“The first bowl washed the cobwebs from my mind —
The whole world seemed to sparkle.
A second cleansed my spirit
Like purifying showers of rain,
A third and I was one of the Immortals —
What need now for austerities
To purge our human sorrows?
Worldly people, by going in for wine,
Sadly deceive themselves.
For now I know the Way of Tea is real.”
~*~ Chio Jen ~*~
It is so subtle a shift at first. For some time my anxiety has been so high so much of the time by evening my hair was practically standing on end and I was beside myself. I started having a glass of wine some evenings, maybe two. And then not just some evenings, every evening. That’s all. I didn’t want to get drunk, I work all evening, I was — there’s no other way to put it — self-medicating. My doctor has been working at weaning me off of xanax which I have been on for a very long time for what is a very serious anxiety disorder but the benzodiazepines are nasty little buggers. They are highly addictive and have some pretty awful side effects. Long term use of xanax is linked to Alzheimers and Dementia. So I’m coming off, and wine in the evening helped a lot, but I don’t want to get dependent on it, so I have gone back to tea in the evenings with wine an occasional pleasure maybe on a weekend here or there. As soon as I made the decision I felt lighter, and more at peace. I have always wanted clarity in my life. I am looking to find my way back, to “wash the cobwebs from my mind…to cleanse my spirit… to see the world sparkling,” and I know, personally, that the way of tea is real.
In 2005 I had a blog called Tea Mind, Be Kind. It is a very long story. The short version is that I was supported by a small tea company who paid me in tea and tea things and I wrote about their proprietary blends as part of lovely poetic entries on tea, as a philosophy and a way of life. It went on for quite awhile and I was planning a book but the tea company was sold and the new owners didn’t want to continue the arrangement with me and they now owned the teas I had written about hence the whole project came to a halt. It was, however, a lovely time of getting to know tea, the varieties, the history, the culture, and the way in which tea was used around the world, both for healing and for pleasure. I studied the Japanese Tea Ceremony. I read many books on tea. But when my association with the tea company ended and I was left with a mountain of material I couldn’t use I kind of strayed away from tea and all it’s pleasures. Tea had broken my heart. I just couldn’t engage with the whole process in the way I had. And when the large collection of antique and vintage teapots I had collected for many years and which lived on shelves all the way around my kitchen were destroyed in my fire in 2014, and all my other tea things along with it, my tea-stained heart was broken again. I stopped drinking tea altogether with the exception of sun tea in the summer.
I don’t do things in a small way, I never have. I’m sure this is part of my bipolar nature but when I’m in I’m all in. One day I bought one or two teas and loved them and in the next instant I was doing a blog, working with a tea company, and planning a book. Some people just have a cup of tea! Now I want to fall in love with tea again but in a slower, saner way. Tonight I will be making one of my favorite teas, Lapsang Souchong, a smoky black Chinese tea with a distinctive flavor. It is very soothing with only a quarter to a half the amount of caffeine that coffee has and it doesn’t bother me to have it in the evening. I can sip my tea, read and write, and not have the dulled senses a couple of glasses of wine gives you. I love wine, but not as a daily thing. Tea is good for you. I imagine that I will be more productive.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”
~*~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~*~
I have been living in anxiety which is a frame of mind that constantly projects itself into the future. The what if’s will run you into the ground. Using wine to numb the feelings is not the solution. Slowing down, not “rushing toward the future,” and drinking your tea slowly and reverently can help. Tea isn’t just a beverage, it is a practice, a way of life. Heating the water, measuring out the tea leaves, pouring the water over the leaves, steeping, straining, pouring, sipping, slowly, mindfully, savoring each sip, filled with gratitude for the present moment, and sitting in it breathing slowly is grace. I have forgotten this practice. I lost it years ago. I am returning now in an effort to save my sanity and find inner peace. What else is there? I have tried medicating myself into submission. I would like to find a better way. I don’t know if I will ever be able to be off of medication, but I would like to take as little as possible. I am beginning with tea.
“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”
~*~ Lin Yutang ~*~
The Importance of Living
This is what I’m counting on. The quiet contemplation. The reliance on an old friend to bring me peace of mind and an easing of the heart. I’m not sure what this work is that I’m meant to do but I know that it’s coming and I need to be ready. I need to sit here with my notebook and pen and cup of tea at my side and be ready to catch the answers when they come and run with them. I think this is a good plan. And now I shall begin. The kettle is on. Tea will be ready soon.