Wednesday, February 3, 2010

invite the devil to tea

In my meditation class tonight, I mentioned to my teacher that I was having a hard time being mindful because of some pain in my back. She told me to “invite the devil to tea”. What she meant was to welcome and consider the pain, and then to see what happens when you do. I was thinking about it afterwards, and comparing it with my initial reaction of getting annoyed - angry even - because this little spot in the middle of my back wasn’t allowing me to concentrate on breathing and relaxing. And I realized that this little bit of advice was actually really profound.

In the cafe recently, there is a customer who comes in just to pick fights. When he walks in the door every shift, I feel my body grow tense as I brace myself for the cruel words and yelling that will inevitably ensue. At first I used to get angry, and ask him to leave. I've transitioned to confronting him, telling him his actions aren't appropriate, and then repeatedly asking him to leave as he yells awful things at me while customers watch, leaving me shaking afterwards with the upheaval. I have been trying to figure out what exactly I could say or do that would make the situation different, but have come up with nothing, and always resort back to the same way of coping.

"Invite the devil to tea." After thinking on her advice about the pain in my back, it seems to me, rather than getting upset or angry in any situation, to instead allow it to happen and focus on being present in it. What would it look like for me to welcome the cruel words of this man, to really consider him, what he is saying and why? Even more, what would it look like for me to "invite to tea" all the things that really anger me? Scare me, even?