Last night, I went to Tranquility Tea at my yoga studio, Yoga in DeMun. My teacher, Yoga in DeMun owner Christy Lin, first guided us through a series of stretches, and then Rachel Elizabeth Maley, founder of Cha Dao Chicago, led the class through a live soundscape and tea ceremony.
The event came at a perfect moment. I’ve been very stressed out at work the last few weeks, to the point where I feel tired when I wake up in the morning. Yesterday was a particularly stressful day with a bigger event, so I kept picturing the tea ceremony to get through the day. I really didn’t know what to expect, because I’ve never attended a tea ceremony or a live soundscape before.
The experience turned out to be even better than I expected. The stretching we did at the beginning of class was similar to a regular yoga class. Then, Christy asked us to lie down and get comfortable for a 20-minute meditation. I’ve never meditated for that long before, and so I wasn’t sure how I would feel. Would I start counting down the minutes until I could move again? Would I be uncomfortable and feel awkward moving? Christy cleared up the latter question when she told us that if we felt uncomfortable, we could feel free to move and readjust. You’re not really relaxing if you feel like you can’t move.
During the meditation, Rachel played the flute and crystal singing bowls. The music was very relaxing and pure. It was so relaxing, in fact, that one person in the group fell asleep and started snoring loudly. Even though this wasn’t ideal, I’m glad they found the rest and relaxation they needed. Also, in a weird way it helped me better concentrate on meditating. I closed my eyes and focused on the beautiful sound of the music.After the meditation came my favorite part of the evening: The tea ceremony. I’ve had tea in many cities and venues, but I’ve never experienced a true tea ceremony led by an expert. Rachel started by explaining a little about the rituals of tea. Tea ceremonies are typically conducted in silence, so the class watched quietly as Rachel prepared the tea. Tea preparation is almost like a dance. Rachel’s movements were very graceful and poised. Her partner, Doug, brought cups to attendees sitting in the back of the circle. We sipped our tea in silence. Even though no one was making a sound, there was distinct feeling that everyone was enjoying the experience.
After we had our first cup of tea, Rachel started telling us about ceremonies and stories about tea. We attend so many ceremonies with rituals, including weddings and baby namings or christenings, but do we actually celebrate our everyday life? Rachel encouraged us to consider this question. She said that one way to cultivate a small celebration or ritual is to prepare tea for ourselves for a little every morning, and to only concentrate on making the tea, not multitasking.
There’s a story about a student seeking wisdom from a wise teacher. He traveled from far away to find out the teacher’s secret to life, and the teacher told him, if you can prepare tea step-by-step and drink it, and do only this, you will have learned the secret.
You might say to yourself what the student said to the teacher: That’s crazy. Why did I travel hundreds of miles for you to tell me to make a cup of tea? But if you go deeper and think about the lesson, it makes sense. Most of us know how to get through our day-by-day life. In fact, we’ve found many ways to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible, oftentimes with lots of distractions. But how many of us actually know how to slow down and savor the present moment? It’s a difficult lesson, and one that takes time to put into practice.
Rachel told us the saying, “Only pour tea when your heart is still.” I almost started to cry, but I held it in because I didn’t want to be the only person in class crying. Still, I was very moved by this saying. I think I’ve been rushing around a lot the last few months, partly for work, and partly to distract myself from some painful events that happened over the summer.
The best changes comes when we are at peace. I feel very grateful to Rachel and Christy for sharing this lesson with me, and inspiring me to cultivate more moments of quiet reflection in my life. I hope that wherever you are, you can do the same, whether it’s through making tea or other rituals that bring you peace.