The reference to Tea and Conversation comes from a story about Buddha and his instructive dialogue with Mara, who in Buddhism represents demonic forces. Much has been written of these dialogues, where Mara appears before Buddha bringing an array of challenges, doubts and negativity.
In every sense, Tea and Conversation is a practice of welcoming, an act of seeing and an opportunity for dialogue.
By way of example, when a dear friend comes over, perhaps invited or not, when we are able, we welcome them in to sit down. We share tea or perhaps a cool beverage. We engage in conversation to get current and to sincerely inquire as to their well-being.
In the best conversations there is the opportunity to discuss and hear each other ‘s truth and vulnerability. Hopefully, we are able to see and to be seen, to welcome and be welcomed in the midst of all thoughts, feelings and emotions that may be arising.
And what happens when the knock on the door announces not a dear friend, but a troublesome neighbor or someone that brings with them a challenge, something disagreeable, or something heartbreaking?
Do we have the presence and spaciousness to invite these guests in? If it is truly not the right time, it may be necessary to schedule another time (or place) to engage with them. We know that if we ignore them, they’ll likely be back, perhaps even more insistent, perhaps less well behaved, perhaps at a time even less convenient. Acknowledging, at least internally, that not engaging is not an option.
When we do sit down with them to address what needs to be addressed, is it possible to welcome our guest with equanimity and an open heart without agitation, anger or fear? Is it possible to actually see and hear them without overlaying our own judgements and opinions? What shift in perspective might be required from us to have the space and receptivity to welcome them?
All of the above has a lot to do with how we can address our own thoughts and emotions.
The concept of Tea and Conversation offers an approach for us to greet the mental and emotional visitors who arrive knocking at our own door. It provides a container for us to hold those arisings which come from real worry, fear and uncertainty. These issues may be the source of depression, sadness, debilitating emotional paralysis or resigned numbness that literally keep us from falling asleep or wake us up at two in the morning or stop us in our tracks during the day.
Largely, these recurring issues are the ones that are not so easily set aside. The ones that can be met with calm and rational thought, typically, don’t keep you up at night.
The practice of Welcoming is one way we can meet each of these ‘visitors’ in the same way we would dear friends or bearers of unpleasant, unavoidable news.
I will continue this exploration in my next post, Tea and Conversation – Part 2.