IN PURSUIT OF TEA – TEA TREK JAPAN
Japan was one of the greatest adventures of my life. I had been called to go. The months preceding the trip left little to no room for research and preparation. With a limited database and the wonderful connections of a new friend, I found myself in Kyoto.
I went in pursuit of tea. I wanted to know more about tea, how it is made, and what the great masters have as experiences. You see, I have tea as my business and my practice. As a practice tea is a meditation. Every aspect of it reflects you back to yourself. It is through this mirror that I get to experience the world. By bringing my mind to the subtleties tea requires in both its steeping and its functioning as a business, I am able to learn so much about the imbalances within myself, assisting me in my pursuit of harmony.
Zen is at the foundation of Japan. It is ingrained in its oldest systems from the Samurai, Karate, music, Geishas and tea. It is a refinement of the subtlest of processes through the art of observation. This they call Wabi, The Way. They believe that within this practice lies access to the essence of mind. Lu Yu, the Chinese “patron saint of tea”, taught that ‘the universal can be comprehended through tea.’
Before my trip to Japan I had through some good fortune come across the Verses of Sen Yu Rikyu, the forefather of the Japanese Way Of Tea. When I read these passages I cried and laughed at the same time because it felt as if I were reading the thoughts of my own mind. It was then that I realized others have my experience of tea. I wanted to share this and learn from the masters. I wanted to learn the Wabi Cha. Beautifully knitted into this was the excitement and desire to learn about the growth, processing and correct drinking of the tea. What better palce to learn than the source?
My visit fell over winter, making it an inopportune time to visit the fields. Being December people were also on leave and taking time with family. Conducting business or find a master would prove to be challenging. Every single part of the journey in Japan seemed orchestrated to provide me with the exact experiences and information I needed to understand the Way of Tea, a reflection of me.
What struck me the most about the Wabi Cha was the various aspects of honouring the environment and people. When first entering a traditional Tea Room (citation) guests are required to crawl through a small door into the 2 x 4m room. This brings everyone onto the same level, that there can be no hierarchy. The guests first honour the calligraphy or art work hung by the Tea Master, as well as the flower arrangement chosen especially for the occasion. The Tea Master chooses all aspects of the ceremony, including the very tea bowl and instruments used, each of which has names.
The guests honour the environment, knowing that they are not separate from it, that they are part of the same essence, bound to the causes and conditions of the various ebbs and flows of impermanence. The scrolls and flowers will always represent the season. Each season comes with beautiful teachings. Winter has the incredibly powerful conditions to support rejuvenation. Hibernation is critical. There is life under all the snow. The flowers are waiting to blossom. Things are dormant while life generates deep inside. Coming back stronger.
The next is to honour the other person. It is through honouring the other that we can honour ourselves, thereby acknowledging our inherent essence that is not separate or different from that of another. If we can live in harmony with our environment and with the people in our environment, we can experience greater happiness. We are able to cultivate compassion and loving kindness. What a world that would be, if we could harbor the same compassion for each other as we do for our dearest loved ones.
Finally, attention is brought to the tea. The tea is honoured for being the vessel that brings these insights and experiences. The process begins with the seed, and moved onto the soil, affected by the weather particular to the environment, altitude and the person that harvests it, then the hands that process it, the master that prepares it and finally, the mind that drinks it. Each step is crucial to the experience of it. By honouring its process you honour the preciousness of every factor involved in bringing this leaf to your cup, and this experience to your heart. They honour the incredible substances inherent in the teas chemistry, the nutrients that the tea carries, benefiting and supporting the body on a physical level. The medicinal proeprties of tea have been observed and used by the Chinese for over 4000 years.
When you drink Matcha, you are riding a space ship custom built for you, and you are the copilot drinking the galaxies.