A practice of tea.

Practice Never Stops

A practice of tea.

I have a phone call to make. I’m not looking forward to it.

The matter started with an email to a friend. I thought what I wrote seemed straightforward, but he didn’t see it that way. My comments offended him, and he responded with a harsh email.

I didn’t agree with his arguments about what happened. Many of them weren’t true. I felt he misinterpreted the situation and ignored his mistakes. I wondered if he even bothered to read what I wrote.

Resolving the disagreement over email wasn’t working too well – written text can hide the context and tone of a conversation. So we scheduled a phone call.

I pace the apartment. What will I say? What will he say? The call is in twenty minutes.

waves crash and tumble
the surface sloshes about
shaken by the storm
to find peace with your brother
hold the teacup with stillness

I want to give up on reconciliation. Wouldn’t it be easier to ignore it? Or wouldn’t it feel better to take out my frustration on my friend? The way of peace seems far away.

But peace is my practice. If I’m not willing to apply it now, when it’s not convenient, then what good is it? If it can’t help me here, then it is not genuine.

So I prepare for the call.

Going to the kitchen, I fill the kettle with water, and turn on the heat. Sunlight fills the room. I pick out a green tea from the cupboard and pour the heated water on the tea leaves. Standing still, I watch the tendrils of green swirl into the clear water. The tea brews.

Taking my hot tea, I sit down on the same cushion I use every day for meditation. I return to an environment of calm.

I take a sip. I breathe. I ponder the conversation to come.

The temptation to get into an argument arises again, but I let it go. I know, despite his exaggerations, there remains some truth to his complaints. I could have acted with greater understanding. I could have communicated better. Moreover, it does not matter whose fault it is. Both of us suffer.

I take another sip of tea and pick up the phone. Drawing in three deep breaths, I dial his number.

***

My Taekwondo instructor once told our class a story about his teacher. In an interview, a news reporter asked the teacher if he’d ever used Taekwondo in normal life.

“Every day,” he responded.

“What?” the reporter stared back at him. Why would such a kind and respectful gentleman get into fights all the time?

The teacher explained what he meant. The practice of Taekwondo isn’t just about the moves, the blocks, and the strikes. It isn’t about fighting or even self defense. It’s a way of living.

A martial artist does not stop his practice when he leaves the dojang – the place of training. He applies the tenets of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit, compassion, and community spirit in every situation.

He practices martial arts for life.

***

No matter your practice, practice it at all times.

When you put your book down, you do not cease to ponder the wisdom contained within. You meditate on its words day and night. You look for opportunities to apply them.

When you leave a community gathering, you do not cease to share the beliefs and habits of that community. You remember the people. You live with their influence.

When you arise from your cushion or chair, you do not cease the practice of mindfulness. You notice your breathing. You bring peace and calm into your work and interactions with others.

When you end the dance, you do not cease to move or feel joy. From time to time, you catch yourself bobbing your head to the rhythms of the song. You embrace each moment with lightheartedness.

When you finish a bike ride, you do not cease to strengthen your body. You take energy and well-being into the rest of the day. And your body keeps building up your muscle.

When you put down your colored pencils, you do not cease to pay attention to the world. You see the details. You admire the beauty.

When you wish your child goodnight, you do not cease to be a parent. You continue to watch over them. Your love for them continues while they sleep.

where does the wave begin
rising, climbing, cresting
where does the wave end
falling, dropping, crashing
it’s always water

Let the separation between practice and non-practice fade away. Become your practice.

***

I hang up the phone, pleased with the outcome. There were difficult points throughout, but overall we managed to listen and understand each other. We resolved the situation.

The practice of peace continues.

###

PHOTO: A practice of tea.

PS: Happy birthday, Jeff. May your day be filled with beauty, joy, and love.

5 thoughts on “Practice Never Stops”

  1. How timely! I had the same thing happen with a friend this week. My attempts to get together and talk over lunch, or to call and talk on the phone were met with a rebuff. My appeal to “resolve this as sisters in Christ,” was met with stony silence. Apparently the truth, even when spoken in love, appropriately and with concern can shut a door some don’t want opened. It hurts too much to face someone who has offended us, justified or not. It takes two to have a disagreement, and two to resolve it. When one does not want resolution, there’s not much else you can do. So glad YOUR situation was resolved. I assume that when a person refuses to resolve an issue when I express an interest in doing so, that they are not ready, not that they’re not capable. Thank you for a timely, timely post.

  2. Wonderful post! Joshua, I love how you see the depths of what is going on around you. You truly are a modern day philosopher.

    Ironically, as I was reading it a client called about a piece of work I’m behind on. I owned up, and apologized. He said, no worries, he just wanted to know I was aware and prepared to do the work.

    It took courage to answer the phone when I knew I was in the wrong, and reading this post helped me do it. Thank you.

    Sorry, Becky, it’s not working out for you. Sometimes we can only make it easy for when people are ready (much like my client did on this call).

  3. Becky, Sometimes all you can do is speak with kindness and understanding and wait for the other person to be ready (as you mentioned). It can be hard though – especially when you know that they’re suffering. I hope the situation works out well for you both.

    Frances, I’m glad you found it helpful (and applicable). 🙂

  4. “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.” – Ray Bradbury

    Great post. It inspired me to look for related quotes. Also thanks for the birthday wishes!

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