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Yesterday was a wonderful day. A couple of friends and I went to Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford for a yukimi chakai, a traditional Japanese Snow Viewing Tea Ceremony with Dr. Kimiko Gunji. I’ve never been to the Anderson Gardens so that was a treat in itself. They are stunning even during the winter.

We all met in the lobby then were led to the guest Tea House. In meditation and hypnosis, they tell you to imagine you are walking down a staircase, with every step you are going deeper and deeper into a state of peace. As we walked down the path and over the bridge, there was a transition. We were leaving chaos and uncertainty and as we crossed under the main gate to the Tea House, we were in a world of beauty and wonder.

Dr. Gunji said she was originally concerned about having the ceremony, but she felt today was perfect. We could have been in one of our notorious, brilliant snowstorms and we would have waded through several feet of snow to get there. For a while there, it was looking like we wouldn’t have any snow at all. We ended up having just the right amount, a memory of snow on the ground so we knew it was winter, but we were still able to get a private look at the gardens (they’re normally closed during the winter).

I like how she said the plants were in a “dormant” state. They weren’t dead. They’re just resting. These curled up leaves are only sleeping. They’ll awaken for Spring. It tied in with the concept of making the ordinary extraordinary. She explained how there are elements of martial arts tied into the tea ceremony. We make tea everyday. How do we make that special? We wash our face everyday. How do we make that special? Everything is precise because you put your heart into it. There is consideration in every move.

She didn’t word it such, but she said you live for the moment because if you go back you won’t be the same person. She used the example of coming through the gardens. Walking down the paths, some of us were concerned we were missing things and made note to go back after the ceremony to see them. We won’t be the same people after the ceremony. Not that the tea ceremony is a life changing experience, but you are more contemplative afterwards; you’re in a different state of mind. See the gardens as you are now. So after the ceremony we enjoyed the sleeping gardens, marvelling at the ultimate natural beauty, how nothing was left to accident, everything was intentional, but it was so effortless it was exquisite.

The tea ceremony is relevant today. You can just make a cup of tea to go and go. Heat the water, toss in leaves, go. Everything was thought about in the ceremony. She could have walked silently she said, but she intentionally slid her feet across the bamboo mats to create a shhh shhh sound. She could have poured the water silently into the bowl, but she wanted us to hear it and relax. It was taking time for ourselves, enjoying the moment. We anticipated the tea, but it was on a back burner as we enjoyed watching her delicate movements. It was very similar to meditation, but better.

During the ceremony, I realized I was wanting to share this with someone. Then I realized I was: I was there with my mom and several good people I am fortunate enough to call friends. I was sitting in a circle with them and with several others who hand journeyed out in our manic weather to experience the tea ceremony. It was a really wonderful day.

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