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Holding Things With an Open Hand

Good Morning My Confidants

I decided against coffee this morning once again, due to my stomach still being weak. I feel tons better, better every day, but every now and then I'll get a severe cramping that lasts about five or ten minutes and then it's gone. Yesterday I could not finish my cup of coffee, and it was utterly delicious. From Ethiopia, one of my two favorite places that coffee comes from. I never finished it.

I weep!

Boy, oh boy, do I miss my coffee. This tea stuff. I just don't get it. It's just so.....the same.

What I love so much about coffee is that it has different layers of flavor. What the snobs, me included, call flavor notes. When you first put it in your mouth there's a flavor, if you let it sit for a second it takes on a second flavor, and then it has an after flavor or after-taste. A lot like wine or whiskey. Of course, all three of those can be considered acquired tastes.

I was amused at a comment once where someone said if it's a taste you have to acquire, why would you want to bother? I get that. I chuckle about it. I know I felt that way at one point in my life, probably a significant part of it.

And then I acquired the tastes. And oh my God! There are times I just sit in awe, marveling about how much I love all three. How I can sit and stare at the glass, and just luxuriate in the layers and notes the flavor.....

Whereas tea?

I just find it kind of... Boring.

Now this is not to say that if you love tea that you are wrong. I don't feel that way at all. And one thing I've been learning is not to yuck somebody else's yum. I mean the British Empire seems to not be able to get through a day without several tea times.

Did you know that tea "first arrived in Britain in the 1650s, when it was served as a novelty in London’s coffee houses"? "Back then, tea was a rare drink that very few consumed" And that "high taxes on black and green tea meant that social tea drinking could only be afforded by the wealthier classes. A cup of tea became an activity associated with luxury."

"Because tea began in Britain as a luxury for the upper classes, it had a reputation in the 18th century as a high-class commodity; however, as prices slowly fell, more people at the middle levels of society had access to it. Accordingly, drinking tea became associated with respectability among upwardly mobile middle-class people. When people drank tea, they were expected to possess certain manners and behave in a particular way. .... The association between tea and respectability became so ingrained in both British and Irish culture that it reached a point where it could not go out of fashion." **

I find that fascinating.

Give me coffee!

It's 60° here in Kansas City, but it's rainy, and it looks like it's going to be rainy through the weekend, which sucks, because Sunday was when I was having a little get together. I wanted us to be able to hang out on the front porch in the backyard. I don't think that's going to happen. But we'll have a nice time. It'll just make it that much more intimate. Surprisingly it's one of those days whereas normally 60° would be a wonderful temperature for me to leave the front door open so I can hear the birds and get a breeze, but that rain has made the breeze really chilly. And so sadly I shut the door.

The boys are off to work and I'm alone today. But I have my puppies, dozing on the back of the couch, one over each shoulder, and what could be better than that?

I'll sit here and finish my chamomile tea, the black tea which I can enjoy also has a lot of caffeine, and it turned my stomach as well. This is not been fun. But again, it doesn't last.

And I think my point, and I did have one, was that nothing lasts. I learned that in Buddhism. And when I was sharing it with a friend, all she could hear in that was some kind of defeatism. And it isn't.

She said that I was just accepting the inevitability that it would get bad. She just didn't get it. That made me sad. But then I had to learn that was her road, and it was foolish for me to be sad about it.

The truth is that Buddhism teaches us to hold everything with an open hand, neither grasping, or pushing away. Because that's when our real misery kicks in. Our misery is caused by our thoughts about whatever is happening.

We love something? We hold on to it by our very fingernails. Desperately. It's something wonderful and we don't ever want it to go away. And when it does go away we're miserable, whether it's a lover, friend, a fulfilling job, a time period in our life, a pet... Many of us live in terror of what we love going away. How many of us have fantasized that will go live in an old folks home with all our friends? And when we do lose something, the pain can be unbearable. But what truly truly makes it so incredibly unbearable is the fact that we just keep thinking about the fact that it's gone. That multiplies the misery. Missing it missing it missing it missing it.... Oh God, how do I ever get over this?

A point of Buddhism is that if we cherish the things that we love, and cherish them even more because we know it's fleeting, and we love it because it's in our life, and don't put a value on it by how long it lasts, that we just live in that moment, loving that thing for that moment, then when it does leave us, we can deal with it much better. Part of our loving whatever it is absolutely needs to be associated with the knowledge that we might not have it tomorrow. That is not defeatist. It's very important that we see that. That's what the cherishing is all about.

And when we do lose it, which we will, that thing can live on in our hearts. There will still be pain. We will still miss it. It will still hurt. But we can wrap it in the gratitude that we had it. That it extended value to our lives. And it still can, even when it's gone.

I had a teacher once that I got to keep as my teacher for years. And I remember thinking to myself that he would not always be there. And when I felt a moment of panic about that, I surrounded it instead with gratitude that I had him teaching me on that day. And sure enough he retired and moved to Florida. And I miss him. But I don't need him. He taught me a lot and I have those lessons with me, as part of me, for the rest of my life. And for that I'm so grateful.

Funny that coffee made me think of all these things. But it's true. I'm missing my coffee right now. This tea, for me, is a poor substitute.

But it's warm, and it gives me something to sip on, and I know I'll get my coffee back.

Yet what would happen if I couldn't drink coffee at all anymore? People have told me that's happened to them. I have a deer alcoholic friend who can obviously no longer drink wine or whiskey. What happens then?

Why then I'm grateful for the time that I had it in my life, and no longer having it doesn't make that what I had any less valuable. Value does not hinge on lasting forever. Ramses had colossal statues made of himself so that he could live forever. Spoiler alert! He didn't.

Today, think of a few things that you have in your life that you're very grateful for. Stop and think about it. Soak in the gratitude. Luxuriate in that gratitude.

Think of something that you loved that is no longer in your life. Be grateful that it was in your life. So can the gratitude. Luxuriate in that gratitude.

It's working for me. I hope it can work for you.

I hope that you also have an absolutely wonderful day. I know that I'm grateful for you.


BG "Gentle Ben" Thomas


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