“Tea is an act complete in its simplicity. When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea. The rest of the world dissolves. There are no worries about the future. No dwelling on past mistakes. Tea is simple: loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup. I inhale the scent, tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating above the cup. I drink the tea, the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me. I am informed by the tea, changed. This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act the truth of the world suddenly becomes revealed: all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretense, invented in our minds for no good purpose. There is only the tea, and me, converging.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
A simple antidote for the busy, multi-tasking, competitive & ambitious in the city.
In my attempts of self-study and observation via various means, with particular emphasis on the subject matter - tea meditation. Having to pick myself up again each time I fall off the mindful bandwagon, I find solace in the words of Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.
''In the zazen posture, your mind and body have, great power to accept things as they are, whether agreeable or disagreeable. In our scriptures (Samyuktagama Sutra, volume 33), it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!
Those who find difficulties in practising Zen will find more meaning in it..” ― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
The Good Horse, Poor Horse and the Bad Horse
Truly, being the bad horse doesn't matter in our search and in practice for peace within, as long as we are consistently in pursuit and in practice, that is the act of zazen itself. In fact, consciousness itself is being aware of each moment, as it is - with no specific identification nor attachment to its meaning of good or bad in our own perspective. I guess, in short, to just, well, let be. Honour each moment as it arrives (always easier said than done naturally!!).
It is in the constant repetitions that one typically achieves growth & find meaning. I must say that through consistent mindful practices - through meditation, sitting in quietness, tea meditation - I do notice a subtle shift, that I have somehow achieved pockets of consciousness over the day, that gives me access (in real time as opposed to the usual post-event realisations - ''I shouldn't have said that!") of consciousness/awareness of my state & cocktail of feelings throughout the whole day. Events that would have previously triggered anxiety within me (hello sales targets!), stress (umm.. management meetings) & sleepless nights : I find myself delivering with crystal clear clarity & mental sharpness, and of late - sometimes with detachment of outcome (probably thus, alleviating stress).
Matt Valentine, the founder of Buddhaimonia, describes the peaceful euphoria we can expect to find, upon realising the beauty, the simplicity of every moment & finding magic in everyday life through the practice of tea meditation.
Note - I am indeed aware that recognizing the magic in each moment can be achieved not only via tea meditation, but given the title of subject, notably, this post puts specific emphasis on achieving mental bliss with tea, and yes, tea meditation.
To not focus on the future and possibilities since it contains many variables, some of which completely beyond one's control is a thought I am constantly working to unlearn, since practices like goal-setting, forecasts, pipelines and targets are vocabularies not unfamiliar to many of us in the corporate world. I don't imagine that it would be very different for you. Then there is also the fine thin line between complacency and being in complete surrender. Here, I do mean to still go all out and slay your dragons and conquer new lands if you will, just well - submit to the outcome as it is. Probably never a definite recipe to the most balanced mix, but in the quest of discovering what it truly means to live our best possible lives, let's keep trying.
The art of living a good life
Buddhist Monk & peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh sums up the art of enjoying the moment, what it means to truly live a good life :
“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea. Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea. You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone. Life is like that. If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone. You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life. It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go. The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it. Worrying is worthless. When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment. Then you will begin to experience joy in life.”
I am sure many other tea purists would argue that such gestures of tea ceremonies to be reserved for real teas (ie with the leaves of camellia sinensis itself), but in the spirit of flexibility and openness I extend the theory & practice to a plethora of daily activities. As I stand in line. In the bus. At a meeting. While baking. I advance the tea ceremony to include herbal infusions, and the occasional coffee (why not?). The point is not the vehicle nor the end itself but the intention & the consciousness of the act itself, and this I suspect, is all it takes to achieve self transcendence (with time & practice, practice, practice). It is not an end itself, but a path, an experience, an on-going road. A final note on achieving enlightenment:
There are endless permutations to the practice of mindfulness.It is not just limited to tea meditations.
In conversations, just be present. No need to think or strategise what you would need to say next, enjoy the moment that you are currently sharing with the other. Realise that there will never be another such moment (notably, this is hard for me, since I am constantly thinking what to say or do next, or, worst still, what's for lunch/dinner?).
I guess to understand mindfulness, we need to practice it. I wish you joy in every moment & in every adventure.
Now.. back to that little afternoon tea...