Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meditation and tea

Taiji chuan, yoga and most martial arts are a way for the mind to interact with the body ; meditation is a way for the mind to interact with the mind. It's a lot of calm and self reflection. This calm and peaceful feeling goes beyond what I had experienced with a session of gongfu cha. Even though drinking tea is already very relaxing, meditation goes even further, according to my short experience of several months. What is very interesting is that it's also possible to combine meditation and tea.

There are lots of different meditation techniques. The one I practice is as follows: I sit down on the floor, eyes open, and I count '1' in my head as I inhale, '2' as I exhale, '3' as I inhale... until '10' and then I start again, and I do this for 10-15 minutes. This may seem simple and boring, but it's amazing how difficult it can be to remain focused on breathing and counting. Lots of other thoughts try to surface and distract you! I find this exercise very beneficial to learn to enjoy the present moment.

As I have started to practice meditation, I have noticed that many readers and/or tea bloggers also meditate. I think that some of the benefits for tea making are obvious: a relaxed mind will prepare tea with greater care and focus. As one learns to live in the moment, we enjoy more the simple things in life, like a cup of tea. So, meditation before making tea helps to put us in a calmer, more receptive mood.
The goal is to continue to have an empty mind while making tea and not let any thought distract you. Today, I tried to continue to count to 10 during my gongfu cha, but found it difficult as I was handling the accessories. It was easier to do so during the brewing of the leaves, while waiting, but almost impossible while drinking from the cup. So many scents, tastes, feelings are happening all at once!

However, there was another good opportunity to meditate: after finishing the tea and placing the cup back on its saucer/tray. I enjoyed the finesse and strength of the aftertaste of my spring Ali Shan Oolong with much more detail and length. The pleasant effects on my palate and my body left a stronger impression. This is where I was glad I had picked an outstanding tea with a great character. With a fully conscious mind, the tea reveals itself, as it is.    


Nicolas said...

Bonjour Stéphane,

C'est ce qu'on appelle un "article ouvert" dans le langage des bloggers.

Une invitation à la discussion, à l'échange.

Un thé après une séance de méditation donne une approche (du thé) parfois au delà des mots.

L'infusion apparait différemment, plus subtilement.

Il y aurait tant à dire, je préfère laisser l'espace d'expression aux témoignages.


Stephane said...

Bonjour Nicolas,

Tu es un de mes exemples de blogger méditant! Merci pour ton témoignage.


Anonymous said...


If you continue to count to 10 during your gongfu cha, you will be chasing
two forms at the same time...

I was also taught to inhale and to exhale, in the same way as you tell us
in your post.

But, my masters told me it was a preliminary practice, preparing the mind
for meditating in a proper way.

Once you have achieved mental calm, you can meditate with an empty mind, you will not need to go on counting.

But anyway, this word "empty" is kind of tricky:

it points the finger towards emptiness but it's not the case that there will be nothing in your mind...

If you have a meditation master, please ask him...



I'm rejoicing at the thought of receiving your parcel.
Thank you again

Stephane said...

Thank you Patrick for sharing your experience. You are correct to point out that my method is for beginners and has its limitations. However, that's also why I think that it can be interesting for my readers to give it a try.

Anonymous said...


Your method is not for beginners only and doesn't have its limitations: even the masters use it, no matter how advanced they are.

And it is a wonderful gift for your readers !

Stephane said...

Thanks again for this clarification.

ji bo's blog said...

tea time

when feeling good
when feeling bad
remember impermanence.
when feeling happy
be sure to laugh.
when feeling sad
listen to jokes.
when cold
put on sweater.
when hot
swim in river.

yesterday is imagination;
tomorrow is big dream.
tea tastes best
in this moment.

ji bo

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

My tea bowl

May my tea bowl
Grow ever larger
May you put in it leaves
Too beautiful not to pick
May you put it in words
That no one can say
Pure nectar
For this thirsty beggar

Kim Christian said...

There is a famous saying:

Cha Zen Ichi Mi
Tea and Zen - one taste

If you prepare tea with "zen spirit",
i.e. an "open mind" your tea will
be/taste better and your guest will
enjoy it more.

Moni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moni said...

I like those photos with the tea cups with the reflection of the forest in them a lot.

I was thinking about what you wrote that one should try to pure the mind before drinking the tea. Remembered me of what I read some time ago, that when people eat while they are stressed it is like "feeding yourself with additional stress". Interesting things to think about..

Moni said...

I like those photos with the tea cups with the reflection of the forest in them a lot.

I was thinking about what you wrote that one should try to pure the mind before drinking the tea. Remembered me of what I read some time ago, that when people eat while they are stressed it is like "feeding yourself with additional stress". Interesting things to think about..

Stephane said...

Thank you for your comments and poems.

I'm glad you like the pictures. Indeed, I chose them for the reflection. But also because one bowl is black and the other is white, as a reference to the Yin-Yang. And what is nice is that the light can be seen in both!

Alex Zorach said...

I recall a number of teachers in various types of meditation, including Tai Chi, Qi gong, Yoga, and Buddhist-influenced meditations, telling me that the times when it seems like there are so many things going on (whether thoughts in our head, or sensory stimuli out in the world) are the times where it is most important for us to practice meditation, and where we gain the most from meditation.

What you said about the practice of counting to 10 being difficult when handling the teaware made me think of this.

David Lau said...

Agree with your thoughts on meditation and tea Stephane. I apply zen / meditation philosophy to many aspects of life - especially Basketball. I often get caught up with precise measurements of water temperature and steeping time, yet I find that it's most enjoyable to not quantify everything. Letting the water boil, listening for it to be done, watching the tea leaves open and the color of the water changing.

Guzmán. said...

Jiddu Krishnamurti telling a joke...

“There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?”