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Dunking in a Perfect Universe

I like to wake up to a good strong shot of caffeine—usually a caffé latte made with pure Arabica. Once in a while I give into my English side too, and dunk a McVitie’s digestive biscuit or two. It’s a treat.

Which is what I gave myself this Sunday morning of Victoria Day weekend 2010—the spring holiday when, the threat of frost having finally receded, Canadians lay out their annual flowers and vegetable gardens. Sitting in the morning sun and listening to Caroline and Melanie chat about Melanie’s upcoming departure for China, I was purveying yesterday’s planting and had just dunked my second biscuit when a brilliant interjection came to mind. The biscuit was poised, I uttered the phrase, and the dunked side of the biscuit plopped into the brew. It splashed my tee shirt and, far more gravely, transformed the delicious treat into a gooey pollutant. My coffee was ruined; well, it wasn’t the same.

“What?” asked Caroline.

They hadn’t even heard my phrase!”

My mind promptly went back to Thursday night, and my even wiser words to a group of Mindful Reflection trainees. The topic had been Buddhist ethics—the eightfold path—and I’d spent a disproportionate on the topic of idle chatter. I disparaged the practice mercilessly and advised them sternly to hold their silence unless they had something consequential to say.

My witty statement this morning wasn’t even slightly consequential. The important thing is that coffee and biscuit conspired to remind me that I was blathering on about nothing, and that if I’d just kept my trap shut, attending mindfully to dunking and drinking, my morning collation would have been just perfect. It seems I still have plenty to learn about aligning myself with the way of the infinite universe.

The sage is devoted to non-action,
Moves without teaching,
Creates ten thousand things without instruction,
Lives but does not own,
Acts but does not presume,
Accomplishes without taking credit.

When no credit is taken,
Accomplishment endures.

[Tao Te Ching, 2; translated by Stephen Addiss & Stanley Lombardo]

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