Around the time I set out to begin writing the first entry on living the life of Tea Medicine, I ironically became very ill with the flu. The illness knocked me out for over two weeks. The first week was spent in a constant state of fever. I rolled around in repetitive, nonsensical dreams while my body and mind struggled to find rest. Once the fever cleared, I was left in a very weakened condition. Both food and water tasted completely foreign, like dust. I found it very difficult to figure out what my body needed. Simple soups seemed to hit the spot but I knew I needed something more than miso and green vegetables. It wasn't until my mom, sharing her great concern for my well being, cooked up and delivered a large portion of chicken noodle soup that I really felt like I was going to start coming out of this illness. I don't normally eat any meat, but in this very weakened condition and with the love of my mom, I had no choice but to accept. And accept I did! I devoured bowl after bowl and it did wonders for my health, immediately.
I had gotten myself into a state where I desperately needed help from the outside. I could barely stand up without feeling like I was going to fall down. None of the old health patterns I normally relied upon seemed to apply. I felt so fortunate to have my mom close by to me at this time, especially as my mind rolled around in patterns of feeling forsaken. I knew that the feeling of being forsaken, completely unable to find a connection to anything resembling health through my own efforts, was merely the consequence of the debilitated state of my body, yet it had such a strong effect on my mind that I felt powerless to think any thoughts to the contrary. In this way, the intimate relationship of the body to the mind became so clear to me. With an utterly weakened body, my mind wasn't going to be trustworthy in the least. I had no choice other than to rely on the wise help of those closest to me, who themselves felt called to help me in the way they knew best.
We all get sick at one time or another, and so my story is not a particularly exceptional one. Yet it serves to define the principles of both medicine and health, the foundation of the first chapter of Tea Medicine.
Medicine is anything that puts us in harmony with the Great Spirit and all life on this Earth.
Medicine is anything that puts us in harmony with our Highest Self and all life on this Earth.
Medicine is anything that puts us in harmony with the Dao and all life on this Earth.
Health is harmony with the Great Spirit and all life on this Earth.
Lying in bed, unable to take care of myself, an external agent (my mom) came to my rescue with true medicine. I gratefully took this medicine into my own body, allowing it some desperately needed fuel to find some equilibrium, some harmony. The overwhelmingly negative patterns of fever and weakness shifted closer to strength. Soon, through my own agency, I was able to start making my own health decisions. I signed up for a weekly fruit and vegetable delivery service. I even found a service that would deliver precooked vegetarian meals shipped in an insulated package via FedEx. These luxuries shifted me even closer to strength and now one week in, I feel like myself again. As my body grew stronger, mental listlessness and despondency began to vanish. I am most happy to report that I have even regained a physical feeling of harmony with "Great Spirit", which has allowed me to see that even all the while I was sick, "Great Spirit" was there all along, although inaccessible to me through my feeling. I am very grateful to see this now.
This felt connection is the crux of understanding what the word "harmony" means in the context of tea as medicine. We are beings with an overwhelming capacity for feeling, yet don't we often feel that something is missing from our lives, even when we feel relatively healthy? It is from this common existential starting point that Tea Medicine asks us to question our fundamental definition of health. It wants us to consider that health is not merely the absence of disease, but rather a positive connection with "something". Wu De reiterates this "something" in a number of different ways, but most simply put, it is an active and positive relationship with one's own felt experience of this life. Health is growing in this harmonious feeling.
You don't have to live too much of your life to know that if you don't do anything about your health, you are unlikely to be very healthy! Therefore something must be done, especially if you feel a fundamental lack in your life. For Wu De, the starting place is medicine in the form of Tea, a medicine he finds to be applicable to one and all. Might we take Wu De as our guide to see what might await us? Isn't the potential to find harmony through Tea worth a trial?
So have a bowl! If you can find some old-growth Puerh and start there, as Wu De starts us out in the book, all the better. Global Tea Hut should be able to recommend a fine tea to brew to begin the first chapter in a life of Tea Medicine. Still, at the outset, the tea in the bowl is not the most important component to begin exploring. It is holding the tea bowl itself.