June 17, 2016
Road Trip Day 4: River
I woke up this morning wondering what I was hearing outside my tent. When I stepped outside I saw and felt it: rain, heavy rain. Full disclosure — although I like to spend a few weeks each year camping in the redwoods and coastal wilderness, I’ve been pretty lucky about weather, and haven’t really learned to deal with rain.
I started moving things around trying to set up so I do could my morning ritual: traditional Hebrew prayers, an hour of meditation, and a steaming pot of fine Chinese tea. My plan was: heat up the water outside on my little camp stove, and meditate with hot tea in the tent.
I stumbled onto tea a few years ago when Wendy and I visited a little Chinese shop in San Francisco and walked out with an assortment of quality Chinese teas. I initially learned how to brew them by watching the proprietor, and developed my skill with practice over time. I loved these teas, and was soon drinking tea every morning. After I served one of my favorites to my son Adam, he sent me a book called The Way of Tea, about cha Tao, the Tao of tea. One of my favorite passages:
“This Natural way that all things move—the entirety of all the eddies in this great current we call a Universe—is what the ancients called “the Way (Tao).” …. Like water, all events have a natural, innate predisposition to flow in a particular direction, including the lives of people. The Tao, then, is also the “Way” that a person achieves an accord with that river, for whether we fight the current or not, it carries us forward nonetheless. And yet, the man who turns about and acts in concordance with the river’s weight, acts with all its tremendous power surging through whatever he does.”
From The Way of Tea by Aaron Fisher
This showed me how tea can be a practice of awareness, and part of any spiritual practice. Soon tea had become part of my morning ritual, with prayer and meditation. And I’ve learned that when I’m on the road, waking up in a tent in different places, this practice is especially valuable.
But this morning, nature, as is often the case, had other plans. The stove wouldn’t light, the fire starter wouldn’t light, the gas canister suddenly seemed empty, and everything outside, including me, was soaked. Trying to make tea right now seemed like a losing battle. So I gave up. I moved everything inside the tent, including the teapot with the dry tea leaves, and meditated at the entranceway. But the meditation was off; my mood wasn’t happy.
Then out of nowhere, Aaron Fisher’s passage, the one I first had read three years ago, came to mind. And with it, the understanding: I can stop trying to fight the current; I can align myself instead with the river. I opened my eyes and saw raindrops soaking the earth. I looked down and saw the teapot, with the dry First Flush Honey Orchid Oolong inside, sitting at my feet.
I closed my eyes again and, as raindrops continued to dance on the roof of the tent, meditated in peace.