Finding Peace in the City
This month our That Girl is the sweet and soulful Resham Daswani, founder of Spiral Spaces, a community platform in Hong Kong for mindfulness and meditation. After a few years working in our crazy, hectic city, Resham decided to leave in search of a more spiritual path. Her time in Taiwan with a Tea Meditation or ‘Cha Dao’ master changed everything, and she came back to Hong Kong with a desire to bring a little more mindfulness to the corporate city!
Born and raised in HK, we chat to Resham about her favourite spots in the city, what Tea Meditation entails and how we can add a sense of mindfulness into our everyday, busy lives.
Tell us about your background and where you’re from.
My parents are from a small city called Pune in India, but my sister and I were both born and raised here. I was brought up on traditional Hindu beliefs, but over the years have implemented practises of Buddhism as well.
As an ESF kid, I am very grateful to have experienced such a melting pot of cultures while growing up. I call Hong Kong home and spend time in India every chance I get, but I’ll always feel like a mesh of places, people and travels. After my secondary education at West Island School I spent four years in London, where I obtained my BA degree in Surface Textiles and Womenswear Design from the London College of Fashion.
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I have always lived in Mid-Levels. It’s super convenient and the biggest perk is that the Peak Trail is a mere 15-minute walk away! It’s great for morning strolls and immersing yourself in nature. My home is filled with books, paintings, art supplies and of course, Tea. I have a small altar and keep a space in my room strictly for meditation. I like to move things around – often! I believe we are always changing and growing, and our surroundings should follow that. Usually when I come back from a trip, everything gets flipped 180 degrees to reflect new energies and inspirations. I highly recommend the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, it initially helped me create more space and flow in my life.
How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
It has definitely changed from all-black-everything and skinny jeans to flowy kaftans and pieces that are comfortable to wear during my Tea Meditation Sessions – and to deal with HK’s humidity!
My fashion education highlighted the details of ethical trade, cumulative wastage and the alarming lack of transparency in the industry. Now, I really try and only wear clothing that comes from environmentally conscious fashion businesses. I highly applaud causes in Hong Kong like Redress, that promotes sustainability through education, and campaigns such as “Who Made Your Clothes” by Fashion Revolution that began a few years ago to get the consumer involved in the conversation too.
One of my favourite quotes to live by is a Native American proverb:
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I love wandering around the old markets on Hollywood road, and discovering hidden stores selling trinkets or amazing incense that I can use for my Chaxi (“Tea-stage”).
I get most of my day-to-day clothes from sustainably-driven designers in India. The colours, detail and craftsmanship are vibrant, rich and natural. It also creates a connection of wearing designs derived from my own heritage whilst living here in Hong Kong. My favourites are Khara Kapas, Grassroots by Anita Dongre, the hand embroidery by the tribal women at Okhai, and a line that my friend from L.C.F started called Ka.Sha.
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
Honestly, I’m super lazy when it comes to a beauty regimen and don’t do much at all. If I do, I tend to make use of home remedies rather than commercial cosmetics. Some of my favourites are Apple Cider Vinegar or mashed up avocado with olive oil – great for your skin and hair!
My sister introduced me to the salon Jean Louis David in Central, and it really was love at first sight. I have tried hundreds of hairdressers in Hong Kong but now I only let Herbert cut my hair. Then, at home, I shampoo with John Masters Organics – the smell is incredible!
When I need to get my nails done, I go to Lavande on Bonham Road. They use vegan and natural nail polishes such as SPARITUAL and Zoya. Look out for Maggie and Venus – these ladies are truly masters of their craft!
What are your favourite restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
I have been a vegetarian since I was 13 years old, but recently turned vegan. I was quite surprised by how big the difference was in terms of options for eating out. I have always been a big fan of the many Buddhist Restaurants in Hong Kong, and one of my favourites is Po Lin Yuen Vegetarian Food on Queens Road West. I am constantly on the lookout for more places but I feel that the difficulty lies in the lack of detailed labelling on menus.
Since turning vegan, I’ve started cooking A LOT, which has been great! Indian food is very vegan-friendly and filled with natural herbs and spices. Citysuper and Just Green are my go-to stores and I’ve even begun hosting all-vegan dinner parties to get my friends better informed too!
Read more about Health Food Stores in Hong Kong here.
I haven’t had a drink in nearly a year to focus more seriously on my meditation practice, but I’ve always enjoyed a glass of vino along with the live music at Lobster Bar.
Describe your perfect weekend in Hong Kong.
My mornings would start with a Tea Meditation, usually followed by a breakfast smoothie-bowl of fruits, nuts and chia seeds. I would then go hiking in Sai Kung for a couple of hours, with some yoga and a book on the beach, followed by a home-cooked meal and an episode of Cosmos in my jammies.
What’s your favourite place in Hong Kong? Are there any peaceful places in Hong Kong that you recommend?
Hong Kong’s greatest quality is that you can get lost in the wilderness almost effortlessly. I love hiking, as you can see from my Instagram – so any trail on any mountain is the most peaceful place for me. One of my favourite hikes is the Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls, and when the season is right you can even go for a dip in the incredible rockpools – Mother Nature at her best!
Read more about Hong Kong Waterfall Hikes here.
Tell us about your career and how you discovered Tea Meditation/Cha Dao.
After working in HK for a few years, I was feeling rather burnt out. The stress was a signal to start cultivating a more spiritual path, and I decided to travel to Taiwan to live with and learn from a Zen Buddhist monk and Tea Master. My time spent there allowed me to turn a new leaf, quite literally. I was able to simply surrender to the Dao, the Universe, and in turn it was nothing less than an awakening and rebirth.
The experience changed my life, and I returned to Hong Kong with a dedication to promote an awakening of harmony through Tea. I met Stephanie Luo from Luxe Nova Life and Judy Xu from Balance Health, and now serve weekly ‘Cha Dao’ Tea Meditation Ceremonies at both centres so others too can explore and discover the sacred benefits of the Leaf.
What is it that drew you to Tea Meditation over other forms of meditation and what does it involve?
I started doing yoga and basic meditation when I was 16. Having spent time with a number of gurus and teachers, it wasn’t until I found the practice of Cha Dao that I felt truly connected to a lineage I could call my own. My first Tea Ceremony was transformative. I have always felt a deep reverence for nature, and connecting with this plant through meditation renewed my body, mind and spirit in a way I had never experienced before.
Tea was born for the purpose of meditation, and a Tea Ceremony is a dance of the elements. Leaves are awakened by hot water and a space of mindfulness takes place. The sessions are normally held in noble silence and although each experience is unique, there is an alchemy that occurs between the Tea and the individual, which is deeply moving. Every sip becomes a journey that begins from the outside, and leads towards a shift in consciousness on the inside. You will have to attend a Tea Ceremony to experience what you discover next…
Why do you think it is important for people to meditate, especially in Hong Kong?
The stats from the Hong Kong Health Council have shown that at least 60% of the Hong Kong workforce feels ‘highly stressed’ from their jobs and 25% show levels of depression and anxiety – this is an alarming 250% higher than the global average!
“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had,”
says Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. This notion is echoed by Oprah, Steve Jobs, Tony Schwartz and several other top CEOs who strongly believe that the benefits of meditation expand beyond just good health.
Mindfulness sessions are great for companies to introduce to reduce employee stress and heighten their emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Mindfulness also lowers blood pressure and increases the capacity to healthily manage workload and anxiety – something a city like Hong Kong definitely needs. I recently served a ‘Mindful Tea Session’ at an Investment Bank, and was delighted by the feedback of how relaxed, clear-headed and grounded everyone felt after a short 45-minute session.
Any tips on how to incorporate a sense of mindfulness into our everyday, busy lives?
You can practice mindfulness in anything you do, whether it’s brushing your teeth, walking down the street or making a cup of Tea. It’s simply about paying complete and full attention to the present moment – the NOW. No multi-tasking, no super-gadget juggling acts, no thoughts of the past or future.
The easiest way is to follow your breath and heartbeat. Spend one minute in complete acknowledgement of your natural breath – be aware of each inhale, as the oxygen flows in, and each exhale as the carbon dioxide flows out. After about 30 seconds, close your eyes, continue to stay on the breath and begin to listen to your heartbeat too. Start with a minute and build up from there, I guarantee you’ll begin to feel the changes. It’s that simple!
If you prepare and drink Tea or Coffee during the day then read my 8 easy steps to a mindful tea ritual here.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
To me, Mindfulness is about knowing yourself – being at one with the truth and clarity of who you are. When you are mindful, you are completely aware of what is happening in the present, you experience it fully, and you do so without judgment or expecting it to be like something else. This freedom from our usual ‘autopilot’ mode allows us to detach from worrying, and we can then begin to change our relationship with our experiences. The chatter of thoughts settle and our mind feels at peace, allowing us to navigate life with the greatest clarity.
Are there any other areas of wellness that you practice regularly or want to explore further?
Recently I have been keen to explore the practice of Kundalini Yoga and Pranic Healing. Let’s see how it goes!
What is your favourite type of tea and any recommendations on where to get great quality tea in HK?
I drink a lot of aged Puerh Tea, and at times Red Tea. Puerh Tea helps me connect to my deeper meditations and reflections, and I love the earthy taste. All of the Tea I use for meditations is Living Tea that I have brought over from Taiwan. Living Tea means that it is organic, has room to grow, and comes from bio-diverse forests with seed propagation and a proper relationship with those who tend the trees. You can subscribe to Global Tea Hut for a monthly tea magazine that arrives with a sample of Living Tea.
In Hong Kong you can find a lot of consumer-driven processed Tea, although there are some great little tea stores in Sheung Wan, where you can purchase loose-leaf tea by the weight. I suggest sampling a few and seeing what type of Tea feels best to you.
One of my favourite White Teas is from Les Jardins des Gaia called With the Angels. It’s a beautiful, light, mildly floral tea with so much energy. I love sharing this one with friends!
What are your hopes and future plans for Spiral Spaces, your community platform for Tea Meditation?
Spiral Spaces is my platform for Conscious Evolution. I hope to make the concepts of Mindfulness and Meditation more second-nature in Hong Kong, and help change the general mindset that these benefits can only be achieved by travelling to an exotic retreat or that it’s only suited for yogi sitting in a cave for a 100 years somewhere in India!
My main goal for the year is to bring ‘Mindful Tea Sessions’ into corporate Hong Kong, where people can de-stress, unwind and embrace these powerful techniques in everyday life. The people of Hong Kong know the importance of working out our bodies, I would now like to guide them to also start working out the mind!
The positive is that Tea is already ingrained in Hong Kong’s culture, now it’s about learning to harness simple techniques and daily routines to enrich and empower the individual. Mindful Tea Sessions is one very creative way of cultivating a healthy and stress-free working environment while bringing wellness into the Hong Kong office culture – changing that water cooler conversation.
A Tea ceremony is for everyone can be had in many ways, for deep reflection or to celebrate a special occasion. From birthdays, new and full moons, wedding and baby showers, a gathering for mummies or just because. For private sessions please contact Resham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor
For all the beauty, clothes and jewellery in this gorgeous shoot, see below: