POEM: Drinking the Abyss

tao dragon

I hear the clink

Of cracked porcelain

A fragile echo

That lets me

Drink straight from the source

Somebody put the kettle on

We need to heat up

This abyss

Always yielding and receptive without

So you can return danger

To gentleness

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The Tea Chronicles: Chapter Three

green-hills

I enjoyed whooshing along through the long Grasses on the back of The Dragon Queen. I won’t deny that I got an erotic thrill from it – for an immortal, she was quite a fox! – but I was quick to redirect the flow of this sexual energy, as I knew she would immediately sense it – as she must have done already – especially as such a fantasy could be precisely the verboten thought that could set off the afeared response in the grasses that she had been so guarded and cryptic about.

I must admit, I also felt slightly envious. I have always wanted to be able to change my form instantaneously, like a cartoon character; but, while I have been able to warp my thought body during meditative experiments, even during lucid dreaming, my body has always remained rigidly in form, and I’ve never quite been able to fly. But I knew, as my dragonian reflection in the water had already proven, that it would not be long before I was shapeshifting with the best of them, and able to fly, crawl, and dive at my leisure.

Just as I was beginning to day-dream, and drift off into my desultory thoughts, The Dragon Queen landed abruptly but softly, and changed into her fully humanoid form again.

“We’re here,” she said, sombrely.

I looked forward, and I could see a prominent mound, protruding regally before us. The land we had travelled through had been almost invariably flat, with the exception of the sense of a barely perceptible escarpment in the distance. So, seeing this sudden swelling was quite stimulating to the geography of the mind. Both The Dragon Queen and I could sense its prodigious retention of energy.

“Is there anything in particular that I should say and do; or not say and not do?” I asked, suddenly aware that this was likely to be a portentous encounter.

The Dragon Queen smiled and said:
“Just be yourself. You will learn Immortal Etiquette – and how to go beyond it – along the way. Be your fully authentic self. That is why you are here, after all!”

My fully authentic self felt pretty uncertain at that moment in time.

But The Dragon Queen, reading my thoughts, mollified me, saying:

“If you are feeling uncertain, then be uncertain, and make no decisive movements until it has passed. Decisions are thing to be accepted and acted upon – they are not to be rushed, or forced into existence.”

I breathed in the wisdom of this advice, and we walked lightly and solemnly towards the mound.

As soon as we ascended it, we saw The Master of the Long Grasses, sitting placidly on the ground, his tea set laid out before him. I could see the tea steaming perfectly in the gilded, simple, china cups, and could not wait to hold it lusciously in my mouth. It smelled slightly sweet, and I suspected that it was some type of oolong, supplemented by an additional herb.

The Dragon Queen bent on her knees, and genuflected before The Master.

“I am sorry for our tardiness,” she said, humbly and sincerely.

“It does not matter if you are late in keeping appointments, so long as you are prompt in following The Way!” Quipped The Master. “The tea is still warm, so please! Drink!”

I settled down on a mat, sitting on my knees in the Asian fashion, and slowly picked up my teacup. It had a golden edge around its rim, with a fascinating design comprised of many ornate balloons floating through the sky. It was a beautiful design, and, when looked at closely, gave the impression of enormous depth.

The tea was still too warm to drink, so I just enjoyed inhaling its sweet steam, feeling the heat of the cup in my hands, and admiring the loaded potentially of the deep, clear, golden elixir.

“And how did you get along with my grasses?” asked The Master of the Long Grasses, smiling mischievously.

“No incidents, so far,” I said, in a way I hoped sounded winsome.

“Good, good!” He responded, good-naturedly. “Never can tell what that raggedy bunch will take to, next!” Winking. “But you’ll have to excuse me if you find me coarse. It’s been a long time since I’ve had visitors!”

I took this statement as an opportunity to examine The Master properly. He had a long wispy beard, tied up hair, and emanated immense purity. There was nothing ‘coarse’ about him.

“Speaking of time,” I began. “Since we’ve been in this realm, I’ve observed that, although we’ve been travelling for several hours now, the quality of light in the sky hasn’t changed at all. Why is that?”

“Why, he’s a very canny fellow, isn’t he?!” said The Master, turning to The Dragon Queen, and raising his thick, cloud-like eyebrows in comic fashion. “The answer, my boy, is that time moves very differently here from the way you’re used to. That’s why I chided your elegant proprietor for apologizing for her tardiness- a side effect of spending too long in lower realms, no doubt. You could no sooner be late here, than insult a Buddha, and get a beating for it. You probably can’t make it out, due to the somewhat infinite, and mirage-infested, horizon we have here, but it takes the sun no less than fourteen million years to set on this planet. For that reason, it has become known as ‘The Planet of Perpetual Dusk.’ Of the length of the days, I cannot speak. But suffice it to say this: It has been a long time since I’ve seen the night-time.” And, with a slightly crazed look in his eyes, he urged us. “Your tea should be cool enough now. Please, drink! Go on – drink!”

I needed no more encouraging. I took a sip, and was instantly refreshed by the tea, which caused my whole being to shudder with relief. Being without tea for long is like being without love or oxygen – it is always a cathartic and seismic response when you taste it again. The tea tasted clear, and sweet, and had a delicious, ineffable quality to it, that I could not readily describe.

“I know it’s an oolong,” I said, “but why does it taste so unique?”

The Master of the Long Grasses looked pleased.

“It is a Premium Ginseng Oolong,” he said. “After the leaves are steamed, withered, oxidized, and rolled, they are coated with powdered ginseng and liquorice. Here! Look!”

He offered me a small tub of the tea in its unbrewed form. It looked very strange, a mysterious green colour, flecked with gold, like a rare, but volatile rock from a distant moon.

Reading my thoughts, he said:

“Distant Moon Oolong – that would make a remarkable name for it, wouldn’t it? I may start calling it that from now on,” and then, standing up, and directing his voice out towards the grasslands, he shouted “DISTANT MOON OOLONG! DISTANT MOON LOONG!”

We both looked at him quizzically.

“Just letting the grasses know,” he said, sheepishly. “They’re very into that sort of thing. But it is very important that you drink up. I do not give you this tea, arbitrarily. A long and dynamic journey has been arranged for you by the heavens. Ginseng is an immense repository of celestial yang energy, and so is this mound. As such, it nourishes the vitality, and increases the strength. But not all of the places you will be travelling too will be quite so nourishing, or accommodating, with their energy reserves.

“As a human, you have been habituated to living in a solar system, and that relationship to the sun has informed a good deal of your understanding of the astronomy of the cosmos. But there are many different types of planetary system in the universe, not all of which could be said to possess such a unifying, and radiant centre. In fact, much of the cosmos is littered with Lunar Systems – in these, an enormous moon serves as the centre, around which all the sibling planets orbit. Unfamiliar with fire or solar energy, these planets live in a deadened, haunting twilight, beset by interminable waves of hallucination and delusion. There is no mediating ego or waking consciousness here – only the mystery and danger of darkness. It is quite a thing to look upon whilst voyaging through space – all of these bewildered planets moving slowly around a watery, tyrannical moon, in a slow, and sluggish procession. The planets are all deeply bewildered and imbalanced, and, thus, often collide into one another, sending shockwaves throughout the galaxy. We refer to these Lunar Systems as ‘The Nodes of Yin’.”

“Will I ever have to go to such a place?” I asked.

The Master of the Long Grasses nodded gravely.

“On this Moon, called ‘The Floating Pit,’ there is a network of caves. At the bottom of this cave is a chamber of frost and snow. If you can melt this snow, and turn it into water, it can be used to make The Broth of the Illumined. Of course, you will meet many dangers and guardians along the way, but isn’t that always the case when apprehending something profound? You may even have to die before you drink it.

“But let’s not dwell on such things, right now. Such travails are a long way off, and you have not even finished your first cup of tea since leaving the planet Earth! Settle your mind. Leave danger for later.”

With that, The Master of the Long Grasses ceased speaking, and we drank our tea in silence, the whole planet enshrouded in peace, as the sun continued to set at its own impenetrable pace.

The Tea Chronicles: Chapter Two

Dragon woman

Once we had passed through the miraculous vortex of the tea tin, we found ourselves in a beautiful field of swaying, long grasses, the whole region doused in a perfect smattering of lambent sunshine. The Dragon Queen, who, at first, had a dragon’s tail for a bottom half, quickly absorbed her tail, and exchanged them for a sleek, pair of velvety legs. She wore white imperial robes, and had long pink hair.

“You didn’t have to get rid of your tail on my behalf, O great Queen. It didn’t make me feel that insecure.”

“Different realms are more amenable to different forms,” she said, smiling at me softly. “It is better to be all things in all circumstances, than one thing in every circumstance – though, the highest masters make no distinction between these. But, sometimes, these changes and alterations cannot be helped. Like you cannot help getting wet in water, or being set aflame in fire, so you cannot help changing into different shapes when you go into different realms. Check out your reflection. You might look pretty different yourself.”

Doing as she instructed, I moved towards a small pool to the left of us, and checked out my reflection in the surface of the water. I was shocked to find that I, too, was dressed in imperial clothing, though mostly in black; but, more shockingly, I found that my face had taken on a slightly fearsome, dragon-like aspect, my beard, moustache, and hair billowing goldenly, almost like fire, so much so, that I made quite a scene, and began swatting at myself to try and put it out.

“You do not need to be disturbed,” assured the Dragon Queen. “One of the reasons I chose you as my tea student was for your fluidity and malleability. I have seen you take on and cast off many identities over your short life as a human, and your longer one throughout the cosmos. Just because your changes were usually internal, it does not mean that you should be affrighted now that they have leaked outside as well.”

“But why am I so dragony? And what is this ‘longer life throughout the cosmos’ you speak of? Just how long have you been watching me?”

“In order to be taught by a dragon, you must become as a dragon. But don’t worry, that appearance is not permanent. The first principle of being a dragon is that all appearances are illusory and subject to change, like the quality of smoke being influenced by the fire it is exuding from. But there is always something beneath the fire. Always something beneath its beneath-ness.

“As for your longer life in the cosmos, I shall not trouble you with that now.  The more you traverse these strange and myriad realms, the more your natural memory of them will return. It is quite an organic process, and you need not dwell on it now, for we are late in meeting ‘The Master of the Long Grasses.’

“Alright, I’ll bite – who is The Master of the Long Grasses?’

Before she had time to answer, we heard the distinct, sharp call of a heron, which, having stood silently on the other side of the pool, now took off grandly into the air.

“That was The Master’s Envoy,” she said, biting her lip. “The heron is flying off now to inform him of our imminent arrival. We must be off. We had better not disappoint him.”

I took this as an indication that our question and answer session was over. But as we were journeying down a perfect path between the long grasses, with a silent rustle of her white robes, she said:

“It is advisable that you keep thinking to a minimum as we travel through these long grasses.”

“I’m sure that advice is generally applicable to most things,” I concurred, “but why here in particular?”

The Dragon Queen looked like she was struggling to answer this, but finally she got it.

“The consciousness of these grasses is, ugh, very sensitive, if that’s the right human expression. In the same way that someone lightly touching the hair on your arm can send shivers all through your body, or the millions of nerve fibres that all contribute to the joyous delicacy of the clitoris, these grasses could be said to possess a similar refinement in terms of their sensitivity.”

“What would happen if I thought too much?” I asked, feeling curious.

“It’s not so much a matter of ‘thinking too much’ so much as what you think about.”

“So what is it that I shouldn’t be thinking about?”And concerned that this might exasperate her, I added, “Just so that I know not to think about it.”

“If I told you what not to think about, it would happen immediately..”

“What would immediately happen?”

“The thing that we don’t want to happen.”

“Which is?”

“Again, if I told you, it would immediately happen. So it is best not to talk about it. Quiet your mind, and centre your awareness. I can hear The Master of the Long Grasses pouring a cup of tea for as we move.  So we must hurry, or else it will be cold when we get there. Which would be a considerable blow to our progress. So, hurry, hurry!”

With that admonition, she unleashed the full, glorious flowing dragon tail of her underparts, and, straddling my legs around it, we travelled at enormous speeds, through the whirling long grasses.

And, if you want to know what happened once they met The Master of the Long Grasses, you will have to wait for the next chapter!

The Tea Chronicles: Chapter One

Dragon Tea

Although retailers of tea are only merchants, I tend to look upon them as gods; patron-saints of the divine tea leaf that have deigned to reduce themselves to human form in order to peddle their holy elixir for our ignorant consumption.

I saw one such woman in the marketplace yesterday. She was a crooked old thing in a cloak, whose body looked like it had been carved out of unruly, knotted wood, a scream of skin and bark, wound into a moving, human sculpture. But, in spite of her crippled body, she could not have been called ugly: she seemed to be of Asian, possibly Vietnamese extraction, had smooth, unwrinkled skin, and I noticed more than one young man looking in her direction, in a mixture of lust and confusion.

Though she must have been there to make money and sell her wares just like the others, she didn’t seem to have done a very good job of it: there appeared to be only one tin of loose leaf tea on her merchant’s table, which was otherwise pristine and empty.

I walked over to her out of curiosity, and, as I did so, the air grew thicker, and the cacophony of the other marketers faded into a muted, muffled pulse, the condensed heartbeat of grass roots’ commerce.

As I looked at her, her robe, once uniformly black in colour, began to exude a lashing of slow, waveform colours, as though black was just the contour she needed in order to amplify these hidden torrents of psychedelia. Her face shone like an evening candle, and her crippled body began to unwind itself, almost like a large snake uncoiling itself after a post-prandial slumber, as she chanted this verse from the Tao Te Ching:

 

Crippled becomes whole

Worn becomes new

 

Her whole body arched itself up to the ceiling in a curvature that defied the limitations of Euclidean geometry, and looked down upon me. Her colour-swaddled body was now the shape of a long tube, and it did seem that she may have been some sort of phantasmagoric serpent, except for her very pinnacle, which, at least, seemed to remain semi-human.

“I can’t see you up there,” I said. “Would you mind coming down?”

She lurched down swiftly like a body of falling water, and hovered her human-segment before me. The emanations of her golden hair filled the entire hall, and soon threatened to enwrap me like a spider packaging its prey in a cocoon of moribundity. It was hard to concentrate on her face, but also difficult to look away from it; it dizzyingly flickered between many women’s faces like a malfunctioning algorithm, though I’m sure I occasionally saw it flicker into the moustachioed face of a golden, oriental dragon.

“How might I be of service?” I asked, somewhat uncertain of the protocol and conduct of such situations.

“I am The Dragon Queen of the Northern Tea Hall of  the Inner Heavenly Mansion,” she said. “I have searched and swarmed the whole world over in search of someone who truly understands tea. I wish to inform you that you are the living finality of my search.”

“Yep. That’s me,” I said. “I know a little about tea. How long have you been looking for?”

“Oh, only for a couple of millennia, during breaks between my shifts at the palace, not very long. Though I have had to undergo great hardship in many of the dimensions in which I searched. Some worlds consider dragon queens to be consummately tasty, and it was only through my wiles and perseverance that I was able to escape, un-shishkabobed.”

“How do you travel?” I asked.

“I travel by tea,” she said, matter-of-factly. “As you know, every cup of tea is a gateway to a new universe. The problem is, it is exceedingly difficult to determine which universe you will get. It seems to be very dependent upon which tea leaves you use, where they were grown, how they were harvested and manufactured, the brewing time, and what tea ware you use to harness its creation.”

“If you don’t mind my prying, may I ask what variables you used to get here?”

“To get here,” she said, “I drew my water from the Star River, boiled it up in The Big Dipper, plucked my tea leaves directly from Lao Tzu’s beard, fermented them for a thousand years in the halls of Jupiter, and brewed the tea in a pot fashioned from the ribcage of an Arcturian Space Whale.”

“I bet that tasted good.”

“It is better that we don’t speak of that now. Not everyone will be pleased that I am disseminating this forbidden knowledge for the holy brew. Come with me,” she said,” Before we get discovered.”

And, at this, she opened the top of the tin on her table, pulled me in, and we travelled far and in wide.

And if you want to know where it is we went, you will have to wait for the next chapter!

Tea Interval 2

Tea leaves

Once again, I’m a bit too busy writing articles on tea – today I’m writing about Kava tea and Kombucha tea – but I just wanted to take a brief moment to share a beautiful quote from Thomas Cleary’s Translation of the Taoist text ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’:

“Everyone already has the lamp of mind

But it is necessary to light it so that it shines:

This is immortality”

Beautiful! I’m suffering from some quite nasty back pain today, so please send me your energy and affection to help me heal. What tea are you enjoying today? I’m just about to sample an exquisite ginseng oolong, which I’m hoping will energize me a bit. If any of you are suffering too, let me know, and I’ll write a prayer for you!

I devised another Tantric exercise on the weekend which involves uniting your energy centers with those of your partner, so I will do a write-up of that over the next few days.

All my love!

Reuben

Tea Interval

Tea

Hey guys. Very sorry that I haven’t done much over the last few days – I’ve been very busy writing articles about tea for an employer.It’s been marvelous fun, and I’ve learned many interesting facts that have only bolstered my love for this holy beverage that is so central to my life.

For instance – the word ‘tea’ actually comes from the ancient Grecian word ‘thea’ which means ‘goddess’. And, indeed, besides my partner, and Mother Earth, there truly is no goddess that I worship more!

This morning I’ve been sampling a new Chinese green tea, laced with Congou Rose, that is absolutely divine. Crisp, delicate, flavorsome, and with an almost liquor-like quality to it.

If I have some time later this evening, I will be posting some more articles about Tantra and Tantric sex. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what your favorite teas are, and which blends, herbal or otherwise, you would recommend.

I leave you with a short poem I wrote for you to read whilst enjoying a refreshing cup:

Pouring your soul into a cup

A lost lagoon waits

I take a sip that lasts forever

And algae gets stuck in my teeth