A tea in the desert to live the present moment

A tea in the desert, to live the present moment.

A tea in the desert, to live the present moment: it brings me back to intense emotions. I find myself walking among sand and rocks in Wadi Rum, Jordan. I need to find good places to do some filming for the documentary Wells of Hope (see https://liabeltrami.it/2020/08/24/donne-arabe-contro-la-tratta-la-simbologia-in-wells-of-hope/ ). The immensity of the desert space is overwhelming; it occasionally creates fear or instability. But I deeply love the desert, I feel like it is my interior dimension.

The desert my interior dimension

The 7 pillars of wisdom

After walking for about an hour, you will encounter the so-called “7 pillars of wisdom” – the place where Lawrence of Arabia’s camp was https://www.latitudeslife.com/2014/11/il-deserto-di-lawrence-darabia/, but I feel a bit tired. I realise I do not have any drinks with me, and dehydration comes very rapidly in the desert. I walk some more and I advance through a narrow side valley: at the bottom there is a tent; I go towards it immediately. My feet sink into the fine sand, going up might seem like an obstacle. I keep on going, I feel called to go right there.

The 7 pillars of wisdom

Here and now

A tea in the desert, to live the present moment. I enter the tent and after a few moments, in the semi-darkness I meet a young Bedouin boy, tall, very thin, with a regal posture. He smiles at me and without asking me anything offers me tea. At that point, an almost unreal atmosphere emerges: while we wait for the water to boil we start talking, a few words to tell the truth, and many long silences. He is not 18 yet, but he brings in all the wisdom of those who live in the desert. In the village, he cultivates medicinal herbs, sage and other herbs.

A tea in the desert
A tea in the desert

A Zen master, a Sufi, a Christian Jew.

I cannot measure time, a moment, minutes, hours. I feel something that had already happened to me in Japan, in a museum dedicated to the Zen master Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro (1870-1966) https://www.kanazawa-museum.jp/daisetz/english/index.html

It is almost as if the past and the futuro immerse themselves in the present. It is one of those rare moments in which I really live the present moment, in full awareness. In the Zen tradition, living the present is one of the most important teachings, the fundamental stage of one’s journey.

For Sufis, “there are only three days: yesterday, today and, inshallah, tomorrow. But today is what matters.” This is what Sheikh Eshref Efendi, master of peace and promoter of the Rabbaniya centre, told me.

A venerable Christian of the early nineteenth century in France, Jacob Liebermann, the son of a rabbi, writes in a letter on spiritual direction: “To get to this you know what is necessary: to be at peace and rest; never worry and not get upset at all; forget the past; live as if the future did not exist; live for Jesus when you live or rather to live as if you had no life in yourself, leaving Jesus to live in us at ease; to walk like this in all circumstances, without fear and worry”.

The correspondence between Merton and Suzuki

More recently, Kanazawa’s Zen master, Suzuki, wrote to his friend, the Christian monk Thomas Merton (from the documentary Ukon the Samurai), https://auroravision.it/2020/08/14/ukon/ ):

A zen master was asked:

What is the Tao?

It is our everyday mind, the master answered.

And what is our everyday mind?

When you are tired, you sleep; when you are hungry, you eat.

And Merton concluded: “When we are empty, we are able to be full… We are in the fullness of time and everything is given in our hands. We imagine to travel towards and ending that has yet to come… But it is already here, now!

A tea in the desert, to live the present moment.

The tea also arrives, I drink it very slowly, tasting every sip and immersing my gaze in the infinite space of the desert, in the shadow of the Bedouin tent. These are rare moments, but they support us in the storms of everyday life. There are many practices and exercises to try to live the present moment. To each person their own.

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