Chado, the way of tea and the art of the tea ceremony, is a way of cultivating the inner and the outer being, the wabi-sabi. The tea house is symbolically a place of peace, neutrality, and contemplation. In warring Japan in centuries past, the tea house served as the refuge, a place where samurai could take off their swords and sit down as equals. Each participant could partake unencumbered in the tea brewing ceremony, and take in the smells and sounds imbibed with meaning, and have a cup of tea together – and maybe even settle some differences. Once the ceremony was over, each went their separate ways as if the mystical spell was broken, and all was in a dream
The tea ceremony is a metaphor for our fleeting existence. The ephemeral nature of our existence. The presence within the tea ceremony – and all moments – will never be the same again. Two people are brought together for chado, only to go back outside of the world of the tea ceremony. What we make of this precious time is our decision. Is in essence, our call at being human.
Similarly in life, we may meet a friend, a family member, a stranger and have an exchange; and however beautiful, however engaged, however oblivious, however hurtful, the moment happens and then it’s done. We may replay themes and patterns, but the same moment is a thing of the past. We have only the now to work with. When we chose to be present in the moment, we can make these fleeting presences all the more meaningful and fruitful. Putting down the cell phone, forgetting that email that needs to be sent, the errands that need to be done, and just sitting and being present in the moment is the best gift we can give to each other.
Maybe when we have more of these deep, connected moments, we can arrive at deeper truths and deeper meanings of what it means to be human, not just scratching the surface all the time. This is a lesson our ancestors were trying to help us learn, and it is still a skill to cultivate. For those willing and present, I would love to sit down and have a chado on sustainability solutions on a regular basis….and for those further afield, maybe you can re-enact your own tea house for proactive dialogue for social change. Having tea is a radical act after all…..