When you forget all your dualistic ideas, everything becomes your teacher and everything can be the object of worship. - Shunryu Suzuki
The question "Why Tea?" is a big one. The answer is even bigger.
Let's face it: once we've woken up to find that there is something terribly dissatisfying about living in this world, we're going to need something to help us reckon with our dissatisfaction. This is the world we've got! The alternative, which sadly some take, is no longer living in this world. Most find that prospect even more dissatisfying! Our hope is that there is something in this life that will help will move us far away from such negative thoughts, and further and further away from any and all dissatisfaction. The less dissatisfaction we experience, the more harmony we find to take its place. Who doesn't hope for life to be like this? All beings want to be happy.
Having passed through Chapter 1 of Tea Medicine, we know that medicine is required to find this harmony. And we also know that anything can be medicine. My own first taste of medicine was via Vipassana meditation. Although my first long retreat was extraordinarily healing for me, I can't say that harmony was the fruit of my labor. In many ways, the retreat revealed just how much suffering I was mired in and how utterly far away I was from a harmonious life! Yet I was certainly able to see that this new medicine had profound potential to heal me of my dissatisfaction. So I imposed the recommended commitment to meditate two hours a day on my life and navigated some very heavy karma for a few years. Trudgingly yet without hesitation, conquering a few more retreats along the way, I reached a station on the path where I could safely say that a huge portion of dissatisfaction had been removed from my life. As the old, unhelpful lifestyle receded in the background, I began feeling happy and harmonious. I even felt strongly the urge to share what I had found with others.
Knowing just how to share the healing power I was experiencing and hoping for others to experience was another source of dissatisfaction for me. At this important crossroads where other humans and I intersect, a second medicine, Tea, has helped build a bridge, one that feels like one of harmony's many requirements.
After meeting Wu De for the first time at one of his workshops in Los Angeles, I practiced the homework he assigned of drinking tea every morning for 7 days. However at the time I was concerned that consuming tea daily would be "adding" a layer to my experience of life that might potentially cloud my meditation practice. Upon sharing my concern with him, he explained that tea was a tool I might find a use for down the road. He was right, obviously, yet although I gave the homework a fair trial, I didn't continue the daily practice. It wasn't until I experienced a few radical tea sessions, opening new, unexpected doors in my life, that I saw the light on daily practice. Within these session, Tea, freely and lovingly, offered clear invitations to more harmony. Having faith that the voice of Tea within myself was indeed real, answers to "Why Tea?" began unfolding rapidly. Daily tea drinking became a firmly rooted foundation in my life.
After rooting myself in Cha Dao, serving tea to others was the next big advancement towards a harmonious life. As I continued to grow in my relationship with Tea, my ability to serve tea (or is it Tea?) grew along with it. My relationships with others blossomed. Even my house turned into a Tea house, my family a Tea family. We established an altar in a part of the home that had been used only as a place to pile junk mail and knick knacks. We dedicated a room in the house purely to tea service and meditation. The list of detailed improvements made to our home is quite long. Guests started to come for tea frequently and often commented on the light, peaceful feeling in the home; and this was a place inhabited by three small children! I give all the credit of this shift to Tea. Tea revealed the stream of harmony, all I had to do was listen and walk.
A Life of Tea Practice: The Tea bowl, a lifelong friend
From my experience, practicing the wisdom found in Tea Medicine makes it almost certain that Tea will find you, too! Reading its pages and working on its homework assignments was a wonderful juncture within the story I told above. In Chapter 2, we start our communion with the tea bowl. Have you found your bowl yet? Maybe you have one languishing in a dusty cabinet somewhere, waiting patiently for your attention. Maybe it's time for a journey to find a bowl in Chinatown? Perhaps your good Tea karmas have ripened and you've received a weathered bowl from Wu De himself! Whatever the case may be, it's the first step in a new found respect for objects. A person of Tea doesn't reject material things in order to save themselves from unwanted attachment, just the opposite. A Chajin refines themselves in the practice of Tea and objects of great meaning and inherent value appear everywhere. To see them, we start at the most basic: leaves, water and whatever bowl you encounter at the beginning.
Ask Yourself: Am I devoting enough energy to harmony with the living Nature around me?
Begin drinking bowl tea every day with an attitude of reverence for the tea, the water and the bowl. Hold the bowl as we discussed in the last post, connecting heart to head and head to heart. Through this practice, we are inviting Tea into our lives, making ourselves vessels of harmony by taking Tea into ourselves, whether we know it consciously at first or not. Harmonizing with Nature happens only through one's own effort and awareness. Nature rewards continuous practice. After all, does Nature ever take a break? The sun rises and sets everyday without fail. Set a strong intention to practice every day and see what happens.