A life dedicated to service...

Week 33: Smell the tea before you drink

Dear Ones — we’re way past the half-way point on our exploration of living each day as if it were our last. It began with my post on Jan 3, 2017 and many of you have been walking along ever since. Please feel free to join today. Think of it as your personal pilgrimage, a sacred journey of awakening. “Awaken” to what, you ask? To the realization that this thing we call “my life” has a finite shelf life, will come to an end, probably when least expected, with certainty. Few people like to talk about — even contemplate — this fact: myself included. But there it is.

So what to do? Short answer: to befriend the fact and live accordingly. By the time I’ve typed and you’ve read these words, we’ll be 90 seconds closer to when this life comes to a full stop. Instead of worrying (or refusing to worry) about this inevitability, wise people through the ages have advocated we live — I mean be alive, present, cognizant — in as many moments as we can. As George Santayana (1863-1952), philosopher and poet, put it, “there’s no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. The dark background which death supplies brings out the tender colours of life in all their purity.”

To “meditate” is one of the ways we connect with, and live in, this one life more richly. Ok, sounds familiar. But it requires regular practice and doesn’t deliver much in terms of results. Years ago, my Zen teacher taught me how to “meditate with sound” and then said to do this regularly “for 30 years.” She could have said “smell the tea before you drink it” and do this “until you die.” There are a hundred ways to “kneel and kiss the ground” Rumi the Sufi mystic said. Just as there are myriad ways to embrace this scent, this taste, this misery, this joy, this ache, this uncertainty, this tooth brush, this drop of rain …. you see where this is going.

Sitting on a meditation cushion is certainly one of the ways, as is counting your breath, or noticing tingling sensations on your skin, and thoughts coming and going. To energize such a practice, may you be inspired by Ajahn Brahm‘s irreverent instructions below. May your life go well.

About the Author
Peter lives in Victoria, BC, where he volunteers in health-care. teaches mindfulness meditation, and offers end-of-life care.
  1. Nancy McPhee Reply

    hello peter thought of you, found this lovely place so dropped in to share greetings…

    may you be well


  2. Virginia Rego Reply

    I love smelling my Earl Grey tea, especially a new blend with lavender, not only before I drink it but while I drink it. I tried the suggestion to breathe out then in; it was a bit tricky and I wondered if I had enough breath already in me, lol, but apparently I did; just had to trust!

    I think perhaps I do this a bit with my daily routines, such as switching up which side of my mouth I start brushing my teeth on…although I do such things more to bring balance into my life, and to work both sides equally. I suppose though as I do it mindfully, because I have to think about it to make the switch, that that’s an example of “being in the moment”.

    Thanks for your posts, Peter.

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