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.     



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.


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.


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. 


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. 


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’. 


“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.


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.

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.


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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The Five Sacred Mountains of China by worldatlas.com

The Five Sacred Mountains Of China

Five mountains in China located in the five cardinal directions of the Chinese geomancy are known as the Five Great Mountains of China.


The Five Great Mountains of China are important in traditional Chinese religion because each mountain represents the natural order of the Earth. These mountains are situated in each of the primordial directions (north, south, east, west, and center), according to Chinese geomancy. Additionally, emperors throughout centuries have used these sites as places of worship and sacrifice. This article takes a closer look at each of these sacred mountains.

5. Tài Shān

A temple on Tài Shān.

The Tai Shan mountain, which translates to Tranquil Mountain, holds the east position. This is the direction in which the sun rises, representing birth and renewal. It is located in the Shandong province, just north of the city of Tai’an. The tallest peak on this mountain is the Jade Emperor, which stands at between 5,029 and 5,069 feet in elevation.

The Tai Shan mountain has been a religious site before 1000 BC, during the Zhou Dynasty. At the foot of this mountain stands the Dai Temple, or the Temple of the God of Mount Tai. It was built between 221 and 206 BC at the direction of the rulers of the Qin Dynasty. This mountain is also home to the Shrine of the Blue Dawn goddess.

4. Huà Shān

Huà Shān.

The Hua Shan mountain, which translates to Splendid Mountain, holds the west position. This is the direction in which the sun sets, representing death and the underworld. It is located in the Shaanxi province, close to the city of Huayin. The tallest peak on this mountain is South Peak, which stands at 7,070 feet above sea level.

A Daoist temple has been located at this mountain since at least the 2nd century BC. Hua Shan has not received as many pilgrims as the other sacred mountains due to the difficulty of reaching its summits. Many people believe that this mountain is home to the God of the Underworld. The Hua Shan mountain is also the site of a Taoist temple (now a tea house) and the Cloister of the Jade Spring.

3. Héng Shān (Hunan)

A statue at Héng Shān, Hunan.

Heng Shan, which translates to Balancing Mountain, holds the south position. This mountain range is located in the Hunan province, where it stretches for 93 miles. It consists of 72 peaks, the tallest of which is Zhurong Peak, which stands at 4,300 feet in elevation.

Heng Shan is home to the Grand Temple of Mount Heng, the largest ancient building in the area. This temple is important to followers of 3 religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The Heng Shan mountain range is also the site of the Zhu Rong Gong temple and the Zhusheng Si temple.

2. Héng Shān (Shanxi)

A monestary at Héng Shān, Shanxi.

The Heng Shan mountain, which in traditional Chinese translates to Permanent Mountain, holds the north position. It is located in the Shanxi province, where its tallest peak stands at 6,617 feet above sea level.

Of all the sacred mountains, the Shanxi Heng Shan is the least visited due to its size and northern location. Throughout history, this area has often been under the control of other countries, which prevented many pilgrims and emperors from visiting. It is home to the Hanging Temple and the Shrine of the Northern Peak.

1. Sōng Shān

A bridge at Sōng Shān.

The Song Shan mountain, which translates to Lofty Mountain, holds the central position. It is located in the Henan province on the south side of the Yellow River. It consists of 36 peaks, the tallest of which stands at 4,961 feet in elevation.

This mountain is home to several important Buddhist and Taoist sites. The Shaolin Temple, considered the birthplace of Zen Buddhism, is located here. Additionally, Song Shan is the site of the following religious sites: Songyue Pagoda, Fawang Temple, and Zhongyue Temple.

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Wave-Particle Duality by Tim Davis & theconversation.com

Making waves. Flickr/Ryan ThackrayCC BY-SA

Explainer: what is wave-particle duality

Our notion of reality is built on everyday experiences. But wave-particle duality is so strange that we are forced to re-examine our common conceptions.

Wave-particle duality refers to the fundamental property of matter where, at one moment it appears like a wave, and yet at another moment it acts like a particle.

To understand wave-particle duality it’s worth looking at differences between particles and waves.

Glass marbles on stone marble. Tim Davis

We are all familiar with particles, whether they are marbles, grains of sand, salt in a salt-shaker, atoms, electrons, and so on.

The properties of particles can be demonstrated with a marble. The marble is a spherical lump of glass located at some point in space. If we flick the marble with our finger, we impart energy to it – this is kinetic energy, and the moving marble takes this energy with it. A handful of marbles thrown in the air come crashing down, each marble imparting energy where it strikes the floor.

Ripples in a rock pool. Tim Davis

In contrast, waves are spread out. Examples of waves are the big rollers on the open ocean, ripples in a pond, sound waves and light waves.

If at one moment the wave is localised, some time later it will have spread out over a large region, like the ripples when we drop a pebble in a pond. The wave carries with it energy related to its motion. Unlike the particle the energy is distributed over space because the wave is spread out.

Why waves are so different from particles

Colliding particles will bounce off each other but colliding waves pass through one another and emerge unchanged. But overlapping waves can interfere – where a trough overlaps a crest the wave can disappear altogether.

The interference pattern of a wave incident on a two holes in a screen. The holes can be seen near the bottom of the image. The waves above the screen show regions of destructive interference, where the wave crests overlap troughs and cancel out, and regions of constructive interference, where the wave crests overlap crests and reinforce. Tim Davis

This can be seen when parts of a wave pass through closely spaced holes in a screen. The waves spread out in all directions and interfere, leading to regions in space where the wave disappears and regions where it becomes stronger.

The image on the left shows an example of the double slit experiment invented by English polymath Thomas Young. This phenomenon is called diffraction.

In contrast, a marble thrown at the screen either bounces off or goes straight through one of the holes. On the other side of the screen, the marble will be found travelling in one of two directions, depending on which hole it went through.

Wave goodbye to waves

The phenomenon of diffraction is a well-known property of light waves. But at the beginning of the 20th century, a problem was found with the theories of light waves emitted from hot objects, such as hot coals in a fire or light from the sun.

Blackbody radiation from hot coals in a fire. Tim Davis with thanks to Holly

This light is called black-body radiation. These theories would always predict infinite energy for the light emitted beyond the blue end of the spectrum – the ultraviolet catastrophe.

The answer was to assume the energy of light waves was not continuous but came in fixed amounts, as if it was composed of a large number of particles, like our handful of marbles. So the notion came about that light waves act like particles – these particles are called photons.

If light, that we thought was wave-like, also behaves like a particle, could it be that objects such as electrons and atoms, that are particle-like, can behave like waves?

To explain the structure and behaviour of atoms it was thought necessary to assume that particles have wave-like properties. If this is true, a particle should diffract through a pair of closely spaced holes, just like a wave.

Electron and atom diffraction

Experiments proved atomic particles act just like waves. When we fire electrons at one side of a screen with two closely spaced holes and measure the distribution of electrons on the other side, we don’t see two peaks, one for each hole, but a complete diffraction pattern, just as if we had been using waves.

This is another example of the Young’s slit experiment we showed above, but this time using electron waves. These notions form the basis of quantum theory, perhaps the most successful theory scientists have ever developed.

The bizarre thing about the diffraction experiment is the electron wave doesn’t deposit energy over the entire surface of the detector, as you might expect with a wave crashing on the shore.

The energy of the electron is deposited at a point, just as if it was a particle. So while the electron propagates through space like a wave, it interacts at a point like a particle. This is known as wave-particle duality.

It moves in mysterious waves

If the electron or photon propagates as a wave but deposits its energy at a point, what happens to the rest of the wave?

It disappears, from all over space, never to be seen again! Somehow, those parts of the wave distant from the point of interaction know that the energy has been lost and disappear, instantaneously.

Tim Davis

If this happened with ocean waves, one of the surfers on the wave would receive all the energy and at that moment the ocean wave would disappear, all along the length of the beach. One surfer would be shooting along the surface of the water and the rest would be sitting becalmed on the surface.

This is what happens with photons, electrons and even atom waves. Naturally enough, this conundrum upset a lot of scientists, Einstein included. It is usually swept under the carpet and glibly referred to as “the collapse of the wavefunction” on measurement.

Certain uncertainty

As the wave propagates, where is the particle? Well, we don’t know for sure. It is located somewhere in the region of space with a dimension similar to the distribution of wavelengths that define its wave. This is known as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

For common everyday particles, such as marbles, salt and sand, their wavelengths are so small that their location can be accurately measured. For atoms and electrons, this becomes less clear.

In the diffraction experiment the electron wavelength is large so the location of the electron is very uncertain. The electron actually travels through both slits at once, just like a wave. In terms of particles it becomes impossible for us to really imagine this because it conflicts with everyday experience.

One From RM

Einstein worried about where the particle is actually located and decided information was missing in the quantum theory. In a celebrated paper on hidden variables, Einstein and his colleagues Nathan Rosen and Boris Podolsky derived two alternatives: either quantum theory was wrong or the problem resided in our notion of reality itself.

A series of precise and clever experiments proved that quantum theory was correct and that our notion of reality is at fault (see Bell’s inequality and the Einstein, Rosen and Podolsky paradox).

Ghostly behaviour

But this is not the end of the story. The experiments that disproved our notions of reality involved two particles linked together as a single wave. Measurements on one particle affect the physical properties of the other particle, even though they can be far apart. This is known as “spooky action at a distance” and is a consequence of quantum entanglement.

It is a very subtle concept but is forming the basis of quantum computers and quantum cryptography!

So what’s wrong with reality?

At this point the whole problem gets very difficult to get your mind around. But don’t get too worried about this. As Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate and truly brilliant man said: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Most people working in this field just get used to the concept and get on with their lives, or become philosophers.

And as for reality?

I think Professor Feynman has the last word on that one, too: “ … the paradox is only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what reality ought to be.”

See more Explainer articles on The Conversation.

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