Thursday July 12, 2012 | 2 comments
Tied to the study of nature and the mathematical principles found therein, sacred geometry is an art whose expressions are most powerfully received in a pure intuitive state, or “beginner’s mind.” The definition for sacred geometry given by Wikipedia is “the geometry used in the planning and construction of … sacred spaces … [in which] symbolic and sacred meanings are ascribed to certain geometric shapes and certain geometric proportions.” However, this definition barely hints at the treasure of pure information that can be communicated in geometric forms, and the value of the effect those forms have on human consciousness. The direct experience of seeing and relating with sacred geometry is something ineffable, fleeting, difficult to describe, and potentially transformative at the deepest levels.
The quality that elevates geometry to the realm of the sacred is that which reminds us that we – our bodies, our minds, and all that we create – are vital parts of the whole of life. It’s the same recognition we have upon realizing that our religious structures and works of art are filled with biomimicry, references to the growing forms of the natural world. The waves aren’t separate from the ocean from which they emerge.
For me, it’s this same quality of recognition that brings the ritual of tea into the realm of the sacred.
Sacred Teaometry is an imperfect, growing, exploratory gesture toward meditative presence, using the codified forms of the tea ceremony. It’s where tradition and improvisation get to dance. The ritual of tea, like music, is a fractal of experience unbound by linear space or time. The translation of ancient Chinese ritual into the creation of current, personal culture is an updating of forms in order to chase down and relate with a timeless and essential feeling.
I grew up in a home of mixed cultures, both with a heavy emphasis on tea. My Russian mother served an Anglophile Earl Grey teatime, and my Middle Eastern father loved black tea with mint. The graciousness of both of these very different styles of preparation and enjoyment – the symmetry and repetition of the English tea service and the blending of the raw, fresh mint with black tea – imprinted on me very early. The message, regardless of the specific cultural code in which it was carried, was simple and hospitable: when people gather and you want to show them your love, you serve tea. There is always time for tea.
Then, in the spring of 2009, I experienced a gongfu, or Kung Fu, style tea ceremony for the first time. The emphasis in gongfu cha is on highly formalized cycles, focused on consistency and attentive presence, and I recognized it as something akin to the experience of playing music. As a life-long student of music, the marriage of natural spaciousness and mathematical form in that style of tea ceremony instantly felt familiar as another kind of moving meditation.
My current relationship with tea, and the frame of Teaometry, is similar to approaching a teacher with an open heart. The tea ceremony is, along with music, my most honest experience of meditation and of life. Drinking alone or with others, continuing to investigate the expanding forms of Teaometry is my most central and viable spiritual practice. As any meditation can, again and again, tea silently brings me back to myself.
Written with the help of Pamela Samuelson.