31 May 2022 | BY ANDJELKA JANKOVIC | Life
I found peace in the chaos, I found peace in suffering
I remember the first thing Tea said to me was: “Drink your tea and let the longing pour out”.
Had I not been so “lost” in my longing, I would never have found the Way. I had a lifelong dream to live in New York City after watching Home Alone 2 countless times as a child. Later in 2015, I was living in East Village and it was nothing like John Hughes had promised. I was adrift with no job, no family or community, and no prospects (I did try breakdancing though). I then experienced heartbreak when a beautiful Italian man that I met on a train to Colorado — who I had a one-way ticket to see in Florence — told me he’d met someone else. Welcome to my Saturn Return.
Walking into a yoga class at Sky Ting in Chinatown, I saw a poster for a “tea ceremony”. The steam rising from the bowls looked so peaceful, the total opposite of how I felt. A week later I shared tea in silence with a room full of people — surrounded by the immense noise and loneliness of the city. I remember the vivid feeling in my bones: I don’t know what just happened, but I love this. The person serving tea was Baelyn Elspeth and I found out she was the student of someone called Wu De. I tracked down a copy of The Way Of Tea which led me to this lineage.
From that moment, I looked for tea everywhere I went.
In Japan, I travelled to a tea farm in Wazuka (an 800-year-old tea village and the largest matcha producing region in the world) with only the loose directions of: “Follow the road between two forests past a shrine entrance.” In the Canadian Rockies, I hiked to two remote teahouses in the mountains, crossing frozen waterfalls and traversing up glacial trails to reach my version of Heaven – a cabin in the woods serving tea. ‘Synchronici-tea’ is very real in my life, and I will always cherish that.
I opened my first Global Tea Hut package in January 2020 at the intentional community I was living in. My first tea bowl was a shallow palo santo smudge bowl because that’s all I could find in New Mexico! I remember one magical day being snowed in and spending the whole afternoon in my room with music, writing, drinking Ruby Red and staring out my window to the white abyss.
Unknowingly, I was making a lifelong friend.
Forces beyond me landed me a last-minute spot at Wu De’s tea and meditation retreat at Esalen, California in February 2020 (read the full story in Bowls of Soul in Big Sur). Tea finally arrived, just not according to my timing, and it is much better that way. It’s like what Elizabeth Gilbert says:
“The truth is bigger than your plans.”
Nowadays, I live back in Australia by the ocean in Fremantle. My tea space is my sanctuary, where I tend to my inner home. To echo David Whyte, “This is the temple of my adult aloneness and I belong to that aloneness as I belong to my life”. I serve tea to friends and strangers alike in a Sacred Sunday ceremony. Tea has deepened my solitude immensely. I usually read a passage from Rilke (live the questions now) and pull a tarot card as a guide for the day. My favourite tea is during rain.
When I need to make a decision, I think “I’ll tea on it” instead of “I’ll sleep on it”.
I love making tea mood playlists and now mostly listen to instrumental music (my Spotify algorithm can’t quite believe it either). I am slowly learning the art of ikebana (flower arranging). I’m having a go at kintsugi next (hands up if your cat has broken teaware too!). And an exciting part of being home is making new tea friends. I met the ever-wonderful Matthew and Odile, fellow Chajin in Perth, and we have shared tea in Nature many times.
Since the journey of a thousand Internet searches for Tea, I’ve realised that belonging is a longing met.
We were always going to meet.
I have an unshakeable faith in Tea and Tea has unshakeable faith in me. She says:
“We are together. This is all that matters. I’m glad you exist.”
I’d love to share tea with you! Please say hello — the kettle is already boiling…
Originally published in Global Tea Hut: Tea & Tao Magazine, May 2022 issue.