Making Time for Tea
Purity is the unifying quality of the tea process. This is generally more of a search than an attainment, highlighted by shining moments of semi-perfection. These moments stand outside of time, either slowing it down or seemingly stopping it altogether. These phenomena can be accounted for in terms of brain wave function, as the mind passes through beta, to alpha, into delta and theta states. Different terms speak to different modalities.They are little more than safety blankets for the mind. Genuine experience leaves little doubt and generally tosses out the need for labels, badges, sashes, words, or other forms of ornamentation. Making sense of such experience comes after the fact and simply functions as road map for recovery of the event.
The concept of purity goes beyond cleanliness of leaves, of tea ware and of space; though it very often begins there. The purity of the leaf very often leads to a refinement of the tea space, and a well organized, tidy tea space often increases the appetite for teas that are pure, subtle, and fine. The search for pure tea, and pure moments within the tea process, is a continual process of renewal.
Each golden moment comes and goes and must be sought out anew, a-fresh in each new moment. By cultivating these moments and stringing them together, the perception of time and its effect on us — both physically and cognitively — are adjusted and broadened to the point that we attain to a new consciousness through the practice of tea.
Whether or not perfection is possible is open to debate; though having seen it in others, I believe it achievable for myself. But, again, the pursuit — the game — is more satisfying that the achievement. Tea, like meditation, is a process by which we cultivate higher states of consciousness.
Breakthroughs may happen suddenly or gradually, though they do ultimately manifest — in time. It is then seen that through time we are able to transcend it — to exist above and beyond it.
The fact that these experiences can be arrived at through tea (or gardening, pottery, etc.) seems far fetched to some. Then again so did the concept of wifi to denizens of the 1970’s… Athletes call this state the zone. To them I couch tea in terms of a performance enhancer — not a drug per se, anymore than an apple can be seen as a drug, or a peach.
Athletes, of any sort, are often quicker to notice changes in the body — the effects of sleep; the effects of diet. Mindfulness practitioners at times try to separate consciousness (the spiritual) from the physical body; though physical prowess is very often the vehicle to so-called mystical attainment (or simply being awake to the acolyte).
Yoga, for example, prescribes the asanas as prerequisite for the practice of meditation; Bodhi Dharma prescribed qigong and tea. Written above the door in the tea house where I first studied vintage tea was the sentence:
’The purification of the spirit begins with the purification of the body’
Tea can accelerate and enhance the upgrading of the physical vehicle. Clean tea is the minimum standard. It need not necessarily be expensive but it must be pure. Consuming the alternative is akin to washing ones boots in mud — not overly effective. The result of the consistent adherence to this diet of good tea, making adjustments as we go, is all but indescribable to all but those who have realized it for themselves — either through tea or through some other modality.
Many people have suggested to me over the years that they have no time for tea; for meditation. While I don’t doubt they feel that way, the process of tea ritual is truly one of taking time to make time — to sharpen the axe before felling the tree. In this way we become commander of fate instead of subservient to it. It is a process affirmed time and again in all the great disciplines of the ancient-world — that by practicing moving slowly we may come to move at the speed of the mind; the infinite.