In order to feel at home here and to understand what this Tea House is all about, please see my very first post at http://teatimereflections.blogspot.com/2009/09/heya-tea-mates.html

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

japanese tea ceremony and giving thanks





(Source of picture: http://www.sleepwarrior.com/matcha-green)-tea)

TEA TIME!!

Tea of the day: Aveda's Comforting Tea. What tea would you like to have?

Finally I get to post something!! I was worried that you Tea Mates will desert the Tea House and leave me so lonely when I come by! I have been quite busy and overwhelmed with different things, but now I finally have a week long holiday--a thanksgiving break! It'll be my first time celebrating thanksgiving; last year, I simply went to NYC with some of my international friends and stayed in a hotel for a weekend and we had managed to be there in time for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. This year though, I will be experiencing for the first time a legit American thanksgiving. Me and my brother have been invited to 2 American households in the same day; one for lunch and the other for dinner!!

I need to fulfill the promise I made in my previous post, so I am going to write about the Japanese Tea Ceremony demonstration I saw in the Sacred Space of my university. For those of you who don't know, a sacred space is a place where people of any religion and spirituality or even no religion or spirituality can pray and meditate. Our Sacred Space is part of our university's Spiritual Life Center which coordinates different religious, spiritual, and interfaith programs. I am a member of Multi-Faith Student Connection which meets there in the Sacred Space once a week.

The week in which I had posted my previous post was Spiritual Wellness Week which was organized by our university's Spiritual Life Center. In one of the programs, we had an event called Zen and Japanese Tea Ceremony. Staff and students from the Kaji Aso Studio , which is a Japanese art institute in walking distance from our campus, came to demonstrate a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony and explained some of the philosophies behind it. Now, what I am going to explain below is only a description of what I've seen the way I understood it, please feel free to correct me if you know more about the topic or if you are studying and practicing this yourself (I've heard that it takes years to master the tea ceremony!). I guess that this is indeed a better time to write about the tea ceremony as it is almost thanksgiving and I think that the process of the tea ceremony is in a way a form of giving thanks.

Tea Ceremony embodies the concepts of Zen Buddhism. There are three components to the ceremony: the host, the person who passes the tea to the guest(s), and the guest(s). All of the people sit on the floor and the utensils are wiped and the tea made on the spot. The whole ceremony is a meditative process and is thus done very slowly and with great care, from wiping each and every utensil, to folding the napkins, to pouring and serving the tea, to the guest admiring the artwork of the cup (he may even ask who was the artist) and then to him/her finally drinking the tea and saying: "It's delicious" (those are the only words exchanged, it is a very silent ceremony) everyone including the guest(s) bows. I honestly would've loved to post pictures and videos here but I was worried of disrespecting the people who may not want to have their pictures in a blog for complete strangers to see. I had also forgotten to bring my camera with me to the event anyways (yes, photography wise, I had become much more lazy...what happened to the days when I used to carry my camera everywhere and would even picture the most mundane things to the extent of being annoying to people around me?!).

The tea that is drunk in Japanese tea ceremonies is called matcha (see picture above), which is expensive as it is the youngest leaves from the black tea tree and is freshly hand-picked and then crushed into powder. It is associated with multiple health benefits. Although we unfortunately didn't get the chance to drink the tea, we were told that it is quite bitter. Since the Japanese don't like bitter things too much, they usually have a sweet in their mouth as they drink the matcha tea. I can't remember the particular name of the sweet but it was a kind of crystalized sugar that artists design in a variety of shapes.   


I always found it interesting how most religions emphasize the appreciation of simple things and what's around us. However this is done in different ways. In Zen and other similar religions, the appreciation is done with the immediate objects directly. In Islam it is done with both appreciating the detail of the object while glorifying and thanking Allah since He is seen as the Infinite and the origin and sustainer of each and every process and molecule involved. In the end, whatever you believe in, I say simply be thankful and grateful and try to make every second a meditative process. Happy thanksgiving and Eid mubarak (yes, Eid has coincided with thanksgiving; I love it when different festivities coincide like that!)

From your Tea Mate,
Reema B. :-)





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