I recently heard a story I quite liked. In the tale, The Buddha, during his attempts to cut out the rubbish and become enlightened, is pestered by the demon Mara. After becoming enlightened, Mara doesn’t give up but drops by from time to time, apparently still trying to throw The Buddha into distraction. The Buddha’s buddies want him to fight Mara either to slay him or at least get him to stop popping by. Rather, Mr. Buddha asks Mara in for tea, and the two have tea together. The story doesn’t say Mara gets bored or discouraged to the point he goes away, but there is some ‘closure’ Mara is tamed to the point The Buddha stays stable.

The lesson here isn’t about the healing powers of tea, although I will add making a pot of tea is a panacea for all moods and situations. The main point to the story is Mara and other demons seldom go away and they are not vanquished through combat. Indeed, fighting seems to just make them more powerful. Jung repeatedly said one cannot eliminate Shadow and to try is folly. Rather, like Mara (a Shadow figure) get to know where it is and learn its lessons. Patients often want anxiety to go away but fail to stop to learn its lessons, what it is trying to tell us. Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Since it is Christmas time, I will also share a story from Switzerland about St. Gallus, who did his own version of tea with Mara.

Centuries ago St. Gallus went to the mountains of Switzerland to preach to the pagans and convert them to Christianity. No one would house him, so he found a cave to set up shop. He moved in and felt fortunate. However, he discovered living in the back of the cave was a large truculent bear, well over four feet. There were ructions. The bear would not leave and Gallus could not beat the bear in a fight. St. Gallus sat down with the bear and they struck a bargain: the bear would allow him to stay in the cave and in return Gallus would provide their food and fire. The bear would gather the firewood and Gallus would protect the bear from the locals who wished the bear dead.

I am trying better to invite my demons in for tea (I have heaps) and to live with the bears in my brain. They are not going to leave. Understanding what they are and what lessons they provide is a good thing.