Cha Dao - The art of slowing down

Lu Yu, the Sage of Tea and author of "The classic of Tea (Cha Jing 茶經)", who lived during the Tang Dynasty, referred to tea as “the sweetest dew of heaven”. The classic of Tea is considered the first known monograph on tea, written between 760 CE and 762 CE, it covers all the aspects of tea as cultivating, producing, preparing and enjoying tea. His work marks a milestone in the history of tea, as it shows a significant change in using tea as a medicine merely towards habitual drinking tea as a lifestyle. Tea became a symbol of stillness, naturalness and elegant way of living.

Cha Dao 茶道

Cha: means Tea.

The Chinese character for tea is recorded in the eighth-century treatise on tea The Classic of Tea by Lu Yu. This character has three parts: the top part 艹 refers to leaves or plants, the middle part 人 represents person and the bottom part 木 means wood or "being rooted".  Each of these parts reminds us of the essential factors for harvesting and creating tea: trees, people, and leaves. In the book "Cha Dao", author Solala Towler shared, "Thus the true meaning of cha or tea could mean something like the plant that gives human a sense of being rooted or balanced."

Dao: means The way or path.

Daoism (or Taoism) is the native philosophy from ancient China, dating back thousands of years. It was the philosophy that Chan Buddhism was influenced by. Chan Buddhism is an early form of Zen Buddhism in the ancient time. Zen and its ideas can be traced back to Daoism and Mahayana Buddhism.

Dao is a philosophical concept that is multifaceted and has several interpretations. One of the most profound interpretations is the Cosmic Dao, the way of the cosmos, the way of nature. Following the way of the nature is the core teaching in the philosophical and spiritual text of the Tao Te Ching. The book Tao Te Ching mentions the Dao as the Cosmic Dao to be the “source” of the universe.

Dao philosophy honours the principles of simplicity, stillness and harmony with nature. Dao or The way refers to the natural way of how everything is unfolding. It emphasizes the natural order of life and the universe.

Cha Dao: when we are looking at the practice of tea in Cha Dao (The way of tea), it is really about a way of living in which we are practicing the awareness to recognise and honour the sacred way of nature in which we can also recognise our deep bond with nature and life itself.

The Art of slowing down

I have been talking about slowing down since 2021 when I experienced some versions of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed almost everyday. It took me two years to actually act on my words and really slow down.

This year, I have intentionally slowing down. It doesn't mean not doing anything. It means being a little more focus on what matters and reducing all of the things that don't. It turned out that I needed to reduce 90 percent of the things I used to do, so that I only do two things per day which are writing and making art. And I am not talking about the essential like cooking, eating, brushing teeth, etc. I am talking about work tasks. What I have been reducing are making contents for my business instagram accounts, being active on instagram, meetings and social gatherings in which I don't relate to, and collaborating with businesses that don't share the same value with mine.

I was struggling to slow down for a while because it felt so scary to not work hard, to not constantly prove my worth, to not collaborate with others to expand my network, to not share contents to stay relevant in the "market". My tea practice was my savior. Tea has taught me to slow down just little by little since the day I started the practice in 2022, until when I actually felt the tipping point earlier this year 2024 in which I did slow down a lot. The whole changing process was quiet and almost invisible until everything makes sense. These days I could flow at my most natural rhythm. And it looks like this: 2 work tasks per day only, meditation everyday is a must just like brushing teeth, and everything else is extra.

Less is truly more. Less stuff, more time. Less distractions, more concentration. Less worries, more energy. Less noises, more stillness.

All the ancient traditions of tea involve mindfulness acts of preparing and caring deeply about the intention and energy we carry while doing our tea. It's not about taking the longest time for a tea sitting, but more about the quality of the time we spend. We still can practice slowing down in a 10 mins tea sitting as well as an hour session.

The 2 simple tips that a Cha Dao Tea practice would show us:

  • Simplicity: it's easier to slow down and stay focus when there are less stuff, less clutters, less distractions. When we drink tea in Cha Dao practice, we also practice noble silence so that we can simply be a listener and observer. The simplicity of a tea ceremony or a tea meditation is in this commitment to listen. A tea sitting in the morning provides stillness and clarity for the day to unfold. After my tea practice, I usually ask myself the question: "If I can only do 1 task for work today, what could it be?"
  • Dive deep into the Now: multi-tasking is fast living in pursue of doing more in less time. When we multi-task, the signal we send out to life is all about rushing and doing more (over the quality and depth of the present moment). In tea ceremony, each encounter, each moment is precious that we want to treasure and celebrate each one through the art of tea. There is no past and no future in a tea sitting, there is only the Now.

Tea practice naturally teaches us to appreciate a single moment. It teaches us to allow ourselves to enjoy the moment without having to add more tasks on top of the one thing that has been unfolding right in front of us. In diving deeper into the Now, what we see is the perfection in imperfection, the sacredness in the way things are, the beauty in all unspoken and silence of nothingness and emptiness.

When we are not adding, multi-tasking, rushing, what we practice is the appreciation for our "self" without having to prove our worth. This, in another word, is called unconditional love. It is rooted in being able to accept the present moment and see life as it is. It requires the willingness to dive deep and cultivate peace and stillness from within. It requires the willingness to let go of our personal preferences to how life should be a certain way.

"The Tao is constant in non-action
Yet there is nothing it does not do
If the sovereign can hold on to this
All things shall transform themselves
Transformed, yet wishing to achieve
I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless
The simplicity of the nameless
They shall be without desire
Without desire, using stillness
The world shall steady itself"
~Tao Te Ching, verse 37, translated by Derek Lin, 2006
At The Grounded Circle, a tea and art community that I founded in Auckland, we come together for some bowls or cups of tea regularly to practice deep listening and slowing down as the way we celebrate life. If you are interested in knowing more about the practice of Cha Dao, feel free to reach out to me (Sierra) by emailling to I love discussing and exchanging thoughts and insights on Cha Dao, meditation and art.
Our schedule for upcoming events is usually on the Home page. These days, you can easily find me at The Grounded Circle (IG: @thegroundedcircle) doing our monthly Tea meditation offering and private functions; also at SOMM (The school of modern meditation) near Kroad for our monthly Art & Tea mindfulness session.
Other articles on Cha Dao:

1 comment

  • I would love to come to the tea group whenever I visit Auckland next.


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