Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day Thirteen {Meditation Challenge}: An Invitation to Tea

To honor the close of our summer vacation, we had a flower fairy tea party at sunset last night.  We made offerings of incense, lit a candle, and set the table with a dainty porcelain tea set.  I love honoring the special moments in our lives this way.  It draws us more deeply into the present and gives us a chance to really experience whatever it is we're feeling.

Last night I was feeling a mixture of emotions -- nostalgic about the end of summer and both excited and nervous about the new school year.  While A. poured tea, I noticed my fears and worries arising.  Then I remembered one of my favorite stories of the Buddha. It's a story about being present for all of our experiences and befriending ourselves through it all.  Tara Brach tells the story in her book, Radical Acceptance, excerpted below.   

Whether you're just joining us or if you've been practicing with us through the 14 Day Meditation Challenge, I hope you'll enjoy this story.  You might even consider putting a kid-friendly spin on it and re-telling it to your kiddos.  Enjoy!

“One of my favorite stories of the Buddha shows the power of a wakeful and friendly heart. On the morning of Buddha’s enlightenment Mara, the fearsome demon who symbolizes the shadow-side of human nature, fled in defeat and disarray. In Sanskrit “Mara” means “delusion” – that craving and fear that obscure our enlightened nature.  

But it seems that he was only temporarily discouraged. Even after the Buddha had embarked on his teaching career and become a revered figure throughout India, Mara continued to make unexpected appearances. Instead of driving him away, however, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge the demon’s presence saying, “I see you, Mara.”

He would then invite him for tea and serve him as an honored guest.  Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably, the Buddha would fill two earthen cups with tea and place them on a low table between them. Mara would stay for awhile and then go, but throughout, the Buddha remained free and undisturbed.

You see, when Mara visits us in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you Mara,” and clearly recognize the craving and fear that persists in each human heart. The objective is to see what is true and to hold what is seen with kindness. Our habit of being a fair-weather friend to ourselves – of pushing away or ignoring whatever darkness we can – is deeply entrenched…. We truly befriend ourselves when, rather than resisting our experience, we open our hearts and willingly invite Mara to tea.”

For more from Tara Brach including tips on meditation and Common Issues for Meditators, visit her website at:
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