Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Canadian Japanese Tea Ceremony

I am teaching myself Japanese Tea Ceremony.

There are very few people to teach Japanese Tea Ceremony here in Canada. It is a very formal cultural practise among the Japanese as an aesthetic. It is very exclusive. So what's the problem?  I have the teacher - videos, You Tube and lots of books for reference. I have authentic tea ware. I am practising a Canadian form of Japanese Tea Ceremony. There is a mystery around this Japanese Tea Ceremony and there shouldn't be.

The Japanese tea ceremony is very ancient. According to reading material, the tea ceremony was developed at a time of strict rules of behavior during a time of military rule. The Shoguns were the warrior class. Its hard to relate to different social classes here in Canada as we are homogeneous, except for the very wealthy and the very impoverished. Perhaps we do have a Warrior class - our Military Service people, our boxers and fighters, sport competitors such as soccer, baseball, football and any activity that takes place in an arena and where there are active participants who take a position and observers (an audience). Sorry, the Anthropology background leads sometimes. Zen monks used the ceremony to provide discipline and order to everyday life. They were the original growers of tea in Japan and brought the plants over from China. Tea provided health benefits and alertness for the mind during long meditations. Soon it became a popular drink among all classes. Tea continues to have formal ceremony behind it for special occasions. When something is special, we want to take a moment to appreciate it.

We need tea ceremony more and more to counter a stressful life and to teach rules of behavior and proper conduct. Ritual provides teaching in Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a concept of watching your mind and returning to a natural state. It is taught in hospitals to help manage pain, depression and mental burnout. When you become aware of  thoughts, sensations and emotions and recognize them as phenomena of the mind, techniques can be applied to move past these challenges and behaviors. A tea ceremony helps to silence the mind through focus on what is happening in the here and now. The tea ceremony becomes a container for the mind. Drinking tea helps to wake up the mind and to provide alertness. Put the ritual and the tea together in one ceremony and you can have an enlightening experience, being both relaxed and alert. Just like a meditation.  So, when you sit and take tea, remember to reach for the noisy mental parts of yourself and offer them up for the tea to heal, to quieten the mind and to dissolve your thoughts into nothingness

In an age where there is attention deficit disorders among adults, a tea ceremony is something you work with your mind to focus on. You relax, you empty your mind of distractions. You don't know what's going to happen next. But if you do, you relax into that moment, moment by moment. Allow the nothingness to be there. Allow yourself to be aware of the nothingness and remain in that state while the tea ceremony activity continues. More of this later.

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