The five guidelines in The Way of Tea - Cha Dao in a modern world

A sitting with tea is all about listening, not just with our sense of hearing but with all of our being. When we drink tea in silence, we could hear all the external sounds of the environment as well as the internal sounds of our inner landscape. To accept the good parts is easy, to face the considered "negative" parts could be harder than climbing a mountain. This is when the practice of sitting with tea can work its magic. In fact, it's us that work our magic with the essence of tea.

"One of universal nature is like water;
He benefits all things
But does not contend with them. 
He unprotestingly takes the lowest position;
Thus, he is close to the universal truth.
One of universal virtue chooses to live
In a suitable environment. 
He attunes his mind to become profound.   
In his speech, he is sincere.
His rule brings about order. 
His work is efficient. 
His actions are opportune. 
One of deep virtue does not contend with people:
Thus, he is above reproach."
-  Translated by Hua-Ching Ni, 1979

I sit with tea everyday after my breakfast. This is also after my one hour meditation when I first get up. Even I have done this for a while now, some days it still feels as hard as climbing a mountain.

My first bowl of tea: The start is usually very refreshing and calming. I love inhaling in the aroma and letting the cha qi to enter my body. My whole body is rewired with beautiful sensations, a wonderful celebration of being alive.

My second bowl of tea: I start to rush or want to read something while drinking. Sometimes my left hand catches my right hand in the middle of its reaching out to the phone. Sometimes ideas arise and I fear that if I don't stop to write them down, I would forget. Sometimes I feel like I am going crazy without solving my problems right away. Everyday there is something comes up naturally as it is the nature of the mind.

My third bowl of tea: When I keep continuing to sit with all the thoughts and feelings bubbling up inside, at some point, something starts to shift. The internal noises begin to wither away. A little less of kicking and screaming. A little more of stillness.

My last bowl of warm water: I could get impatient to do this quickly just to conclude the ritual. The intention of the last bowl filled with warm water is to remind ourselves to embrace more of empty spaces. Every time I have the last bowl of water, the after taste defines more of whatever taste my tea is like. Just as in life, the highs and the lows follow and define each other. To appreciate the highs, we need to practice to acknowledge the lows.

Sitting with tea as a meditation practice can support our modern living significantly through these five main principles or guidelines:

  • Honoring the rhythm of life: Tea is a gift from nature, as well as human being. When we sit with tea day by day flowing with the changes of nature and life, we learn to pick up the pattern physically, mentally and spiritually. We learn to look after ourselves differently on different seasons. The type of tea we are using would change with the changing of seasons. When we are willing to see and honor the rhythm of life, we aware of the choice to let go instead of holding on to things that binds our spirit.
  • Balancing the Yin and the Yang: Tea practice is the marriage of both the yin and the yang energy. The yin is in the non-spoken, unseen spirit and intention of the tea sitting. The yang is in the disciplines and the structure of the practice. In life, sometimes we talk about aligning our actions with our higher purpose as an authentic and optimal way of living. Yet, we could forget to sit in silence to foster that deep connection within if we just go, go, go and do, do, do without contemplating and reflecting. No one can see clear in turbulent water. Let's allow the still water speak.
  • Wu-wei (non action or effortless action): Wu Wei is the main principle of Dao philosophy, which is the way of achieving the Dao (the Way) without forcing or going against the natural order of all things in life. When we sit with tea in meditation, we have the chance to observe how thoughts and sensations coming and going naturally. The Way of Tea encourages us to find our natural way of being in the world by understanding and accepting ourselves better.
  • Simplicity: A practice of tea is simple, just tea leaves, a cup or a bowl and hot water. The tea ware is really a nice to have, rather than a must have. A big part of a tea practice is cleaning and tidying up the tea space and anything that we have used before. The essence of tea goes beyond a cup of tea and blends into our daily living as a way of being in this world. When we commit to a simple lifestyle, we reduce both outer and inner clutters. When we don't follow the extremes, we can easily cultivate the calmness and stillness residing in the little things in our mundane life.
  • Humility: In a tea gathering, there is no indication of power as every guest is as equally important. When we priorities human connections over the need of proving ourselves right, we invest our time and energy in relationships that are grounded and unconditional. In the philosophy of Dao, there is a concept of the Watercourse Way which uses water as a metaphor for humility in always flowing to the lower ground. Water for streams, waterfalls and rivers ultimately join into the big vast ocean.

At The Grounded Circle where I host our monthly Tea sitting, these five principles or guidelines are the back bone of our work, in order to support eveyone that joins us and to bring the community together in the most loving and grounding way.




1 comment

  • Beautiful sharing. Thank you


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