How is it possible for a cup of tea to transform you?
A wise question and indeed, a big claim. So here is a very simplified introduction to the ‘how’.
I would just like to add that this is my own interpretation of the science and it is ongoing research. Please don’t quote me on it but I hope you enjoy my theory :)
It is now believed that preverbal memories are found to be stored in the right hemisphere, as it is only once language skills develop and thus our ‘thinking’ that the left hemisphere really gets involved, using its gifts of language, logic and focus to compartmentalise our experiences.
It is the right hemisphere that has the broader attention, it ‘experiences’ the world outside of ourselves, bringing concepts, dreams, imagery and somatic sensations into our consciousness. But it then needs to ‘unpack’ these experiences, describing them, giving them structure and context and this is the job of the left hemisphere, who goes on to log things, name them, sort them and provide the human control over the world coming in.
It is the right and only the right that is in ‘direct contact with the embodied lived world’. The right hemisphere is what makes life bright, it deals with our passions, our humour, our intuition, because once the left hemisphere banks these experiences, it effectively ‘denatures’ them.
But the left hemisphere is competitive and its prime motivation is POWER. Once it thinks it has primacy, it is putting the cart before the horse. The world of experience becomes mechanical, disconnected, disembodied, there is an overconfidence on its take on reality….sound familiar?! And therein lies the problem with the modern world thinking.
It is important to say that the simultaneous workings of both hemispheres is ESSENTIAL to us experiencing our internal and external world in a balanced and healthy way. One hemisphere isn’t better than the other. But we have become a culture so 'in our heads’ and so individualised, that the left hemisphere has taken charge, silencing the input of the right and this is having grave effects on our mental health and in fact, our actions within the world we live.
As it is the right that brings in new information, through our visualisations, our dreams, our intuition, our ‘unconscious’, it promotes flexibility of thought, a route to revising our understanding of things. Whereas the left likes that which is predictable, it likes to deal in what is known, but then it easily get stuck in a particular approach or way of thinking.
So back to the tea and the sacred tea journey.
My understanding is that ideally for healthy functioning, we should ‘experience’ everything initially through our right, bringing in information from the wider world and then unpack it with our left, relating it to ourselves, choosing how we thing about things, our course of action etc.
This means experiencing before verbalising the experience. This is the best way to correct or alter our thinking, its the way we embody ‘revelation’, ‘moments of clarity’, we are pulling something from our unconscious into our conscious awareness.
Great quality tea has been shown to carry higher levels of L-theanine, an amino-acid pretty much unique to the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. It can cross the blood brain barrier and promote serotonin and dopamine production. Put simply, dopamine feeds the left hemisphere and serotonin the right, so regular drinking of these quality teas effectively balances your brain chemistry, activating both hemispheres simultaneously.
Now put yourself in a calm space and imagine experiencing a guided visual journey, having activated your hemispheres by drinking the tea. Because it is promoting imagery, the information will hit the right hemisphere first. You are ‘forcing’ a felt experience through your right hemisphere, getting you out of your head and thus your conscious thoughts and connecting you to the bigger broader world where your unconscious evolves.
You are planting healthy ‘seeds’ into the right hemisphere so that when you unpack it afterwards (through journaling or verbalising your experiences) there is a subtle change in the way the left hemisphere thinks of it, because it has come through the right hemisphere first- you have put the horse before the cart. You are effectively re-patterning your thoughts.
So it is all fair and well for me to put this into words, but my suggestion would be to come and experience one of these journeys for yourself and acquire an amazing practice for a healthier life :)
I would like to thank my teacher Paul Francis for clarifying certain parts of this for me in his explanation for how shamanic journeying works.
For those interested in more detail about the hemispheres, the Natural Intelligence parts 1,2,3 of my blog cover a very basic overview.
This is a massive and complicated topic so for a better understanding I recommend The master and his emissary; The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World Iain McGilchrist