tea is not magic

As I've grown my public sound and tea offerings the last few months, I've spoken with a lot of people about why I do this work. It's not an easy question. Many of us could quickly explain what we love about our passions – whether they allow us alone or together time, whether they are relaxing or stimulating, challenging projects or welcome moments of simplicity. We could recount the timeline of events that brought us to today, or the people who helped us get here, but rarely do we get to the heart of why we continually return to certain things.  

In many Eastern arts, the activity itself is called "practice". Not in the sense of a rehearsal (practicing for an event that is to come, a culminating result of preparatory work), but in the sense that Shunryu Suzuki wrote, "waves are the water's practice." It is what we do. It is what naturally flows from us when our actions are in harmony with our selves and our world.

Still, I can't help but think like a musician: that all the studying, listening, and quiet thinking really do "pay off" in some ways. And a few days ago, when I sat down to finally think some heavy thoughts I had been avoiding, it was practice that made me equipped for such a confrontation. I knew that tea would calm my spirit, incense would focus my senses, singing would open my heart, and writing would clarify my mind. In other words: I had the tools. I had practiced them.

Too often the language of inner healing sounds like Western medicine: do this and feel better. And we're accustomed to that. Anyone who's been injured and told to see a physical therapist for eight weeks knows firsthand the laborious prescription that is long-term growth.

We are too excited for quick fixes. We are too resistant to the truth: that meditation makes you better at thinking, but only because you do it for weeks on end. Practicing tea can bring awareness of your unhealthy habits, but it won't end your addiction/make you exercise/change your relationship. Anyone who tells you their thing can fix you is just trying to make a sale. If growth is a combination of hard work and the right method, then the ratio of effectiveness is at least 10:1, in favor of work.

We are too excited for quick fixes, perhaps in part because long fixes require us to confront all the things that make a quick fix impossible: bias, trauma, repression, whatever it may be. But the true practice, the long-term work, helps us become people who are not only willing but also confidently able to address those things.

Tea is not magic. Sound is not magic. I am not drawn to them because of some mystical quality. They are tools, rooted in reality, for practicing the things that allow us to grow. There is no easy prescription for enlightenment; there is only the slow-ripening fruit of the work we consciously undertake each day. One day we may realize that it's served us in ways completely unexpected, but most of the time, waves are the water's practice. Keep flowing, keep learning, keep on.  


I hope you’ll take a moment to learn about Cha Dao Chicago, the newest manifestation of my practice. Please join me for tea, and consider opening your home, office, or community space for intentional time together.