The World of Tea – Intuitive pathways of transformation
The Traditional Tea Ceremony is one of these profound experiences carried through time and lineages.
For thousands of years, sacred potions have been used for spiritual and physical transformation in nearly all cultures. Our 12th chapter of CARAVANA Freethinkers 2021 Edition falls on International Tea Day, with a powerful human being: Juan Pablo Heredia, a Chinese Tea Facilitator.
The art of meditation is a cornucopia of practices and ceremonies which take you through intuitive pathways of transformation that collectively lead to healing. These practices often involve talismans or tools of power, including certain foods and drinks to induce a meditative state or clarity. The traditional Tea ceremony is one of these profound experiences carried through time and lineages.
At first glance, one may not comprehend the magic behind tea and tea ceremonies. Juan Pablo consciously brings the water of knowledge to a simmer, places the leaves of understanding into the sacred bowl, and offers us a warm and calming sip of a practice that transcends.
Juan Pablo shares with us the intimate relationship between our body and mind in this beautiful conversation of the sacred practice of tea and how it has changed his life. He reminds us of the great power in ancient traditions and how it can be utilized as we move through the modern world.
How did you come to learn about Tea Ceremonies, and what elements of this practice inspire you?
I was first introduced to tea by a friend, who insisted that I try it. At first, I did not understand her insistence. I eventually decided to meet with her at 6 am to sit with her and her friend (who held the ceremony) before leaving for the airport. They laid out very specific water, kettles, and artefacts, but I didn’t think much of them.
Although I am spiritually and metaphysically inclined and have practised yoga for a couple of years, I still struggled with my sitting meditation pose, cross-legged on the floor. While it is not rational, I felt that the tea gave me a chiropractic adjustment, aligning my spine as I was drinking it upright. I was able to sit comfortably, present, and aligned for the entire hour (and I have ever since). Not just that, but I was introduced to the most profound meditation I had had until that moment.
My senses were awakened, my mind and heart calmed, and a sense of totality was present. The hot water brought all my attention inward; cup after cup, I went deeper. The ceremony ended. I was left awe-struck and in a state of joy.
Bluntly said, that tea ceremony changed my life.
It took me about ten months to start my formal personal everyday practice. A practice that honours the moment, nature, the elements, incorporates beauty, cultivates peace and awareness, allows one to connect with others without forcing anything. Just sitting in silence.
Just sitting in silence.
What has been your most invaluable feeling or experience while you’ve been practising and hosting Tea ceremonies?
This one is two-fold, within and without. Tea has been a way of going within, listening to myself and my surroundings. Daily practice has cultivated a space that I cannot imagine without it. It has become my primary companion towards moments of, for example, metaphysical awareness that have become recurring and consistent, not just one of the experiences. That sense of self is a full experience that I visit every day. I say it’s two-fold because it also allows me to connect with others and invite them into that space.
It’s a sense of union, recognition, and presence when we share tea with reverence and intention.
Can you share a little bit of the history behind a Tea ceremony and why you feel more connected to this kind of meditative practice?
Tea was discovered 5,000 years ago (2737 BCE) by the great Emperor Shen Nong. He brewed the first leaves in his bowl and brought them down to the world to experience. Since then, multiple brewing methods, vessels, and utensils have been developed.
The tradition and lineage that I follow are led by Wu-De, a monk resident of Taiwan and preserving the tea tradition through Global Tea Hut – whose community touched me that day in Tulum.
My connection to tea is now a few years old, and I feel I am just beginning this relationship with the Leaf in this lifetime. It is challenging to frame and describe my first experience using other methods, and it was more than home.
The meditation itself is a contemplation on silence, stillness, and through that stillness and silence – all else can be expressed. It is private and can be shared, the insights immediately applied. And while I have had my share of “lessons” and techniques, I can say that the most significant teacher has been and continues to be the Leaf.
Do you have any suggestions on how Tea ceremonies can help engage the global community in nurturing themselves?
Cultivating inner awareness, understanding our internal language, and becoming established in the present moment may be a foundational experience to begin exploring the outer world. Tea delivers you there. Once you make it out into the world – in sharing tea with another, we become of one mind – or in tune to listen, express, and dance with one another. Tea has a way of bringing us together and onto a place where the exchange is from a common ground.
The meditation itself is a contemplation on silence, stillness, and through that stillness and silence.
One of the tea’s primary gifts in ceremony is the arrival to inner peace – and if the metaphysical basis as above and so below, the inner peace we reach will permeate to outer peace in our world. We connect to a part of ourselves with every bowl, weaving both peace and love within ourselves. Also, the practice of silence alone is a gift. We are so cluttered with sensory stimuli. The method of sitting with one another in silence can transmit so much. There is an intimacy that is reached in the presence that words alone cannot achieve. I am not sure what would be more valuable than that.
On the subject of craft, the tea ceremony can be as simple as leaves on a bowl or a few artefacts and tools. These tools will tend to be created by artisans who have devoted themselves and their families to this practice. There is a richness and beauty to the pieces they create, which immediately connects us to other lands, traditions, and languages. It is another way to preserve the craft, cultivate and celebrate it – they call for reverence. If treated properly, they might be in my family for generations.
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