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Tea and sympathy (04/18/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

"The part in us that feels suffering is the same as the part that feels joy." Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, from "Kitchen Table Wisdom"

Without warning, life contradictions begin to occur. We used to go all night long. We still do...where's the music? Robert Frost speaks eloquently from the rumble seat of life's adventure. "Surely I am lost enough to find myself," begs both a grin and a tear. I'm not lost...I just don't know where I am.

Stress be gone! I spent my younger years making mountains out of molehills; now, at 59 and holding, I seem to be attempting to make molehills out of mountains. Things I've written before (another sign of something...I forget), like "when life throws you a lemon, duck!" "Don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow." Adversity builds character (or is it "a character?").

When one begins making weird observations, you know you've been hanging around one clinic or another a time or three. You reflect, how long has it been going on - the grasses of spring splitting the concrete driveway? You notice that the house trim has become pathetically shabby just overnight. Lilac bushes have outgrown their welcome, towering sky-high at the end of the garage.

The good stuff: I would compare it to biting deeply into a creamy eclair iced with rich chocolate, savoring how the palate melts into the pastry's essence. I retrieved, from one of my bookshelves, a dear old friend, Alexandra Stoddard's luscious "Tea Celebrations - The Way to Serenity." Charming sketches of tea things grace her delightful, sugar and spice musings. Stress may be just a sip away. (Wouldn't it be loverly!)

Bring harmony and balance back into your life. Stoddard's descriptive "tea times" take me away! ""Put the kettle on. Make yourself comfortable near a window. Sip, and let the world boil down to just this cup, this moment, and let the warmth slowly spread from your fingers throughout your whole body to your soul. Reflect, analyze, dream, and plan. For now, the world is right here."

This Chinese aphorism is one of my favorites. "We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want." A teapot represents, at the same time, solitude and personal ritual as well as conversation and shared ceremony. "The best friends are those who know how to keep the same silences." (Bishop Fulton Sheen)

There is a Pali word, "Mudita," spoken by Buddhist monks, which is translated to mean "sympathetic joy." I've searched my mind's archives for meaning. If men of solitude, the monks, express sympathetic joy to others, they may be saying that those living in a superficial, commercial, and trendy world believe that they're fulfilled and happy, wallowing in possessions and prestige, which mock true contentment.

I believe we all are our own best nurturers. (Don't wait for somebody to bring you flowers.) Everyone over fifty should honor him or her self, and create their personal intentions list of "stuff I do for myself." Please indulge me: I hate to waste time on fiction, I take the long way home, and laugh at myself (always in stitches!). I let myself cry at weddings. I give others what they want.

I have realized great strength through The Serenity Prayer. Look for rainbows in adversity. I'm with Stoddard, every day needs its "tea time." Duties don't allow for each one to be majestic, or even restful, however. I can't be trusted with styrofoam cups, always tipping over, adding to the non-calm of tea at the computer. Stoddard would not approve!

"Perhaps one of the reasons we have lost our inner peace is because we are so willing to sacrifice luxuries." He who holds his own hand and wipes his own brow, who rubs his sore back and immerses his weary body into a steaming tub...it is he who understands healing from within.

A field of wildflowers counts not months but moments...and has time enough "to be." An entire human lifetime seems no more enchanting. Be well. 


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