In Taoism, human beings come from nature and we must follow nature’s path. In nature there is no preference only balance, yet to maintain balance there is a constant flux of movement, balancing and re-balancing.
It is something that we can embrace with out tea practice in simple ways. For example in Winter we can drink richer, thicker tea such as ripe Puerh, in Spring we can drink more lighter vibrant teas. In Winter we can drink deeper into the evening, in Spring we can drink earlier into the morning.
If we become too formulaic in this, however, we impose a false and restrictive guideline that does not liberate the fullest experience. For example, one day we might use more tea in a brew because we feel that the final outcome will be more pleasing but if we were to repeat it another day we might find the experience is different. The point is that we should follow our intuition and adjust and balance our tea sessions to our tastes and needs. Its no different in regard to gong fu brewing techniques as the nature of the tea changes with subsequent brews we adjust the length of the brew and the water accordingly. It is as simple as that!
The ecological ethics of harmony in nature is an irresistible historical trend in Taoist philosophy ( Ding 2018). The idea of promoting the harmonious development of humans and nature is perpetuated in Taoist thought, however it is more than just nature being a separate entity that we have to learn to live with in harmony, it is that we should embed nature and become it rather than impose upon it.
In regard to Taoist ethics we can embed this idea in our tea practice through making it natural. One of my earliest teachers, a painter, Taoist and master of neigong used to give this simple advice, the more you practice something the more natural it becomes. In fact it is something that the philosopher Martin Heidegger also spoke of in regard to “being” in the world.
When we do something, at first it feels awkward, but with physical repetition we develop our experiential and physical learning, we have to think less about performing it and we make less errors. We develop fluidity and finesse. Hence to bring harmony into our tea practice we just have to practice tea!
Taoism would regard this mastery through practice as the real gong fu or a skill achieved through hard work and practice embracing the true meaning of gong 功(work) and fu 夫(achievement) and not an imposed or overlaid ritualistic structure.
Gong Fu therefore can be achieved in any setting with any implements, it is less about artifact and more about artifice. The technology of gong fu is embedded in the mastery of natural harmony in practicing tea not the implements. The implements will help you master it but once you have mastered they are no longer needed.
There are, dotted around, anecdotal stories of tea masters destroying their teaware, but these are few and far between, perhaps because there are very few true masters of Tea. This shouldn’t dishearten us but encourage us to continue to practice and loosen ourselves from the constraints we impose on enjoying tea, as after all the more we practice the more natural it becomes, embracing Tao and returning to the source , which is no more than nature itself