The experience of mindfulness and being present through the ‘Buddhist Tea Ceremony’
A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to attend a tea ceremony at the Temple Nan Tien in Australia (NSW); the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The tea ceremony in Buddhism is a tool to experience the state of being fully present, to take what is given without judgment and also to realize the changing nature of sensations, including feelings, emotions and taste. I experienced a big awakening that I didn’t expect:
We all gathered at a round table with a radiant female monk. First, she placed tea leaves on a small plate, smelling them to fully experience the tea flavour. The plate was then passed around the table so each member of the group could smell the tea. The monk then filled a teapot with the leaves and very mindfully opened a thermos from which she poured water into the pot. While the tea brewed we all closed our eyes, focusing on the breath, being still and present until the tea was ready to drink. Once the tea was poured into little cups and given out to each person one by one, we chanted the mantra of Lady Kwan Yin (the Goddess of Love, Mercy and Compassion) “Om Mani Padme Hum” three times to give thanks and gratitude for what was given to each of us.
We were only allowed to drink the tea in 3 tiny sips. After each sip we would stop, close the eyes, taste the flavour fully and release the arising sensation through the breath. The procedure started again with the next person making the tea; step by step and without rushing. The only difference from the second round on is that each person would pour the tea for the person next to them (clockwise).
At first, I was surprised by how irritated and impatient I felt that everything was done SO slowly. At the same time, I was deeply impressed by the monk doing everything so methodically, with such calm and presence. When it was my turn to brew the tea I started to realise how much I tend to impatiently rush through life. I’m often not present and already with the “next thing” or doing one thing while thinking of another. But also it showed me how often I want to have a few things on the same time, rather than enjoying each little sensation, experience or something I was given or bought for myself on time.
The purpose of each person pouring tea for the next is to be open to what is given (by life) whether we like it or not; to withhold judgment and be open to the experience, not to fight it, but fully dive into it and then let it go. I was also reminded of how often I still want things differently than they actually are, judging them or labelling them with “good/bad, pleasant/unpleasant” rather than just being grateful for what was given, to fully experience as what it is, which then only allows me to fully let it go again and learn from it. During the process, I began to feel a deep connection with each member that was sitting around the table and the beauty that comes from unconditional receiving and sharing the experience together as a group.
Are You aware of:
- How much you rush through your day and think of the past or future? Are you “missing” the experience of living life in the present moment?
- How many times are you not fully present, labelling your own feelings, emotions, or other people and situations as good or bad?
- And through that actually forget to live and experience life at its fullest in the present moment!
Start to experience for yourself in little steps, in your daily life what it means to live more fully. Be present and focused. Learn to unconditionally receive and share with no attachment. Give it a go. It will amaze you and give you a whole new life experience of the “little mundane” things.
- First, begin to FEEL it rather than THINK it. Only observe and surrender, don’t judge. Breathe and let go. “Empty your mind”!
- Take a little more time when you eat. Sit down. Look at your plate: What does it look like? How does it smell? Do you notice any emotions with it or feelings of like/dislike? For the first couple of bites, pause after each one. Close your eyes for a few seconds and feel; how does it taste? Feel how it affects your entire body. What are you thoughts? Only observe, try not to judge what’s arising and let it go through conscious breathing. Surrender to what is arising.
- Become present during your routine workout. Feel your body, feel each movement and sensation. Observe if there is any change occurring; how does it affect you mentally and emotionally? Are you present or still “at work” or already thinking of the “next thing”? Observe without judgment, breathe deeply into your body, and experience any change that may occur.
- Be reminded: THE NATURE OF LIFE IS CHANGE!
- When you feel busy, stressed, or anxious, just stop and sit for a few minutes. Take deep inhalations and exhalations. Feel your body, feel the chair you are sitting on, feel your feet on the ground. Listen to the sounds around you and to your own deep breath. Become fully present and just breathe. Feel where in your body the feelings and anxiety are present. Breathe into it and just observe, do not fight it. Observe how it changes its nature; stay with it, breathe deeply until it becomes a “neutral” sensation.
- In public transport, put your mobile phone aside. Look around you. See who is there with you. How do you feel, your body? Are you in the here and now? Just observe. Is there any labelling of people, your own feelings, the situation? If so, just observe, and let it go again through the breath until your mind becomes “empty” again.
- During little moments throughout your day, the more you can stop yourself and breathe consciously, thereby bringing yourself into the present moment, the more you will be able to experience mindfulness, focus and presence in your daily life. With that more joy, clarity, compassion and connection to your ’inner wisdom’ and others will come into your daily life.
- If you feel the call start to learn a mindfulness technique like Mediation, Yoga, Tai chi or Chi Gong. It will will deepen your understanding and experiences of living a mindful life.
Let me know how it goes and have fun with it!! Give me feedback and feel free to ask questions.
Have a wonderful present and mindful time!
Love and blessings
If you would like to read more about the origin and rituals of the Buddhist Tea Ceremony here are a few resources with slightly different explanations.:
Website of the Nan Tien Temple: