Chanting from the temple next door woke me up ridiculously early.  We’d been traveling for days and days I was desperate for a break.

 

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tea plantations, Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

I stumble to the van to learn that our destination is way up in the mountains and will take some hard core traveling by train, van and foot via roads not suitable even here in this third world country.

I decide it’s my moment to bail out– overwhelmed by exhaustion and unsure I can brave another hard core day has me surrendering.

 

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view from Lipton’s Seat, Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

I take the monk aside and announce that I want to skip today, that I’ll find a way to meet up in our next destination.  The master of the guilt trip, he asks me to buck up and get ready… that he has an important lesson for me at the top and he needs me to come along.

Every inch of the day was only made possible because of his dangling wisdom that is sure to change everything if I can just push thru…

 

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Train thru tea country, Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

We travel by train half the day.. through tea plantations and villages that blow my mind.  Seeing the depths of poverty and the majesty of our world in the same moment is altering and perfect.

 

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my view from the train, Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

Rolling past rail side villages where people brave hard in a big way to survive, I was reminded of our abundance and how profoundly diverse our world is.

 

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roadside fruit stand, Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

I looked deep into the people’s faces and saw a beauty in their efforts that humbled me beyond words.

 

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The soul of the people radiates in every face.. Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

We traveled for what literally felt like a lifetime– the train full of humanity.. families and workers alike all focused on getting to the tea plantations so they can earn a living and produce a product for the world.

 

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Humanity on the train, Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

I watched the families be with each other, share food and laugh and simply connect.  Nobody was texting or wearing headphones, instead they were listening to each other and smiling to the world.

 

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happiness amidst poverty, Sri Lanka, July 2013

 

The day got longer and longer– I thought perhaps time was being invented right in this moment.. the day wouldn’t end.  I was exhausted and emotionally spent… the range of emotions is unspeakable even now all these months later.  The contrast from their lives to mine, the realization of what went in to a simple cup of tea.. the suffering and sacrifice people make to deliver what appears to be such a simple product.. I honestly couldn’t reconcile it.

 

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Tea Plantation workers– the hardest workers I’ve ever witnessed. Sri Lanka, July, 2013

 

My self-centered desire to see whatever the monk had to show me was the only thing that kept me going.  I didn’t prepare for a year and travel around the world not to get every single deep spiritual lesson available to me… no matter how spent I was, his promise fueled me.

 

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Bhante Sujatha and Tyler Lewke at the top of Lipton’s Seat, Sri Lanka July 2013

 

We climbed to the very top of Lipton’s Seat—  6,300 feet and as we overlooked the tea plantations and mountain ranges I waited for my lesson.

 

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Top of the country! Lipton Tea Plantation “Lipton’s Seat” Sri Lanka July 2013

 

I follow him up the final foot path to the very top lookout where he hands me a hot cup and says to me “Upasaka, I’ve brought you all the way here to teach you how to drink a cup of tea…”

 

“There have been many times you have been drinking tea and didn’t know it, because you were absorbed in worries…

If you didn’t know how to drink your tea in mindfulness and concentration, you are not really drinking tea.  

You are drinking your sorrow, your fear, your anger– and happiness is not possible.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

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