Spirituality of Tea
Choose an Ice Breaker. After your chosen activity, go around and ask, “What is your favorite hot drink and why?”
Serve everyone tea. If needed, ask people to bring a favorite mug or a favorite type of tea in advanced. Having everyone sip their tea while they hear the following reading will be soothing and help deliver the message!
Spirituality of Tea
Read the following from “The Meaning of Tea: A Tea-Inspired Journey.” For more information, visit themeaningoftea.com. For the full reading text, visit http://cms.herbalgram.org/heg/volume6/files/MOT_excerpt.pdf.
The Meaning of Tea
Since the mid-1990s, tea has played a vital role in what might be called the ‘Slow Life’ movement in Europe and the United States, where the cult of speed has driven many to the edge of exhaustion. Untold millions of people are realizing that more is not always more; sometimes less is more, if it means we are able to savor rather than gorge on life. In this spirit, tea offers more than mere liquid refreshment. It provides a daily opportunity to enrich our lives by relishing our time, which can lead to more energy, efficiency, and even happiness.
Perhaps that is what Thich Nhat Hanh, the Cambodian Buddhist monk, meant when he said, ‘We are most real when we are drinking tea.’
The suggestion of the deeper meaning of tea is beautifully revealed by the following passage from the worldwide bestseller, Three Cups of Tea. A Balti tribesman, in Pakistan, is addressing the author, Greg Mortenson, who has returned there to build schools for the people who helped save his life:
“‘The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die. Doctor Greg, you must take time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.’ That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned in my life. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly…Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them.”
Do you agree with the statement, “We are most real when we are drinking tea”? Why or why not?
Discuss the following: “We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly.” What are other everyday practices (in addition to drinking tea) that could be opportunities to slow down? How can we take part in the “Slow Life” Movement?
How to Savor Tea
During tea drinking, you should hold the cup with your palm facing up and toward yourself, with the back of your hand facing out—or else you are being discourteous. This drinking pose shows you have good manners.
When drinking tea, let it swirl and stop for a moment in your mouth so your nose also senses it. Then swallow the tea by letting it flow down your throat. The tea swirls in your mouth, allowing you to feel its astringency, and pushes its aroma to your nose. This way, you can taste the tea’s complex flavor and slowly drink it, enjoying its sweetness and rhythm.
There is a saying about afternoon tea: “Drinking tea makes friends.” This adage expresses my deepest feeling about tea. Tea drinkers are generous; their hearts are calm and collected. Many of the people who come here to drink tea have become my sincere friends, like brothers or like family to me. What I’m saying is that “tea people” are very genuine in their actions.
Drinking tea also helps maintain your body’s nourishment. If you’re very nervous or ready to yell at someone, your bad attitude makes you even more nervous. You will never interact well with other people. In society we shouldn’t be nervous; we should be calm and collected. You need a firm understanding of your own heart. You should let this understanding show when you talk to others so the social atmosphere will be placid and people will take notice of you and concentrate on what you are saying.
If you treat your clientele this way, you will make your greatest friends. You can calm the storm brewing inside you by drinking a cup of tea so your “temper” will become “tempered” and you will settle down. If you do so, a certain breadth of mind will take over and you will not want to fight with anyone.
These skills are the real benefits of drinking tea. But they are very difficult to attain. Everyone should practice these skills. Everyone should drink tea as often as possible.
Do you agree that “Drinking tea makes friends”? Why do hot drinks allow us to open up to one another?
This excerpt discusses how to treat others while drinking tea, and if you follow this advice, “you will make your greatest friends.” If you were to give someone advice on how to make your greatest friends, what would you say?
Activity: Decorate Mugs
Now that we have talked about the spirituality of the tea within the cup, consider the spirituality of the cup itself: it is the vessel that allows us to hold and enjoy our comforting cup of tea. When you decorate your mug, choose to do so not for yourself, but for the many others who will drink out of your mug. This will become part of the furniture here, used by peers, leaders, parents, other staff members. What do you want to convey? What makes for a cup that you want to drink from?
I bought mugs from the Dollar Tree for $1 each (you can also order these online). I got markers that write on ceramic at a craft store (probably $4 per pen). Once you draw on the mugs, you can place them in the oven to seal the ink to make them dishwasher safe. I have also heard you can use Sharpies, but they will not become dishwasher safe. A more expensive (but perhaps more fun!) alternative would be to take a trip to a local ceramic decorating shop like Clay Cafe.
Decorating Mugs Isn’t An Option?
Take advantage of being “most real” while drinking tea to do some Ice Breakers as a group!