— Sen no Rikyu
The Connection Between Tea and Meditation
When we speak of tea and meditation, the two words are almost inseparable. Many centuries ago when tea culture was being spread in the far east, it was not uncommon for Buddhist monks in Tibet to drink large quantities of pu-erh, and Zen monks in Japan to do the same with matcha in order to stay awake during long meditation hours. The small amounts of caffeine in the tea would provide just the right amounts of energy and tranquility.
Chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony, is inseparable from Zen meditation as it was greatly influenced by the Zen Buddhist monk Sen no Rikyu. He put emphasis on the concept of “ichigo ichie”, meaning “one time, one meeting”. This means that the current moment is fleeting and will never happen again. With this in mind, we are able to appreciate the beauty and impermanence of most experiences.
To learn more about the Japanese tea ceremony check out or article Simplicity and Seasonality in Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Following the teachings which were once laid out by Sen no Rikyu, nowadays there exist many different tea schools in Japan where you can learn the proper way of brewing tea while at the same time practicing mindfulness and meditation.
These schools, however, often times have a strict and precise form of conduct. Not all of us are able to follow all the rules, and not all of us have the ability to study under a tea master.
This does not mean that we cannot practice mindfulness and tea meditation at our own pace in our homes.
The meditation is simple, and everyone can practice as long as they wish.
Steps to Mindfully Practicing Tea Meditation
Preparing the tea. Remember, everything should be done with complete mindfulness. Mindfulness means living each moment as if it is the last.
It is good to clear your mind before starting the tea meditation. So, in reality, the tea meditation begins before we even pick up the tea leaves, before we boil the tea kettle.
Clearing your mind is important so while you’re enjoying the tea you are not thinking of anything that may be bothering you or things you have to take care of during the day. You are dedicating a time only for yourself and the tea, and at this moment nothing else matters.
It is important to pick a quality loose leaf tea which is pure and fresh. When boiling the water, make sure it is not contaminated, preferably filtered or bottled.
Find a space to enjoy your tea. This could be any space, but dedicating it to the experience is essential. Many like to do their tea mediation in the same spot every time as with time it gets enriched with the energy of the meditation.For this same reason in Japan, small tea huts were dedicated precisely for the enjoyment of tea. These spaces were by no means big.
Before the tea huts were entered, the guests would prepare themselves by taking off their shoes, washing their hands, and leaving all “outside” thoughts behind. Nothing else would go on in the tea huts except for the pure enjoyment of tea and the company of your guests.
Take time to appreciate the tea. Connect with it. Imagine where it came from. Is it an oolong from Taiwan’s foggy mountain peaks? A pu-erh which has been patiently waiting in Yunnan’s soil for this moment over the past decade? Maybe a gyokuro from one of Fukuoka’s vibrant green tea gardens? Take time to acknowledge the steps that tea took to get to you. The work that went into the growth and the processing, as well as all the people involved. Don’t forget to acknowledge your own hard work for allowing you to be where you are now, enjoying this cup of tea. Give thanks.
Drinking the tea. This might be seen as the moment of culmination, but it does not exist without all the other steps you take. Without mindfulness how many subtle scents and tastes get unnoticed? The tea has a lot to offer.
Be aware of your movements, your thoughts, the ways that you feel. Acknowledge it and let it go. Each moment is fleeting.
Even if you follow the same steps to re-brewing this same tea tomorrow, it will never be the same. Appreciate this moment of drinking tea as if it is the only one you get.
Tea meditation is simple and requires no prior knowledge of meditation practices. All you need is your desire to be in the present moment.
The meditation can be practiced for as little or as long as you want, any time of the day. It is really all up to you!
There is a tendency amongst people to get up in the morning feeling rushed to get somewhere. Why not try getting up a little earlier and dedicating the time for this simple tea meditation?
The Benefits of Tea Mediation
Tea meditation has been practiced for many centuries and has many benefits for our well-being. Some of these benefits are:
- stress reduction
- drinking tea regularly contributes to proper hydration, improves focus and concentration and helps to maintain a positive mood throughout the day (you can read our article on the health benefits of tea)
- feeling of inner peace
- the practice of gratitude which in itself brings happiness
- the ability to be and enjoy the present moment
- if you are practicing with friends or family, it brings a deeper connection to the people around you
Drink tea and be happy!
The steps listed are only suggestions on how you can practice your tea meditation. Everyone has their own preferences and habits when it comes to meditation. Is there any particular way in which you practice your tea meditation? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.
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