Thursday, December 29, 2005

Storms in Our Tea Cups

It has been suggested, by my wife and step-daughter, that I should address the issue of storms in tea cups that I mentioned in the previous blog.  My wife looked me right in the eye and asked what storms I have in my tea cup.  I of course replied that, since I am perfect, there were none at all.  This statement earned it’s deserved grunt of incredulity.  She ignored my braggadocio and pointed out that, even though we might see these storms as illusion, to the person experiencing them they can be quite significant.  And my step daughter wanted to know what to do about these little storms since they seem so insidious.  All good points.  So, what can we do?
Let’s first have a look at what Pir Vilayat meant by referring to storms in tea cups.  He usually made this reference when he was talking about gossip or how we over dramatize our personal problems.  I suppose he wanted his students to have a look at how we experience our conditions and how we react to the various things that we think are happening to us.  When a spiritual teacher is saying things like this to his or her students, a couple of things happen.  Some of the students will  listen attentively but essentially ignore what is not within their experience.  They realize that they can use the words of the teacher as bench marks to help them recognize their own processes.  They also know that what he says only matters in the abstract and personal experience is the real teacher.  Others will nod knowingly and attempt to be the ideal that the teacher is describing with varying degrees of success.   Both of these responses are just fine.  But guess what happens when these two groups compare notes?   Bubbling tea cups!  
You see the first group is skeptical, even of the teacher, and refuses to accept anything that is not a part of its personal experience.  They will question and challenge and demand and, in the end, teach the teacher, which is exactly as it should be.  The second group is on the path of devotion and does not understand the first group anymore than they are understood.  I have often thought that their very devotion supports the teacher in a way.  Both think they are right and, it is true, both are right.  Which brings us to the storms themselves.  
Everyone has problems to one degree or another.  Some problems are immense.  Having your home bombed and all of your family killed while sustaining serious injuries yourself and then becoming a war refugee.  This is a big problem which many people in the world currently face.  But that is not what is being referred to.  These storms in a tea cup are referring to our interactions.  Say someone violates you in some way, either real or imagined, how do you react?   Do you demand revenge?  Do you simmer in silence until an explosion is inevitable?  Do you meekly accept, resenting all the while?  These are the issues that we need to really deal with.  The human condition will give us plenty of events that we have no control over such as war or earthquake or harsh storms.  In those cases we do what we need to do to survive and to help others survive.  The things we do have some control over are our reactions.
In my own case I am capable of all three of the examples plus a few others.  What I do is try to continually monitor my own responses.  Often this is just noticing while I am reacting poorly but that’s okay.  This is the first step, noticing.  
What seems to happen as one pursues the spiritual life is a kind of constant reassessment.  Once a person begins to get the hang of meditation or deep prayer, they will also begin to notice their flaws and their reactions.  This, though uncomfortable, is a good thing.  What we do not see we cannot correct.   On the other hand, in my personal experience, I have noticed that the flaws tend to remain.  I still am quite capable of being unreasonably angry, or petty, or jealous, or resentful.  So, perhaps the real key is acceptance.  To accept the human condition, in fact to revel in it -  with all of its warts – may be the real answer to what to do about our tea cup storms.  This is the texture of our lives.   I shudder to think of a sterile universe where everything is perfect and no one ever contends or questions.  
Does this make sense to you?   What do you do?

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


sister smile said...

Hi there,

Thank you very much indeed for your nice comment on my blog. I'm glad it gave you a chuckle. I'm going to come back and re-read your blog tomorrow when I'm a little more rested. Sounds very, very interesting, but I'm afraid I'm in that travel-induced state of ennui where not much is sinking in at the moment.

Qalbi said...

I always loved it when Pir Vilayat talked about our "tempests in a tea cup." I can hear it now and it makes me feel wonderful. It feels good to look back as I write and realize that I have grown so much and become so much less identified with my personal problems! At the time, I thought he was talking about my inability to hold happiness and avoid self-loathing.

Once, at a Sufi teaching day locally, we were studying balance and I had a little tempest going about passion. I announced that I felt no attraction to balance, only to passion - what fun to look back on that! Since then I still enjoy and lament the messiness of life and I now appreciate that balance brings me greater opportunities to experience the passionate life.

molly said...

A bit of this seems just what living life is. Storms in the teacup. interesting. While going about the daily round, we all have our tempests. i suppose how we respond, or react to them is how we might look at our perceived "progress". but if they (temptests), are in fact illusion, are our reactions and responses just as illusiary? i personally am finding myself questioning what constitutes "right action"...where in fact, some of the time it's inaction. happy trails! :)

Qalbi said...

I am currently having my own tempest in a tea cup. I interviewed for a promotion today and got it. I'll be making much more money than I ever have. Life is good. I am totally upset and terrified that this shouldn't be happening, I have no room in my self image for prosperity. Okay, that all sounds very ridiculous and I'll go on about my business, fortunately I have worked hard to allow myself to change anyway!

Nurelhuda said...

My observation is that in accepting flaws , I have to learn to accept the flaws of those around me first .When people are accepted they stop reacting and the dynamics changes

Alimorrison2004 said...

We all have our own personal storms, and not matter what they all seem to be confined to our own little teacup called our world. If you take a tea cup of boiling water, I mean really boiling, and pour it into a 16 quart stock pot of cold or even tepid water, what happens. It all calms down doesn't it. If you look at life like that, our storms are minor compared to the big picture aren't they?

Agontuk said...