I practice tea ceremony with an organization called Global Tea Hut, and my teacher, Wu De, often talks about the tea ceremony as a way of connecting to nature. Many of us live in fast-paced urban environments and often fail to take notice of the natural world around us. The tea ceremony allows us to slow down enough to connect with the spirit of the earth.
I was introduced to the way of tea—Cha Dao—by my tea sister Tien Wu, Baelyn Elspeth. I had a very visceral reaction the first time I sat in on a tea ceremony. I didn’t understand why we were sitting in silence and why we were drinking this tea. I was frustrated and agitated, and I didn’t think I would be participating in the tea ceremony again anytime soon.
Because a lot of the sisters in my community practice tea ceremony, I soon found myself sitting in on my second ceremony, and this time my reaction was a complete reversal, as I had pushed through my previous resistance. I started crying, and I found myself deeply moved by the presence and power of tea. Rather than being annoyed by the silence and the stillness, I became aware that this was the very purpose of practicing tea ceremony: to slow down enough that you become one mind that is fully present and in the moment.
You hear a lot of talk in the media about mindfulness, and the tea ceremony is a mindfulness practice. You have to be totally present as the water boils, as the leaves steep, and as you pour and drink the tea. As I began to appreciate and understand the tea ceremony, I realized how wonderful it was for me. I have a very active mind, and this ceremony gave me a focus for my meditation. It allowed me to let my feelings pass without judgment and to remain still and calm.
When I went to China to learn more about tea, the group that I traveled with worked on organic farms, harvested leaves, processed them over fires, and even visited the studio of a master potter who makes beautiful clay vessels that we drank from. This trip deepened my love and appreciation for the process of preparing tea for ceremony, because I got to experience firsthand how labor intensive producing it really is. We could pick leaves for a full day and still barely have what we needed for a pot of tea.
Wu De taught me a simplified version of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Ancient Chinese and Japanese ceremonies celebrate nature by incorporating all of the elements: water, the fire and air used to boil the water, and the earth represented by the tea itself and the clay cups. Sometimes we will also burn incense during the ceremony to represent ether. We often practice outside, and a few years ago, I commissioned a craftsman from Ojai to build a small teahouse in my backyard, which has become my refuge.
I drop into a deeper place when I am listening to the birds and feeling the breeze purifying me. I always see butterflies fluttering by and hear frogs singing. Drinking tea in my teahouse feels like entering into a whole new realm. Tea is a medicine, and it brings people together. It makes it possible to sit down with a stranger, share a cup, and develop a connection without saying a word.
Starting your own tea practice is very simple, and you don’t need much equipment. Begin with organic tea from a reliable source such as Global Tea Hut or Living Tea, and clay cups/bowls that are nontoxic and pleasing to you. My favorite cup was given to me by Tien Wu. It was a gift when I first started practicing, and it means a lot to me.
It took me years of being the water bearer for Tien Wu before I felt confident enough to serve tea. Although the practice is very simple and made for anyone to do, it also requires specifics that come from putting in the hours to learn and absorb all of the details.
Blessings to you,
Shiva Rose x
Shiva Rose is the founder of the holistic lifestyle blog The Local Rose, and the creator of the natural skin care line, Shiva Rose Beauty. After being diagnosed with life threatening auto immune diseases, she began her journey on the path of wellness and spirituality.
Her book Whole Beauty (published by artisan) encompasses various modalities that have enhanced her health. The book touches upon Ayurvedic practices, DIY beauty recipes, spiritual practices, Kundalini meditations, tonic recipes, guidance for crystals, and more.
Shiva brings her connection to the spiritual world with a combination of tea ceremonies, yoni egg rituals, and beauty rituals to women to assist them on their paths towards healing and feeling more vital.
She lives near the Santa Monica Mountains with her daughter Charlotte, their menagerie of animals, where they grow their own food and live close to the land.