Pouring Tea

Thich Nhat Hanh shares how to transform your afternoon cup of tea into a series of mindful actions.

Thich Nhat Hanh
13 August 2021
Wengang Zhai

When I pour tea, I like to pour the tea mindfully. When I pour the tea mindfully, my mind isn’t in the past or the future, or with my projects. My mind is focused on pouring the tea. I’m fully concentrated on the act of pouring tea. Pouring tea becomes the only object of my mindfulness and concentration. This is a pleasure and it also can bring many insights. I can see that in the tea there is a cloud. Yesterday it was a cloud, but today it is my tea. Insight is not something very far away. With mindfulness and concentration you can begin to develop the insight that can liberate you and bring you happiness.

Instead of allowing ourselves to think of the past or the future, we focus our mindfulness on drinking tea.

There is mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of pouring tea, mindfulness of drinking tea, mindfulness of walking, mindfulness of brushing teeth, and so on. When you breathe mindfully, you focus your attention on only one thing: your in-breath and out-breath. This is concentration on your breath. When you are really concentrated on your breath, insight can come right away. You may get the insight that you are fully alive, and to be truly alive like that is a miracle.

Everyone can pour his tea mindfully. Everyone can drink her tea mindfully. Instead of allowing ourselves to think of the past or the future, we focus our mindfulness on drinking tea. We are fully present in the here and now. The only thing we touch is the tea. If I’m mindful of my body and established in the here and now, I become real. When I’m real, life is also real. The tea I’m holding in my hands is real. It’s because I’m real that the tea becomes real. The encounter between the tea and me is real; that’s real life. If you’re possessed by fear, anger, or ruminative thinking, you’re not truly present and your tea is not truly there. That isn’t true life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022) was a renowned Zen teacher and poet, the founder of the Engaged Buddhist movement, and the founder of nine monastic communities, including Plum Village Monastery in France. He was also the author of At Home in the World, The Other Shore, and more than a hundred other books that have sold millions of copies worldwide.