The Japanese Tea Ceremony – the sacred in every day life

japanese tea ceremonyI love to look for the sacred in every day life. And there may be no better example than the opportunity offered by mindfully drinking a simple cup of tea, as in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Whether gazing out the window, or going through the formality of a Japanese tea ceremony, there is tranquility and grace to be found there.

I only became a tea drinker very recently, which is interesting since I’m Irish and they are great tea drinkers.

But I try to stay up do date on all health news and when I learned that a cup of green tea a day was good for us, and someone gave me a box of tea for my birthday a few years ago, I was off and running.

Ironically, once I started having a cup of green tea a day, I learned the latest prescription was four cups a day! Oh, well.

I don’t really want to drink four cups a day, but have been pretty steady at having one cup a day of either green, white or red tea, all of which are said to have great healing properties.

The Japanese are reputed to have the lowest rate of heart disease in the world. Diet is a big part of that, but also, 50% of Japanese drink three cups of green tea day!

And there are over 1000 studies showing that green tea helps prevent heart disease.

 The Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony, also known as The Way of Tea, is a beautiful example of finding the sacred in every day life.

Sacred Fire: the manifestation of Spirit

sacred fire“The Sacred Fire used to heat the rocks represents the eternal fire that burns at the center of the universe.” Dr. A.C. Ross, Lakota

I don’t believe I have ever been to a Native American ceremony that did not incorporate Sacred Fire.

Fire is a gift from the Creator. It is spirit made manifest.

It is untouchable yet touches us with it’s warmth and light.

When we learn how to communicate with it, our lives are enriched.

Just as the sun provides warmth and light, and allows growing things to flourish, fire warms our homes and cooks our food, and lights our way in the dark.

Even without looking for deep, spiritual meaning, fire is certainly mesmerizing. What is more relaxing than sitting and watching a fire?

Does fire have a consciousness?

I think the answer is, “yes.”

Why having a role model can change your life

role model

Do you sometimes wish you had someone to answer all your questions and tell you how to run your life?

Tell you which path to take when you’re at a cross-roads?

I’ve wished for that many times.

When life seems confusing and hard, it would be so nice to have someone we respect just say, “Here, why not take this path. This is what you should do.”

Well, the fact is, we all do have people like that in our lives. They’re called role models.

Why we all need role models

Role models are people who can impact our lives in a positive way.

Most of us have heard the phrase, “What would Jesus do?”

But perhaps we don’t even ask the question, because it seems too high a standard for us to relate to.

Tony Robbins addresses this in this simple quote: “Perfection is the lowest possible measure – it keeps you from trying.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to ask it, or other people to model our behavior after.

At times when I’ve been faced with difficult situations, I found my way through by asking, “What would Bear Heart do?”

Mindfulness and the “Pink Floyd Moment”

mindfulnessThis is a guest post by David Nelson, PhD

A few months ago, Molly and I were having supper together in a real nice little vegan café in Madison, Wisconsin. We were exchanging stories of our ways of helping people cope, and I relayed to her one of the experiences I had in teaching people how to relax.

I also explained how many counselors today are just very boring in their professions, and need to spice it up a bit.

You see, about 10 years ago, a gentleman came into my office stating that he had chronic pain in his lower back. He explained he was a carpenter and that the only thing that seemed to help him manage his pain was smoking marijuana.

He turned to me and said, “I heard you do hypnosis, and I was wondering if you could hypnotize me to be stoned all the time? I don’t want to lose my job with a dirty urine analysis. I figured if I could hypnotize myself to be stoned, it would manage my pain and I could keep my job.”

My first thought was, “Is he kidding?”

Then it dawned on me, “Why not?”

On the spring equinox, dancing and spiritual growth

spring equinox

This year the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is Friday March 20, at 22:45 UTC [coordinated universal time].

It’s a day of equal balance of the hours of light and dark before the sun continues its journey towards longer daylight hours and warming temperatures.

The equinox energy is strong for four days before and after March 20th, giving us time to bask in the opportunities and lessons it brings.

WHAT SETS THE SPRING EQUINOX APART FROM OTHER DAYS 

Ancient cultures throughout history have celebrated this time of rebirth of Mother Earth. But what does it mean for us? 

The earth is comprised of 70% water and, on average, so is the human body. That alone is a giant clue as to how interconnected we are.

What happens to the earth’s energy also happens within us, therefore we can experience more harmony if we work with the earth’s cycles instead of ignoring them. It’s not just another day.

Here are some of the aspects of the Spring Equinox and how I incorporate them into my own life so as to better communicate with the spiritual forces of the earth. You may wish to do the same.

WHAT IT TEACHES US ABOUT BALANCE IN OUR LIVES 

The equal hours of day and night represent balance: a balanced life is a healthy life. Do you eat enough healthy food?

  • Drink enough water?
  • Get enough sleep?
  • Exercise?
  • Play?

This is a good time to look closely at our lives and how to improve them.

HOW TO RENEW YOUR ENVIRONMENT 

Even though it doesn’t look like it in the northern U.S. right now, the earth is either starting to green up or will very soon. That greening represents renewal: clearing out the old to make space for the new.

What was dead [the earth by all appearances in this part of the country] comes back to life. What a miracle that is!

There’s a reason Easter and Passover are celebrated at this time of year!

Let spring cleaning be more than just vacuuming and dusting. Start the process of renewing your heart and mind by cleaning out closets and drawers to pass on those things we no longer use or wear regularly.

A good rule of thumb is: if you haven’t used it in the past year, let it go. Let your local shelter or non-profit thrift store benefit.

Holding on to old “material stuff” is also a representation of holding on to old “emotional stuff.” Be courageous and start the process of release and renewal.

If you have sage, smudge your entire house. Or use essential oils such as lavender to refresh and renew the home.

And don’t just clean the house. Clean the earth around it. Why not go for a walk this week and pick up trash along the side of the road? The earth spirits will thank and bless you.

There’s no dishonor in cleaning up after others who disrespect the earth. We are all earth keepers.

This is a good time to clean out the garden and plant something new. Clear out the old growth and dead leaves in your garden and ceremonial areas.

In the Native American tradition, bless your gardens with cornmeal or tobacco or a simple prayer.

If you have no outdoor gardens, bless your houseplants. And renew them: cut off the dead ends, check for insects. Are they happy where they are, or do they need a new location or a new pot?

Let your house plants represent inviting the green to return and bring goodness and abundance into your life.

And as your gardens start to be reborn, so can other projects in your life. What were you thinking about and planning over the winter? Now’s the time to take the steps to birth them into reality.

SURPRISES COME WHEN YOU LEARN TO BE OBSERVANT

As I write this, it’s currently 37 degrees Farenheit here in Michigan, and there’s still snow on the ground. There’s not really any sign of spring.

But the alignment of the earth, sun and moon says otherwise. And we cannot argue with the planets or deny our connection to them. The earth knows what’s supposed to be happening when the sun is at this equal point, and is starting to comply, even if it doesn’t look or feel like it.

Take a walk outside. Be observant. Look closely. Look for buds and shoots coming out. The signs are there and, when you see them, they will bring joy to your heart. 

Native Americans teach that one way to develop your intuition is by developing your powers of observation. Ask a question, then go for a walk outside and observe the natural world – the trees, grasses, flowers, animals, insects. Somewhere along the way, your observations will bring answers to your question.

WHAT THE EQUINOX CAN TEACH US ABOUT DETOXIFICATION

Our bodies naturally gain about 5 pounds each winter, as a way of helping insulate us from the cold. And in the natural course of things, we would lose those five pounds in the spring, as our activity level increases and we eat lighter food.

But the reason such a large percentage of the U.S. population is overweight is that we don’t lose those five pounds each spring because we don’t increase our exercise or lighten our diets. As a result, we’re gaining weight every year!

Spring is the time to change your diet. Start moving to lighter, easy-to-digest foods, and avoid dairy, fried or oily foods. Eat local, fresh fruits and vegetables as they become available.

In fact, you may intuitively feel yourself wanting change your diet this time of year.

You might even talk to your holistic health practitioner about doing a detox cleanse.

WHY THE EQUINOX IS A TIME FOR GRATITUDE AND CELEBRATION

Give thanks for all the joys, gifts and lessons of the winter.

Give thanks for all the good things springing up around us.

Give thanks for what you have and trust the Universe to continue to bring you more of what will serve your highest good.

I like to make a special meal and put some on an offering plate to be put outside for the nature spirits. This is an age-old gratitude prayer practiced by indigenous people all over the world to give thanks for the food that we eat, another gift from Mother Earth.

Celebrate the return of light and green and goodness.

And dance as if no one is watching while you’re at it.

[A version of this post was published on March 20, 2014].