Serene and fragrant tea entices with promise of rapture in store
I recently saw a facebook posting by The Orchid Tea Room of a poem from “Tea Life, Tea Mind” written by Grand Tea Master Sen Soshitsu. I was utterly touched by how the poem succinctly portrays how I feel when I prepare for any tea events.
Make a delicious bowl of tea.
Set down some charcoal to heat the water.
Arrange some flowers as they are found in the fields.
In summer, evoke coolness. In winter, heat.
Anticipate the weather in each thing.
Prepare yourself for rain.
Show every possible consideration for your guests
– Soshitsu Sen from “Tea Life, Tea Mind”.
Sen Soshitsu’s warm and sincerity can be felt throughout this little rare book. While the poem describes the spirit of Japanese Tea ceremony, I think this overwhelming feeling of respect for the tea ceremony guests, tea, nature and tea room can be applied to everything we do.
This “obsession” can, however, sometimes be construed as perfectionism.
The placement of tea cups and coaster; the choice of tea and pot; the attempt to bring nature into the room; the appreciation of the season and her effects on the guests; the comfort of the guest:- all require a lot of effort and thinking. One would hear of the length a Japanese Zen gardener would go to make a garden exude natural beauty by the careful placement of plants and stones, right down to the fallen leaves or flowers on the ground. These may seem excessive to some but, believe me, they are entirely enjoyable from the preparer’s part.
Why the “obsession” one might ask? The underlying concept of this “obsession” is ichi-go ichi-e:- a belief that each meeting should be treasured for it can never be reproduced. Ichi-go ichi-e is linked with Zen Buddhism and concepts of transience. It reminds participants that each tea meeting is unique and should therefore be treasured.
And it is with this in mind that I prepare for every tea meeting I host for tea friends. Because to me, luxury is realized when service is intuitive and goes beyond obligation. It doesn’t need to be expensive or excessive, it just need to come from the heart.