Nitsa: Describe yourself in three words.
Colin: Kind, Reverential, Free.
N: How did you land up in this here, now? (Here meaning wherever you are physically / energetically / spiritually...Telluride etc)
C: I landed here by refusing to accept a conditioned existence that didn’t feel aligned with my values, instincts and inner knowing. I read a beautiful passage by Krishnamurti long ago: “It is no measure of a man’s health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian because it seemed to me that the way humans live is often backwards. I suppose I’ve spent my life seeking and exploring means of achieving true health, which means leaving no aspect of the Self behind. I’ve sought to share what I’ve learned with others. Freedom is a high value for me, and thus I have an acute sense of the line between oppression and spaciousness. In seeking open spaces and deep chasms, I received influences that have guided my decisions. Because everything is connected and everything matters, we are always being guided, and we can awaken to forces that can show the way. This is the highest offering of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Way of Tea. Acupuncture needles unblock stagnation, a moment of stillness with the Leaf can illuminate and break through obstacles in one’s life, the right word offered in compassion can liberate another from their limiting beliefs. I live high in the mountains in a tiny town surrounded by peaks and spires, alpine lakes, waterfalls, and Aspen groves. I got here by focusing on the circumstances, energies, and environments where I feel most alive and continuously returning to the aim of aligning myself with these elements. Telluride is a place that feels home more than anywhere I’ve ever been, so I decided to stay. I like it here.
N: Why Tea?
C: The answer to the question “why tea” requires far more than the scope of this little response. I’m currently writing a short book answering this exact question. Tea has been the foundational source for everything meaningful, beautiful, deep and connected in my life. It is my foundation physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. It is the means by which I commune with the trees, the weather and seasons, stars and wind, water and fire, function and form, the depth of my Being and the essential in other humans. The Leaf has given me a way to serve others as a practice. It’s my Way, the guiding light in my life, the path of Nature, the path of Wisdom, and the essence of Taoist and Buddhist teachings. Tea is everything for me.
N: What do you love about TCM / acupuncture?
C: I love TCM because it’s a fully developed model of medicine that has been refined for thousands of years. Chinese Medicine can profoundly improve one’s health on all levels, addressing existing pathological conditions and states, preventing impending health concerns and also helping us to achieve higher levels of health than we access through normal existence. I also love that Chinese Medicine encompasses a way of life that touches on all aspects of human existence. For example, we explore movement and meditation through Taichi, Qi Gong, and Nei Dan, wellness and the treatment of disease through dietetics, herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping, and understanding the principles of nature through Taoist thought. I love acupuncture because I’ve personally experienced the profound healing power of treatments, and there are minimal side-effects. It is very safe medicine that follows the edict to do no harm.
N: In your seasonal tea club - you emphasize the importance of harmonizing with the seasons.... as we transition into spring - I would love to know what has been your greatest lesson this winter?
C: During the Fall, I had a lot to let go of- attachments, beliefs, ideas about the trajectory of my life. Just as the trees shed their leaves, I had to put down these aspects of my inner reality, which of course affected my outer reality. As I moved into winter, the season of water, I looked into the deep oceans of my inner life and confronted my fears of the unknown. This process was a direct byproduct of the letting go that happened in the Autumn. What I’m learning is that on the other side of fear is wisdom. I suppose one aspect of that wisdom is the lesson that life is too short not to follow our joy and listen to our hearts. It may sound trite, but it’s really difficult to follow our intuition and trust it. On some level, we always know what’s best for us, if we can just listen. My decision to move recently, late in the winter, was a decision that came out of my sitting in my fear and seeing what I really wanted. I may have acted a bit early, but spring is the time to take the wisdom that comes out of winter and take action on it.
(Photo: Living Tea)
N: Do you have any special intentions or visions for Spring?
C: Yes, but they’re secret. There are some big visions coming to fruition with Living Tea. I’ll be travelling in Taiwan and China. I’ll also be doing acupuncture and hosting tea ceremonies in Italy and Malta, as well as my weekly sits in Telluride. I’m excited to wild-harvest herbs in the mountains around me, to work with patients, and to start growing Chinese herbs and food in my backyard. I’m also just looking forward to exploring the incredible nature where I live.
N: If you were a season what would you be?
C: I really love all four seasons equally. The desire for four seasons strongly informed my decision to move back from Southern California to Colorado.
N: If you were a tea what would you be?
C: Like the seasons or good music, there are things I love about all classes or genres of tea, but if I had to choose, I really love old cakes of Sheng Puerh. There’s nothing (in the world) like good aged Sheng.
N: Can you share an ecstatic tea moment with us?
C: Every morning is an ecstatic tea moment for me. There is, however, a certain indescribable magic that happens when people come together and drop-in together over a beautiful tea. Everything becomes illuminated and glimmers, the senses sharpen, the moment opens, we feel our connectedness and the sacredness of Life. These moments make life extraordinary. They are healing, and remind us why we are here. In these moments, it seems like the trees are showing us the way home to ourselves, together.
N: What drives your work - as a healer / tea lover and human being?
C: Love and Service. Helping others, sharing tea and teachings, offering the gift of Chinese Medicine- these are my greatest joys and the means through which I find meaning in my life. I think in order for any of us to be truly happy, those around us must also be happy. We all have to take care of ourselves so that we have the energy and perspective to pick one another up.
N: Top 3 Sun Potion herbs?
N: Any vices?
C: If it’s snowing, all I think about is skiing. It can distract me from focusing on other things. I also love to cook Burmese food and probably eat more than I need to.
N: Can you (please) share a childhood memory that stands out for you/ has shaped who you are today?
C: I spent a lot of time in nature in the mountains of Colorado, and also in the forests and waterways of Nova Scotia, Canada. Spending so much time in nature left a very strong impression on me. I feel that Nature is everything, the source, path, and truth of who we are and how we are meant to live. I don’t know that I can pinpoint a specific memory. Perhaps there are too many.
N: If you were to treat yourself - as an acupuncturist / practitioner of TCM - what would you prescribe / recommend for your health?
C: Hmmmm….. this is a tricky question because my health regime is quite nuanced at this point. I’d say, “keep doing what you’re doing.” I always come back to the Five Vitalities when I’m feeling imbalanced or faltering: good sleep, organic seasonal diet (near vegan), daily meditation and prayer, daily movement, tea (ritual).
N: What challenges you - any areas which highlight your vulnerability, growth potential, or which force you out of your comfort zone?
C: I’ve had tendencies towards avoidance when I disagree with someone or don’t like the way they’re doing something. I shy away from confrontation and conflict. I’ve worked a lot on these “issues” and feel that I’ve made a lot of progress in communicating more directly and vulnerably. We develop patterns in childhood that eventually must be addressed and reworked as we grow. Tea has helped with vulnerable communication because the Leaf creates a loving, authentic environment where it’s easy to drop our guards, our armor, and our protective mechanisms. This way of communicating is at the heart of healing, kind of like the peace pipe used by Native Americans.
N: If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
C: Humans would transcend their avaricious desire for power and egoic, self-serving insanity. We would care for mother earth, and realize that Gaia has given us everything without asking for anything in return. I wish we could learn this kind of unconditional love.
N: Last meal on earth?
C: Burmese, including a tea leaf salad, of course.
N: What is most exciting in your life right now?!
C: Everything is exciting right now. I moved to the place I’ve wanted to live for twenty years. I’m going deeper into apprenticeship and practice of Chinese Medicine with an amazing teacher. My vision for Living Tea is coming to fruition. I’m surrounded by extraordinary humans. It just keeps snowing in Telluride, which has meant unbelievable skiing, both on the front of the mountain and in the backcountry. I feel strong and healthy. I’m in a very exciting and wonderful moment. I feel very blessed and grateful.
N: What do you wish someone always asked you in an interview? Anything unexpected? (and please answer!)
C: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?