopeful introduction.

The neighborhood is poor, but changing quickly, surrounded to the south and east by gentrified blocks. Perhaps the artwork is designed to offer inspiration to neighbors faced with the need to move because their homes are no longer affordable.

The large sign actually faces east. The inset faces west. I believe this represents a choice on behalf of the ghost to let people know that it really doesn’t matter which direction they choose, so long as they choose to embrace compassion and mindfulness.

My inner cynic, the one that struggles with compassion and mindfulness, wonders if I’m seeing ingenious guerrilla marketing for a hip-hop music label or a hipster bar. I live with a semi-permanent side-eye. Enlightenment appears to be several light-years away. The cynic, however, can’t hinder the romantic, the searcher, the voyeur — the imperfect Buddhist.

I’m curious if the word “Tibet” has been scrawled inside that pair of old sneakers hanging from the telephone wire. Or, has it been scribbled in wet cement on a block I never walk down? Is there graffiti? Has it been carved in a tree? Was it written on sheet music that’s been crumpled and thrown in municipal trash cans all over the city?


Invented by DharmaMechanic