Legend has it that the very first origins of tea can be traced back to China during the days of Emperor Shennong over 4 millennia ago. Since then, it has been used for medicine, leisure, religion, and is now considered the national drink of China. One of the many reasons for its diverse usage and acceptance is without a doubt the ease in which one may enjoy a cup of tea. Another may be less obvious and more mystically inclined - the spirit of Tea.
To This day, high-quality tea is served as a welcoming gift to visiting political royals by the Chinese government.
Since its discovery, for one reason or the other, tea has been a rather cherished and prized commodity. But perhaps tea has been most cherished by the Zen Buddhist monks who first realized the deeper essence of the tea leaf. Not only did drinking caffeinated tea aid with long hours of meditation, but it also aided with relaxing the mind when overexcited by distracting thoughts. The powerful aroma and simple decadence gave immediate pleasure to the senses. Plus, for one who practices a life of mindfulness, the tea became a perfect partner along the journey for understanding the deeper meaning of life. In this way, the connection between meditation and tea was made.
The process of tea ceremony demanded as much respect and attention as any other part of a spiritual practice. The teahouse was constructed in nature around flowers and organic rock patterns. Beautiful paintings and natural artifacts and tools were used to enhance aesthetic. Utmost importance was placed on the guests in ceremonies of 2 or more people. The Yin-Yang philosophy was always maintained. Mindfulness was key. The space was a temple.
The Zen practices around tea put in place hundreds of years ago is still practiced today.
Though the time has changed, the tea has not. Everyone still has at their disposal the "spirit" of tea utilized and discovered by the Zen monks of China and Japan. Everyone has the choice to enjoy a cup of tea mindfully, with the full presence in the moment. The next time you find yourself doing so, sip your tea with closed eyes, a calm mind, and an immovable presence. Enjoy the timelessness of tea; a once-in-a-lifetime experience.