For those of you that may not know, my name is Steve Stein and I am the founder of BetterListen!. I’ve been DJ ing recordings since I was 10 years old. I used to work in my dad’s record shop - we had the biggest 45 collection in Brooklyn. Hippies would come in, they would say what’s hot? Then I would tell them. All these years later, I find myself in a similar but different position. After finishing college, I got a job recording conferences all around the world. I recorded Deepak Chopra in Bali, The First World Conference of Indigenous Peoples in the jungles of Brazil. I recorded Stephen Levine in Philadelphia.
So what happens when a snot-nose kid from Brooklyn discovers zen? This. There were perhaps 300 people in the sold out auditorium for the weekend workshop with Stephen Levine called Healing Into Life this was in the early 1980’s. That weekend has stayed with me for the past 30-plus years.
“Drinking A Cup of Green Tea, I Stop the War”
In the early '50s, Paul Reps, who was in his forties, had traveled to Japan en route to visit a respected Zen master in Korea. He went to the passport office to apply for his visa and was politely informed that his request was denied due to the conflict that had just broken out. Reps walked away, and sat down quietly in the waiting area. He reached into his bag, pulled out his thermos and poured a cup of tea. Finishing his tea he pulled out a brush and paper upon which he wrote a picture poem. The clerk read the poem and it brought tears to his eyes. He smiled, bowed with respect, and stamped Reps' passport for passage to Korea. Reps' Haiku read: "drinking a bowl of green tea I stop the war." (Thanks to Robert C., our new friend and fact checker for pointing out that the quote comes from Paul Reps).
“If you want to understand what ‘making a cup of green tea, I stopped the war’ means, it would be something like this: mindfully I pick up the kettle, mindfully I walk to the sink, mindfully I fill the kettle with water, mindfully I walk to the stove, mindfully I put the kettle down on the stove, mindfully I reach for the knob! Mindfully, I watch the water as the fire begins to make it boil. Mindfully, as the water boils, I lift the kettle from the stove. Mindfully, I pour the water over the tea. Mindfully, I hold the cup to check the temperature. Mindfully, when it’s ready, I strain the tea leaves, and then mindfully, I drink the tea and feel the taste of it.”
Stephen Levine lost his battle with illness this week - so this is my mini-tribute to my experience with him. He was a meaningful acquaintance and an author I have worked on and off with for the past 30 years. I decided to share some thoughts with the idea to bring some street-smart or concrete wisdom from my experience to BetterListeners. So myself and the folks at BetterListen! send our heartfelt warm wishes to Stephen’s family and say thank you. Thanks for introducing me to to the moment, thanks for introducing me to myself, again and again and again. My Grandma Fanny would say “Hacht Mir Nisht In Chaynik” or don’t bother me like a tea kettle. In her own way, she was introducing me to mindfulness even years before.
We currently have the good fortune to be working with The Love Serve Remember Foundation. One of the really long series we helped to edit, publish and release from their archives is an amazing week-long program from 1982 that we are honored to distribute with Ram Dass and Stephen Levine. We made an hour-long highlights sampler of that program, that has become a favorite over the years. The Healing Into Life and Death Sampler with deeply moving stories featuring Ram Dass and Stephen Levine can be downloaded for free here.