Summer : Hot, Holy and Holidays

It is summer, with all of its richness and abundance… both the good and the ugly, the extreme heat and smells in the city, the wonderful food and drinks, and the fiery politics. Some of us are celebrating the external summer world, entertaining with friends, beach parties, walking in the sunshine, relaxing with refreshing lemon iced tea or a tequila with a salty curve on the glass.

Summer delights from my vegetable garden
Summer delights from my vegetable garden

Others celebrate the “internal” world during these holy days of June and July: Saga Dawa in Buddhist tradition and Ramadan in Islam, where the month of July is filled with prayers to Allah, with rituals and strict rules for diet and daily conduct to purify body and mind…or one may retreat into one’s own world, into stillness and quiet, away from the year-long stressful expectations that we, or others, place upon us.

How about a relaxing walk on a mild summer night? I recall childhood holidays in Germany when my grandmother took me for the first time to the North Sea, to the island of Borkum. The huge body of water with its unforgiving high waves was scary, challenging, and astonishing to my 11-year-old eyes and body.
I don’t remember what excited me more: the performance of a magician who let a bird suddenly appear out of his sleeve and fly away to only appear again under his top hat when he bowed to us, or the ever-changing ebb and flow of the sea. Later she took me and my sister Monika to Italy and to the French Riviera where we learned of the different languages, foods like Italian ices, pastas, crèpes suzettes and croissants, and the temperaments of the people — so different than our traditional stiff upbringing.
Grandmother made sure we learned about the architectural styles and artists of each country so that we would return home better educated to our disagreeable father…who saw us as spoiled brats, no longer fitting into our simple environment. And he may have been right, because each time these travels were an unforgettable adventure, and the life at home now seemed too small. Dreaming about places around the globe continued to intrigue my fantasies.

Those travels were filled with new friends who became pen pals for years after…a first kiss from my French beau, and a night of dancing in Italy in my new stylish dress. Now grandmother was scared as she saw me growing up faster than even I was aware of in my still childlike heart. My curiosity about the human conditions and lifestyles became the inspiration for my travels to different continents in later years (as you can read in my digital book: Tea and Travels: Life Filled to the Brim with my photos, videos and tea recipes).

Today, a lifetime apart, my desires shift. No more exotic food or drinks, but juicing and fresh vegetables, salads, and fruit from my own garden. The holiday week upstate became a balancing meditative time. In the stillness of the days at home I reflected on my life’s work. During my initial restlessness I felt guilty about not being able to do as much as I am used to, but eventually sinking into a quiet state, I observed where my thoughts wandered, and allowed myself to not always expect to do something busy, but to just be still. Take it easy, don’t worry, be happy.

Twenty years ago I went into a six-week Buddhist retreat at my spiritual teacher’s monastery in India. I recall his instructions for my silent retreat, when his powerful eyes looking through me immediately started a transformation of my mind, as if restructuring my brain waves. The deep resulting experiences I will never forget and I will always be grateful for having met such a master. His transmissions and teachings are still settling within me, and I continue to grow from them. In quiet moments for a lifetime.

Visiting my Spiritual Teacher H.H. Mindrolling Trichen in India
Visiting my Spiritual Teacher H.H. Mindrolling
Trichen in India

“Saga Dawa,” the month of merits is, for the Tibetan Buddhist, a religious festival from June 7 till July 5. July 6th is the birthday of H.H. the Dalai Lama, and it is the most auspicious time for meritorious actions. During this period the merits of worthy acts are multiplied 100,000 times. The full moon day on June 21st is the most important. It is the day to celebrate the birth, awakening, and death of Buddha. Large groups of monks, nuns and religious people make collective offerings, an arrangement of fruits, food, biscuits, drinks, flowers, as beautifully arranged as possible. Hundreds of devotional butter lamps are lit. These will be offered to the imaginative holy beings, to please them and visualize their enjoyment. The accumulation of collective karma also accumulates a great deal of merit — positive energy — the cause of good fortune. After the ceremony the offerings will be distributed to the monks and community.

During this holy month, daily prayers based on loving compassion and kindness, are made for all sentient beings for the release of their suffering and accomplishments of their cherished desires. The wish to erase suffering for all beings coming from the hearts of thousands of devoted people will cleanse the planet from negativities and poisons. The same is celebrated during many holy days of all religions. All thrive to connect with the Divine, the higher state of awareness that will lead us to enlightenment.

Holy days are for the purification of the soul. The spiritual “bath” is to release our desires, greed, jealousy, anger and negative emotions. Our grief and suffering will diminish from such a heartfelt confrontation and show how it is all a state of our own mind. In the community of prayer and devotional activity, you find detachment from your ego.

I always loved that when I did a retreat in a Buddhist monastery or nunnery there was time planned in the intense schedule for a tea break. Before the mind gets too tired, huge teakettles are brought around to splash the Milk Tea into each bowl handed to the two younger monks who carry the heavy metal pots.
During my six-week silent retreat in India at a nunnery, I was looking forward to the breaks after each meditation session, and to the various tea flavors I had prepared before hand.
For the morning, heavy black Assam as a wake up tea; during lunch, Green Tea for good assimilation; afternoon, famous delicate Darjeeling Tea; evening, Hibiscus or Passion Fruit Tea for relaxation. My mind needed to be stilled after hours of mantra repetition and visualization.

All teas had their effect on my meditations. Their intensity and flavor affected my mood, wellbeing and concentration.
In fact, this is how tea was discovered: legend tells that a leaf fell into the steaming hot water bowl of the Chinese Emperor Chen Nung while he sat meditating under the tree Camellia Sinensis, five thousand years ago in 2737 BC. What began as a medicine grew into a popular beverage, becoming an entirely Chinese affair, surely sent by spiritual energy as a precious gift from heaven.

How it developed from there you can read in my tea book, with many healing tea recipes.
Tea recipe for a hot summer evening: Moroccan-style Mint Tea

(For two large cups)
Into a small pot of water, place a handful of fresh peppermint leaves, a few grains of cardamom and two teaspoons of Assam Tea. Stir, and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn down heat to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it sit for another 5 minutes.
Pour through a strainer into your cup and enjoy the rich flavor of this Moroccan- style Mint Tea.

When your body feels hot, it is helpful to adjust by drinking a hot tea rather than ice cold drinks, which will shock your system — following the motto in homeopathy: Like Cures Like! But this tea is also delicious if you let it cool off.

Prof. George Vithoulkas, my Homeopathy Master and friend of 32 years
Prof. George Vithoulkas, my Homeopathy Master
and friend of 32 years

Happy birthday July 25, Dear Professor George Vithoulkas and many more!!!
We adore you and we need you to establish homeopathy in the whole world!
The best and most concentrated summer teachings are held by Prof. Vithoulkas at the International Academy for Classical Homeopathy for students from all over the world. Annual summer teachings May-October are the hottest teachings on the most glorious island in the Aegean Sea…which may become your most profound holiday experience. Visit www.vithoulkas.com

To the brim, with loving thoughts to all of you during this hot summer night in July 
—with my glass of hot Mint Tea.
Your tea whisperer,
Sylvia

P.S. if you are in upstate New York in Dutchess County on Monday, July 18th,
you may like to join an insightful two-hour teaching I am giving about Homeopathy. My talk will be “WHAT IS HOMEOPATHY? — Its History and Philosophy.”
The Beekman Library, 6.30pm. Looking forward to seeing you there!
www.beekmanlibrary.org

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