Dear Still Water Friends,
What Brings You Joy
Thursday, January 31, 2008
This Thursday Evening, after our meditation period, we will have a special Tea Ceremony Celebration. It is a time for us to come together, enjoy tea and treats, and also to share with each other something that brings us joy: such as a song, poem, piece of art, story, dance, gratitude, or appreciation. If you would like to also offer tangible joy, please bring a healthy vegetarian treat, such as fruit or cookies to share with others. (Herbal tea will be provided.)
In the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, Tea Ceremonies play an important role. They are a meditation practice, an opportunity to focus our attention on the here and now. And also, they are an opportunity to share and nourish our joys, both for the simple enjoyment of it, and so that we will have sufficient internal resources to face our suffering and the suffering of the world with equanimity and love.
Below are two short pieces on the spirit of the tea ceremony by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Eating a Tangerine
By Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Miracle of Mindfulness
I remember a number of years ago, when Jim and I were first traveling together in the United States, we sat under a tree and shared a tangerine. He began to talk about what we would be doing in the future. Whenever we thought about a project that seemed attractive or inspiring, Jim became so immersed in it that he literally forgot about what he was doing in the present. He popped a section of tangerine in his mouth and, before he had begun chewing again, had another slice ready to pop into his mouth again. He was hardly aware he was eating a tangerine. All I had to say was, “You ought to eat the tangerine section you’ve already taken.” Jim was startled into realizing what he was doing.
It was as if he hadn’t been eating the tangerine at all. If he had been eating anything, he was “eating” his future plans.
If you can eat just one section, you can probably eat the entire tangerine. But if you can’t eat a single section, you cannot eat the tangerine. Jim understood. He slowly put his hand down and focused on the presence of the slice already in his mouth. He chewed it thoughtfully before reaching down and taking another section.
Later, when Jim went to prison for a activities against the war, I was worried about whether he could endure the four walls of prison and sent him a very short letter: “Do you remember the tangerine we shared when we were together? Your being there is like the tangerine. Eat it and be one with it. Tomorrow it will be no more?”
Three Hours for a Cup of Tea
By Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Sun My Heart: From Mindfulness to Insight Contemplation
The secret of meditation is to be conscious of each second of your existence and to keep the sun of awareness continually shining–in both the physical and psychological realms, in all circumstances, on each thing that arises. While drinking a cup of tea, our mind must be fully present in the act of drinking the tea. Drinking tea or coffee can be one of our daily pleasures if we partake of it fully. How much time do you set aside for one cup of tea? In coffee shops in New York or Tokyo, people come in, order their coffee, drink it quickly, pay, and rush out to do something else. This takes a few minutes at most. Often there is loud music playing, and your ears hear the music, your eyes watch others gulping down their coffee, and your mind is thinking of what to do next. You can’t really call this drinking coffee.
Have you ever participated in a tea ceremony? It may take two or three hours just being together and drinking one or two cups of tea. The time is not spent talking–only being together and drinking tea. Perhaps you think this is irresponsible because the participants are not worrying about the world situation, but you must admit that people who spend their time this way know how to drink tea, know the pleasure of having tea with a friend.
Devoting two hours to a cup of tea is, I agree, a little extreme. There are many other things to do: gardening, laundry, washing dishes, binding books, writing. Perhaps these other tasks are less pleasant than drinking tea or walking in the hills, but if we do them in full awareness, we will find them quite agreeable. Even washing the dishes after a big meal can be a joy.