Three Cups of Tea

Last night, my nephew graduated from the eighth grade. He attended St. Jane de Chantal Catholic School, in Bethesda, Maryland.

During the graduation liturgy, the pastor delivered a wonderful homily based on the book, Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. I have not read this book myself, though it has been recommended to me. After this homily, I have decided it is definitely a must read for me.

The author of this book is nourished back to health in a Pakistani town high up in the Himalayas. During an encounter he has with a sage in the village, he learns about the custom of drinking three cups of tea.

He is told, that when he shares the first cup of tea, he is merely a stranger to those who offer him the cup. When he drinks the second cup, he is elevated to the status of honored guest. But by the third cup, he becomes family.

In so many cultures in the East, there is an ingrained and very ancient practice of hospitality that is evident in how others are embraced and respected.

The pastor of my nephew's school, exhorted his graduating class to embrace this custom of the three cups of tea with a different spin. He urged the students to drink their first cup for God - and thus honor the presence of the Divine in their lives and the relationship that it implies. The second cup should be consumed for friends and family members. But the third cup, should be imbibed for themselves. In other words, the importance of taking time out for themselves was stressed. Thus, the graduating class was encouraged to take time to discover who they really were - their gifts, and their talents - but mostly to take time to simply be...

As someone with a dedicated meditation practice, I was touched and inspired by the homilist's words - perhaps more than the students themselves were. I knew they did not truly realize the gift that they were given in that moment. They were actually encouraged to reject a culture that revolved around quick experiences and results. Instead, they were invited to develop a more contemplative dimension in their lives...

In a very real sense - the last cup is the most important - because it is the one that truly enables you to appreciate the first cup...

Every morning, after my meditation, I drink a cup of coffee. During the winter I drink several cups of tea. I know I will drink my first cup of the day more symbolically now, for it will remind me to ground myself more deeply into my meditation practice - as well as my asana and other spiritual practices. In being true to myself and my being - I create within myself a bigger temple for the Divine to take up residence. I only hope, that with each passing day and year, the Divine feels more and more welcomed in my life, choosing to reside in my heart forever...

As I said to a dear friend and spiritual brother today at lunch, all that endures from life-time to life-time is the essence of soul - and our relationship to the Divine. All other drama and relationships fade - never to be repeated in the same way again. As I sat there, and drank two glasses of iced tea I thought to myself - yes - here I drink these two glasses - one for my soul - and one for God - in the company of another dear soul with whom I've been connected many times on my soul's journey.

Just as the breath connects us to life - may we always slow down to share a drink - whatever it may be - not only with the dear kindred souls we know - but with those that we are sent, most especially those who challenge us to grow...

And may this practice of drinking three cups, always deepen our connections...

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