I made tonight’s tea, “Brioche” organic tea, from American Tea Room, in my favorite, very old, Art Deco teapot. This is one of my absolute favorite teas. When I opened my first pouch of this tea I went into a deep swoon!
“Brioche’s astoundingly decadent aroma and flavor make it one of our best sellers. Even the dry leaves perfectly capture the spicy-sweet aroma of a Parisian patisserie with intoxicating, beguiling, tempting aromas of nuts, spices and an unrivaled baked sweet note. Visually speaking, well-oxidized ebony leaves are contrasted with pale, sliced almonds, bits of cinnamon and vermillion-colored safflower blossoms. The brew is a shimmering rust color. The aroma and flavor of Brioche are rich, nuanced and reminiscent of hot cinnamon buns, almond croissants, fine black tea and warm brioche with a touch of marmalade. It has an equally enchanting aftertaste that lasts and lasts… This superbly balanced blend stands on its own as an indulgence, or pairs beautifully with breakfast pastries and fruity after-dinner desserts (such as Linzer tarts).” [American Tea Room]
The tea is so special I had to pull out one of my favorite and dearly loved books, The Barn At The End Of The World: The Apprenticeship Of A Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd by Mary Rose O’Reilley. This book is the inspiration for tonight’s post. O’Reilley writes…
“To say, in a work of nonfiction, ‘I was born in such and such a place, in such and such a year’ seems pretentious. It makes one’s individual life appear very important — when what matters are not the facts of a life but the quality of the feelings and affections — what is universal, that is, instead of what is merely local and historical. My individual life could not be more insignificant, and I venture to speak about it not because anything particularly interesting has happened to me but simply because life has happened to me, and it has happened as well to everyone who reads these words. Every book that I care to read or write is a book about the texture of being alive, and only incidentally about the facts of a particular historical moment… Yet the facts of a life are strings that hold it to the ground.”
The texture of being alive. Ah, those words riveted me to the page of this book I so dearly love and will soon reread. It is an amazing book, and my copy is “textured” indeed. Dog-earred, full of underlinings, notes in the margin, turned down pages. A well loved book. And so tonight I sat paging through this fat paperback book sipping this most delicious tea. Tonight I think about life, and how it happens to us all, and how it moves and shapes and forms us, and how all the insignificant little lives add up to an astonishingly large whole. It is like looking down at people on the ground as you start your ascension into the sky on an airplane. The people on the ground look like ants and then soon disappear. But they are there, and each moment of their lives, of our lives, matter.
If you have ever sat in a group — and most of us have — like a meditation group, or a yoga class, or even in church on Sunday in the moments of silence when one is deep in prayer and contemplation, what you feel all around you is the energy of a sea of people you do not know (for the most part). You do not know their lives, their longings, their heartaches, their political beliefs, if they have recently lost someone they love, if they are about to take a journey of significance in their lives and you are in this group with them just as they are on the precipice of this life changing event, no, you simply feel the hum, the pulse of the group of people around you. And if you are very quiet, and close your eyes, and breathe slowly and meditatively, and just, if only for a moment, feel — not thinking, not moving, not lost in your own life — you will feel one of the greatest miracles any of us might experience, the bodiless embodiment of life, where all the drops of water in the sea become one great ocean, where the individuals in the group don’t so much matter as the larger group itself. It reminds me of a Navajo chant that I sing softly to myself often, We are one with the Infinite Sun, forever and ever and ever.
And so I sit, on this night, in a little cottage on the coast of North Carolina, drinking my tea, and I am alone, and yet part of the flow of life, of all of human existence. And I am acutely aware of the significance, even in my insignificance, of sitting here with my tea and writing, sharing my thoughts with you, as I have read O’Reilley’s words tonight and been deeply moved. It is the never-ending ebb and flow of life. And so my family and friends scattered hither and yon, and someone that I do not know who might be reading this, and all the peoples of the world living their lives, in wars, with sadness, grief, fear and death all around, and those that are starting new lives, new marriages, new relationships, babies born, feeling joy, and love, being awe-filled and astonished at the deep pleasure of being alive, exist together on this planet all in the same moment. And how is it not possible that if we live our lives as best we can, with all the love and compassion and kindness that we have in us to give, if we each do what we can each and every day, how can it not matter? We are all threads in the tapestry of life, and each of our lives lend texture, color, grace.
It is especially easy in this war torn world we are living in today to give up hope, to feel too insignificant to do anything that might matter, but this would be wrong, and it would be a very sad way to live. I cannot, from my little cottage, change the world all in one fell swoop, but I can be loving and kind and generous of heart, I can reach out in whatever way that I can, as you can, as we all can, and if we are all one under the sun, if the beating of the delicate wings of a butterfly can affect the weather patterns around the world, how can human kindness, compassion, and love not do the same?
I take a sip of tea. I hold it in my mouth for several seconds feeling the wet, warm sensation, and swallow very, very slowly. I note the flavor left on my palate. I breathe in deeply and think about what I have just experienced. Of all of the ingredients listed above what I am experiencing is one tea, the coming together of all that is in this one small cup, the pieces and parts become the whole. So, too, each and every one of us in this world, on this planet, in this moment, now.
It matters not the color of our skin, the country of our origin, the spiritual path we follow, or what we had for dinner. It matters that wherever we are we live fully awake and alive and aware of our singular responsibility to be all that we can be, because the rest of the world and all of its people are depending on us as we depend on them. Let us not, for one moment, think that we do not matter. The minutiae of our lives may not matter, but how we live our way through all the small moments of our days certainly does.
Live your life, have your tea, and bring all the kind compassion you can to every single person in every single moment. There’s no one person who can save the world, we all must, in our own way, do our part. And there’s no time to waste. Start now, feel the ebb and flow, breathe with it, become aware of it, feel the whisper of air of the butterfly’s wings against your cheek as it travels the world. Be quiet, be still, do you feel it? It’s there…