CELEBRATING IMPERMANENCE WITH TRUE TEA
If there is one universal constant, it is change. Nothing is fixed, all is in flux, everything changes.
‘All is flux. You cannot step into the same river twice. Change alone is unchanging.’
The speed of the change may seem fast or slow depending on our relative interpretation of time – some changes which seem epically slow for us are less than a blink of the eye for the Universe and others happen faster than we can perceive.
The changes that concern us the most are the ones that happen within our lifetime and the fear of this change is the cause of much suffering. How does a fear of Impermanence cause so much stress and how can True Tea help us overcome these fears?
As very young children, most of us have very little awareness of loss. The concept of mortality is fuzzy and we do not hear the ticking of time as loudly. We laugh with abandon because we have no anxiety about the passing of time and change.
Innocence is not lost through the gaining of knowledge but the creation of fear and most fear stems from a resistance to change.
As we get older we gain more possessions, either material or emotional. We begin to witness the creation of our own past and the ticking of our life clock becomes louder. We have our first experiences of loss. We begin to equate the concept of change, not only with gaining new possessions but losing old ones and this starts to manifest as fears.
The weight of mortality starts to push heavier on our shoulders as we enter adulthood and we may begin to question the meaning of anything if we are all going to disappear eventually. Our resistance to change may grow stronger and this desire to deny impermanence can deeply affect our lives.
As we try to capture, preserve and fix things that we hold precious, we deny the nature of existence. We try to achieve the impossible, to stop change.
Our relationships can become affected as the fear of losing loved one's morphs into a deep unease which causes anxieties and ritualised coping mechanisms. The fear can become resentment and cause arguments.
We find it hard to accept changes in our relationships with others. We complain that our friendships or romantic relationships ‘are not the same as they used to be’ and we beat ourselves up and look for blame.
The fear of impermanence may instil a desire to capture and document everything. This can spiral into a removal from the present moment as our attention is corralled into capturing rather than experiencing.
Witness a scene of beauty these days and you can guarantee that most people will be staring at it through their mobile phone cameras – capturing, curating, sharing – everything except experiencing. The fear of loss and of losing out can perversely take us away from the very thing that we are fearful of losing.
As you gain knowledge, you craft your ‘mental identity’ and form tribes. This ‘identity’ follows the same rules of change as does knowledge and understanding - they should always be in flux. Yet, often times, our fear of losing our identity causes us to be become hardened and radicalised in order to preserve us from changing. This can lead us to become manipulated to act in ways that we would not if we had allowed our formed identities to shift and change like all of nature.
The resistance and fear of change is, in my opinion, a root cause of so much suffering. The converse is that acceptance and even a celebration of impermanence can bring back that joy from childhood and lead us to a more blissful state of existence.
TEA & IMPERMANENCE
Everything in tea symbolises impermanence and by falling in love with true tea you have to become friends with impermanence.
There are so many variations in the making of tea. From the aspects of nature such as terroirs and weather to the actions taken by the producers from picking to processing to roasting to ageing – every batch of tea will be different from another (even of the same tea type).
A single batch of tea may come from the pickings of hundreds of plants and so, even within a batch, the tea will have variation. In the most extreme cases of single tree teas (where a single batch is made from a single tea tree), there will be inevitable differences in flavour depending on where the leaves were growing on that tree.
Let’s add the complexity of the brewing process, with so many parameters all affecting each other. A shift in one parameter such as leaf-to-water-ratio will cause other parameters to have different effects. The brewing process is a dance between so many variables which mean that it is a never-ending discipline to master – this is why it is called Gong Fu brewing.
What about you? Your experience of a tea will change from session to session. Of course, your preferences will change over the years, but even more intriguingly, your ability to taste will shift throughout the days. Many Teaheads are often bemused by how a single tea can change flavour and effect depending on the session and yet wine tasters have known for years that we all taste differently depending on the day.
So, it is not hyperbole to say that you will never taste the same cup of tea twice in your life – the leaves will be different, the brewing will be different and you will be different – all is in flux, as it should be.
The aesthetics of the Gong Fu tea session is a further depiction of the beauty of impermanence. As a leaf transforms from a dry and static state to a fully opened and hydrated leaf, it gives up its essence and eventually becomes spent with the tea liquor returning closer to water. This witnessing of the arc of life of a tea during a session is a powerful symbolic show of impermanence.
A happy life is one that celebrates change even if that means losing things that you love because to deny change is to deny life itself and all the joy that it can bring.
Tea is a powerful reminder of the beauty of impermanence and to appreciate True Tea you must relinquish the desire to capture and preserve. Enjoying Gong Fu tea is a simple way of appreciating flux, flow and change. As you experience this in your sessions, be conscious of letting this lesson inform other areas of your life which may be causing you suffering. Let tea be your guide to accept and eventually celebrate impermanence for a more blissful existence and a positive influence for everyone around you.
He who binds to himself a joy,
Doth the winged life destroy,
But he who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.