As Simple as a Cup of Tea

My monk, Titch Nhat Hanh, practiced something called a tea meditation. It’s said he would spend an hour drinking a cup of tea with his fellow monks. It sounds glorious. Honestly, I’m saying that without rancor or sarcasm. In his book Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames, he talks about how a cup of tea, when drunk with mindfulness, will bring us back to ourselves. The whole world melts away when you spend the time thinking about nothing else but drinking the warm infusion of leaves, smelling the botanical aromas and feeling the concoction infuse your soul with each sip.

I have started my own tea ritual at night before bed. I’m not able to completely concentrate on the tea, I don’t quite have the discipline yet. I also have a bird who demands my complete attention after being left alone all day. I have a small one-ounce cup I try to put out for her when I drink but she doesn’t seem as interested in the tea as she is in pushing the small cup off the desk. She makes me smile. The tea does make me pause, to inhale the floral bouquet (tonight is lemon balm) and try to exhale the feelings of being overwhelmed, overworked and inactive in the direction I want to go. The herbals I drink at night are designed to promote calm and restfulness of mind after the long days I’ve been having, and the spice teas I drink during the day are to get more liquid and less chemicals into my body for better health.

I didn’t practice last night. I was too tired to do anything, including sleep. I was irritated because work was long, lunch was gastro-intestinally distressing and the work environment dredged up some old forgotten feelings from long, long ago of people long since passed. I watched TV eating salted caramels from Costco and stayed up well past my bedtime (8:30pm!) and still couldn’t sleep. I eventually got up around 10pm took some Tylenol then rubbed a melatonin infused lotion on my legs and feet and eventually fell into a quasi-restful slumber. I blamed my restlessness on the family interaction from the night before, I blamed it on working too much, I blamed it on being too tired to sleep. In reality, I didn’t bring myself back to center with a cup of tea after being scattered mentally, physically and emotionally from the day. Rituals are powerful tools, even when they are as simple as a cup of tea.

Roadkill

It was in the pre-dawn hours this morning while driving to work a baby deer bolted in front of my car. It wasn’t even big enough to make the car shutter as it threw off the small animal like a dog with rain water. I had no time to react, to hit my breaks or to even swerve, which would have put an abrupt end to my day. I pulled over about 100 yards away from the impact and as the morning began to shimmer in the sky I could see the dark body of the fawn on the side of the road. It was too dark to see if it was breathing and it wasn’t cold enough to see the steam from it’s breath. I wanted to believe it was okay and at the same time I wanted to believe it’s death was swift and painless. How those two diametrically opposed outcomes could rest peacefully in my mind still boggles. I couldn’t go to it because I didn’t want to know. It was cowardly, it was inhumane. If it was in agony I didn’t have any means to end it’s suffering, I couldn’t do it for Dotty, a creature I loved, I couldn’t pick up a rock and bash in the brains of a terrified animal to ‘help’.

Many images and thoughts have come from this experience unbidden and not totally unwanted.

  • It’s warning of jumping too soon into my plans for resolution with my sisters.
  • There is the guilt of thinking it was following it’s mother across the road and it was too intent to be with her it didn’t hesitate.
  • Anger at the house which allows the deers to graze in their yard so close to the busy road. It’s not a kindness befriending wild animals.
  • Shouldn’t I feel something more than just casual remorse for the loss of life. I’m too numb.
  • There should be a company you can call where someone quickly comes out, slaughters the venison and distributes it to the poor and hungry before the body starts to break down and spoil the meat.
  • What am I suppose to learn from this? Why did a baby deer have to die in order for me to learn whatever the lesson is? And how many more animals will need to be sacrificed before I learn it?
  • How completely blessed I am because it could have been so much worse.

On my drive home from work I didn’t see the body. I’m clinging to the hope I just stunned the little tyke and it’s with it’s mother being suckled back to health.

Sharpening The Tools

Therapy to me has been about gaining the tools most lucky people honed at the knee of their loving and sympathetic parents. It’s hard to till emotional barren terrain with a sarcasm and empty promises. I like to believe I am well on my way to the fully stocked and functioning emotional tool shed I should have graduated college with. If I had graduated college.

The blow to my emotional foundation from last week in Mixed Messages put me in an easily angered and dark state making it hard to be around my family. Then my sister fell and broke her ankle. It brought up a lot of unresolved anger from when I broke my foot. I know, the two aren’t the same but they aren’t mutually exclusive either. I learned there is still a lot of anger in me at the living family. Sure, I forgave mom but it’s easy when you know you’re never going to have to deal with them, or care about them, or be measured and judged by them ever again. The anger I’m still dealing with in regards to my sisters and brother sometimes overtakes me and apparently I’m not as deft at hiding it from them. My humor turns scary dark. Who knew?

The anger was getting too comfortable so I took out my journal and I wrote for a few hours. When I was taking care of my mother I would open a vein and let the ichor run over the pages until the pain receded back to numbness. That was the purpose of the ‘vomitorium’ entries as I’ve come to label them. When I needed more than the temporary peace I limited myself to not just spewing but finding a solution to the bone stuck in my throat. I did a lot of spewing in this entry, about the abandonment, the narcissistic or neurotic tendencies which make me and my sisters who we are and how it affected me directly. It is all about me in my journal, that is the purpose of my journal. I calmed down the anger as well as talking myself through it and I’m turning to my tools to deal with it.

My most useful tool has always been my journal. I can remember writing a lot of posts about how I needed to be a better person, not for my mom, but for me because I wanted to achieve my goals. In some way I laid the foundation I’m building on today, in other ways I reinforced the illusions my mother conditioned me with. Focusing on my breath helps me work my way through acute and immediate stressors so I don’t get wound up in the anger and I remain functional. Forgiving the living is still a tool I’m trying to put to the whetstone but I can’t seem to make contact well enough to do anything but dull the blade. I don’t know why I can’t just wave my hand and say “All is forgiven”. No, I know why. It’s the memories and their words and the not being there when I needed them that present in my mind and refused to be mown down by the dull blade.

I love my sisters. I really, really do. Even when they don’t believe in me. They don’t have to believe in me as long as I believe in me. I don’t let the anger get between us, if I can help it. I need to sharpen my skills at hiding my moods better though. I don’t have to be the happy little clown all the time to humor them but I don’t need them worrying about me and trying to get to the festering angry core of my issues either. Thich Nhat Hanh taught anger has to do with the angry person not the one causing the anger. I can’t control why people do what they do, the only thing I can do is control what I do. Anger isn’t in harmony with Christ’s teachings, it isn’t in harmony with Zen teachings and it isn’t in harmony with a happy and healthy emotional wellbeing. Maybe it’s time to stop spewing in my journal and going to back stating a problem and finding a solution. So, I guess a blank journal is going to be the whetstone for the forgiveness scythe to put in my tool shed. Time to order more ink.

uPDATE

I started reading ‘Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames’ by Thich Nhat Hanh I realized I wasn’t trying to help myself or anyone else with the comments about my sisters. The ultimate goal was for them to read my words and be hurt by them. I don’t think they really know how deep this goes, I honestly didn’t know how deep this anger went until after therapy on Tuesday. I don’t want to hurt them (yes, I do) but the purpose of reading and journaling is to work through it until it’s resolved. into forgiveness. I had hoped this process would be a wellspring of posts for the blog but in light of my Monk, wanting to hurt the person who hurt me is natural but it is not freedom from the flames of anger, it only fans conflagration.

“To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Therapy was also enlightening in as much as I learned to get to forgiveness you have to go through (not skip over) the anger. I have to deal with anger as it comes up, like my Monk says, but I am allowed to be angry. There has always been a real fear of anger taking me back deep into the void. Ellen pointed out in the Void there was hopelessness and depression. I’m not hopeless any more, and though I am still medicated for depression I am not suffering with it any longer. I can get angry, I can feel it and learn from it and work to transform it into forgiveness and freedom. This, however, is going to have to be dealt with in my journal and therapy. I will try to express my progress as long as it isn’t a subversive attempt to hurt my sisters.