On the last Sunday in September, a convergence of friends embarked, many for the first time, on a casual tea ceremony to celebrate the full moon. Our common thread was Jessica Brown of Lonely Moonchild, a small, yet powerful shop which provides custom crystal healing neck pieces. Jessica is a profound soul whose passion for a positive and balanced life is worn on her kaftan sleeve. She has participated in various tea ceremonies across the country, but that night she was our gracious host. As Healing Therapy Music's "Crystals" blended in the background, questions of why's and what's fluttered throughout the lighthearted take on the ceremony. By the end, we were in awe of our heighten senses and clear minds. Contentment and ease filled by spirit. I was hooked.
Within a week, I visited Jessica's apartment again for a second ceremony...
Tea ceremonies, a highly practiced cultural activity and tradition in East Asian cultures, are the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea. It is a form of graceful art meant to embody purity, simplicity, respect, and tranquility. This formalized way of making tea is meant to produce the best taste; and, in my first group experience, ring in full moon and all its positive energy. During my second partake, it was a bonding, relaxing moment between friends.
To begin, a beautiful thrifted textile was placed on the ground as a catch-all for positive energy. Tea bowls delicately touching, which reinforces the connection between one another, were placed in the middle. Jessica introduced a couple of her favorite small quartz crystals as well as one hearty one to the set up. This well-known crystal is recognized for its healing and calming properties. It is also acts as an amplifier and aided us in channeling the energy of this concentrated, single experience. A dark large-leaf GABA Oolong, named "River of Stars" from Living Tea, was our tea of choice. This particular tea, with its hints of lilac and orange blossom, evokes a calm and relaxed effect; a perfect drink for putting to rest another hectic day.
Palo Santo wood was burned to begin our ceremony on a peaceful note. This sacred wood, meaning "Holy Wood" in Spanish, is found on the coasts of South America. Similar to sage, it is known for its cleansing properties. After the wood burned for about 30 seconds, the flame was extinguished sending fresh smoke spiraling into the air. Jessica and I both took long, deep breaths, in through our nose, out through our mouth, immersing ourselves in this healer.
Once the bowls and utensils were gently cleansed with hot water, the tea was prepared. Individual tea leaves were delicately sprinkled in the tea pot and hot water added. A small silence was held as the two merged, followed by the tranquil, staccato sound of tea being lightly poured into our tea bowls. Jessica's movements were fluent, almost poetic, as she evenly poured the fresh tea.
The bowl was then presented to me. This is hands down one of my favorite portions. As Jessica placed the tea directly in front of my crossed legs, she slowly rotated the bowl to settle any tea leaves. A kind act as she does not want my first sip to be a potent one. It was as if the tea was an extension of her hand. A simple, yet profound, offering. We share a welcoming glance, a side smile, and a nod of gratitude.
Time seems to stop, or at least slow down for a bit, as I hold the tea close to my heart. This moment is my own. Smooth, deep breaths are my form of meditation. With the shades pulled down on my eyes, I slowly sip and concentrate on the savory, earthy flavors. My non-dominant hand is the support on the side of the bowl while my dominant hand leads from underneath the bowl. Well, that is how the bowl should be held. As you can see, I am still learning...
There is no time limit when it comes to one's time with the tea. Even during my first ceremony where there were a total of seven participants, everyone was respectful and aware of each other's pace. Once completed, the bowl was returned to the blanket and Jessica placed it back to center. We repeat several rounds until we have had our fill, both physically and spiritually.
Not to go to waste, Jessica returned the used tea leaves to mother earth by offering them to her live oak in her backyard.
Now having participated in two casual tea ceremonies, I am no expert. The expertise in this art will be left to Jessica. I am thankful, however, to live in a world where we all have something to teach. Simplicity is lacking in my daily, weekly, monthly routine and this act has filled that void. My mind has been opened to a new form of mediation and a deeper appreciation for the natural healing properties of tea.
Living Tea says it best, "Within any tea ceremony, whether it be comprised of simple leaves in a bowl or antique teaware and formal practice, we find a space to commune with ourselves, one another and nature. Within this space of presence, the lines between the three become hazy and we return to the simple joy of living."
Jessica, thank you for your patience and willingness to share this passion with me. I look forward to sharing many more ceremonies with you.
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