Tastings

 

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, ‘So long as we love, we serve”. 

We believe that contained within the art of tea tastings we find balance.  Within this art we slow our breath and embrace this present moment.  It holds the coming together of the past and the future of time itself.  Time and space become one.  We learn of relationship.  We develop connection through the fullness of our own singularity.  We learn about the relationship of ourselves to the many facets of life.  Contained in the practice of meditation and prayer we learn of our inner world.   While we taste the warming beverage of tea we blend the opposites of life.  We balance these opposites through the focus of our senses.  We utilize our breath to connect to the aromas expressed in the tea.   We spearhead our attention in the harmonies of the color, aromas, and then the flavors of tea.  We discover the intent of those that planted, nurtured, and harvested the tea.  We taste the mastery of the blender through their vision.   We explore the synergy of herbs, teas and the outcomes.  We maximize the potential of relationship, that to our inner core, our soul, and then to others.

While we slow our attention to the magic held within the flavors of our tea we also slow our scope of thought.  We reduce the scope of life to a small slice of time.  The regrets of the past and the fears of the future silently funnel into the beauty of this present moment.  The subsequent slowing of our breath slows the pace of our mind.  Day and night, light and darkness cease to be separate.  The yin and yang of life find contentment in the beautiful integration of the tea’s aromas, flavors and colors.  The umami of life itself unfolds through the many flavors of the tea.  We now create new perspectives. The material and spiritual find balance.  The separation of the head and the heart are no more. Heaven and earth become one.  Our process of breath through the inhalation and the exhalation are one complete unifying process. The space between breaths takes upon a life of its own.  The zero point on a number line lives and is now packed with meaning and purpose. We find value and fullness in the dimension held within this emptiness.  Love, as a seedling breaks through the top soil of a yearning heart.

We understand the whole through its parts; its opposites and contradictions.  We now embrace all the divisiveness life has to offer.  We comprehend. Through this comprehension we find peace.  We discover contentment.  We become aware how light contains the fullness of its color spectrum.  We learn how through its absence springs darkness.  Through the absence of sound, we discover the potential of silence. Thus, in the absence of light we find darkness hovering with possibilities.  We begin to feel the dawn of compassion. We observe it unfold its form and wonder through its beautifully inspiring structure.

We call this method of tea consumption, the American Tea Ceremony.  The wonders of the American Spirit and its many contradictions find its fullness through it opposites and contradictions.  The varied aspects of sound and the multitudes of blending light are but a reflection and reverberation of America itself.  Through this artform of a tea ceremony we honor these divisions.  We embrace them and find joy and harmony within them for this is America.  It is similar to the complexities we discover within ourselves.  We open the heart to display this same rainbow of diversity and precision. Through its apparent contradictions there is a magic and a splendor of beautiful precision.

In the slow pace of tea consumption, we hear for the first time.  We cease to be deaf.  We listen to the sounds of the universe within.  We observe for the first time.  The light within takes shape.  We begin to hear and listen to the fulcrum of life within the center of our conscious awareness.  We find the purity of the observer.  We now are aware of the inner meaning and purpose of our existence. The opposites contained within the whole find balance.  We bring harmony to our outer world because we have now discovered it within our inner world.  Our lives are now a reflection of what shines forth from our inner spirit.  We balance the opposites of meditation and prayer as well the balancing poles of health and well-being.   The mystery of tasting tea now becomes alive with possibilities.  Our journey now makes sense.  Our discoveries now have value and meaning. Through the singularity of our inner connections, we now enjoy the completeness of relationship.

In prayer we speak to God.  In meditation we listen for His response.  In tea we embrace the wonder and beauty of that dialogue.

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, ‘So long as we love, we serve”. 

In our attempt to serve you, we would like to encourage tea consumption.  As we have come to understand its many benefits to both health and well-being, we hope to assist you in the process of finding balance through tea.  For this reason, we will be conducting tea tastings throughout the United States so that we may attempt to build relationships from within and without.     

                                                                                                                                                    


 

The Healing Power of Ceremony by Michelle Kahn-John, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, GNP & uahs.arizona.edu

 

Michelle Kahn-John (middle) with Ms. Berdie Johnson (left), a Fort Defiance community member and advocate for the promotion and preservation of Diné culture, and Anderson Hoskie (right), Medicine Man/Chanter who conducted the ceremonies.Moving toward a more progressive and culturally relevant approach to Native American health care, Indian Health Services (IHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require culturally sensitive care in health-care settings. To demonstrate this cultural competency, IHS hospitals now offer Native American healing ceremonies provided by traditional practitioners. But native ceremonial practices in these hospital settings often are curbed by hospital policy, said Dr. Michelle Kahn-John, assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. Now in the final stages of a two-year research project, Dr. Kahn-John, along with her collaborative team at the Tsehootsooi Medical Center in Fort Defiance, Ariz., is assessing the effects of a traditional Diné (Navajo) healing ceremony on individuals suffering from emotional distress. She intends to make a case for expanding the role of traditional healers/practitioners in American Indian health care and tribal settings and bring recognition to the value of traditional Native American healing and ceremonial approaches to health and wellbeing.

Tell us about your research project
We are exploring symptoms of emotional distress and stress-related inflammation before and after a traditional Native American ceremonial healing intervention, present for centuries within the culture. We are seeking culturally congruent ways to impact the Native populations experience increased rates of mental health conditions, including depression, emotional distress, trauma and suicide. I am interested in knowing more about the innate strengths and protective factors associated with Diné culture and whether partaking in traditional ceremonies will improve physical and psychological health. Overall, the intent of this work is to enhance the health and wellbeing of native communities.

Mr. Anderson Hoskie, Medicine Man/Chanter in the Hogan - a Diné traditional structure - where healing ceremonies are conducted.Can you tell us about the healing ceremony?
The Diné ceremony is a cleansing ceremony recommended for those dealing with grief, loss, trauma or a stressful life transition. Very little can be shared about the process of the sacred healing ceremony, as I’m obligated to the Navajo Nation and Hataałii Hózhóni, the medicine man/chanter who conducted the ceremonies, to maintain the privacy of the ceremonial process. Hózhóni works at the Tseéhootsooí Medical Center and conducted 25 ceremonies for this project. The ceremony lasts about two hours and involves chanting, prayer, offerings and body-mind-spirit purification.

Can you share your inspiration for this project?
In my nursing practice I’ve seen individuals who have sought Diné traditional healing and have found very effective paths to healing and recovery for their emotional and spiritual distress. Of my 22 years as a nurse, 17 of which have been spent with the Navajo Nation as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, I’ve focused on patients who have serious depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, complex trauma, anxiety and chronic and severe mental illness.  Typically, we offer them standard Western treatment: counseling, medications, group therapy and family therapy, and those approaches are mostly helpful and effective. But I really wanted to explore combining those treatments with the healing potential of traditional practices – and approach we term integrative.

Fort Defiance landscapeWhat is particularly unique about this approach?
I recognize that healing ceremonies are sacred to native people. Ceremonial processes are held in high regard by myself, the Hataałii and Diné. Some may question the intent of assessing outcomes of ceremony within a research agenda, but my intent is to enhance the health of the Diné while exploring the outcomes of ceremonial practices which have been present for hundreds of years. My intention is careful and respectful and therefore we will not share the specific elements of the ceremony, but will focus on outcomes of the ceremony.

How does this project relate to integrative nursing and health?
Integrative nursing principles are congruent with the philosophy of Native American healing and ceremony. The first principle of integrative nursing is ‘human beings are whole systems inseparable from their environment’ and another principle is ‘nature has healing and restorative properties.’ The Diné healing ceremony addresses the complete patient, their body, mind, spirit, family and environment and places them at the center of a healing intervention. As nurses and healers, it is critical that we expand our awareness and knowledge of the multiple paths leading to health and wellbeing.

 

About the Author: A nurse for 22 years and a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner for 17, Michelle Kahn-John, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, GNP, has spent most of her career working with the Indian Health Service on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. . . . MORE

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Lao Tzu by theschooloflife.com

Lao Tzu

Little is truly known about the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (sometimes also known as Laozi or Lao Tze), who is a guiding figure in Daoism (also translated as Taoism), a still popular spiritual practice. He is said to have been a record keeper in the court of the central Chinese Zhou Dynasty in the 6th century B.C., and an older contemporary of Confucius. This could be true, but he may also have been entirely mythical—much like Homer in Western culture. It is certainly very unlikely that (as some legends say) he was conceived when his mother saw a falling star, or was born an old man with very long earlobes – or lived 990 years.

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Lao Tzu as a deity, carving from the 7th or 8th century

Lao Tzu is said to have tired of life in the Zhou court as it grew increasingly morally corrupt. So he left and rode on a water buffalo to the western border of the Chinese empire. Although he was dressed as a farmer, the border official recognised him and asked him to write down his wisdom. According to this legend, what Lao Tzu wrote became the sacred text called theTao Te Ching. After writing this, Lao Tzu is said to have crossed the border and disappeared from history, perhaps to become a hermit. In reality, the Tao Te Ching is likely to be the compilation of the works of many authors over time. But stories about Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching have passed down through different Chinese philosophical schools for over two thousand years and have become wondrously embellished in the process.

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Lao Tzu leaving the kingdom on his water buffalo

Today there are at least twenty million Daoists, and perhaps even half a billion, living around the world, especially in China and Taiwan. They practise meditation, chant scriptures, and worship a variety of gods and goddesses in temples run by priests. Daoists also make pilgrimages to five sacred mountains in eastern China in order to pray at the temples and absorb spiritual energy from these holy places, which are believed to be governed by immortals. 

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Daoist pilgrims visit a temple on Mount Tai, one of the five sacred mountains in Daoism

Daoism is deeply intertwined with other branches of thought like Confucianism and Buddhism. Confucius is often believed to be a student of Lao Tzu. Similarly, some believe that when Lao Tzu disappeared, he travelled to India and Nepal and either taught or became the Buddha. Confucianist practices to this day not only respect Lao Tzu as a great philosopher but also try to follow many of his teachings. 

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A 12th-century Song Dynasty painting entitled ‘Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are one’ is artistic evidence of the way these three philosophies were mixed over time, and often believed to be fully compatible.

There is a story about the three great Asian spiritual leaders (Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Buddha). All were meant to have tasted vinegar. Confucius found it sour, much like he found the world full of degenerate people, and Buddha found it bitter, much like he found the world to be full of suffering. But Lao Tzu found the world sweet. This is telling, because Lao Tzu’s philosophy tends to look at the apparent discord in the world and see an underlying harmony guided by something called the ‘Dao’. 

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“The Vinegar Tasters”

The Tao Te Ching is somewhat like the Bible: it gives instructions (at times vague and generally open to multiple interpretations) on how to live a good life. It discusses the “Dao,” or the “way” of the world, which is also the path to virtue, happiness, and harmony. This “way” isn’t inherently confusing or difficult. Lao Tzu wrote, “the great Dao is very even, but people like to take by-ways.” In Lao Tzu’s view the problem with virtue isn’t that it is difficult or unnatural, but simply is that we resist the very simple path that might make us most content.

In order to follow the Dao, we need to go beyond simply reading and thinking about it. Instead we must learn wu wei (“flowing” or “effortless action”), a sort of purposeful acceptance of the way of the Dao and live in harmony with it. This might seem lofty and bizarre, but most of Lao Tzu’s suggestions are actually very simple.

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An immortal (here walking on water) has certainly mastered wu wei, living in harmony with the Dao

First, we ought to take more time for stillness. “To the mind that is still,” Lao Tzu said, “the whole universe surrenders.” We need to let go of our schedules, worries and complex thoughts for a while and simply experience the world. We spend so much time rushing from one place to the next in life, but Lao Tzu reminds us “nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” It is particularly important that we remember that certain things—grieving, growing wiser, developing a new relationship—only happen on their own schedule, like the changing of leaves in the fall or the blossoming of the bulbs we planted months ago.

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An 11th-century Chinese painting depicts a scholar practicing stillness by studying nature in a meadow.

When we are still and patient we also need to be open. We need to be reminded to empty ourselves of frivolous thoughts so that we will observe what is really important. “The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness.” Lao Tzu said. “Empty yourself of everything, let your mind become still.” If we are too busy, too preoccupied with anxiety or ambition, we will miss a thousand moments of the human experience that are our natural inheritance. We need to be awake to the way light reflects off of ripples on a pond, the way other people look when they are laughing, the feeling of the wind playing with our hair. These experiences reconnect us to parts of ourselves.

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An open, decorated metal pot from the time of Lao Tzu

This is another key point of Lao Tzu’s writing: we need to be in touch with our real selves. We spend a great deal of time worrying about who we ought to become, but we should instead take time to be who we already are at heart. We might rediscover a generous impulse, or a playful side we had forgotten, or simply an old affection for long walks. Our ego is often in the way of our true self, which must be found by being receptive to the outside world rather than focusing on some critical, too-ambitious internal image. “When I let go of what I am,” Lao Tzu wrote, “I become what I might be.”

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