Monday, February 15, 2016

Tea: a meditation, ceremony and course correction of history?

"You can organize a tea meditation to provide an opportunity for your friends to practice being truly present in order to enjoy a cup of tea and each other's presence. Tea meditation is a practice. It is a practice to help us be free. If you are still bound and haunted by the past, if you are still afraid of the future, if you are carried away by your projects, your fear, your anxiety, and your anger, you are not a free person. You are not fully present in the here and the now, so life is not really available to you ... In order to be really alive, in order to touch life deeply, you have to become a free person. Cultivating mindfulness can help you to be free ... When you drink tea in mindfulness, your body and your mind are perfectly united. You are real, and the tea you drink also becomes real ... This is genuine tea drinking." - a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh from the Epilogue in the book Liquid Jade The Story of Tea from East to West by Beatrice Hohenegger.
Our local library is as good a treasure chest as any great-grand daughter of a pirate could wish for. The delights are diverse and unexpected while on alternate visits my longing for something familiar and reassuring is sated. Hundreds of viewing hours have created visual and auditory journeys that captivate and entertain us; watched again the pleasure of familiar scenes become cherished friendships. I have not outgrown the delight in a creatively depicted fantasy; and in fact grow more enamored as I age. The shelves of compact discs and digital recorded movies free to us because we carry a library card are as sweets, or a savory scone.

Books are a library's core genetic makeup. Thank you La'au Nui (Tree Family!) When I'm in my favorite Langley Library, I scan the "New Books" Section and am almost never disappointed; rewarded with at least one good find. Other times I have reserved a book or two because some one has recommended a tale, or story to feed my curiosity. But sometimes there will be a book that has sat on the shelf for many days, and I will spot it or perhaps the book gets a whiff of me and draws me to it. That is what happened with Liquid Jade The Story of Tea from East to West. The book got a whiff of me.

Slowly, because mostly I could devour a book like cookies, I have been reading Beatrice Hohenegger's history and telling of the Camillia Seninsis (tea leaves). What was most interesting to me right from the start was the title that promised to tell me of my ancestors in the East's relationship with tea and the journey of tea to the West. (It also helps to have fallen in love with the pale green cover of the book, and the cover art.)

I am a tea lover who knows I must temper my lust for black tea because caffeine will buzz me over the edge, and without a tether (limits) that can be difficult on my body. I moderate my love of black tea, and ask my body to accept my occasional indulgence. This story and post is about the meditation and ceremony of tea as Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh so beautifully describes above. In that frame, the tea ceremony can be amended or adapted by the type of leaf used to create the brew. Though the story of tea, as "liquid jade" refers specially to the leaves of a specific plant, Camillia Seninsis, Thich Nhat Hanh's ode to tea could be describing a time spent when two dear friends enjoy herbal teas sans caffeine. That is what happened this weekend when my red storm coat and I drove north to visit a long-time friend.
Bundled up for a beach-side tea ceremony
The wonderful thing about this visit was the way life unfurled to create a practice that encouraged two old friends to bundle up in the moment, allowing the past and the future to steep in the mugs of freshly brewed 'Catnip Tea' sweetened with a spoonful of blueberry honey. Our conversation flowed forward and back, picking up the past tense (we have known each other since we were breast-feeding mothers in our twenties); considered the value of our siblings (we each have one brother) and while we sat in deck chairs the feathered ones made their presence known with chatter and warnings. We included the interstitial -- all beings.

The telling of tea's story in Liquid Jade fuels me with limbs from a family tree to dangle from as I explore my feelings about the centuries old tradition of tea culture begun in the Southern provinces of China where it is possible my Ancestors lived. The history of tea's legacies is pock-marked and bullet ridden with war, greed, and colonial brandishing; I don't enjoy the truth of it. I skipped many of the details in Hohenegger's book. Those legacies are all too familiar to me.

What is hopeful in terms of my appreciation for tea, and legacy, is the details of tea's history that are being woven into medicine, and story. Myth and legacy have a very long and enduring relationship; it's a symbiotic one makes for a present that transforms history if only for one reader, or the writer. Happening upon books, or treasure can mean there is a happy ending to a story that had yet to be complete. Or, maybe the story needed to be unraveled and told differently.

Here, the story is mostly a recounting of something, an event that happened with reference to something a source that might intrigue you. Over there, this same story might take on a version laced with a mythic point of view. I hope for adventure and take myself on real-life trail walks to keep my senses tuned to the taste of wind at his bluster best, keep my head covered against the storm that was predicted and all the while I keep my heart open to visitations from small beings with big messages.

I wonder: What experience have you had with tea?

Photo Credit: Thank you Martin!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak from the heart