THE JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY AND WHAT
WE CAN LEARN FROM IT
The diverse and ever-changing community at Govinda Valley means that you meet a variety of people, each with their unique experiences to share and lessons to teach. I would like to share one such lesson, learned here from my friend Yadira who recently mentioned to me her morning ‘tea ceremony’. She explained to me that this is her time dedicated to herself every morning, an opportunity to pause, make herself a tea and to cultivate and relish a feeling of peace and wellbeing. Feeling inspired by this idea, so beautiful in its simplicity, I decided to scratch beneath the surface and discover more. For most, the words ‘tea ceremony’ evokes images of the Far East, of lacquered bowls, painted white faces and the rustle of silk kimonos on tatami matting. It is indeed an old Japanese ritual and something seemingly far removed from our daily life, but in reality it is much more relevant than may be expected. Sadō or ‘the way of the tea’ is, at its most simple level, the preparation of tea that is then served with a selection of sweets and enjoyed as a group. However, this tradition is about a lot more than just tea. A deep history and philosophy runs through its core, providing us with ancient and valuable wisdom.
Attention to detail is paramount in this meticulously choreographed ceremony. Bowls must be rotated at specific angles, implements should be wiped and purified with hot water a certain number of times and each movement must be made with the correct hand. As a result, all attention is devoted to the preparation of tea, encouraging a state of complete presence and concentration. This is an exercise in mindfulness, the practice of being fully aware of what we are doing. This helps us to not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by stressful situations, allowing us to deal with them in a more calm and balanced way. Whilst the equipment for a full tea ceremony is a bit hard to come by, there are plenty of opportunities to practise mindfulness in other ways. One useful exercise is ‘mindful walking’, paying close attention to each movement of your body and to your surroundings. What can you hear, smell and feel? Nestled safely away from the busy sounds and sights of the city and with hidden spots and quiet corners, Govinda Valley is the perfect place to explore such thoughts, to listen to birdsong, to smell the flowers and to connect to the present moment.
Savour Each Moment
Another important concept to the tea ceremony is that of ‘ichi-go ichi-e’, which literally translates as ‘one time, one meeting’, an idiom that describes how each and every meeting is unique. Even if the same group of people were to gather again, that particular meeting can never be repeated, and as such it must be treasured. It’s a beautiful idea, and one that is so relevant to life at Govinda Valley. Because people are always coming and going, moments can feel fleeting; you form deep connections to those around you and the next day they are gone. But this doesn’t have to be sad. The transient nature of these relationships means that they are truly cherished, that each moment with your new friends is seized, because who knows when you will see them again? It’s something that I will carry with me throughout my life by recognising the unique beauty of each situation, be it a quiet moment alone or spending time with friends.
Written by: Tim Halliday