Incorporating Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been a part of tea making and drinking practices for centuries. But how can we incorporate mindfulness into our daily practices? “Chan Cha Yi Wei” 禅茶一味 meaning “Zen and Tea have the same taste” can be practiced by both monks and ordinary people.

The key to incorporating mindfulness in tea is to be present and observant.
The same tea made by different people will taste different because each person makes tea differently. The time of day and mood will also influence the tea’s taste in different ways. Learning to observe and be conscious of all these subtle changes comes with practice.

There’s a phrase “明心见性” Ming Xin Jian Xing. Ming means clear, xin is heart, jian is to see, xing is the essence, or the essential quality of the subject matter. Tea making is the process to see clear of your heart and get back to the original state of mind. Ming xin jian xing, to capture the changes in the subtleness or through moments and moments, is an advanced stage of tea drinking and making, which is a great goal.

Start with the basics.
Water, utensils, tea, environment, and the heart of a tea maker are the elements for people to consider when incorporating mindfulness into daily tea practice.

Water is the mother of tea. Qi (器), meaning the utensils used to prepare tea, is the father of tea. Generally speaking, soft water is suggested to be used for tea making and gaiwan is suggested for the main utensil. The choice of water is just a start of the mindfulness practice. To go further, be observant and conscious of the temperature of water throughout the tea making process. As for gaiwan, though there are gaiwans made with different materials, a gaiwan made from porcelain is highly recommended for mindful practice because porcelain is very stable. With a porcelain gaiwan, the good and bad qualities of a tea are directly reflected objectively, which becomes the tool for the tea-maker to catch the differences and be present. One can smell the lid at different stages of tea making to get information about the tea being made.

Tea is the thread through the journey of mindfulness. Curiosity is the beginning of understanding. Before making tea, try incorporating your different senses: smelling, touching, looking…

The environment matters too because it impacts one’s heart. People in the ancient times preferred making tea or having tea in nature, or in a quiet space. Now that the culture of a tea set (which means the table for tea making) is developed. Specific things are recommended to have on one’s tea table. Apart from the utensils, a plant is usually suggested to symbolize nature.

When water, utensils, tea, and the environment are all ready, prepare your heart. Sink in, and be in the moment is the general rule of thumb. To be present at the moment with oneself, if one’s making tea alone; or to be present at the moment with the friends if one’s having tea with a group.

Mindfulness in tea is a constant practice. The more one practices, the more mindful one could be. There isn’t a fixed rule or standards for such practice. The core is to be present. Tea is an art and wisdom to be explored and learned.