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In praise of ZEN: Japanese tea ceremony

The holiday season is upon us, it is exciting but also can cause a lot of anxiety.  So many events to go to, so many gifts to buy...oops, I have not made my holiday cards! 

I am usually a calm person but being a busy person in a busy city like New York, sometimes I need to work on my mindfulness.  Anyone can fall into this unsettling space, Zayn Malik made a headline this year admitting that he has suffered from anxiety.  It is a complex issue and very personal, but I wanted to share my recent ZEN experience. 

Japanese tea ceremony zen experience

Sometimes it’s as important to stop and reflect as to move forward.  I went to a Japanese ceremony this week that was taught by my dear friend.  (I have tried this ancient ritual a few times in Japan but I am not qualified to teach anyone! If you are interested, read on here or get in touch with your local organisation.  Here is the link to Ura-senke New York.)

Kimono on tea ceremony teacher
I had a nice welcome by my friend Yuka in a beautiful kimono. 

Japanese tea ceremony cups and tools

The tools are simply stunning. Japanese confectionary offered often reflects the season. This time was autumn leaf. I‎t is mainly made from beans and sugar, yes pretty sweet! You make your mouth sweet before drinking yummy bitter green tea. The tea cup is usually different per guest and it’s very important to admire its beauty. The Japanese philosophy of ‘Ichi-go ichi-e’(lit. "one time, one meeting") makes you appreciate this precious moment that may not ever happen again. 

Japanese sweets autumn theme

 I‎t was not only about drinking green matcha full of antioxidants in breathtakingly beautiful cups, but more about leaning to humble yourself, clean your mind, respect others, which will lead to inner calmness.

Japanese tea ceremony philosophy

Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku – “harmony, respect, purity, tranquility.”

My new life goal

 

This art has been around over centuries and many famous samurai warriors were dedicated pupils, too. Everyone was asked to leave swords and status behind before entering the tea house. I‎ bet these brave warriors carried a lot of stress and tea ceremony must have been essential to balance life. As an entrepreneur living in New York, I feel like a samurai warrior sometimes! No wonder I really enjoyed this calm session. 

Having lived outside of Japan so long, it was such a precious experience to remind myself the culture I was raised in. I am hooked! 

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