Our modern lives are fast-paced, inundated with information, to-dos, appointments, obligations, keeping us in a constant state of stress and fatigue. Filmmaker, Bianca Giaever, crafted a short-film on this experience of overwhelm and how this state of being transforms us from humankind to “humankinda…when you are so busy, you feel as if you are losing your humanity.”
I’ve found that the irony of this race to fit it all in is that it makes me feel as though I have less time. Like who I am gets pinched into the little cracks between one event and the next, between goals and deadlines. Even self-improvement can become a burden of time and energy, those activities eventually boiled down to nuts and bolts, no longer the meaningful endeavor I once set out to do.
In contrast, when I slow down and really become present, I feel the fullness of each minute, feeling it stretch out, noticing everything as though it has warped into slow motion. This happens when I become mindful, when I begin to notice what my ears hear, my eyes see, the feel of my sit bones sinking steadily into my chair. And, when this happens, something shifts. And this slowing down allows new ways of being to surface.
By engaging in mindfulness, we allow ourselves to wake-up to the present moment, and develop a calmer, more contemplative self. Sitting meditation is one way to achieve this, but there are many other practices that allow you to slow-down and experience the fullness of your present experience. One such practice is a Japanese tea ceremony. The Japanese tea ceremony, chanoyu, is a form of Zen meditation that is meant to bring us into the unique, fleeting, present moment. The chanoyu is quite simple in explanation; quite challenging in practice. At its essence, it is about open-hearted, present awareness while engaging in a ritual that many of us have done time and time again with little to no thought – making and drinking tea.
The general tea ceremony is outlined below, in addition to prompts for a '5 senses focus' throughout the tea ceremony. The 5 senses focus encourages full engagement of our sensual nature, shifting our attention from each sense and allowing it to swell up and fill our entire awareness. Focusing on each of the 5 senses assists in staying with the present moment more fully and meaningfully.
5 Senses Tea Meditation
1. Prepare the Tea
Mindfully prepare the tea, staying gently present while heating the water, steeping the tea, and pouring the warm water over the loose-leaf tea leaves or over the tea bag. Once prepared, find a cozy, calm place to sit with your tea.
2. Engage 4 of the 5 Senses
Feel your sit-bones sitting on the floor or chair. Feel your hands wrapped around the warm cup. Allow yourself to scan through your body. Start with your attention in your fingers, then slowly let your awareness move up your forearms, into your elbows, slowly creeping up your arms until you feel into your neck. You can continue this scanning through your body if you desire. If you feel distracted, gently return your focus to your fingers feeling the warmth of the cup.
Gently inhale the aroma of the tea. Notice if the smell is gentle or pungent. Notice if the aroma is cooling or warming. Notice if the aroma stings the nostrils, is sharp, or if it is smooth, resting on the nostrils gently.
Let your eyes gently take in the colors infusing into the tea. If you have loose-leaf tea, notice the texture of the tea leaves. Allow your gaze to take in the colors of your mug, or your hands touching the cup. Let your gaze be gentle, passively taking in all there is to see.
This whole ceremony can be done in silence, so the sound may be that of stillness; perhaps the melodic ticking of a clock or the creak of floorboards in your house. In some cases, playing music may assist in becoming more present, like turning to the music and chanting of Chöying Drolma & Steve Tibbitts to create a deeply reflective space.
Before drinking the tea, offer up appreciation. Take time to remember and give gratitude for each being that went into the making of this tea in front of you, the sacred water, the cherished plant, and the many hands that tended to the tea that is now in front of you.
4. Engage the 5th Sense
Allow the tea to roll over your tongue. Notice the different elements, perhaps bitter, sweet, or floral. Notice how the heat or coolness of your tea affects the flavor. Notice how the flavor shifts on different parts of your tongue.
5. End Ceremony in Gratitude
When you have completed the tea meditation, again return to stillness and gratitude, giving thanks for the present moment, slowly and gently moving out of the cozy space you have created.
Teas to Use
Classic teas used for these types of ceremony are green teas, from the plant Camellia sinensis. Technically, the only teas are those that come from that plant – the green, black, and white teas. Teas with different herbs and spices are actually herbal infusions. However, any of these can be used for the tea ceremony. For a classic tea ceremony, try using ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi Green Tea. For a deeply sensory experience, try ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi Cinnamon Rose, Tulsi Red Masala Chai, or another fragrantly spiced Tulsi flavor.
About the Author
Andrea Rossi, CNTP
Andrea is a food justice activist, feminist, alternative health media producer, community organizer, certified nutrition therapy practitioner, and “moments embosser” (those who make regular moments pop). She was home schooled until high school, of which she attributes her insatiable curiosity, out-of-the-box-approach, and general poor taste in clothes. She loves meeting new people, especially the unapologetic beautiful weirdos, and has decided that her next professional calling is to write a sexual health rock opera, coming to a stage near you. Andrea currently works too many jobs,but they share one common mission: bringing people she knows, and those she still has yet to meet, dignity, joy, and love through food and community.