Tea Time

Tea Time in Taiwan
tea time in Luang Prabang, Laos 2016

Tea is a way of connecting. Drinking tea is one of my favorite rituals.

You might call me a “tea snob” because I have come to love tea and am pretty picky about it too. It wasn’t always this way. Years ago I attended a tea event at my friend’s chic tea import store on La Brea in Los Angeles. Owner Gail Baral was my guide to all-things tea. How to make it, what to eat with it, and which countries did it come from. I got hooked. Drinking tea all day works for me because the buzz from tea is a smooth uplifting constant as opposed to coffee which can be a roller coaster of ups and downs. At least, that was how Gail explained it to me many years ago.

I learned to brew loose leaf tea. I studied different tea regions like Darjeeling in India and Ceylon in Sri Lanka. I enjoy a strong black Aasam tea during the day and calming Chinese green tea in the evening. More importantly I experienced tea rituals through global travels.

In Europe, it is common to add milk. This came about because in the early days of tea arriving from the East India Trading Company it was low quality so milk made it taste better. The highest quality was super expensive and saved only for the rich. Today in India adding milk is the norm. Usually it is a hot steamed milk or even ground spices are added calling it masala tea. BTW did you know that the word chai means tea, so when you ask for a chai tea, you are asking for tea tea?

Chester and me in India drinking street tea 2007

What really took me over the edge understanding tea was when my friend in London, Pete Hendricks, suggested I read one of his favorite books, “For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History” by Sarah Rose. Based on journal notes and historic events of Scottish botanist Robert Fortune who was sent to steal the crop from deep within China and bring it back to British plantations in India, it reads like adventure fiction. The odyssey of this tall Scottish man who went undercover in 1848 pretending to be from Northern China (because Northern Chinese are taller) is a fascinating read. One of my favorite books.

tea time at the Fairy Cave in a remote area of Taiwan 2016

The art of negotiating always takes on a tea component throughout Asia, especially in Bali. Traveling to the small craft town Tenganan in East Bali with my friend Robert in 2000 I witnessed a master class. Tenganan is famous for beautiful baskets handmade according to ancient techniques with a smokey scent. They are said to be so sturdy they last a hundred years. Robert was there to purchase baskets for a client in Sweden. When we reached the village I stood back to watch him work his magic. Like the ancient art of tea, the ancient art of shopping has important lessons too. Don’t talk business before making friends and sharing a cup of tea. Bicker about the price then have another cup of tea. Finally, meet in the middle so everybody walks away happy. And then of course there’s a final cup of tea to seal the deal.

me in Tenganan, Bali being followed by a water buffalo 2001

If you are already a tea drinker, enjoy. If not, maybe you will give it a try. I have found tea to be so much more than a hot drink and it’s always “tea time!” My favorite new find is Steven Smith Tea from Portland. Their flavor combinations is superb whether loose leaf or sachets. Try Mao Feng Shui or Portland Breakfast! Cheers!

tea time in Denver 2019

Let’s Make Magic

Spirit begins with prayer and what  better way to speed up that communication then lighting incense. Smoke is the vehicle that dispatches your wishes and dreams to the universe,

Incense is a powerful tool dating back 6000 to 8500 years to ancient Hindu texts or Vedas. The trend took off spreading to Greece and Rome when Babylonians wafted incense sticks during prayers. Did you know that peddlers along the Silk Route turned incense sales into big business when various techniques, multiple flavors, and a variety of styles became accessible?

The famous trade route changed its name to the Incense Route.

Incense Quick Tips:

  1. sends prayers to the universe
  2. pays homage to a temple or church
  3. blesses a sacred space
  4. used as an offering to a shrine or deity
  5. cleanses energy
  6. creates relaxing environment
  7. powdered incense is used for magic
  8. buy best quality with highest integrity

 

 

 

Everyday Spirituality

Jain Temple in India

What I have learned from trips to China, Southeast Asia and India is that they have an innate understanding that everything is connected. Life is full of spirit. Sacred objects, ritual and meditation are their daily routine. Everyone has at least one shrine or altar and possibly more. Buddha and Quan Yin greet their guests in China. Lakshmi and Ganesh remove obstacles in India. Incense is wafted everywhere. Dragons are power symbols and Lucky Cats bring good fortune to businesses. To me, it’s about living every day in a spiritual way.

Here I am above at the famous Jain Temple in India. I had been sporting a bindi dot on my forehead since I arrived and it was not easy keeping it on. I tended to forget I had it and smeared it across my face hourly as sweat dripped down my face from the extreme heat of the desert. One of my favorite rituals throughout India was getting a red string tied around my wrist that came along with a priest blessing and a red dot on my forehead that I got from anyone willing to give me one. I also bought a packet of decorative bindi dots. And a lady at lunch one day gave me her packet of glittery bindi dots, seeing as I was so into them. Some folks can pull them off. I am not sure I am one of those. But I loved them anyway.

 

 

 

 

BaZi Whispering

fortune telling in Agra, India

BaZi Chinese Astrology is not fortune telling or a psychic reading. It is an ancient practice based on a person’s birth chart. Originally it was used to personalize your Feng Shui. We still work with it like that today, only now it is also a stand-alone tool for movers and shakers throughout Asia and now in the West. BaZi Destiny Consultations are one of my specialties. Successful people have coaches, spiritual people have Cosmic Coaches.

When I was in India I just had to have my fortune told. They have different methods based on their traditions and this master above did palm reading as well as looked at my Vedic Astrology. I booked an appointment with him at my hotel in Agra, right after my sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal and before glam dinner at the Oberoi Agra. I love the magnifying glass on the table that he used to view the lines on my hand. He was lovely, but I don’t remember what he told me. I just remember it was an experience!

When you book a consultation with me on your BaZI be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work on yourself. Set goals. Focus on plans. Get real with who you are, why you are here, and what you want to accomplish. This is not airy fairy fortune telling! Namaste.

 

 

Shopping for Nirvana in Jaipur

Gem Palace in Jaipur

A ritual of initiating every grand trans-global adventure with a purchase is my secret to shopping for nirvana. You have to make an investment otherwise you’ve got nothing at stake. At the famous Gem Palace in Jaipur, 7th generation jeweler to Moghul Emperors Sanjay Kasliwal held up a pair of sparkling diamond earrings and said to me, “If these don’t bring you nirvana I have bigger ones!”

I did not purchase the diamonds, but I did come away with gorgeous citrine drop earrings that I treasure to this day. Later that evening Sanjay took me to a Durga Festival and invited me to dine at his ‘private’ table in the uber chic Rambagh Palace. After a yummy Indian meal, bottles of champagne where shared on the veranda with a young couple from London who flew over to have Sanjay design their engagement and weddings rings. You must stop in at the famous Gem Palace when in Jaipur, because it’s a museum of history. See the sign-in book from Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ visit. Ogle at the priceless gem stones. Watch the jewelers cutting semi-precious stones. It is a very special experience in the pink city.

Tibetan Goddess of Compassion

tara

Our goddess tour goes to Tibet and China where we find Tara, whose name means “star” in sanskrit. The other meaning is “she who carries us across the waters.” Tara is our spiritual cruise director. She is the Hindu and Buddhist starlet who helps us travel smoothly and safely to our destination. She is complex with multiple personalities depicted by many different colors. Within Tibetan Buddhism,she has twenty-one forms. When Yellow, Blue or Red she is a temperamental diva. When White or Green, Tara is a loving lady.

How to recognize White Tara?

White Tara is gentle, peaceful, patient and nurturing. She expresses maternal compassion and offers healing to those who are hurt or wounded. She focuses on longevity and approaches problems with prayer. Easiest to recognize because she is – well – white. More difficult to recognize in statuary so you have to look for those freakish seven eyes on top of her head, palms of her hands and soles of her feet. This way she can see anyone who needs help in any direction. White Tara holds an open white lotus as a symbol of purity and is said to be as white and radiant as the moon.  She clears away harsh relationships, environments and chemicals. She also protects from loud noise, crowds and violence. She is the goddess for those with an open mind and receptive heart. White Tara spreads joy and happiness.

How to recognize Green Tara?

Green Tara is a no-nonsense gal. She is intense with a loving warrior spirit, a true diva with a reputation for being proactive and making things happen. Green Tara reminds you to delegate and ask for help. She works fast and is excellent in emergencies. She helps you understand situations and relationships. Recognized because she is – green. Green is considered the color that contains all other colors. In statues you must look more closely to see the half open lotus in her hand representing night. Sometimes there are two lotus blossoms. She does not have any extra eyes. Green Tara rescues us by empowering us to save ourselves.

Lotus Blossoms

lotusLotus Blossoms bring balance and moderation in all things. They are an important component to the Buddha statue. Buddha is either seated upon a lotus in full bloom or holding a blossom in his hand. Some images portray him with each foot resting on a separate petal. When Siddhartha declared his Enlightenment and took seven steps it is said that under each step sprang a lotus blossom.

Did you know that the lotus blossom grows in murky swamps? It’s true. With roots buried deep in the mud, the lotus flower rises to the surface. It’s not easy pushing through the muck, which is why the lotus symbolizes that beauty is born from hardship. In Sanskrit and Tibetan, the lotus is called padma and represents purity, joy and perfection. Lotus is cool and Buddha is hot – so it is said to cool Buddha’s fire.

White Lotus – spiritual perfection and total mental purity
Pink Lotus – supreme lotus reserved for the Great Buddha
Red Lotus – love, compassion and other qualities of the heart
Blue Lotus – victory of the spirit over the senses and signifies wisdom

Rub the Buddha Belly

laughing-buddhaWherever I travel throughout the world Fat Happy Buddha is an iconic image. I always thought he was just another version of Buddha, but I was wrong. He is also called Laughing Buddha and is technically a Budai or Chinese deity. Budhai means “cloth sack” and that’s because he carries his worldly possessions in a sack tossed over his shoulder. He also carries good luck beads and a money gourd aka hulu or wu lou – that brings wealth and prosperity. No wonder he is honored and adored all over Asia. But really, who is he?

History Lesson:

Laughing Buddha aka Po-tai Ho-shang was an eccentric monk who lived between the 6th and 10th century. Neighbors knew him from his fat belly, bald head, robe and prayer beads. He was considered a good man of loving character, poor yet content, discovering the Buddha within himself. He did so many good deeds during his lifetime that when he died he rose to bodhisattva status (deity who attains enlightenment but remains in human form to help others) and was renamed Budai.

How to recognize him?

As opposed to Buddha statues which tend to be thin figured, Laughing Buddha has a fat tummy, bald head and happy grin. Sometimes he carries a bag of wealth. Sometimes he carries your bag of troubles, which he has collected for you. When he was a monk traveling from village to village handing out candy to poor children, he asked only for a penny in return. That is why when you find a Buddha with children climbing all over him, this is very auspicious and means abundance of good fortune coming from heaven. Happy Laughing Buddha is a lovely statue to display when wanting to attract abundance in life. Go ahead and rub the Buddha belly!

Laughing Buddha reminds us of our capacity to achieve happiness and enjoy the good life.

 

Take a Tea Break

tea

Story of Indian Tea

There’s always time for chai. The word chai means tea so if you are ordering what we call chai in the West – it is called masala in India. In India, chai was the only street food I dared try (I figured it is made from boiling water.) There was no set price, just pay whatever you desire. There is a tea component to everything you do from shopping to dining. Between 1660-1857 tea was the main export by the East India Company. Today, India is the second-largest producer of tea. Once I tasted fresh Indian tea, I was hooked.

Know your Indian tea:

Assam – largest tea producing region
Darjeeling – champagne of black teas
Masala – black tea spiced with cardamon and ginger

All the Tea in China

Tea is a Chinese tradition enjoyed throughout the day, but when the Brits arrived in Hong Kong they introduced “afternoon tea” where black tea is served with milk and sugar. One of the most fascinating books that brings clarity to the entire Chinese tea tradition is “For All the Tea in China.” It tells the tale of British horticulturist Robert Fortune and how he was sent undercover in 1848 to China to steal their tea growing secrets and bring cuttings to India for the East India Company.

Inspired Reading

For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose

Magical Incense

incense copy

Did you know that incense sends your prayers to heaven?

SPIRIT begins with prayer and what better way to speed up that communication than by lighting incense. SMOKE is the vehicle that dispatches your wishes and dreams to the universe. Incense is a powerful tool dating back 6000 to 8500 years. The trend took off spreading to Greece and Rome when Babylonians wafted incense sticks during prayer. What you need to know is that true pratitioners of magic use only powdered incense for magic – other types just smell good.

Here’s my guide:

  • Sandalwood – Real Indian sandalwood is pure magic. It vibrates with Ganesh to remove obstacles, bless new beginnings, and attract prosperity.
  • Dragon’s Blood – Dragon’s aren’t real, silly. This plant resin is a powerful remover of negative energy.
  • Francinsense – Another plant resin used in churches to create a sacred space.
  • Sage – American Indian tool to protect against evil. Use with caution because it clears the energetic slate but then you have to add positive energy back with other incense.
  • Nag Champa – A masala incense that makes your home smell hippie dippie.
  • Vanilla – The sex bean of a plant that stimulates sensual energy

What’s your favorite type of incense?