Posts Tagged ‘art of living’

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

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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