Having Tea with 1,355,033,812 People
One of our amazing abilities as a Human Being is our ability to connect with others and with everything in the universe. When we are most alive we are most connected and whole. And it seems like a bit of a mystery that we are also our most unique and individualized self when we experience our connection with all others!
When we become stressed, emotional, angry, depressed, disappointed or ashamed, we contract. We wilt. We begin to sever our connections.
Some of the best meditation practices guide us back into full connection with everyone and everything and hence with our self. The technique may invite All in, or Open all windows, or clear all blocks; but the result is that a sense of our profound connection awakens, heals and gives us insight.
That meditative experience is natural to each of us as a human being. It is all around us. It is not the possession of any one tradition or belief. It is a sensitivity lived and passed along. Because of that it can unexpectedly envelop us like warm sunshine without any great effort or fanfare.
That is what happened when I had tea at the Ra Ma Da Sa Center for Healing in China. I had been invited by Sunder Singh Khalsa – an excellent teacher, spiritual light and friend – to come to the center to teach. Of course that means I also learned. He spoke several times about an amazing “tea lady” who was native to this mountainous area of China. Tea in this area is nurtured by the mountain air, the altitude, the rich organic base in the soil and the careful tending of the local villagers. Sunder had brought me tea from this Tea Lady of China all the way to the USA. It was subtle and special. So when the chance came to share some tea in person with her and him I was enthusiastic and grateful.
The simple act of having tea became a deep meditation. An occasion with a few people in a well appointed tea room shifted almost magically to a moment filled with the spirit and presence of 1,355,033,812 people and MORE!
I won’t keep you in suspense. The Tea Lady served the tea as a meditation. She took us from the senses and social pleasure of the occasion and opened our heart to the many levels and flows of energy and consciousness that are in the simplest of acts.
To capture in words all the nuances of consciousness and spirit that came in those minutes would take many pages and still far short. So I will outline the steps, the walk up the foothills, and let you reach your own high peak by having tea with friends your self.
1. The Beginning. That is in the mind and heart. It is away in both time and space from the tea room. The Tea Lady walks from house to house in the village areas. Each house has tea trees tended by the family lineage for generations. She is supported by a devoted entourage that meditates, blesses and sings. She walks around the tea trees in a meditative glow, flowing like a river of light. She senses the quality of the tree and each leaf. She selects a leaf and with deep respect to life, nature and the unbroken chain of hands that tended this tree. She selects a tea leaf and all that comes with the creation of this particular leaf. Gradually she gathers a bundle of fresh tea leaves. The leaves she selects preserve the spirit of the place, the energy of its ancestry and the delicacy of the tea components that condense mountains, altitude, winds and rain into a savory brew.
2. Create a space that is elegant in its simplicity and suggestively sacred in atmosphere. The mind needs to know you require its attention and cooperation. Calm your self with a slow breath, a prayerful moment or mantra. Acknowledge all of your parts and all the people you will share this tea with. Then a common tea setting becomes a special space to have an experience. The Tea Lady did this with a contagious smile and attentive glances as she took a small sample of the leaves and systematically prepared each cup with warm water and put the leaves to steep.
3. As the tea completes the brewing, a process begins. Tea is poured in each cup. Then it is smoothly brought past the nose and smelled. You pause in stillness and attend to the sensations, feelings and mental impressions. Drink the tea. Allow its qualities and essence to ripple through your body. Then we shared an observation to a question- a meditative step- asked by the Tea Lady Guide. Then the tea is steeped again. The tea is steeped as many as a dozen times. Each steeping changes its quality. Each shift in quality reveals new facets of the nature of the tea and the nature of your own awareness. Here is the sequence asked after each cycle of steeping:
With this last tea serving you are part of the tea and hold its essence for all who shall taste from these trees in the future. Enjoy, bless and take this awareness with you.
So we start with our senses and our individual experience. We gradually sense how our feelings of our feelings expand. Gradually we realize that a tea leaf does not exist. It is a tree, a village, a land and a country. It has with it a subtle message and imprint of time and people and place.
Gradually as we meditate on the tea experience we open our awareness. One person says”I can smell a jasmine flower”. The Tea Lady smiles and says yes at this house there was a large jasmine bush growing near the tree. Another says “ I sense a joy and a clarity”. Response- “Clarity and wisdom come as we let our thoughts go and open to the flow of knowledge that comes with each thing we experience.”
As we drank the tea we drank each sip with the 1,355,033,812 people of China + us + you. The room isn’t big enough, but the heart is. This of course is yoga; the experience is meditation.
From tea leaf and steeping to sensing our self as a part of all that is. Nothing exists just as a separate thing. Each thing is a mirror of an unlimited process. Each tea taste a brief poem that captures feelings and the play of life.
I appreciate the tea lesson, the practical and unpretentious wisdom of the Tea Lady, the generosity of Sunder Singh to introduce me and share this experience, and to Ajit Kaur for the photos.
Now, have a cup of Tea!
Note from Mark Lamm
My friend, psychotherapist, teacher and writer – Gurucharan Singh – has taught meditation for 40 years and is a world recognized expert in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.