Her name is Tea
by Suzette Hammond, Founder of Being Tea
If I’m being honest here, peace has not been an easy concept for me this last year.
What happened to us? How have we lost our way, our humanity? Words and headlines that made me dizzy with confusion and despair, free-falling into the deepest pit in my stomach. To think about myself ever being “at peace” made me feel… lonely, actually. Peace has never felt so far away.
Seasons thawed winter to spring, bloomed summer to autumn. Slowly – very slowly – I realized all is not yet lost.
I had been viewing peace as a destination or a goal. A particular point, standing still in time, waiting. Peace was an idealized someday, or the mourning of some moment already lost. I did not yet understand that peace is actually a process, and a promise. She is sunset and sunrise and everything in between. Light and dark. You cannot truly know peace if you have not sat with discomfort or even pain. Peace is a practice, you see.
As you practice, you come back to her, again and again, and her teaching shifts your perspective. With time, perhaps you will have flashes of feeling peace exactly when you are conflicted, and you follow her gentle suggestions. To really feel the power of peace, though, is to witness the grace that comes when you know you didn’t take the right action. In the very moment when you are at your lowest, when you reach for the hand of peace, you find self-compassion and courage to try again. The innocent “no more war” concept of peace that I understood as a child, in other words, is actually quite different to me now. I believe peace changes and matures with you, as you grow into your own story in this lifetime.
And so, in arguably our most trying times as a society, it was the hope of finding peace that helped me realize I already knew one of her many names: Tea.
In tea, I have seen patience, forgiveness and generosity. These are terms that even appear in tasting notes on packets of tea – “a forgiving leaf”, “generous notes”, “patiently opens up.” What I really learned from tea, however – and what I believe what we all can learn – has nothing to do with smart writing on labels.
Peace is letting go, a grateful surrender, just like tea. She is a beautiful calm and confident ease. Peace shines warmth that softens hesitation, shame and regret; things that make us question how we will find the strength to recognize light. To recognize that even “failure” is not the end; it is an opportunity to try again.
Tea takes us to the space where there is no right or wrong – there is only now. Quietly and gently, through every cup we sip every day, tea has the power to guide our perspective. Tea shows us to be slow and to observe. To question with a friendly curiosity and to not judge in assumption. In this place, what do you see, what do you feel? What do you taste, what do you remember? Tea guides you to be in touch with your understanding. How often in life do you really feel that connection with your sensory self? That what you see and hear is your own, as plainly as looking into a mirror?
Then, with your eyes open and guard softened, you’ll find tea has something else to teach.
Now think what it would be like to give the possibility of this experience to someone else. Not just sharing a pot of tea with someone, or giving a nice tea gift. Not a self-validation through the same taste or same words as your own. Go deeper. The possibility of experience. To share the experience of accepting yourself as true, and of being seen in your self-acceptance. The freedom to feel. With so many lonely souls in need, who could deny acceptance to another being? This is the peace of tea. Unfolding and changing in silence as it steeps in the pot. Welcoming the opportunity to connect as it evolves. Not demanding a static perfection. Knowing that it will be completely different just a few moments from now – and even later still – and that this is wonderfully ok. You know this tea as a true friend.
For once in your life, you stop fighting inevitable change. Instead, you hold the warmth of change itself, the reward of transformation, between cupped hands. You give thanks. If there is the hope of change, there is the hope of peace.
Patience and acceptance. Forgiveness and generosity. This is equanimity, non-judging – the roots of mindfulness itself. When I feel these moments with tea, I know I am feeling peace. The key is this love – this peace – first has to come from within, toward yourself. Only then can it be turned outward for anyone else. We are all worthy of such compassion; Tea has the power to show us how.
“Instead, because of tea, I am learning the ways of slowly steeping, knowing when to release and when to hold back. To observe or participate. The curled up ball that gradually warms up and unfurls, or the flattened leaf that allows the water to wash over and purify. The wisdom of patience, one cup at a time. The taste of tea is the taste of patience itself.”
I wrote this five years ago, in an essay for the anthology, “The Soul and Spirit of Tea” (2013, Talking Leaves Press). That was such a different time in my life then, and yet, I feel like I could have written those words this morning. Because for all the turmoil of this era, some guideposts are always there, blinking in the mist, lighting your way home.
Peace is a process, just like tea. It is by grace that we have the opportunity to pursue the experience of both.
“The art of teaching and training tea – for a living and for life.” This is the work of Being Tea, founded by Suzette Hammond. For 15 years, Suzette has traveled extensively as a professionally working tea trainer. Along the way, she realized her clear passion is shepherding connections through tea. After more than a decade in training management roles for leading tea companies, Suzette created Being Tea – an independent consultancy offering Sensory Skills Workshops, Teacher Training and Tea Mindfulness Therapy. She also collaborates with World Tea Academy, World Tea Expo, and Tea Journey Magazine. She judges for the Global Tea Championship, and teaches every October at the Northwest Tea Festival. When not on the road, Suzette happily resides in Chicago.
training, teaching, tea program consulting