Thursday, July 31, 2008

Serialization of Sacred Vow: Tea Ceremony

photo by FredArmitage

The most significant event of your life calls to you, from barely beyond your perception…both imminent and impossible… a call of the heart, of the spirit, and of yourself to which you have not yet been introduced.

Sacred Vow is a metaphysical novel about a man who responds to the mysterious call of a woman, opening the way to redefinition of both himself and his understanding of the world around him. He takes his first steps on a journey to accept the world around him as a place to live, not simply a place to survive day-to-day. Sacred Vow is both a narrative and the means for the author to communicate a positive message about life and fully integrating the most into each moment. Highly Recommended—Midwest Book Review

Installment 3 of 22 Sacred Vow (Dragon's Beard Publishing, ISBN: 978-0-9774271-4-7, paperback, Fiction: Visionary/Metaphysical).

Tea Ceremony

In all of his fifty-three years, few pleasures consistently satisfied Ian Sarin like fully focusing on a hot cup of tea, especially in the familiar comfort of his home on a New England winter evening. At the end of workdays in the frighteningly specious world of logic—computer logic—Ian loved reentering this personal sanctuary, and making a ceremony out of preparing his tea. The simple motions brought Ian a serenity he couldn’t explain. Of course, he occasionally made changes in the ritual. There were always new teas to try, and he periodically used a different teapot, cup, or other trimming. But the unhurried, predictable routine invariably took him from the intensity of his toil to the calmness of his center.

Ian would lean back in his favorite old chair, placing the hot teacup on the wide wooden armrest. The antique recliner had cracked red leather cushions. A dear couple in their nineties had given him the chair, for some reason unknown to him. It had belonged to the woman’s grandfather. Like its former owners, that old chair was ever welcoming. Without fail, it soothed Ian to sit in it.

Whether it came immediately after work or followed drinks and dinner with friends, separation from his labor was never complete until Ian had the day’s closing cup of tea. The rising steam from the cup celebrated a shift into the more genuine side of his life, of himself. Single, living alone, quietude was his guidepost.

Withdrawn from the activities of the day, Ian would focus on a favorite teapot or some other object within the room, absorbed in aimless wonder until he achieved something he called a sense of “presence” or expanded awareness. The tea’s warmth and flavor never failed to lull him into the anticipated meditation. With palm and fingers wrapped around his cup, Ian would take his time and lingered over every sip, staring blankly, unintentionally, into the room before him . . . looking outward, peering inward.

One winter evening, while in this unmindful passage, Ian slipped into a path that he could not have previously imagined. At first, the experience appeared to be no more than some mild visual distortion, not unlike the onset of one of his occasional migraines. In this hyper-relaxed state, Ian ignored the blurring edges of the images. He knew that the best way to avoid the onslaught of the potential headache was to relax more deeply and allow the storm to flow through.

Without becoming attached to or analyzing the experience, Ian allowed the sensations to draw him where they would. A ghost image of an outdoor scene began to display itself before him. Surprised by the specificity of the evolving scene, Ian tensed up, straining to resist the unexplainable sensory imposition. This caused a mild nausea. Ian took the nausea to be added evidence that he was developing a migraine. So he again focused on relaxation.

He could not completely convince himself that the relaxation that ensued was solely due to the conscious effort he made, rather than the mere seduction of the experience. The infrequent migraines had never before provoked anything remotely suggestive of a hallucination.

With a distinct sense of motion, Ian felt himself transported from his New England home, winter outside, to the edge of a forest in spring—who knew where? The shift from ordinary consciousness to the extraordinary state of deep meditation was stronger and quicker than any previously experienced. It was so exhilarating it almost caused him to faint. As the two contrasting scenes before him continued to transpose, Ian’s familiar room became the more ethereal of the two.

Then he felt an abrupt snap to his nervous system. Both the nausea and psychological elation disappeared. The result was even harder for Ian to remain detached from.

Ian became enchanted by what his senses were reporting, and even more so by the novelty of the transformation. His room had been redefined to a path within an evergreen forest. Yet he knew he was still sitting in his recliner. The smell of evergreen needles and pungent wild plants overwhelmed that of his ginger pu-erh tea. It was all so real that he could even feel the moisture of the lush forest environment. Odd, however, was the utter silence of the place.

Then Ian realized there was another person in this woodland scene. The woman seemed a little more imaginary than her surroundings and she had the radiance and movement usually reserved for dreams and fantasy. Rather than something separate, moving across the landscape, she flowed as part of the scene, from point to point. She made no abrupt movements or gestures. Ian wondered why she seemed so familiar, though he was certain that he had never seen her before.

Her hair was a deep, rich auburn, very long and braided into a single strand. The style of her clothes was unusual. She wore a long-sleeved, full-length gown. Over the dress was an open-sided tunic, not quite as long as the gown, loosely tied at the waist with a woven belt. Both garments appeared to be handmade from a thick but loosely woven natural fiber. The gown was off-white, probably the natural color of the fabric. The tunic was light green, heavily embroidered with symbols that Ian did not recognize. The ordered placement of the symbols, however, gave him the impression that her attire was a uniform of some sort. One thing he could not help but notice: the soft cloth of her clothing flowed as smoothly over her form as she moved through her environment.

Fully focused on the wildflowers that she was collecting and adding to her basket, the woman walked to Ian’s right, completely unaware of him. She moved her lips as if talking to herself, or to the birds that flew about and perched near the ground on the lower branches of the trees. Then the woman finally noticed Ian. She stopped in surprise, but only for a second. Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open . . . just before she gave him a full, welcoming smile.

It was as if she knew who he was but had not expected to see him just then or there. She spread her arms and moved quickly toward him, laughing and talking as she came. To his dismay, Ian could hear nothing of what she said to him.

Ian had initially taken this lissome woman to be much younger than he. But as she drew nearer, he saw that she was about his age. She seemed much fuller of life than Ian had been in years, even though he considered himself quite youthful for his age. Her skin was smooth and fair in color, and it had a healthy, even glow. Equally beautiful to him were the soft lines around her eyes.

Ian was drawn to the woman; he sensed that some kind of intimacy existed between them. She apparently felt the same way, for she leaned over to kiss him without hesitation. Her scent was of delicate flowers over an exotic wood. Ian felt anticipation of her touch—much more than just a mere physical response of an unattached man being kissed by a lovely woman.

Ian’s anticipation was denied. He never felt the touch of her lips. As she stood upright, returning slowly into focus, Ian could not take in enough of her striking face. Now he wondered why she wore that quizzical expression, head tilted and brow knitted. Perhaps she, too, could not understand what had happened to the sensation of the kiss.

Ian was even more overcome by the rapidly expanding emotion that he felt for this woman, from deep within—and, somehow, being near her gave him an almost exaggerated sense of satisfaction with himself. Ian was totally absorbed in his passionate response to her. I am truly blessed, he thought in almost perfect contentment.

It was about then that Ian’s logical mind regained its ability for rationalizing and seized full control. I am sitting in my study, it proclaimed forcefully. This is an illusion!

Abruptly, the woman and her surroundings dematerialized, going from tangible form to ghost image to her absence, merely a blurred perception of Ian’s study. His body and mind convulsed when the last traces of the illusion retreated into the precise forms of the study. A rush of confusing emotions was forcibly fused into his conscious perception of himself and his reality.

Gripping the arms of the recliner, Ian sat rigidly upright, distraught. As unnerving as the physical stimulation had been, the emotions that churned within him now were worse. For a brief moment during the woman’s visit, he had possessed an incontestable sense of purpose and wholeness. Now he felt devoid. The sharp contrast wounded him deeply.

Had something precious slipped away? More than that, why did he feel so certain that this woman’s departure meant a loss of more than he’d known he was missing from life? In his many years of meditation, guided imagery, and similar experiences, Ian had never felt such stirring sensations.

Now that the brunt of the experience had passed, his mind rapidly alternated between supreme elation at “meeting” this remarkable woman and a full rational denial of this little vision, or whatever one might call it. What had just transpired? For all the world, it had felt that in a matter of seconds the tangible world before Ian had completely redefined itself as he remained the only constant. But he was not ready to accept an explanation quite that extreme.

“What a powerful vision,” Ian said to himself, confining the account to something within the comfort zone of his conscious mind.

Step by step, Ian retraced the experience. He had been enjoying the fragrant aroma of his ginger pu-erh tea while his eyes ran over the bamboo-like designs on his recently acquired, handmade ceramic teapot. Obviously, he had finished the tea and set the cup in his lap . . .

Perhaps,” Ian thought, “I suddenly lost consciousness.” No, he knew he had not slept or blacked out!

In fact, Ian reminded himself, the change started as he was looking at the teapot, just finishing his cup of tea. He had been thinking of nothing in particular, allowing himself to drift free from any thoughts. The next thing he knew, the relaxation was moving quickly into a mysterious domain.

The loss of that enchanting woman called Ian back. Despite the evidence to the contrary, he knew she was somehow real. And the emotions she had provoked in him were certainly so.

Quickly getting up from the chair, he walked across the room.

After taking a few steps, Ian turned and stared at the recliner as if it were some unknown object. Then, as if to reassure himself that he was indeed in his study, he slowly let his attention drift around the room. There was the makeshift stereo cabinet, a faux antique armoire—on which an untalented amateur had sought to express an imagined skill. His eyes fell to the worn pine floor and traced a path back to the side table, on which sat the muted green teapot with its bamboo design. Each familiar item was a comfort.

What had the woman in the forest been? He was certain it was not a dream! The experience had been far too lifelike.

Ian felt compelled to classify the experience as some sort of visual aberration, like a mirage. A mirage, however, is something caused by the environment external to the seer. But, what were the conditions that caused this aberration?

In the case of a vision, the controlling conditions are more defined within the seer, within his or her mind . . . or life. That put the weight of the explanation of this occurrence on him. What about Ian or his life had recently changed, allowing this peculiar experience to take place?

Ian consoled himself with the conclusion that if he had had some sort of vision, at least it was pleasant and non-threatening. Or rather, it had been pleasant until he “awoke” and found that his visitor was chimerical.

Continuing to tell himself that he was distressed over nothing, a mere reverie—though elaborate—Ian sat back down in the recliner. Could he recreate the experience at will?

Trying to relax, he reached over to touch the teapot. Such a short time had passed since Ian poured his first cup of tea that the pot was still hot.

He picked the teapot up and tilted the spout over his cup. Steam rose as the stream of hot tea fell into the cup. Ian half expected that something else might escape from the teapot. When the cup was full, he set the teapot down and settled back into his chair. For a short while, he tried to think of nothing, just stare without purpose at the teapot and cup.

Ian made every effort not to think of the woman in the forest and his experience with her, but he failed. He had no better success for the next couple of weeks. Almost all he could think about was related to his encounter with the woman in the forest. Over and over, Ian tried to determine exactly what had happened that night. He considered how it had happened, analyzed why it had happened, and how it was different from any vaguely similar experiences he had had previously.

Despite the fact that his visit that night was always on his mind, he spoke to no one about it. He didn’t need anyone else questioning his mental stability.

During that time of assessment, Ian did not have tea in his study, or go through his tea ritual at all. Once in a while, he would sit in the study—but not in the recliner—and consider the scene of the event that occurred that night. He convinced himself that the vision was more interesting than disturbing. His response was to study it as an “experiential aberration,” some anomaly of perception.

Such things as visions or visitations were not completely incomprehensible to him—in concept, anyway. Ian had done a little reading concerning metaphysical, indigenous, and East Asian beliefs, though he did not consider himself knowledgeable, not by any means. Now and again, he had attended a spiritual workshop or a retreat. Such diversions were interesting, and occasionally vital—along with art, music, and poetry—to balance out his left-brain-centric career. Before the woman’s arrival, Ian had never experienced anything that threatened to cross the threshold between the expanded perception of deep meditation and the preternatural. Even though he had come to believe such things were possible, he had always been comfortable that there was generally a wide margin of safety between the possible and the probable.

All this analysis did little to placate Ian’s ruffled logical mind, and offered absolutely no comfortable answers. The least of the rationally objectionable labels considered during his scrutinization was “vision”—“dream” remained utterly insufficient for what he had experienced—Trying to define the encounter as a mere hallucination, however, caused an upwelling of resistance within his depths. Though he struggled to avoid giving credence to the idea, Ian knew that he was not completely convinced that the experience had been merely visual.

From the moment he had first experienced the woman with the auburn hair, Ian had felt something new evolving in him. It seemed that much about him was transforming.

The change was physical. Certain parts of his body, internal and external, seemed to vibrate in response to some unexplainable stimuli outside the range of his conscious perceptions. The change was spiritual. He had acquired some deep undeniable connection to this woman that he could not rationally understand. The change was psychological, some kind of redefinition of self that he could not grasp consciously, as if his mind and feelings were opening or expanding. The redefinition included expanding his identity as a segmented awareness and bonding with something larger than himself . . .

None of this evolution greatly disturbed Ian. He did not personally know anyone knowledgeable about such things as visions. But from what he had read, he knew he was displaying normal symptoms after a numinous experience, which he also reminded himself was defined as any experience that defies explanation within the scope of one’s current view of reality. For Ian, a personally experienced vision, as opposed to theoretical visions, qualified as such an experience.

Ian tried to respond to the sensory aspects of the vision as an adventure, a particular bit of good fortune. He hoped to repeat the experience once he understood more about what was going on. There was just one remnant of that evening that Ian was not comfortable with. In fact, he would have sought another vision the following day if not for the residual emotions he possessed . . . or that possessed him. Ian was compelled to understand these emotions before allowing the chance of another vision.

He could accept the possibility of a lingering emotional ecstasy resulting from any strong supersensual experience such as his vision . . . similar to a religious rapture. But the emotion that Ian was feeling was directly associated with a single element of the vision, with the woman in the forest. The total intimacy he felt with her was more than Ian had ever known with any person. And he could not believe such an impassioned connection could be instantaneous. Yet, he had to believe . . . or accept that the bond had existed even before he had the vision.

That unguarded assessment troubled Ian. His yearning to return to the woman of his vision had the remarkable force of an addiction. For that reason most of all, Ian resisted the urge to pursue another encounter. He was not willing to let anyone or anything have such power over his destiny.

copyright 2006 CG Walters

Tea Ceremony
continued next week

last week, Searching

C.G. Walters primarily writes fiction that focuses on the multidimensionality of our loves and our lives.

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Sacred Vow are available from the author– or purchase as ebook or the Amazon Kindle version

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Unknown said...

Wow ~ I LOVE this!! Yes...the bond between twin souls certainly is unmistakably already in place when they meet...

CG Walters said...

love and blessings to you and your dear one, Katherine,