Japanese Tea Ceremony

Simon Brown

Simon Brown

Every time you sit down to a cup of tea you have the opportunity to live life through your senses for a few minutes. You might ask why, what’s the point?

During the day our head are full of ideas and sometimes these thoughts lead us to feel stressed, anxious, nervous, angry, irritable, sad, lonely or depressed.

Interestingly when we switch out of the thoughts that lead us to emotions we do not enjoy the emotions disappear. So if you are feeling stressed, a few minutes of meditation will result in calm, tranquil, contented feelings.

Fortunately when we come back into our heads and start thinking again we do not go straight back to our stressful patterns of thinking. Often we can continue for some time with more relaxing thoughts – until the next drama arrives!

One way to meditate is to focus entirely on our senses of sight, hearing, taste, feeling and smell. Drinking tea is one way we can engage all of these. Using the drinking of a relaxing herbal tea has a long tradition as a way of finding peace.

The tea ceremony was used in Japan as part of a ritual that helped both the provider and receiver reach a meditative, contemplative state. The process engages our senses in a way that we can become totally absorbed in the sensation of drinking tea. Through drinking tea we can engage our senses of smell and taste. We can get lost in the smells and tastes of the herbs that make up the tea for a while. The tea ceremony used the principles of wabi sabi to make it easier to engage our sight and touch sensations. Unusual, irregular, hand made, unique, fading colours, and textured qualities of the pot and cups help meditate on the visual interest of these items. Rough, uneven, curved, irregular textures make the cup more interesting to hold and feel with our hands.

During the tea ceremony the sound of a gong, bell or two pieces of wood could be used to provide an experience for our ears. Putting all these sensorial experiences together it might be possible to be totally lost in the experience of drinking tea for five or more minutes. During this time, whilst clear of all the distractions of daily life and endless thoughts passing through our minds we might be more open to other insights, revelations and self discoveries. We might find that we emerge from the experience with a new kind of peace, tranquillity and contentment.

You can try it yourself by drinking a cup of your favourite herbal tea. Choose a cup that is interesting to look at and has a texture that would make it engaging to hold.

Begin by relaxing and meditating on your breathing. Start each breath with your mind and let the rest of the breath flow naturally. Feel each breath. This is easiest when you focus on your nose and feel your nose cool with each in breath and warm as you breathe out. Try this for a minute or so.

Pour the tea and look at the way the light reflects off the surface. Watch the way the steam rises. When ready pick up your cup and feel the warmth of the tea. Explore the shape and texture of the cup. Smell the tea and be aware of how you feel as you take in the aroma of the tea. Making sure the tea is not too hot take a sip and keep the tea in your mouth so that you can really taste it and explore the tea with your taste buds. Then swallow. Relax and see if you can feel where the tea has gone. Sometimes it will seem to go up into your sinuses, another time stay in your mouth and throat, you may feel it in your stomach or even drifting down into your abdomen.

Once you have finished relax. Go back to consciously starting each breath and feeling each breath. After a minute be aware of how you are feeling emotionally.

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