What is Cha Dao? In Chinese, “Cha” means tea. “Dao” means “the way,” a term often used to refer to a path of meditation, balance, quiet, simplicity and harmony with nature. It is the natural way of the universe unfolding and the view that all life is interconnected.
Taken together, Cha Dao is this path of meditation and way of life - all assisted by the beautiful qualities of tea and tea ceremony. When you drink a bowl of tea, the energy of the mountain where the tea was grown, the rain, sun and soil that nourished the tea, the water for brewing, and the clay that made your bowl all flow into you.
Tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis and is an incredible gift. Plants are our teachers. This is something that cultures have known all over the world from time immemorial. The tea plant has its own “medicine” to offer us. This medicine promotes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being. To unlock the special medicine tea has to offer, it must be drunk mindfully. As we prepare and decorate the tea table (“chaxi” in Chinese), we gather our intentions. As we set out the teaware, the craft of the bowl, teapot, and kettle reminds us of the beauty and artistry of the human spirit, and our connection to the clay of the earth.
Tea ceremony also offers a practice that is rooted in physical movements and sensations. As we move our arms and hands and connect through our senses, we reconnect to our inner bodies and energy flow. The movement of the arm as it picks up the kettle. The warmth and texture of the bowl. The sight of tea leaves unfurling in the water. Tea helps us circulate vital energy through all our meridians, from core to periphery. It's much like a session of tai chi or qigong. For many people, these physical ceremonial qualities make tea meditation a bit easier than formal sitting meditation.
With this greater relaxation and internal energy, we become more vibrantly aware. We can be mindful of our thoughts and emotions, but practice healthy detachment. Thinking begins to settle, breathing deepens. As our emotions are freed up, access to our own inner wisdom and clear perception increases. We feel more like ourselves - a clearer, wiser version of who we are.
As the tea moves deeper inside us, we can notice our bodily sensations, and let them be just as they are. With each bowl, the chemical components of L-theanine, caffeine, and myriad others help us soften yet remain alert.
The guiding principles of brewing and drinking tea in Cha Dao are "no judgement", and "no expectations" along with the spontaneity and intuition that recalls the Dao. With this in mind, Leaves in a Bowl is a simple, easy-to-learn practice, free of precise brewing parameters or the need for skill.