When we first met each other at a silent tea ceremony organized by a mutual friend at my wellness center, Ashley and I looked at each other after it was over and both said “When and how are we going to work together?” Although the entire ceremony was in silence for 2 hours, we had clearly been communicating with each other on some other level!
We started to chat about our teaching philosophies and why we did what we did...Boom! This class was born!
PEACE! Inner and outer peace is fundamentally important to both of us. The search for cultivating peace was what sent us both on our journeys to learn our respective practices of giving tea ceremony and teaching meditation. Ashley and I had experienced first-hand in our own lives the ability we have to change the lives of others, simply from our own practices. We both noticed that, when we calmed down, people around us calmed down. This shared realization sent us both on our unique journeys to learn how to bring it to others in a structured manner. Fast forward a few years later and here we are. We are both very excited to offer the best of our unique teaching traditions in this one of a kind class!
We thought a question and answer session similar would help you know why we were moved to create this unique opportunity, while also shedding a little light on what this experience will entail.
Hillary: How long have Tea Ceremonies been around?
Ashley: Here is one of my most favorite quotes about Tea,
“Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism–Teaism. Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”
Hillary: As a clinical herbalist I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of plants as medicine. It wasn’t until I started working with them every day that I began to notice that it was so much more than science. It was a living science. Plants and their ability to adapt to a changing world and serve all around them are fascinating.
Hillary: What can I expect at a tea ceremony?
Ashley: At a tea ceremony you can expect to truly and deeply connect to Self. In the West, especially, we are inundated with work, to do lists, ticking clocks, obligations...distractions! Most people that I meet rarely take the time to just sit and BE. Truthfully, many people I meet don't even know how to do this. What comes when you carve out the time and space to sit and be with Self, is nothing short of a miracle. You allow yourself a rare gift and opportunity to see who you truly are. What really matters? How you really feel. Most women, and men, who sit with me experience profound insights and shifts, they become aware of their sacred and long lost connection with self, they experience gratitude and peace and reestablish a relationship with themselves. They rediscover the importance of taking time out to just BE.
Hillary: Is it something I can practice on my own?
Ashley: Absolutely. I have just placed an order for ceremonial grade Tea and will soon be sharing this beautiful Leaf with our community. In the meantime, I suggest that clients buy *organic* loose leaf tea and every morning for seven days take 20-30 minutes to just BE before they DO. This means, rising for the day with consciousness, mindfully heating water, and sitting for 3 bowls of tea- I will share how to do this in more detail at the workshop- no cell phone, no talking, just BEing. See what happens. Oooohhh, maybe we can even share our experiences with each other!
Hillary: What kind of tea is used in ceremony?
Ashley: I use what I call ceremonial grade tea. The tea I use is ALWAYS organic and almost always from Tea farms I have been to myself. I order tea directly from two Tea brothers, one who lives in Taiwan. For these two ceremonies I will be using a deep and robust red tea- Hong Cha- that has harmonious balanced yin-tang energy. She is inspiring, awakening, and lends to an invigorated essence of aliveness. We will also be drinking a blend of aged shouh puerh's that will promote and enhance the inward journey- the Qi of this tea is very cloud like and I experience it flowing through my entire body.
Hillary: What if I don't drink caffeine?
Ashley: All tea has caffeine, however, there is something to be said about HOW we drink coffee and tea in this culture, and the ways in which chemicals can and do affect how we experience caffeine. First of all, the tea we will be drinking has been grown, harvested, and shared by people who love, respect, and treat this plant as medicine. The leafs we will share are not tainted with the energy of greed or exploitation, which has a huge effect on the way it feels in our body. Drinking tea as medicine is healing and you will find that the fears and sensitivities you have with caffeine are not experienced during ceremony.
Hillary: Kind of the same idea that the energy around when cooking your food effects the taste. My Grandma’s food always tasted better, despite using simple ingredients and techniques. I think it was the love and intention that went into it. Take it a step further and imagine how food would be different if that was taken into consideration with everything that was grown?
Now let’s turn the tables and get the details on what Nakshatra meditation is, what to expect, and the benefits it will bring.
Ashley: Can I practice this kind of meditation if I am already practicing with another mantra?
Hillary: Absolutely! I do subscribe to the practice that you should pick one or two types of meditation practices and work with them for a while (6 months- a year) so you can see what benefit you are getting from it. There are a million different ways to meditate and I don’t think one is necessarily better than the others. I like using personal birth mantras because in my experience I am able to have a deeper more profound experience than when I am just changing up the vibration I am using daily in my practice. I’ve tried it both ways, and using one particular mantra for a longer period of time seems to yield the most benefits for me. It’s less watered down- more potent if you will.
Ashley: What should I expect from regular practice?
Hillary: A regular meditation practice helped me to stop expecting things, period. After a few months of practice, I had the observation that it was my expectations that were causing me suffering, because 9 times out of 10 they weren’t happening the way I had envisioned. Eventually, I began to get comfortable with the idea of surrender and taking things as they came with less reaction and more observation of what was happening. This helped me to have much less of a stress response and an ability to enjoy or simply manage what was instead of yearning for something different. I had spent so much time “accomplishing” I had lost the ability to celebrate my accomplishments when they did happen. A regular practice gave me the ability to be present enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor rather than immediately pushing towards the next thing.
Ashley: How is a Nakshatra mantra different from one that I happen to come across in a book or TM or Primordial sound mantras?
Hillary: Primordial sound mantras are based on the Bija or Sanskrit vibration that was present in the universe the moment you were incarnated into your own separate form (birth). I think of this as control-alt-delete, vibrationally bringing you back to your original vibration before the layers of conditioning began to build up.
TM or transcendental meditation mantras are given to you based on the day you meet your Guru and are given a mantra. It is surmised that your life starts the day you start exploring the deeper parts of yourself, so in a way that becomes a sort of birthday.
Nakshatra mantras are based on the cluster of stars that are inline with the moon and within 13.1 degrees of the horizon the moment you are born according to Vedic or jyotish astrology. Think of it as using the vibration of your birth star. If you believe in destiny or sacred contracts I believe this one helps the most with that, kind of reminding you vibrationaly of why you are here and what your unique gifts are you should be bringing forward.
I think they are all great! I have practiced with two of the three for years. They both yield a slightly different experience. It’s just something you have to try for yourself. Like much of what happens in a meditation, it can rarely be described with words and needs to be felt and experienced.
Ashley: Can I continue to practice on my own or does it need to continue in a class?
Hillary: Yes! Absolutely! You are encouraged to practice 1-2 times a day with it, every day for the rest of your life. At first it becomes a ritual, like brushing your teeth. You don’t think about it, you just do it every day. Then it becomes a part of you. If you skip a day, you notice the fluctuation in your ability to observe vs. react. It’s like anything else that’s good for us. Most of us have to test the waters to see what life is like with it and without. For me, I’m a much calmer version of myself with it. I’ve stopped fighting with it and surrendered to it as a valuable tool to remind me who I really am.
Ashley: What do you think people will get out of combining these two great traditions?
Hillary: I think they will understand the vast importance of SILENCE. Getting quiet and turning inward is something that is so undervalued in our society and even looked upon as somewhat selfish by some. I think this experience will help people to experience a profound shift within themselves. I hope it will help them to see how yummy silence can be, even for small periods of time. I learned the most about myself in my adult life when I entered into a week of silence at the Chopra center. I began to realize how many useless and repetitive thoughts I had that were keeping me spinning instead of moving forward. Once I was able to let those go, my thinking and actions got a lot more direct and action oriented. I had been a worrier all of my life. My regular dip into silence lets me cut through that bullshit and see my life for what is and to let go of the pieces I can’t control so I can focus on the ones I can do something about. Even though I take a piece of my day every day for myself which should leave me with less time in the day, I accomplish more because my thoughts are clear and purposeful, most of the time.
If you have further questions let us know in the comment section and we will reply asap. Chances are someone else has the same exact question!
Click here to reserve your spot for this class unique experience, January 23rd and 30th from 9am-1 pm.