View over the Sri Lankan hill country at Ella (Praveen Herat)
View over the Sri Lankan hill country at Ella (Praveen Herat)

The Way of Tea

I know very little about the Japanese ‘Way of Tea’ (or ‘Tea Ceremony’ as it’s often called). In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to not know much about it. But every day, after lunch, when I sit down with a cup of tea, the idea of it floats hazily above my head – a few feet below that damp patch where the upstairs neighbour’s bath overflowed.

The handful of facts I know about the Way of Tea – which I reflect upon while I sip, slurp and sometimes spill tea all down my front – are:

  • the act of taking tea is transformative
  • it is a practice of mindfulness
  • we leave behind our daily concerns and worries
  • we lay down our swords – as samurai were once asked to do upon entering the tea room
  • everyone is equal in the moment of taking tea, for we lay down status and hierarchy too
  • everything in the room has importance; we pay attention and respect to our environment because it shapes our presence in the moment
  • every gesture – not least our stillness – is important for the very same reason
  • we do not obsess about perfection; in fact, the first step to enlightenment is to accept our ‘unpolished’ selves as they are
  • we cherish our opportunity to practise all this – because it is here and now and can never be repeated

The Parking Garage Politics ‘Way of Tea’ is a far cry from the attentive Japanese practice. It’s a bog-standard, British, afternoon cuppa. It involves tea bags, a plastic kettle, semi-skimmed milk and (quite often) whining, screaming, fighting children. But nevertheless, I aspire to all the points above. And sometimes the closest I get to it is in the form of musical accompaniment I choose.

I tweet these occasionally – #afternooncuppa – as you can see from the feed in the sidebar. I hope they bring you as much Wa-Kei-Sei-Jaku as they do for me.


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