Thursday, 2 November 2017

Reiki and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Earlier this year on a visit to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, I saw an information panel about the Japanese Tea Ceremony.  I was struck by the description of the ceremony as a way to withdraw from the stresses of the life for a time and to be served with grace and politeness, without expectation of conversation.  I felt that this is very similar to what happens when I give Reiki treatments.  Those receiving the treatment are like honoured guests, taking time out from their daily lives to relax and be served with grace and no expectation of talking.  People often tell me how refreshed in body and soul they feel after their Reiki.

I was therefore excited when I heard that we would be experiencing a tea ceremony during my recent visit to Japan.  The experience supported my feelings of a similarity between a Reiki treatment and the Japanese Tea Ceremony. 

We went to the tea house in the late afternoon, after a busy day visiting Ninjo castle, Niji-Jinya house and the imperial palace.  By the time we were heading for the tea master's home I was hot, tired and in need of a rest!  On arrival we removed our shoes and were made welcome in a lovely room, where there was a tokonoma (alcove) where a  calligraphy scroll that said "harmony, respect, purity and tranquility" and beautiful flower arrangement were displayed.   With the beautiful Zen garden outside the window it was a restful space.

Like Reiki treatment, the tea ceremony has a defined form.  Traditional dress of kimono and hakama
are usually worn.   Guests are first served  some tasty seasonal delicacy, on this occasion a small bean paste cake.  The wife of the tea master then prepared the tea: carefully and mindfully placing the tea powder in the bowl, adding the hot water with a ladle, whisking the tea and then presenting it with a bow to the person she was serving.    Their 11 year old grandson also helped to serve the tea, dressed in hakama and bowing beautifully to each person he served.  There was a palpable atmosphere of kindness in the room.  We were also taught about the different ways to bow, according to the status of the person you are bowing to.  We also learned that to make a slurping sound as we finished the last sip of tea was a sign of grateful enjoyment!

Like Reiki, the Tea Ceremony has its origins in Zen Buddhism.  Tea was drunk by the monks in China to keep them awake during long hours of sitting meditation.  Tea was brought to Japan along with the meditation practice and from this developed into the Tea Ceremony. 

When the ceremony was over and we went to put on our shoes I noticed that I no longer felt tired.  The kindness of tea ceremony had brought a sense of calm and peace.  Just like Reiki it had indeed been a refreshing break from the stress of life, bringing ease in body and soul.