Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

Willing to Do, Happy to Bear

Well, in the “about” section of my blog, I address you, the reader, as courteous, but just how art thou to be a courteous reader if thy has nothing to read! Absurd I know. Though, absent have I been for good reason. It all has to do with Tea of course. And since I now lack the time to keep any form of regular blog entries, I leave you, dear courteous reader, with one final TLC entry. Though I close one door, a much larger one opens…

Some of you know I live in Taiwan now. Below is a snippet into my new life. I wrote this for a newsletter called the Global Tea Hut, a global community of Spirit-minded tea imbibers. Below is just an article I wrote, but I’d recommend reading the entire newsletter here: Newsletter #12, January 2013. You can also read all of the previous GTH newsletters here. And if you’d like to become a member of our growing, loving community, you can sign up for the Tea of the Month, which means you’ll be receiving a paper copy of the newsletter, a tea gift, and “living” organic tea, while at the same supporting our tea center here in Taiwan and more importantly, supporting organic tea farmers and venders in Taiwan and Asia. Of course, if would be much better if you just come visit us at our center! We always have a bowl of tea ready for you, healthy vegetarian food, and comfortable, safe accommodations — all free of charge. That’s just what we do. We are here to serve. Oh yeah! and here’s a video detailing our future mountainside center: Light Meets Life.

Camellia Sinensis Blossom

WILLING TO DO, HAPPY TO BEAR

It is said that as a student of this tradition, one does not simply learn how to make tea, but how to serve it. In one sense, this is meant literally, as in the learning of how to prepare and serve tea to guests who frequent our wayside hut. (Wonderful, beautiful guests from near and far. Please know that we are learning to serve you tea!) We are intimately working with water, teaware, tea, and heat sources to better communicate with this Leaf so that it may seamlessly convey its messages of Truth and Nature to us. In developing the skills to prepare tea with grace and gongfu, it is not so much us serving you as it is the Leaf serving you through us. Dearest Camellia has so much wisdom to offer and the avenue of Tea has been chosen to drive that wisdom home to us. In service, we are the road-keepers, sweeping the dust that inevitably settles for the many vehicles of truth that pass.

There is so much more to consider, directly pertaining to serving tea, both functional and aesthetic, seasonal and logistical, musical and spiritual, but I would like to consider the many other faces that tea-service takes indirectly. For this is not a pompous place; we are not here to simply serve tea and offer some sort of escape or bliss-out experience. We are not just here to brew and imbibe tea blind to the problems that the world faces today — in fact it is just the opposite. Tea brewed and consumed in the manner conducted here can open our eyes to the underlying reality that is. This is a thriving and dynamic tradition, very much alive, with a great purpose in mind: one that seeks to promote self-cultivation, meditation, sustainability, community, and a greater sense of connection with ourselves, one another, and Nature. Tea is the Great Connector. This sort of mission requires a lot, to say the least.

As a relatively new student learning the very basics, serving tea, for me, much more often means fetching water, buying groceries, doing the dishes, preparing meals, taking out the trash, watering plants, and cleaning doggy doo-doo. What has this to do with the service of tea? What have these menial responsibilities to do with the art of serving tea, and in a greater sense, the art of living? Lucky for all of us, we have a lively, beautiful, and functional center, largely in part due to a small group of people (including all of you!), and in particular, a teacher within that group who can allow Tea to serve through him. Therefore, in order for that opportunity of service to arise, simple daily tasks and everyday errands must be carried out. That’s where we, the students come in. That’s very often our role in serving tea. For while it may seem silly, not a drop of tea could be had, had the bills not been paid; the dishes not been cleaned; the bedding not been bought; and the physical space that makes so much of this possible not been duly tended to and made available to all of you at any time for free. All of the grandeur to be found at this center is not without the smallest detail: never negligible, but often unnoticed. To answer the questions I posed before, then, it becomes a little more clear that learning to serve tea means learning to carry out the responsibilities that make the literal service of tea possible. (Yes, that includes cleaning dog poop. It’s in the fine print.)

Naturally, my answer to the question, “What are you doing in Taiwan?” is that I am a student of the Leaf: a student of Tea. After all, I’ve moved halfway across the world and committed my time to some wayside joint called the Tea Sage Hut! What I’m learning is that being a student of tea means to be a student of serving tea, and to be a student of serving tea, within the realm of ChaDao, ultimately means to be a student of service. Tea is the medium through which we serve, and it’s a very conductive medium at that. But is an act of service carried out with ill-will the same as an act of service carried out with Love? Am I fetching water because I have to, or because I love to? Does it make a difference? On the level of surface, fetching water might look like fetching water, and like water itself, two different samples might look the same, but from where they were sourced is paramount. So too, where is our service sourced from? An inner Spring nestled within the Heart of compassion, or a rusty tap spouting from the ego? From where you source your intention makes all the difference in the energy that radiates from you out to the world. Just like the koans of Zen; anything you say or do in the right frame of mind is the right answer, and anything you say or do outside of that mind is the wrong answer, even if it’s the right answer! Spirituality has nothing to do with what you believe in and everything to do with your frame of consciousness.

There is a role of service to be played here, and it’s not so much the corporeal act of carrying it out as it is the intention with which you perform it. This is no simple task either. If actions speak louder than words then intentions break the sound barrier. I am inspired by Dharma Master Cheng Yen who said, “We must be willing to do and be happy to bear.” There is a lot to do as a student of the Leaf and that can be challenging, but where will growth and development come if not from somewhere outside our comfort zone. Surely, there is little room for growth when you’re having a good time! Let us be happy to bear, and let that happiness overflow into what must be done, in the form of pure intention.

Again, we must reflect; to be a student of tea within the realm of this tradition means to be a student of tea through service, and to truly perform that service, a particular frame of mind must be achieved (a state of presence in other words). Therefore, a student of tea must also be a student of mastery of mind.

Let us not get carried away though, nor get caught up in the role of a student or service person; it’s not about that. I don’t want to portray this life as something too serious. Life is pretty simple here: we drink tea, meditate, eat well, sleep, and work. The idea is to be willing to do whatever is required of you in any situation with great intention and presence, and be happy to bear that responsibility. Easier said than done, but it’s a challenge worth accepting…

Tea Sage Hut

Love and Light
Be Happy
TLC
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Interning at Finca Luna Nueva: Day 10

I’m lounging up in a tower right now, some 60 feet high, well above the surrounding jungle canopy at Finca Luna Nueva, a sustainable rainforest eco-tour lodge and organic, biodynamic farm. Volcano Arenal lies to the West, dense jungle to the North, rainbows and lavender sunsets to the East, and the lounge area and pool to the South :) Cicada’s rattle, countless birds call, thunder shreds the skies, and the rhythm of the jungle breathes on in concert. Not a bad panoramic.

 

East facing rainbow from the tower

I’m one of the new interns at Finca Luna Nueva. This farm and eco-lodge offers 3-month internships where young adults can experience life on a biodynamic organic farm within a sustainable rainforest eco-lodge — it’s a good life. The internship program can be focused in areas such as biodynamics, farm work, construction, culinary, and even business. From what I understand, most interns have a hand in at least a few of these areas, blending the experiences together.

 

As for myself, I’ll be focusing on all tea-related aspects of the farm, from planting, harvesting, and processing, to pruning, propagating, and serving in casual ceremony. In just my first 10 days here, I’m already designing a new tea garden to be installed, spraying biodynamic preps on the existing tea garden, I’ve set date for a black-tea workshop in October that I’ll be conducting, and I recently had a skype conversation with my good tea friends in Hawaii which will help me to implement a sustainable harvesting and pruning schedule that lines up with the biodynamic calendar. And that’s not even accounting for all the time I enjoyed putting into the cob-oven project that intern, Kyle, has been spearheading for the last month (which still requires a few weeks of satisfying work).

 

Of course, it’s strange to call this “work” considering were given the opportunity to do something we really want to be doing, in returns for food and shelter. There hasn’t been a day when I felt like I was going to work, in the typical sense of the word. Not only will I do this work completely free of charge, but I’ll gladly do it with a smile on my face giving as much gratititude as I can for being given this opportunity to do what I love. Work-trading/WWOOFing should always at least be mutually beneficial but ideally should end in great friendship. The trick isn’t so much finding what it is you love to do, but cultivating the ability to choose to love whatever it is you find yourself doing. Whether I’m working with tea, or working on a cob-oven, it’s more so a choice to love doing it rather than doing it to see if you love it. In that sense, it’s going to be easy to enjoy any project here at la finca, which also has a lot do with the farm itself; all of the projects are a reflection of the sustainable, organic, eco-friendly, and caring nature of the farm.

 

I’ve traveled to a lot of places now, and had a lot of different work-trade experiences – all of which I’ve loved and learned volumes from — and already I can tell that this internship at Finca Luna Nueva is going to be a very notable experience. As far as internships go, I can’t think of a more conducive environment to learn and thrive in; one without micromanagement, one with an emphasis on self-directed projects, one with easily available resources for a wide variety of jobs, one within the realm of Nature, one with great food and caring staff, one that sets you up within a framework of success and allows for flexibility of content. The list could go on.

 
I still have a lot to cover, from the amazing tea garden that already exists here, to the cob-oven project in more detail, and a day in the life of an intern. But I’ll save those for future posts. For now, I might go enjoy the sunset again and take a dip in the pool before dinner…

 

Can you see Volcano Arenal?

Pura Vida

TLC

Finca Luna Nueva

My travels, adventures, and pursuit and personal development continue, this time at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica: a sustainable rainforest Eco-Lodge with a certified Organic Biodynamic farm. The farm, as part of the slow food movement, attempts to grow as much of their food for staff and guests as possible. They grow an array of fruits and vegetables, raise some animals, make their own chocolate, pepper, coffee, tea, and also grow turmeric and ginger, among many other things. The farm and eco-lodge are host to a number of other opportunities and activities that can all be found on  their website by clicking the link above.

I’ll be taking part in a 3-month farming internship. I plan to learn all about growing food, raising animals, medicinal plants, the world of Biodynamics, organics, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. I will also continue my own self-directed study of Permaculture design, Natural Farming, and Biointensive Farming as a complement to this internship program. To add to that, I hope to help manage all areas pertaining to tea on the farm, from planting, propagating, and harvesting, to pruning, processing, and serving.

I’m really excited to return to Costa Rica, which is where my farming adventures all began well over a year ago. Not only do I get to learn even more about sustainable farming practices and lifestyles, but I get to work with Camellia Sinensis and continue acting as  a student of the Leaf (all of which will prove syncronistically practical for my adventures post-Costa Rica, but that’s for another post well into the future). Anyway, I’ll be updating my blog regularly about live on la finca. My internship doesn’t start until next week, but look forward to some exciting new posts.

TLC

Global Tea Hut

There is a global tea drinking session going on right now, and everyone is welcome to be a part of it.

Fellowship in Tea and cultivation of Spirit have come together beautifully at an important time in our lives. One outcome of this communion is The Global Tea Hut: a community of tea drinkers around the globe, who, through gift exchange, support each other, environmentally friendly farmers, Cha Dao, and the hub that connects them all: the Tea Sage Hut, along with its publications, wayside huts, and other means of promoting self-cultivation and wisdom with regards to tea.

preparing Global Tea Hut packages

 

The Global Tea Hut spans bodies of water, bridges gaps of land, traverses great mountainsides, and brings us all closer together over one common cup of tea each month. The package you receive includes a monthly newsletter, a small gift from the Tea Sage Hut, and tea which is donated by sustainable farmers concerned with the environment.

 

 

This tea session is never ending. The energy, sharing, and awakening continue in a flowing seasonal pattern, from the bursting forth of new seed to the cleansing of ware after ceremony. So too this global tea session has been going on for a long time, even before the passing of the first bowl from one set of hands to another, to a time when Nature reached out to us, longing to initiate this tradition.

Supporting small-scale Organic Tea Farmers in Taiwan with members of the Global Tea Hut.

 

The Global Tea Hut is connecting us and bringing us closer together under one thatched roof, in the realm of one earthen tearoom. Its tatami mats of ocean and land nurturing great tea trees, who’s roots run deep and who’s nectar courses through our veins, tying us in Camellia fellowship, binding us as kindred tea spirits.

 

 

On my way home from Taiwan, I found myself surrounded by amazing people during a rideshare from Vancouver to Kelowna. We stopped at one of the highest points on the connector whereupon we shared some Ai Lao Sheng Puer, which you can read about in the GTH first newsletter. It was the inaugural GTH tea.

Sharing GTH tea with friends in BC

Sharing GTH Tea in BC

 

If you’re interested in joining the Global Tea Hut gift exchange, then check out the Tea of the Month on the GTH website.

 

 

TLC

Tea Sage Hut

In my final two weeks in Taiwan, searching in darkness for the true light of tea, I found such a beacon of light – and I went towards the source. I arrived at the Tea Sage Hut.

 

 

Here in Miaoli, Taiwan, is a center of tea wisdom, expressing the communion of Tea and Spirit, Cha and Dao. This center is called the Tea Sage Hut. It is a space dedicated to community, connection, sustainability, the environment, development of skill, unconditional kindness, mindfulness, laughter, meditation, and awakening to harmony through the wisdom of tea and service.

 

It is here at this wayside hut where enthusiasts of Life, Spirit, and Nature (and absurdity!) can honor a bowl of tea in a constructive environment; where tea can be shared in its highest regards; where we can bestow upon it the respect it deserves; and where we can walk the Great Way, guided by the wisdom of the Leaf and the teachings of the Dao. Though, not at the expense of healthy humour and freedom to express yourself. Seriousness has its place, as does hearty laughter, which we thoroughly employ here at the hut!

It’s quite special: the way tea is sourced, prepared, and served here. The water comes from a spring in the mountains. The teacher and the students gather the water once each week, hiking to the source. Back in the hut, the water rests in a clay pot in the meditation hall, receiving the energy of Metta generated there. After being carefully and mindfully ladled into a tetsubin, the water is patiently brought to boil using coal and/or electric element. I’ve read about the effect water can have on a cup of tea, but only after coming here do I experientally understand the significance behind that effect. In fact, just the heated water alone – without any leaf – is full of energy and a pure joy to imbibe. So too, the tea is alive with organic energy. It comes from soil thriving with natural cycles of life and death. It comes from farmers who care about tea and the environment. In line with all this, the tea is prepared and served in a like manner. But these are only constituent parts of the whole experience. The margins of space between this paragraph are so great that what is left unsaid is all. This Cha Dao experience in its entirety lies in the communion of all parts in the present moment. That’s the beauty and mystery of tea: a simple concert of liquor and leaf offering a symphony of complex sounds, silences, and sensations – and it’s available at the Tea Sage Hut.

 

 

When you come here, you are welcomed as if at home, along with all of the other tea brothers and sisters who pass through this sanctuary. Unlike home, however, where rent might be expected, everyone here is welcome free of charge, which includes tea, wisdom, room and board, and a moving experience. It is the donations from those who wish for others to receive the same wisdom through Cha Dao that they freely received, which keep this center operating, open, and thriving.

Here you can connect with tea brothers and sisters from around the world, and two amazing teachers – Wu De and the Leaf. In my short time at the Tea Sage Hut, I communed with the most amazing people from Russia, Canada, Estonia, and the US. Together, we engaged in sharing bowl tea, supporting organic farmers, meditating, laughing, preparing healthy meals – and all in the name of Cha Dao.

 

 

It really is amazing that such a place as this exists. This is a space I’ve always been implicitly looking for, as I think any enthusiast of tea and spirit is. A place to drink high quality tea from high quality ware; a place to cultivate spirit in the company of brothers and sisters from around the world; a place of solace and sanctitude; a place in tune with Great Nature; a place free of charge, open to all, and offering movie night on Fridays! Before coming here, it really was only a distant fantasy that this wayside hut existed; something I could only ever have read about in books or seen in videos; a point in time I would have only imagined to exist well into my future. But here I am, right now in this moment, at this very center – experiencing this dream….

 

 

For those of you who can’t make it to this physical hut in person, there is now a thriving Global Tea Hut connecting us all on an even larger scale, which I’ll be writing about in my next entry.

 

 

TLC

The Art of Living

I recently attended a 10 Vipassana Meditation retreat at Dhamma Surabhi (The Fragrance of Dhamma) in Merritt, BC. It is a 10-day meditation retreat conducted in silence taught under the guidance of S.N. Goenka.

Here’s a summary of the teaching:

Vipassana means to see things as they are. It’s a universal meditation technique teaching the path of Dhamma (The Law of Nature – Impermanence). It’s a simple, scientific, pragmatic, and a result-oriented technique to free us from suffering and bring true happiness into our lives and the lives of those among us. It is self-purification through self-observation.

A unique and powerful aspect of Vipassana is that this technique guides us through experiential understanding instead of intellectualizing or philosophizing the teachings. This is to say that each individual experiences uniquely for themselves the principles of nature, which in turn allows – experientially –  for the cessation of suffering to take place by breaking the negative habit patterns at the root level of the mind. Everything is verified and experienced by the student. No blind devotion or faith.

So, how does Vipassana offer this type of experiential understanding? Each individual learns to work within the framework of their own body at the level of respiration and body sensations. The goal is to objectively observe these sensations, without reacting to them. However, we are conditioned at the root level of the mind to react to these sensations; when we observe pleasant sensations, we react through craving and when we observe unpleasant sensations, we react through aversion to such sensations. We react through wanting what we don’t have or having what we don’t want – craving and aversion. Instead of observing reality as it is, we observe it as we would like it to be – and that causes us to suffer. So how to observe such sensations objectively, without reacting to them?

By experiencing for oneself, physical body sensations we understand at the actual level the nature of these sensations; they arise and pass away. Within the framework of our own bodies we gain experiential understanding that our sensations are subject to the Law of Nature, which is to say they are subject to impermanence; that whatever is given birth will ultimately pass away. As you read this, you can easily intellectualize what I am saying, but the technique allows you to experience it for yourself.

As we continue to observe the body sensations, we experientially understand two things: one, that such sensations are subject to the Law of Nature and are impermanent, and two, that we react to these sensations through craving and aversion which yields us to suffer. With this in mind, it becomes meaningless to crave pleasant sensations because we know for ourselves that they will arise and pass away. Thus craving leads to unnecessary suffering. Why crave (and suffer) for something we know will ultimately pass away? Similarly, it is meaningless to have aversion to unpleasant sensations as they too are subject to change. Thus aversion leads to unnecessary suffering.

With this internalized wisdom, we can now begin to observe the physical body sensations with some level of objectivity, with a balanced mind – this is the concept of equanimity! Our goal is to observe the physical body sensations with equanimity, without reacting to the sensations.

For example, because the back pain you observe while sitting in meditation is subject to the law of nature (which you yourself understand internally) then instead of reacting through aversion by shifting to ease the pain, just observe the pain with the understanding of impermanence – the pain has arisen, but will ultimately pass away. Likewise for pleasant sensations.

By observing objectively, without reacting through craving and aversion, we begin to break the mental habit patterns of craving and aversion that we have so firmly established at the root level of the mind. As we break these chains of bondage, we are purifying the mind at the deepest level. When you remove all of the impurities of the mind, one is left with a pure mind, and one who’s mind harbours but pure thoughts will manifest but pure wholesome actions.

When one observes body sensations equanimously and objectively by understanding the Law of Impermanence, it becomes meaningless to attach our sense of selves to sensations because everything is subject to change. Pleasurable sensations will rise and pass; it is meaningless to crave them. Sensations of discomfort will rise and fall; it is meaningless to have aversion towards them. There is no need to make physical sensations into mental sensations, to identify yourself with the sensation. Observing through this lens of equanimity breaks the deeply rooted habit patterns of the mind, which would otherwise react through craving and aversion, ultimately manifesting as suffering and misery on the surface.

In turn, this practice is so practical and result-oriented! Once developed withing the framework of they body, it can then immediately be applied in the external world. It is the skill of observing reality with awareness and equanimity, as the reality is, not as we would like it to be. Once we are on the path to purify the mind, we can act through pure intentions of compassion, harmony, peace, and love – this is Vipassana, this is the Art of Living.

This is just my take on the teachings and my own application of SN Goenka’s discourse. If you’re interested in Vipassana in BC, check out Dhamma Surabhi’s website:)

With Metta,

TLC