Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Tea Party

The story is told of Milarepa, an 8th century Tibetan Buddhist, who came back to his cave one day to find it filled with demons. He didn’t know how to get rid of them. He got angry and shouted at them to leave. They just laughed. He regained his composure and tried to teach them Buddhism. They yawned and ignored him. Finally, he gave up and said, “I’m not going anywhere and it seems that you are not either. I guess we will have to live here together. Let’s have tea.” He turned to make tea at which point the demons promptly left.

A lot has happened in the last few months that has stirred up feelings. Deep feelings relating to things that happened long ago. Disturbing feelings. Even scary. Churning up long settled silt to muddy the clear water of the present.

What to do with these feelings?

First I dismiss them.

How silly to be upset about things that happened so long ago. I know better. I’m not even upset about things that really happened, because who really knows what happened? As A Course in Miracles teaches, “the only wholly true thing you can say about the past is that it is not here.” I’m upset about the stories I’m telling myself about the past. Stories I’m telling myself right now about times lost in the mist. Why am I doing this to myself? I can simply change the stories and not be upset. Of course, that is just substituting stories. The feel good stories are no more true than the feel bad stories. They are all just stories. Drop them all. Why are those feelings still hanging around?

Next I try to analyze them.

What are these feelings really about? If I can understand them, I can control them. I can put them in a properly labeled container and be done with them. So I think and think. But my thinking gets me nowhere and I find myself circling by the same thoughts repeatedly, like seeing the same tree over and over when lost in the woods. I am hopelessly confused. I cannot think my way to peace with these feelings.

So I invite them to tea.

I remember the story of Milarepa. Okay, feelings, sit down and have some tea. Sit right here. Drink this. But no one comes.

And finally I give up.

A good host does not command her guests. She prepares the table and welcomes who shows up.

I remember the little tea set that someone gave my daughter years ago. It is covered with hearts. It sits on a heart shaped tray, and the four tiny cups are shaped like hearts. Seems like a gift from destiny.

I fill the little pot with water and sit down to wait.

One by one, they arrive – pain, anger, fear, sadness. As each one arrives, I bow in welcome. I think of the teapot as representing the courage to open my heart to these guests, and the water is the nectar of mercy and compassion. I pour water into the cups and offer one to each guest with another bow.

And I listen to what each has to say.

I would like to tell you that they each spoke their piece and then left, but the truth is that they are still here. They are not finished yet. And that’s okay.

We are all friends here.

13 thoughts on “Tea Party”

  1. I remember my first Promise Keepers, they taught us to go to the person we had the problem with- even if they were dead. It helped a lot, trying to deal with the difference of emotional opinion over my Father, who was a great guy, if you weren't the one who had to take his alcohol-fueled BS. Talking to him went a long way to finally healing the "two sides of Woody".

  2. Thanks CW for the good advice. I'm glad you were able to find some peace with your dad. you are right–we can still talk to people no matter where they are!

  3. "One by one, they arrive – pain, anger, fear, sadness. As each one arrives, I bow in welcome. I think of the teapot as representing the courage to open my heart to these guests, and the water is the nectar of mercy and compassion. I pour water into the cups and offer one to each guest with another bow."
    Galen, I cannot express to you how these words linger in my heart. Sounds funny, absurd even, for a Christian to experience past memories as somehow dictating the present when I know, deep in my heart, that God forgives when we repent, and allows us to welcome those "guests" to a tea party fearlessly. May He continue to strengthen all of us, and welcome all, no matter what state they are in, to the eternal feast.
    Blessings, and thanks for this inspiration!

  4. Do you know Rumi’s “Guest House”?

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    – Jelaluddin Rumi,
    Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks


  5. I do know this poem, and I love it. In fact I wrote a blog post about it a while back. This poem plus the Milarepa story (one of my favorites) gave me the idea for the tea party. I love the last part of this poem about recognizing that whatever comes is a guide from beyond. That thought puts things in an entirely different perspective.

  6. Wonderful post, Galen. It's so satifying to me when approaches to healing or solving nagging conflicts can coalesce with psycholgical therapies and be given a deeper meaning. I've come across the idea in counselling of having conversations with old troublesome memories or people from the past who have caused conflict, inviting them to tea, in other words, to not be shied away from (which is a very human thing to do). If we can find a way of living with the past in the present and having dialogues with it, so to speak, then it frees us up to move on, wiser and more whole somehow. Lovely poem from Rumi, which I've copied and saved!

  7. I agree, Lynne, I'm hoping that the tea party approach will help resolve these issues and release them. And I also love that poem. I'm so glad it got posted again.

  8. This was a very interesting post and I had different thoughts and feeling about it all. I like the idea of inviting those good and bad guests to the tea party and just working through whatever needs to be taken care of then letting it all go. I think that is the big part; just letting it go. My method is just to have a really good conversation with my Heavenly Father about it all and then listening for any inspiration and finally just leaving it all in the Savior's hands. It works most of the time for me but not always. I have that giving up my will and accepting His can be the draw back to healing and peace.
    Blessings and hugs for this thought filled post!

  9. Listening for inspiration and leaving the issue in the hands of God, by whatever name, is the way to access our own divine intuition and wisdom. Thanks, LeAnn.

  10. Sometime a feeling of dread, anxiety or fear with come over me out of nowhere. I have learned like you said Galen, in your post to accept them, but for me its more like an unwelcome guest. I don't run away or get fearful of its presence, I just observe it , looking at it with the inner eye, as the observer. I don't identify with the guest as being part of me. I have found that if I look at it with deep penetration, a type of staring it down, it leaves. As it is leaving I follow it with my observer eye until it disappears in the mist. This technique works for me. The secret seems to be in not identifying with it as being you. When you look at it with strong penetration it is exposed as an imposter and disappears. It cannot stand the light of truth.Light always dispels darkness.

  11. I thought a lot about this comment, Brian, and I appreciate your perspective. Seeing it as me or not me–each gives me a different experience. Either way, it seems that the key is not to struggle. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  12. Your right,Galen, if we make our thoughts an enemy it just creates duality with a struggle; fear and anxiety are types of thought mixed with emotion. The mind can be seen as a great friend and servant but it makes a terrible master. Meditation teaches us to become the observer of thought, emotion and the body without the need to be identified with these as being your true self. I used to have anxiety until I learned to observe it in meditation without identifying myself as being it. Without our identification with fear and anxiety it seems to just dissipate. This as been the most liberating experience for me ; to know that I don't have to identify with thoughts. When we become the observer or the witness of life as it happens we are living the Tao.

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