Zen: what is it and what is it good for?
"Zen" is the Japanese word for the Chinese "Chan”, which was pronounced "Tsan" in the south of China and then translated to "Zen" in Japanese. The Chinese word “Chan” in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative mind". So that’s the literal meaning of zen, but the true one is actually deeper than that.
Zen is a lifestyle choice, a choice that directly affects your inwardness, spirit and conscience. Zen is not just a sect of Buddhism, it is more. It is a practice, a state of being, a mental form, the aim of which is to provide a road to your inner knowledge. Zen emphasizes living in the moment. The mind needs to be always present and aware, because if you mind-wander between the past and the future, you’ll never be present and you’ll just generate anxiety, concern, regret and guilt. The here and now is always enough, it is always perfect.
How to create a zen-sational tea experience every day
Beyond the aesthetic traits of Zen, one of the most important elements in a zen life is tea. Tea has actually been tied up with this spiritual practice since its very origin.
The first people to domesticate and promote tea culture in China were Buddhist monks, who first realized the deeper essence of the tea leaf. Not only did drinking tea help with their daily meditation, but it also aided with relaxing the mind when overexcited by distracting thoughts.
Tea has always been very important in a zen lifestyle, and indeed, one of the various zen practices is the tea ceremony, which is a Japanese ritual consisting of several steps that serve to channel the emotions to release stress. Each step must be realized with the utmost awareness. See, that’s exactly what this is. It’s about focusing completely on the present moment and perceive even the smallest details of the ritual.
There has always been a strong connection between tea and zen. They are one flavour. Tea is a calming liquid that serves to ease your nerves and clear your mind, preparing your body for meditation. Tea is a moving meditation, a moment to connect with yourself in every sip.
As adults we often don’t have time to sit down, relax and meditate. But even when we take a break, we’re not aware of the sensory experience of drinking our tea. We are elsewhere. Most of the time we end up being distracted by something: concerns, unfinished business, the rush to do something else. And our moment’s rest has already passed, without us having really experienced it.
The best way to change the rhythm of your life is living in zen through a cup of tea. It’s very important to take the time to feel the richness of the experience we can live enjoying a cup of tea mindfully, with the full presence in the moment.
Like zen, tea is a way of life, and it helped me break through useless and wrong habits, reminding me what is truly important in everyday life and allowing me to really enjoy the present moment.
A teaset steeped in 100 years of history
A great tea experience is not only about drinking good tea, it is also about the beautiful tea set that the tea is being served with.
Having a soft spot for vintage, I couldn’t help loving the 100 Years of Royal Albert collection. Brewing and sipping tea from the 1990 Bouquet cup or seeing the whole set displayed in my home delighted me thrilled my soul.
I’m particularly in love with the 3-Tier Cake Stand, ‘Bouquet, Rose Blush & Golden Rose’. It offers so much more than beautiful patterns and romantic designs, it represents a window on a world that has now gone, evoking three different decades.
I believe in objects with rich history, and every teacup or tea set of this collection tells a story.
See more from Roberta on the Royal Albert Instagram page @royalalbertengland