Creating Space through Tea Meditation
I had the pleasure to meet Jade during the Indigo Retreat hosted by Erica Jago where she was offering Tea ceremonies. Jade is a certified yoga & meditation instructor, holistic bodyworker, and health coach. She hosts tea ceremonies and tea meditation, and created Wao Tea, an online shop consciously curating a selection of teas. Every morning, while we were sitting in silence, she served us tea she had carefully selected, pouring a few drops of the wisdom of the plant into each cup. These ceremonies were uplifting, opening the heart to a time of self-introspection. A space to welcome the preciousness of the present moment.
Jade, you are describing tea ceremony as a time-honored container. Time is a big topic in our western civilization. We feel we never have enough time. Always rushed, always in a hurry. Why are rituals like tea ceremonies so important in our daily lives?
“ Because tea ceremony (tea meditation) originated from zen buddhism, it is essentially a practice emphasizing on the importance of honoring time and space, a form of mindfulness or zen meditation, where tea becomes a plant teacher. In Zazen, the practice of tea meditation could be summed up by "Ichi-go, Ichi-e", which means "one time, one meeting" - reminding us of the uniqueness and preciousness of the present moment. To sit for tea in the morning is a devotional way to settle in the present moment, to calm the mind, to slowly unfold, to gently awaken and start the day anew, fresh, grounded. In a world where stress and anxiety is on the rise, the practice of a morning ritual like tea meditation is becoming a precious necessity, a special occasion to honor time and space.
A ritual is essentially sacred. To practice ritual daily is a reminder that every new day is sacred. A tea ritual is a celebration of simplicity. It is elevating the mundane - making our daily routines even more meaningful. A morning tea meditation is an occasion to wake up more slowly, to take our time, with attention and gratitude. It is giving the body and mind the proper time and space to align, to slowly root into the new day, with a fresh new perspective. It is a reminder that each breath are precious, each moment unique. ”
It was the first time I attended a tea ceremony, and I must say it was a beautiful experience. I often find myself struggling to take the time to sit in silence even though I know that silence is the key to find space and connect to our inner and authentic self. What was your first tea ceremony experience?
“ My very first tea ceremony happened in 2011, in Penang, Malaysia. I was travelling by myself after my mother passed away and was open to everything that could bring a source of spirituality, comfort and light on my journey. While sitting in a beautiful tea space, I met a young Chinese buddhist, who was studying zen and martial art in Japan, and who happened to also be a tea enthusiast. I was amazed by his knowledge and shared my desire to know more. He introduced me to one of his tea teachers, who offered me to sit down and experience a tea ceremony in the attic of his tea space. I felt instantly touched by the ritual, called to study more about the plant. It was the beginning of an important journey where tea and silence took a totally different dimension. ”
I felt that sitting in group is actually a great way to start the practice. It creates a supportive energy to help us find time to dedicate space to commit to the practice. We are co-creating. But, tea meditation is also a practice that we can do by ourself at home. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
“ Yes. Tea is a beautiful offering to share as a group. But it is also an offering to share with ourselfves. Tea meditation can be done at home, by yourself, as a daily morning ritual, or at any time that you feel it is needed. Like any other form of meditation, it is a precious occasion to offer yourself time and space to settle, ground, breathe, and devote yourself to the present moment. Done in the morning, it is a way to awaken gracefully and start the day anew and fresh. Done at any time, it is an occasion to humbly celebrate yourself, and everything that you are. A time to pause and reconnect with the life within you and all around you. Like any other self care routine, it is an invitation to open yourself to a more compassionate presence, to be One with the essence of life. ”
How has tea meditation helped you on your journey?
“ At the beginning of my adult life, around the same time my mother passed away, I started experiencing stress and anxiety. Yoga and meditation are both beautiful helpful practices, but the ritual of tea meditation helped me to cultivate silence and stillness, to be present on a deeper lever, and closer to Nature. It can be difficult to simply sit still and meditate for a prolonged period of time. It was challenging for me and I couldn't really commit to the practice of meditation, until I was introduced to tea meditation. The ritual of brewing and serving tea is a profound way of meditating, requiring to be devoted to every steps of the process, every breath, every moment. I felt touched and soulfully enliven by the plant itself, dancing with the elements of water, fire, earth, and air - unifying the elements within ourself, as we become the vessel when we drink the tea. When I feel unsettled, tea meditation becomes my time and space honored medicine to ground and breathe mindfully. Tea meditation is an empowering meditative and therapeutic practice, offering a vast array of health benefits and powerful medicine. In the long term, it is incredibly beneficial to balance the Qi (living energy) and center the self. It can also be helpful to lower stress, anxiety and symptoms of PTSD. To be involved in the world of tea has also connected me to an amazing awakened community with a similar rhythm and spirituality, valuing the importance of honoring Nature, time and space. We co-evolve together, touched and heartened by the medicine and wisdom of the tea leaves - all healing together, breath by breath, tea cup by tea cup. ”
Tea is a very important component of the ritual. Can you tell us more about this beverage and its health benefits?
“ Tea contains bioactive compounds, like polyphenols, alkaloids, amino acids and minerals, that improve health on so many levels. The list of health benefits is really extended. Polyphenols are antioxidant protecting the body, reducing the risks of infections and premature aging. Amino Acids like Theanine, present in tea and also present in the body in the nervous system, is preserving the brain from neurodegenerative disease, anxiety and stress. The alkaloids of tea, trapped by the polyphenols, will release the caffeine progressively and smoothly to balance the energy in the body (Qi), instead of overwhelming and exciting the body like coffee. Tea also naturally contains GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), an important amino acid functioning as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The presence of GABA in tea is offering beautiful gifts to the health by uplifting the mood, helping to combat depression, improve memory, relaxation and increasing the general level of well-being. It is a medicine for the body, mind and soul. But like anything in life, tea should be taken in moderation, as it is not the most alkaline beverage and should be associated to an healthy balanced diet. Anyone experiencing serious health challenges can probably benefit of the medicine of tea, but should limit their consummation to 1-2 cups a day. Pregnant women should also drink tea in moderation. ”
Beyond the health benefits, tea also holds a profound wisdom. During your tea ceremonies, you serve tea that you have consciously curated. Each tea has a certain vibration, an energy on its own. Can you share a little bit more about this plant teacher and its different energies?
“ Camellia Sinensis, the tea tree, was first discovered and experienced in Southern China, more than 4 thousands years ago, but grows in many other regions of the world today. It is such an ancient plant, holding so much wisdom from the Earth, that it is referred to as a "plant teacher". All types of tea are essentially coming from this one plant. What differentiates green tea or white tea from oolong or darker tea is the environment where the tea leaves are picked, the way they are picked, and all of the steps of the process following the picking stage, all the way to the cup. Pu'er tea, which is the type of tea produced from the ancient tea trees in southern China, is aged and fermented after being picked. Its medicine is deep, earthy, profound, yin, grounding and mostly felt at the roots and sacral area of the body. Other types of tea, like Oolong or Red Tea, will rise a little higher in energy, around the solar plexus and heart center of the body. White teas usually offers gentle and graceful medicine, stimulating expression and openness. Green teas are more vibrant, uplifting, transformative and awakening. Each type of tea has its own medicine to offer and explore. But fundamentally, Tea is essentially meeting you where you are. ”
What I found very humbling was to receive the wisdom of the plant and honor it for what it is. We often find ourselves in a position of taking everything for granted on this planet as if everything was created for our enjoyment. I would love to know your thoughts on how tea can help us reconnect to nature, and feel more grounded and expanded in order to be on the highest service.
“ In the cradle of tea, in southern China, some of the tea trees are more than 1000 years old. There is so much wisdom in the plant. And because tea is solely depending on Nature and the elements to grow, expand and thrive - just like we are - the practice of tea meditation is a deeply humbling reminder of how precious Nature is.
Tea ceremony itself is a celebration of Nature and the elements. We celebrate the Earth from where the tea grows, the Earth used to make the vessel to serve the tea and the Earth element within ourself; carrying the wisdom, the clarity, the gratitude. We celebrate the Air of the mountains where the tea grows, the Air and space within the tea pot, and the Air element within ourself; breathing us anew, feeding us with life. We celebrate the Water feeding the soil of the tea garden, the Water reawakening the leaves in the teapot and the Water element within ourself; the emotional essential flow of life. We celebrate the Fire sun nurturing the tea garden of its light, the Fire boiling the water for tea and the Fire element within ourself; boiling our creativity and willpower.
The variety and complexity of subtle flavors and aromas present in the tea itself - such as earthy, woody, grassy, marine, herbal, spicy and floral - offers a profound connection with Nature. The ritual of tea is an humble way to reconnect with all the preciousness of life, and to reverently be present to the elements within us and all around us. ”
Could you guide us through a tea mediation we could do at home?
“ Find a space where you can sit quietly and still for about 30 minutes. I find it practical to have a little portable stove next to me to boil my water, and whatever kettle works on top of it. You will need a vessel to brew the tea in (teapot) and a tea cup to serve. You can also mindfully select an element from Nature around you, like a flower or a piece of wood or anything that touches you in the moment that you feel call to honor as part of the ritual. While the water is boiling, take a moment to settle and come home to yourself, to your heart, to your breath. Slowly inviting your attention inward, allowing stillness to settle your breath. Creating space as you breathe in, and breathe out. Simply offering care and attention to each in breath and each out breath, as they follow one after the other, in a never ending cycle. Simply being present to anything that arises, in this very moment. Present to the space between each thought, between each breath.
You can meditate like this for a few minutes until the water is boiled. Then silently and mindfully pour the water on the leaves, allowing them to steep and expand, then serve the tea in your cup. Each step is a graceful dance, connecting you deeper with the moment and the wisdom of the plant. Personal rituals at home are usually done in silence, with maybe gentle meditative music. I have a few playlists for tea meditation available on my Spotify "Christina Jade". If you have a Tibetan singing bowl or a crystal singing bowl, it can also be a beautiful element to include into your ritual.
May your practice help you recognize the preciousness of Life, in a conscious act of reverence and gratitude. ”
Jade is a certified Meditation Instructor, Health Coach and Tea Curator. Since 2010, she has been traveling the world to explore and share the wisdom and medicine of Tea. She has founded the project WAOTEA in 2016, to shed light on the importance of rituals. Her practice is about creating space to celebrate life, to honor inward presence and the intimate connection that we all share with Nature. With heart and earth infused medicine, she hosts Ceremonial Tea Meditations, privately and for groups, in events, workshops and retreats around the world, where is called. Her intention is to soothe minds, bodies and souls, through the art of cultivating stillness and mindful presence sipping cups of the tea leaves that she has consciously selected and curated in vibrant tea plantations of Asia. All of the selection of her boutique tea line, WAO TEA, are available online.
ONE MINUTE INSPIRATION WITH JADE
1. Rituals for self-love? Tea Meditation (some teas of WAO tea are incredibly heart opening), cacao ceremony, ecstatic dance, hot bath
2. First thing you do in the morning? Tea meditation and stretching
3. Favorite self-care routine? Nature time, meditation, dancing
4. Rituals to rest and regenerate? Tea meditation, restorative yoga, walking barefoot in nature, silence
5. Tools for self-healing? Cultivating mindfulness and inner presence to be more conscious of how the energy flows, which area of the body requires more care and attention.
6. One limiting belief or body imbalance you are still working on? Feeling more confident in sharing my voice, and singing more often!
7. Favorite place to cultivate inspiration? Nature
8. Your Guardians of Vision? Mother Earth
Photos: Laura Vendescoeur
Interview: Laura Vendescoeur
Editorial Assistant: Wilma Koch
“A ritual is essentially sacred. To practice ritual daily is a reminder that every new day is sacred. A tea ritual is a celebration of simplicity.”
“Like any other self care routine, it is an invitation to open yourself to a more compassionate presence, to be One with the essence of life.”
“Tea meditation is an empowering meditative and therapeutic practice, offering a vast array of health benefits and powerful natural medicine.”
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TEA - PLANT TEACHER