I’m originally from Tokyo and used to live a very busy and stressful life. I didn’t like it, but thought that I simply had to put up with it as a part of being an adult. When I was very young my parents encouraged me to practise the Japanese tea ceremony, as a way to understand Japanese culture. I returned to the tea ceremony after realising how stressed and under pressure I felt. Since then, the Japanese tea ceremony has become hugely important in my life. I teach the tea ceremony, and we import and sell some of the very best tea from Kyoto, which is the core of my business. Of course business is important, but I also practise the tea ceremony daily to continue to develop myself.
I dislike doing anything very quickly, or in a rushed, purely practical manner. I have a cup of hot water every morning while I meditate and do my affirmation, then take a shower and have breakfast. I don’t have a huge amount of time in the morning but don't like feeling rushed, or feeling like I have to skip any part of my routine. I live near my tea room, so walk down Golborne Road and Portobello Road every morning, saying good morning to the owner of the flower shop, who is putting out his flowers, and the cafe owner, who is serving coffee and breakfast. I don’t stop to chat, but we always exchange a “good morning, have a nice day!” which helps me start my day with a smile. I passed someone, who I know on the street yesterday and she said loudly “I’m busy, I’m on a mission!” while rushing passed me. I’m sure she was probably quite stressed and busy, but it was such a contrast from the gentle greetings and positive energy of the flower shop owner! I suppose that some people are always like that. They are happy to avoid unnecessary chit-chat, and don't want to waste any time with anything that doesn’t directly benefit their life or career. I find that I really dislike that kind of attitude. We can’t live our lives thinking about only ourselves. I’m sure it must be a very unsatisfying way to live your life, and you must attract like minded people who only spend time with you if it benefits them. I don’t go out for lunch with my friends because they’re useful, I do it as I want to see them and have a good time together!
Of course I believe very strongly that productivity is important as a small business owner. I try to focus on one thing at a time to improve the quality of my work, and produce the best end result. At the same time, I’d rather take an extra minute to do things properly, and not rush to save time. I’ll spend some extra time warming some milk to enjoy a cup of black tea. I’ll wait for boiling water to cool down to 70-80°C to enjoy the perfect cup of matcha. I’ll spend a few minutes picking the best plate for my supper. I think spending a little bit of extra time is always worth it! This idea is very similar to the philosophy of the tea ceremony. We spend an extra moment to enjoy the sound of the pouring water, an extra moment to warm up a tea bowl to serve the best tea to our guests. These slow moments also give our guests a feeling of relaxation, and help them to slow down and calm down.
During my Usucha practice course I tell my students to move their wrist slowly and naturally, to move the hishaku slowly, and to take an extra moment. This kind of advice would surely not be beneficial in their professional lives! But I can see their movements are much more elegant and gentle, and I can feel them becoming more confident and calmer.
If you are very busy and want to lead a very practical lifestyle then I wouldn’t recommend the tea ceremony as it is the complete opposite. However if you want to slow down for a moment and lead a more balanced lifestyle (perhaps you’re under a lot of pressure in your personal or professional life) I think the tea ceremony would be helpful.
My mother used to tell me that I should hurry up when I was little, as I liked to spend time tidying my desk or preparing my text books for the next day. I still like to spend the time doing things properly, even if it is a bit slower. Perhaps this habit suits the tea ceremony? We serve a cup of matcha tea properly while thinking about our guests and trying to make the most of every moment, as each moment in our life is Ichigo Ichie.(every meeting is a once in a life time event) Each encounter, each moment is precious.
Life is short and I don't want to disturb people with nonsense chit chat, but I value slowing down and not rushing life, and I value each slow moment and precious encounter enormously. My busy, stressful life in Tokyo didn’t give me any space for my slow life, and returning to the tea ceremony helped me find time to just slow down and breathe. I think everyone should take at least a 10 minute tea break everyday, to take a deep breath and calm down with a nice cup of tea.
If you are interested in learning more about the tea ceremony, our 2 hour tea ceremony workshop will give you some more insight and understanding. If you enjoy the workshop, and want to practise the tea ceremony more regularly, you can join our usucha practice course!
I hope our workshop will help you, and your family and friends, colleagues as you learn to slow down and appreciate each slow moment.