Tea and other common activities as meditation

Treat every moment as your last; it is not preparation for something else.

Shunryu Suzuki

This week, Payton guided the Sangha in a simple tea ceremony practice as we explore how this ancient beverage can create a sacred space in our daily life. 

This quote set the stage for our sitting:

“If asked / the nature of [making tea] / say it’s the sound / of windblown pines / in a painting.”

Sen Sotan, translated by Dennis Hirota, Wind in the Pines

Tea can be a meditation object; just as the breath can be an anchor to our awareness, so too can the process of making and drinking tea. Just focus your concentration toward the tea, and when you find that your mind is wandering, bring it gently back to the tea again, without judgement.

Why tea? Because it lends itself to ritual and is at the same time a mundane activity. It is also a single beverage that exists in the experience of millions of people on this planet. It is perhaps one of the few unifying factors that lies between all countries and cultures. What is making tea? Simple! Heat water, infuse leaves, drink. And yet, when one cares to do so, it is possible to perform those actions with mindfulness, being aware of each step, each motion, fully in the present.

In one sense, tea is no different from any other familiar activity, but it can be used to create something special. After all, sitting is done without mindfulness many times each day, but when we sit to meditate, we tend to do so with a bit of ritual; a bell may be rung, a cushion may be used, or our hands may be placed just so. None of these things are necessary, of course, but they are aids to mindfulness. Such variation helps us remember that we are not performing an everyday activity. When making tea, through the use of particular tools, motions, or setting, one can also cultivate such a variation. Indeed, others have developed these variations into rituals and schools for hundreds of years.

Previous Tea Meditations were offered in 2015 and in 2017. See those posts for more details.