Tea Ceremony

Though many people drink tea

If you do not truly know

The Way of Tea

Tea will drink you up

Sen No Rikyu, 1522-1591. Japanese Tea Master.

 

Daoism is a Chinese philosophy going back thousands of years in which one learns to be engaged intensively with life but not being attached to any outcomes. It uses the principles of Wu Wei, of non-striving and being unhurried, and being in tune with oneself.

From this philosophy the tea ceremony emerged. Rather than rushing a cup of tea while watching t.v. or doing paperwork, a tea ceremony is a practice of mindfulness – a meditation. The Chinese character for tea is ‘cha’, which literally translated means the “plant that gives humans a sense of being rooted or balanced” (Towler, 2010).

There are many different kinds of tea ceremonies. Below I will describe how to create a simple tea ceremony in your own home. This is my own variation and there are no hard and fast rules. Find a way that suits you and your beliefs. If you do not have any loose tea or herbs then take the leaves out of a tea bag. If you don’t have a tea strainer then leave them in the bag! If you don’t like tea or herbs then you can use coffee or another beverage of your choice. I had a wonderful experience of mindfulness during a coffee ceremony, so don’t be afraid to try other drinks, it is the intention that you set that is important i.e. ‘I want to experience being in the present moment’.

For further details of the history of tea, tea ceremonies and Daoism I recommend the book Cha Dao: The Way of Tea, Tea as a Way of Life by Solala Towler. It is a wonderful read, I cannot recommend it enough.

20150320_0057finalLeave aside 2 hours when you know that you will not be disturbed. Turn off phones, wifi, radios etc. Before starting spend a few minutes relaxing, shake out any muscle niggles or stuck energy (chi) and take a few deep breaths to the bottom of your belly (dantien). Tidy the area to be used, maybe light some candles or incense,  and wash your hands.

Through the whole process focus on the task in hand, if your mind wanders and you start thinking about what to have for dinner or dusting the shelf you have just seen, bring your thoughts back to what it is you are doing now (expect this to happen many times)!  Be in the present moment as much as you can.

Fill your kettle with water, watching the water as it flows from the tap into the kettle. Switch it on/ light the stove. While it is boiling set out a tray and put on it a tea strainer, a cup, a tea pot, a jug (or cup), and a bowl. Into the bowl place the tea leaves or herbs that you wish to use. Watch the steam rising from the kettle as it boils. Pour the boiling water into the teapot  and carry the tray to where you will be sitting. Get comfy and take a few deep breathes.

Pick up the bowl and look at the leaves, smell them, touch them, enjoy them and be thankful for the person who grew them, the rain and sunshine that fell on them. Place a small amount into the jug or cup and pour over water from the tea pot. Notice how the water interacts with the leaves. Do they change colour or shape? Allow the leaves to infuse for a few minutes and then pour through the strainer into the cup, again noticing how the tea moves, its colour and smell.

Holding the cup in your hand turn it three times. One for you, one for the tea and one for luck. Drink the tea slowly, sipping and enjoying every mouthful. Be aware of the sounds around you as you do this but try not to be distracted by them. If it is noisy accept this, rather than being upset by it. When you have finished your tea (take as much time and drink as many cups as you wish) turn the cup in your hand again three times and place it back on the tray.

Take the tray to the sink and wash up all the items including the tray. Dry them and place them back where they belong. Noticing the shape of them, the colours in the glazes, the sounds they make as they touch each other, the colours of the bubbles in the water etc.

Spend a few moments to ‘return back to your day’ and take a few deep breathes. Thank the tea for the time you have spent with it and the goodness it has given you and go on your way into the rest of the day, trying to keep with you the sense of mindfulness and being in the moment that you had during the ceremony.