How to (not) Leave a Tea Ceremony

“The beginner drinks tea only with her mouth; The master drinks tea with her whole body.”
—Chinese saying

Tonight was a lovely tea session at my place in Ubud, with 4 new friends. After silent tea, as so often happens, we sat around talking as if we’d known each other for a while, subliminally resisting to break the peaceful space we’d all just sunken into.
What does the above quote mean? Rather than one-upmanship, I feel it a nudge towards showing up. This is just one of many lessons I come back to through Tea: when you do something, do it with all of you.

In the space that a tea session creates, it feels off to do something half-hearted. You’re becoming centered and aware, and realizing when your mind is in two places (or more). And when your mind comes back, and you empty, you can receive more; you can listen with more of your being. The tea goes ‘deeper’. Do you know the feeling? There’s more silence in you for her song to be sung. And later, when talking with your new friends, you’re fully listening to their voices as well. The space you made for tea is now there for any person.

Maybe this is why it’s hard to get up after tea; we’ve just spent an hour opening ourselves up, becoming increasingly receptive, content and present. When we look up from our tea bowls and see each other freshly, another ‘steeping’ has only just begun—We find ourselves ‘drinking in’ each other’s company.

This receptive calm isn’t downloaded from anything or anyone. Tea—and the Way to tea—give us ‘permission’ to once again feel those things; to empty ourselves so we can welcome this occasion with all of our heart.


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