There was quite a bit of action leading up to this latest adventure in the mountains. While Bacon Little was refining his chivalry skills, Tea Love was pondering the latest truths. Not the kind of truth of whether the light was green or red, but the kind of truth that whispered its gemstones right into your heart. That stuff you could feel, but it was hard to put into words.
It was cloudy and the coldest day of the trip. The great energy from their recent backpacking trip was starting to fade. It was the last day of the hike and without any sun to be seen Tea Love wondered if they should make the trek up the mountain. “The views would be terrible and Bacon Little was getting really tired,” she thought. Something deep inside her really wanted the experience no matter what.
Before she could make sense of the decision, they stepped onto the rocky trail to make the all-day ascent up the mountain in the West Texas desert. Her mind though steady with each synchronized step and in awe at the mystical beauty of the mountain was pulled back to depth of this stuff called Life’s Truths. She recalled a recent dinner with Bacon Little.
Just as Tea Love turned to set the table for dinner she noticed a darker hued dining room with some flickers of light. Her heart palpitations started beating in the latest hipster beat with a flare of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and before she could catch a breath from this upbeat classically edgy musical concerto going on in her heart space, all she could do was melt right into Bacon Little’s arms with one of those big mama bear hugs. “I love you so much!” she cheerfully, though almost slobbering from the glow, said to Bacon Little.
Bacon Little had advanced the relationship dynamic again. He surprised Tea Love with candlelight on the dinner table. There was no special reason. None at all. It was just a typical weekday kind of dinner. But, in true post-modern chivalric style, Bacon Little brought in a little light and, though the candles shifted the hues of the room and added some light flickers, the kind of light he really brought in was that stuff on the inside. The candles were just accouterments.
Tea Love thought of that verse in The Dhammapada and realized that these weren’t the everyday kind of candles nor was it the everyday act of good will. This was the soul-shifting stuff that made a fundamental positive and transformative difference in people’s lives. Bacon Little’s capacity to go beyond the basic cultural expectations for a ten-year old and touch something deep inside himself that is sweet and tender and beyond the languages of humankind amazed and humbled her to the point of speechlessness. The Buddha said in The Dhammapada, Chapter 8 on Thousands:
“Better than a speech of a thousand vain words is one thoughtful word which brings peace to the mind. Better than a poem of a thousand vain verses is one thoughtful line which brings peace to the mind. Better than a hundred poems of vain stanzas is one word of the dharma that brings peace to the mind. One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand men on the battlefield.”
“This was it!” she said excitedly as if she had just discovered how to move life onto Mars. Tea Love further noted, “This is what we are all working on.” The thoughts came as fluidly as a gentle rain, yet she questioned aloud in the tenor of deep, intentional thought, “I wonder where it gets lost?”
“Uh, mom. Have you gone cra cra because I thought we were sitting down to eat dinner? What do you mean lost?” said Bacon Little as he shook his head at Tea Love’s many weird personality idiosyncrasies. Tea Love came back to the treasured moment, “Oh, yes, let’s bless the food with our traditional blessing or the chant.”
Just as quickly as this spiritually epic moment passed, so too did Bacon Little’s spiritually attuned magic. The OMing and Hallelujahing became distant sounds as Bacon Little was off to his next FaceTime and Musical.ly adventure.
“Juju on that beat, juju on that beat, juju on that beat…” was blaring out of the speakers and before she knew it, Tea Love had adopted this new hip-hop mantra as her battle cry. It was the sound of meeting Bacon Little in the middle, celebrating and understanding his ever-changing world, and on the inside Tea Love was feeling rather sparkly bright about the tune anyway. “Slide, drop, hit the fan, don’t stop…” rapped Tea Love in the kitchen. “No, mom, that’s not it!” annoyed and surreptitiously laughing at Tea Love’s version of the song. “It’s ‘folks’, mom, ‘hit the folks, don’t stop’!”
The rest is history. That night Bacon Little taught Tea Love the dance and they somehow conquered something within themselves instead of trying to conquer that stuff out there in the battlefield we know of as the world. “There was nothing wrong with trying to conquer the light dimmers,” thought Tea Love, and she continued in deep recognition and understanding of the Buddha’s words, “but without conquering ourselves, without conquering our own part in the world’s light dimming fury, we are taking small steps toward peace in vain.”
Tea Love stopped to catch her breath. The first quarter of the ascent up was intense. As she sat down on a rock to take a rest and hydrate, she noticed small bursts of sunlight shooting through the clouds. It was so warm at this point that she had pulled her synchilla off and began wiping her sweat with her scarf.
“This scarf has been with me on every adventure in the mountains. It’s sacred now. All the way from Afghanistan to Texas, from one desert across the world to another, it represented bringing two worlds together in peace,” noted Tea Love. She added an addendum to this thought as she settled into the perfect state of equanimity, “And not just on the outside. It also represented bringing the two worlds together on the inside – the light and dark parts of ourselves.”
A bird flew by with such a melodious sound bringing Tea Love back to the moment on the trail and she noticed the sun was battling with the clouds for some prime time attention. “Two worlds come together and somehow make one. They feed each other. And, somehow, they bring peace,” Tea Love realized. Bacon Little and Tea Love continued to make the ascent noticing the beautiful forest they had entered halfway up the mountain. Her mind again slipped back to this world that has no words, only feeling.
“He smells like ramen noodles and she smells like Febreze!” Bacon Little jubilantly stated while walking through the breezeway to the car. “What?” said Tea Love in a rather confused and disconnected state. “My friends. I know their smell!” Bacon Little cheered on as if confirming his role in the next academy award-winning comedy spin. He came to life and regardless of all the useless motives that aimed him in various directions before, well whatever it was, the “it” had changed and it snapped him right into his dharma.
“He had a thing for understanding people. You know, more than just the person at face value. He knew something about them deep within. And, as the Dhammapada reminds us, his words brought peace of mind. Not like some of the great epics that can hardly light a match, but his words, though uncanny and draped in comedic relief, were holy. That’s called living your dharma. When your words are holy,” thought Tea Love as she gazed into Bacon Little’s eyes. “Like ramen noodles and Febreze, you know what I mean, Mom…Mom…are you listening to me!” pouted Bacon Little just slightly perturbed at Tea Love’s glazed edition look. “Well, holy hecks the sparkles yes!” said Tea Love.
All of these memories ran strongly in her head as they trekked the highest point in Texas. Tea Love was trying very hard to keep the peace of mind she tapped into the entire trip. It was cloudy and it wasn’t quite the environment she had hoped to experience in this peak moment. “Without the sun, is there really a point?” she thought embarrassingly to herself for letting the crabbies nudge her heart in that direction. The memories she recalled of herself and Bacon Little kept her steady in the turbulent emotional storm that was brewing.
The mountains are like that; they like to mix up the insides, especially the mountains in the desert. They are beautiful to look at, but while experiencing their majestic nature, sometimes the magic digs deep and brings up some dusty and gnarly things about our nature to the surface.
“Perhaps it had to do with expectation and perception,” pondered Tea Love. She continued in a pensive state on the hike, “Can we still feel the magic when the conditions are other than what we expect them to be?” Just as one memory was recalled and sanctified, another came live streaming demanding to be watched.
Tea Love recalled Bacon Little’s very mature showing of gratitude on their college football adventure. He was so grateful and it was the “perfect adventure” as Bacon Little exclaimed at the time. “But, what made it so?” wondered Tea Love. Before she could deepen that thought anymore, the clouds caught her attention as they hiked in tune to Bacon Little’s steps.
They made it to the top and other than it being very cold, they were in the clouds. But, not just any clouds. These were fast-paced, fast-changing, and enchanting gray clouds with dashes of sunlight popping through as the sun worked overtime to have some stage time. As a passing hiker in good spirits and a bright smile explained, “I know everyone wants to see beautiful clear skies at the top, but these kinds of clouds don’t happen that often and they are absolutely astounding to watch!”
Tea Love started reciting The Dhammapada again, “Better than a speech of a thousand vain words is one thoughtful word which brings peace to the mind… One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand men on the battlefield.”
“There is no peace of mind in the mountain,” thought Tea Love, “it’s what we bring to it.” She continued, “That’s what makes all the difference in the world. What we bring to it. Not how much we bring to it. It’s the stuff on the inside that really makes the difference in what we see on the outside.”
Tea Love realized that being able to see that is better than a thousand pristine sunrises on the most exalted list. The hike up the mountains that day reminded her again, “We don’t always get what we want, but we always get what we need.”
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea