Sunday, February 19, 2012

About nothing and tea

Many of you have been asking me, “why no blog posts” for so long…thank you for caring and for asking. My ego did grateful and happy circles around the globe to hear that sometimes what I write resonates with someone. Marc Chagall, one of my favorite artists, once said, “If I create an image from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” I guess all this time I’ve been waiting for something to originate from my heart. After my mom died, everything seems so different. I had to find where I fit in as half orphaned, grown woman. I am still not certain of any of that, but I do have something to say now. Something about nothing, that is.
Have you ever had a deep urge to turn everything off? As if the world was a big oversize loud TV set and you had a remote control with the “power” button? To simply stop all the noise? Not in a mean or spiteful way and not in a cowardly way either.To kind of put on internal ear plugs and shut off the valve of everything and to gaze into nothing.. …Well, I have.

What I’ve always known, or at least I thought that’s what I’ve always known, is that I am more like a human “doing” rather than a human “being”.  Doing comes easier to me than being. I tried to sit still many times in the past. I even tried to be "kind and compassionate" to my thoughts, to be the observer, to find the core self that is calm and magnificent...Every time with disastrous results. Nothing eluded me.

In those rare moments when I gathered the morsels of my will to “vacate my life” for any amount of time, my mind did amazing things to sabotage my meager attempts. These tricks included: sickening intellectual pirouettes where one thought is immediately followed by its opposite, i.e. “I don't want to die young. But I don't want to grow old”; ferocious sprints, when a whole bunch, hoards of big hairy, wild thoughts (imagine a mix between a bull and a gorilla) run in every possible direction. Kind of like a disorganized American football, where there is no hope for a touchdown – just wild, directionless mass. Without any protective layers or rules of the game, my beastie thoughts step on and bump into each other, roar uncontrollably…you get the un-pretty picture.

In her book called “The Joy Diet”, Martha Beck recommends “vacating” your life for 15 minutes every day (20 if you can manage). She calls this form of meditation a doze of “nothing”, where only mindless activity such as sitting while staring  at a candle, running or rocking is allowed. Beck says that in her practice as a coach she often meets people who feel that there is “something” missing in their lives. Do you ever feel that way?  Well, Beck tells her clients that they should start with that which their spirit hungers for, namely - “nothing”. 

I am finding that in grief, one’s yearning for the deep, deep silence is almost palpable.  When a loved one passes away, I believe they return to the source, into the big, magnificent nothing which is also somehow everything.  Since loss brings up many questions with no obvious answers, maybe it urges the soul to reconnect with something bigger.  Or maybe it’s just me…

A new sense of clarity came when I recently visited the beautiful land of Turkey. What I realized is that the process for finding peace within might be MUCH less complicated than I ever imagined. All you need is tea. Well, sort of. You see, in Turkey tea is a ritual, a form of simple meditation. They seem to drink tea to get in touch with their inner core, with each other or sometimes just because it tastes good. Tea accompanies business discussions, heart-to-heart talks and first dates. It is served at weddings, funerals, or just on someone’s front porch. It all starts with a smiling face of the host or hostess who asks, “Chai?”  The practice includes two kettles, stacked on top of one another – one with the hot water (on the bottom) and one (on top) with tea leaves. Whenever I visit Turkey I get nearly mesmerized with the tea tradition and everything associated with it. It’s so incredibly simple and yet therapeutic: just two shiny metal pots, some water, tea, and beautiful little glasses, with a golden rim and a little spoon.

Being in Turkey brings out the worst out of my “human doing-ness”. Used to the manic pace of New York, Turkey represents serenity and quiet wisdom and I sometimes get antsy there. And yet, my Turkish friends just smile at me and offer me a glass of tea. When I appear restless, bugging them about details of their life, their plans for “doing more stuff” (or our lunch plans), they shared them with me, joyfully, happily, and without reservation, all while sipping on a tea. And at the end, my Turkish friends often add one simple wise word. They say, "bekliyoruz", which in English means “we will see". But to me what it really means is, "It's so nice to be sharing a wonderful little glass of tea with you and tell you of all my plans and ideas. But, ultimately, some things are not up to me or up to you. That's the wonder of it all, isn't it? So, we will see how it all works out. More tea?"

The near-manic doing, the endless “to-do lists” create chaos and makes you mistakenly believe that you are in full control all the time. And when sh-t hits the fan, you get confused (or I should say I get confused) and think to yourself “wait, that wasn’t suppose to happened that way. I had it all planned differently.”  What I am beginning to learn is the quiet and peaceful nothing is always here, right inside me. I am still in search for it, but now I am convinced that it’s just a glass of flavorful Turkish tea away. In fact, I am sipping some hot tea right now. Would you like to share a glass of tea with me? It may bring you closer to…nothing. And a little bit of nothing is what we all need sometimes.

"...My soul is not asleep! My soul is not asleep!
It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches, its clear eyes open,
far off things, and listens, and listens
at the shores of the great silence.
It listens at the shores of the great silence."

~ Antonio Machado (thank you, Martha Beck, for introducing me to his poetry)