For years I have read, re-read, shared and raved about a book of short stories by the Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm. It’s a great book of modern day Buddhist fables that teach poignant lessons on everything from grief to happiness, perfection to guilt, fear to forgiveness and more.
Right now I am constantly reminded of one story from the book called, “Drinking Tea When There’s No Way Out” as it relates to a current problem in my life.
It’s a true story about a young British Solider in World War II who’s patrol stumbled upon a large group of Japanese soldiers. A scout advised the captain of the bad news: they were surrounded and outnumbed with no way out.
The young Solider expected the patrol to be ordered to fight their way out, as this was the honourable and brave thing to do – at least they might be able to kill some of the enemy even if they were outnumbered. The young soldier was preparing to die.
When the captain got the news however, he gave a very strange order – he told his men to stay put, sit down and make a cup of tea (how British!) The young soldier truly thought his captain must have lost his mind – why would they sip on tea when they were surrounded by the threat of death at the hands of their enemy? How can a man drink tea at such a time?
But being dutiful solders, the men did what they were told. They sat in silence and made a cup of tea knowing very well what dangers surrounded them. They sat with their cups quietly, and as they were sipping their tea the scout returned and whispered something to the captain. The captain then announced to the men that the enemy had moved and there was a way to get out. He quickly advised them to pack up and mobilise to safety, and they were able to escape without casualties.
I love this story. The captain’s wisdom saved lives. He knew when there is nothing to do the answer is to do nothing. Wait until a solution presents itself and be ready. He waited, he conserved his patrol’s energy, and when an opportunity arose it was then that his men had the energy to escape to freedom.
We all have ‘enemies’ (problems with no solutions) in our lives, and a lot of people waste precious energy on these ‘enemies’ with worrying, fighting, analysing, etc. But when there is nothing to do and no solution to the problem, doing these things only tires us out. When we exhaust ourselves with worry and stress we can also often miss the remedies when they come about, and this just perpetuates our struggle.
Today I remember this story and this wisdom as I deal with a problem in my life. Right now there is no clear solution to my problem, so I am doing my best to sit down, stay calm and drink tea.
I know that if I can just be patient, an opportunity will come and it is then that I can use my energy wisely. I know that worrying and stressing will not serve me.
Where there is nothing to do, do nothing!
Such a simple lesson.
p.s. On a side note, I believe tea totally helps with all of life’s serious contemplations and wise moments. I love drinking tea, it always makes me feel better 🙂