Japanese Prime Minister holding a bowl of tea at a tea ceremony

I love green tea. We travelled in Japan a few years ago and discovered really good quality Sencha and Matcha. My morning cuppa has changed forever. Matcha particularly was a revelation, it is powered green tea and a taste sensation when prepared well. The preparing it well is the hard bit (1). A full Japanese tea ceremony can take hours. There is a whole philosophy and world view (Chanoyu or the Way of Tea (2)) tied up in the simple act of making, sharing and drinking tea. I am learning to appreciate the power of ritual and consistency as I attempt to improve my matcha making skills. Maybe only the Zen tradition could refine such a simple process to create a rich cultural tradition, with principles such as harmony, purity, and tranquility. The picture above shows how even the powerful can offer respect and humility in receiving and holding a simple bowl.

As I have been treating recently I realise I have been using an image from a video by Michael Shea about holding the body as bowl of fluid. (The actual phrase he uses is ‘as if I was cupping a bowl of water’ at 55 sec into the video below). There are lots of great principles of biodynamic craniosacral therapy illustrated in the video. How we approach the body in cranial work, the simple act of touching another human, echos many of the qualities of ‘Chanoyu or the Way of Tea’. Rituals allow us to deepen into the present moment, they link us to all the times the ritual has been performed before and help us be more open to subtleties and nuances. Consistently meeting the body as if cupping a living bag of fluid is a wonderful orientation.

Not explicit from the video, but also of note, is the name Michael Shea uses to describe the particular hold he demonstrates – pieta. The pieta (pity) is an iconic image that captures the events of Jesus’ descent from the cross.  It displays the strong relationship between the mother and child. Though it depicts the death of Christ it has served as an important visual in representing both strength and vulnerability. The most famous rendition is Michaelangelo’s sculpture which has been used as the standard of almost every other pieta created ever since (3). From a different tradition to Zen, pieta images suggest additional archetypal qualities central to the relationship and holding field we create in biodynamics.

Pieta images. Clockwise from top: Michaelangelo, Paula Rego, Bellini, El Greco


(1) My favourite site on tea is   http://www.h4.dion.ne.jp/~horaido/115E-E.htm

(2) Okakura K (2005)  The Book of Tea. The classic work on the Japanese tea ceremony and the value of beauty. Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd

(3) http://copperportfolio.multiply.com/photos/album/34/PietaPiedad_Photographic_Icon   accessed Aug 2010