Visionary #53: Lera Zujeva

Lera Zujeva is a modern pioneer of tea ceremony, and a bastion of mindfulness and stillness amidst busy urban life. With her own brand With T Lovers, her mission is to transmit peace, presence, love and harmony to others through tea and educate others on the practice. Lera first embarked on her tea journey with Global Tea Hut, and the spirit of the medicine soon soaked in as she went deeper into that world. Here, Lera sheds light on this transformational and healing ritual that has become her life’s work.

Home is inside. It’s a feeling, rather than a place. A feeling of relaxation into something warm, enveloping. A recognition perhaps of something that cannot be put into words. Of complete connection with myself, life, others. This homecoming usually happens when I stop, become still, and really listen. For me Tea is a gateway to Home, as is nature, sauna and cycling. The more I drink tea and deeper I go, the more I understand that everything can be that gateway. Everything”Lera Zujeva

What does mindfulness mean to you? 

Mindfulness is such a big word in the world of wellbeing these days. It is about paying attention to what is happening in each moment, but this is often so misunderstood. What I find is that a lot of it is done from our heads – almost like registering in our minds – I am walking, I am drinking, I am writing. Which is quite dry and not at all fulfilling.

True mindfulness is about how deeply can you be involved in your experience. In what you are doing. With your whole being. How deeply are you involved in the act of drinking tea? How deeply you are involved in feeling sunshine or cold air on your face? Are you really savouring it or just registering it in your mind and then jumping to the next thought that comes along?

If we are able to be deeply involved with the totality of our being in something simple like drinking tea then we can be deeply involved in life itself. If we can say 100% to each moment, engaging all our senses, then we can say 100% to life. To the magic that is always available.

In other words, Mindfulness means LOVE EVERYTHING. With your whole being. Each moment.

When and how did you first become interested in tea?

My mum is a big tea lover. She is a tea aficionado. She is not very mindful with it, drinking tea in silence is difficult for her as she is very restless, but she loves tea and always loved it, and she is up for having tea any time. I am lucky in that! 🙂  So my mum was the one who introduced me to tea, and sent me Chinese green teas from Lithuania to London, even though in London you can find better teas – but I didn’t know about it at the time. And for a long time it was something casual for me – a beverage, something hot and pleasant to drink. 

It changed when I met a woman, who I went to have a professional reading with – and she told me that Tea is an ideal vocation for me. She said other things too, but when she mentioned Tea – something resonated in my heart, as if the heart jumped inside, or some force hit it very hard. At that moment I knew I need to go in the direction of Tea. I did, and never looked back. Tea took me to beautiful places, I met so many amazing tea friends, tea family, it has been an incredible journey. It is also a journey of healing, self discovery and spiritual depth. The Way of Tea has so many layers to it and they are revealed depending on how deep one wants to go with it.

What led you to start sharing your story and create awareness around the practice?

When I initially started with Tea in 2013 – I curated tea walks around London and performed tea tastings and workshops. But I felt there was something else to tea, some deeper layer. I was always interested in spirituality, meditation and enlightenment, so I wanted to connect the two. Typing “Tea Meditation” into google, I found Global Tea Hut community, who have Chadao, The Way of Tea, at its core. I was amazed with the depth of this practice. Tea as Dao. The Way of Tea. That was what I was looking for. Sitting with Tea in this way shifted so much in me in terms of seeing sacred in the mundane, seeing ordinary as sacred, connecting me to the heart, to my own nature. And I wanted to share that with others. 

Why ceremony?

There are so many layers to it! 

  • We sit in tea ceremony to stop. To be still. To create space to listen. To be. To turn our attention inward. Because only when we stop and become still inside, true heart connection happens. In Tea Ceremony we connect to this still silent space more effortlessly. This shift from doing to simply being happens easier. Somehow, when holding a steaming bowl of tea next to our heart, we find it easier to stop and really start listening to something that is emerging within us – whispers of our timeless soul, our heart wisdom, the love and mystery that we are.
  • Tea is a PLANT MEDICINE, that is unique in how it works. The components in tea both give us energy and focus, and relax us at the same time – something that is simply perfect for sitting still and being. By connecting to Tea through the ceremony, by participating with her, she flows to those places in us that need the most attention. Through holding so many tea ceremonies for so many years I have seen so many examples of the miracles of tea, it’s incredible. 
  • Tea Ceremony is an invitation to be aware and show up in a real, honest and authentic way. Each action in the tea ceremony, each movement, each breath is an invitation to ask ourselves – are you here? Are you showing up for this moment? Are you seeing this moment as the precious sacred moment? Are you treating everything as sacred? The ceremony of tea is an opportunity to stop and see the magic in the ordinary.

“Sitting with Tea in this way shifted so much in me in terms of seeing sacred in the mundane, seeing ordinary as sacred, connecting me to the heart, to my own nature. And I wanted to share that with others.”

What excites you the most about With T Lovers and spreading this awareness of tea? 

The ability to connect to others without words through our hearts.

Do you incorporate any other holistic practices into your self care routine? 

My main practices are – eating simple balanced food, moderately exercising (mainly cycling), meditation (which happens throughout the day while I am cycling, while I am waiting in a queue, walking, talking), enough sleep and being in nature… Very simple practices! 

What is your vision and focus for the period ahead? 

I would like to create more collaborations with businesses and individuals who have the same vision as me.

With T Lovers website.