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A Meditation Begins at Samovar Hayes Valley

Les, Reclining in Quite Meditation
Les, Reclining in Quite Meditation

It was last Monday night.  I had the luxury of not teaching that evening but rather had just come from being a student in a yoga class.  For weeks, I’d been telling myself I needed to get back to the Zen Center on Monday nights and for weeks I’d been telling myself I would go take this yoga class and go to the new Samovar in “Hayes Valley” (aka Hayes Valley) and then drop into the meditation.  Why did so much luxury appear to be such a struggle for something my spirit needs on a very regular basis to replenish and re-nourish?

So, I got out of yoga and it was raining – ok pouring, first sign that I might not take the next step and might return home to my isolated intimacy (Facebook).  Then suddenly, I found myself sitting at the community table at the new Samovar, Hayes Valley and although I wanted to be alone, there were a few staff members at the other end but they were heavily engaged in some running-the-business matters.  So, I had the end of the table all to myself and after a while of reading and enjoying a pot of Wei Chi Cha tea (which should be made into popsicles), I realized that a meditation had already begun.  That just being in an environment that took care of me allowed me drift off and let go of thoughts that had nothing to do with the present moment.  All my concerns at that moment were if I needed more water and someone else would get that for me.

Then, as the universe always does, community begins to sprout and the front door opened and in walked a few folks I knew that were coming for some tea and then heading over to the Zen Center for the meditation and then a few minutes later, a few more folks came in and then more and more.  All of a sudden, there were 10 people at Samovar who were stopping in to begin creating a peaceful transition from their day into their spiritual practice and that practice began with sharing a pot of tea.  I knew I was in the right place but to secure and cement the foundation, the door opened one more time and a very important mentor and guide of my own spiritual practice walked in and asked me if I was headed to the meditation.  I thought the answer was obvious but that I needed to be asked was a good reminder that maybe my actions haven’t been speaking as loudly as my thoughts lately.

Samovar Hayes Valley, Where a Community of Calm Unite
Samovar Hayes Valley, Where a Community of Calm Unite

It took tea and some moments alone to reflect on a practice that has served thousands of people for thousands of years.  It took a great teacher to be mindful enough to ask the question are you going and I realized that a life with purpose always has the answer of yes I am going so that others may also go.  The community is already there on every side of the street in Hayes Valley but take a few extra moments to stop in at the new Samovar and give your self the gift of being still and enjoy some moments of meditation and some tea.  You will be well taken care of by the staff and the surroundings.

If you’d like some more information on Les and his practices, visit www.yogawithles.com

Hari Om Tat Sat – Les

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(Part II) Business is Nothing …But Community

People Unite at Samovar Yerba Buena
People Unite at Samovar Yerba Buena

One of the funniest ironies about technology and improvement is that as we make giant technological leaps ever day, and get ever more “connected,” we are at the same time we are also getting more disconnected from each other and the world. Author Bill McKibbons wrote recently in Mother Jones Magazine that ever since 1956, the “Happiness Index” of Americans has been going down. How can this be, amidst an ever improving “standard of living,” that we are getting progressively unhappy?

It’s because we are flesh and blood and that until that changes, like attracts like, and we need to be amongst flesh and blood, ie. other humans. We’ve become lonely and isolated, constantly digitally connected, and yet physically remote from each other.

Tea is the perfect social lubricant for greasing the pathways of a beautiful community. Ask any good psychologist and they’ll tell you that perhaps the strongest need of a human is the need to belong to a community. We need community to survive. That’s what makes Samovar Tea Lounge so special. Tea is about making a delicious, warm, satisfying pot of something special for someone special. It is about taking time out of your daily routine to breathe, see, touch, talk, and rejoice the simple pleasures of being human, among other humans.

What ever happened to the simple act of conversing in person? Nowadays most conversations take place over instant chat, email, phone messages, or cell phone. But while we’re still made of atoms, we still innately crave to be touched, hugged, and caressed. Have a pot of tea with someone you care about, and touch them. Talk to them. Savor their human-ness, and connect.

After all, what’s the point of it all? I think few people, when on their deathbeds, ask how much money they are leaving in their bank accounts. Instead, I’d reason the more common question is, “What did I do that mattered?” And what matters is what kind of influence you exerted in life. And that often comes down to the bonds you’ve fostered. The community of human bonds. And it just so turns out that business is a phenomenal means for creating and fostering our human bonds.

Business is nothing but the forging of human bonds.
And as business philosopher Peter Koestenbaum wrote in Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness : “Business is above all a vehicle for achieving personal and organization greatness. It is for accomplishing something worthy and noble. Business is an institution that can enable you to make a significant contribution to society.”