Yesterday was the day for opening the first bottle of my long awaited Blonde Ale. Six weeks ago I had spent a enjoyable Sunday afternoon proudly mixing grains, malts, hops, and love into a tonic of marvelous invent. I worried and stressed over the process; meticulously ensured it stayed clean. I watched the temperature like a hawk to ensure the grain and malt remained at the exact appropriate temperature it needed to for hours. I was careful with every drop, every movement. I prepared endlessly — something I do not typically do nearly as much — and was a surgeon whilst I poured it into the car boy. For weeks on end, I impatiently waited, going over the process in my mind every day, scrutinizing my steps to make sure I had done everything exactly as I thought I should’ve. A true INTP, I was in a constant contest of logic with myself, determined to ensure the best possible outcome.
In doing all of this, I stumbled upon an interesting thought path: I experienced real care and emotion for this batch of brew. I loved the process, the chemistry, and the crafted art that I could express, and I felt as though this could be one of the finest beers I’ve made — perhaps a masterpiece — so long as I pour enough energy into it.
Yesterday, the bottles were chilled, and I prepared for a wonderful dinner to compliment the experience. I felt that if the beer somehow turned out terrible, it would ruin my whole night. I found myself trapped in the thoroughs of anxiety. I opened the first fermented wonder and the frothing brew reacted to the pressure release, bubbling up like a majestic fountain. This wasn’t the ‘shaken soda’ kind of overflow, it was something more; something beautiful.
I did what any self-respecting beer crafter would do and just took a huge drink of the overflowing beverage to release the bottle-neck. It was that single, shining moment that punctuated the experience. The Blonde Ale was absolutely amazing.
I sat down to my Shiitake and Garlic-infused burger, topped with Miso Mayo and a crisp potato bun, my tasty new discovery, and a beaming smile that closely resembled a new parent’s happiness upon meeting their child for the first time.
That’s when it hit me.
My journey through creating this Blonde Ale was a tiny metaphor for life. In my daily life, I often calculate and stress, but simultaneously pour my energy into all the things I do. If it succeeds, it brings me great happiness and fulfillment; it enables me to validate my efforts and subconsciously manages my self-esteem a bit. If it fails, and the opposite is also true; I suffer from it. When I was younger this was nearly crippling, but the years have taught me to remain flexible.
Zu Quan asks us to maintain our center and to let flow the free hand of our energies, tempered by the practiced hand, harnessing the true nature of the universe to apply art, skill, and universal understanding to the situation. Perhaps it is a fight, or perhaps it is negotiating life’s challenges. Buddhist philosophy asks me to follow the Eight Fold Path to Enlightenment and remember the Four Noble Truths.
But was I adhering to these principles? I think no. We’re my beer to have failed, my mood would have soured and my self image would have altered. I would have stumbled over myself in thought and emotion, and I would have resisted the nature of the universe. I would have been the aging oak, not the flexible reed.
So, today, I have reaffirmed my dedication to keeping centered. Whether this is physically, emotionally, mentally, or psychologically, my center must be present. Happiness is a delightful feeling and one we often seek. But I have to remember that the happiness I felt last night did not come from the Blonde Ale, it came from the hard work, the care and love, and the time and nurtur that I poured into the effort. Perhaps if I had this same beer from a store, it would not have had the same luster.
There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.