November 9, 2012

A Lesson in Chai

I always seem to return from my annual Zion National Park trip with a life lesson or two. Or ten, if I'm really in a need of a smack down. The canyon has a way of calling you on your "stuff".

But, this time around, a key lesson came courtesy a friend. A friend who invited me over for Chai tea. I enjoy Chai at home and often whip up a cup in about 5 minutes. But this Chai was made from scratch. It took time. A lot of time compared to our modern leanings towards immediate gratification. Raw ingredients were cut, processed to fine granularity, blended in warming water, tasted, refined, tasted again. And eventually served. Strong, rich earthy flavor. More character than the Starbucks variety by far. But knowing my friend, good unique Chai was to be expected.

What wasn't expected was how I settled into and relished the passing of time without much going on. Hardly my strong suit. In the time it took to make the tea, how many stock options were traded, how many airliners (and satellites) passed overhead, how many FedEx packages were delivered? How many tweets, texts, and likes? A mind boggling number indeed. But, in the canyon, trees stood quietly anchored by their roots, waters flowed no more than stone and gravity allowed. Clouds silently passed by overhead. And I sat on a stool watching my friend make tea, talking, joking, fully present in the moment. Not much happened. Yet everything happened.

There is a Japanese proverb that says "The wind howls, but the mountain remains still." My life has seen its share of howling wind. I don't regret it. But the realization now is that I want the mountain. I want a life more in sync with the mountain than the wind.

Maybe I'll start with some homemade Chai.


Be still. Gather yourself. The thunder rolls away and there comes a clear dawn.

N. Scott Momaday