8 Japanese Tea Ceremony Lessons To Help You Thrive At Work

Workplace Well-being Hacks Learnt from Studying Japanese Tea Ceremony That Actually Are Not Related to Tea At All

Photo: mrhayata

If you are like me, you will be surprised to hear that studying classical tea ceremony can influence your work performance, office well-being, and quality of your networking.

But it won’t take long to find actionable insights right from the very first time you take part (or even watch) this meditative performance.

TL;DR 4 main principles and 4 practical takeaways that can be implemented in our daily life are:

  • Harmony;
  • Respect;
  • Purity;
  • Tranquility;
  • Attention to the details;
  • “It is weight that gives meaning to weightlessness”;
  • Give Without Expectations;
  • Do It Yourself — if you want it done right.

And for those who likes to dive into details, let’s explore all of these points, and start with

What Is Japanese Tea Ceremony

Yōshū Chikanobu, Cha no yu (1985)

The Japanese tea ceremony, also known as the Way of Tea (Cha-no-Yu:), classical cultural activity influenced by Zen Buddhism that involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea.

Dated back to the 9th century, it is one of the classical Japanese arts of refinement.

Sakura Cake, photo by crayonmonkey

In addition to the art of presentation itself, which depends on the season, cause of the gathering, guests, classical tea ceremony also involves:

  • Wagashi — sweets preparation;
  • Ikebana — flowers arrangement;
  • Chadōgu — tools and items for tea preparation (pottery, bamboo items, cloth items, containers etc);
  • Sumidemae — charcoal laying procedure;
  • and more…

Wa Kei Sei Jaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity)

Four main principles of the Tea Ceremony that we can incorporate into our daily lives and work.

Harmony with other people and with nature

Wa — Harmony

Try always to be in Harmony with what you do and your team. It does not mean complete agreement — it means giving the best you can, receiving all the possible experience, openness to change and constant development.

Harmony with nature is seeing beauty of nature even in the middle of a busy day in a large city. It’s possible with mindfulness and self-awareness.

Respect yourself, your team, your client, and customer

Kei — Respect

In every detail of the work and communication showing respect is easy. The return is priceless.

By incorporating respect in every aspect of your work and relationships with self and others you program the positive outcome for all your projects.

Purity of the mind and the senses

Sei — Purity

In terms of business and career, purity of mind is the ability to set human oriented goals, have clear principles, be consistent and determined in the process of pursuing the objectives.

With purity of your mind and senses comes integrity, named the core value of a genuine leader.


In classical sense, tranquility is a peace of mind and appreciation of nature’s abundance.

In application to work, leadership, and career development: we need to be thankful for every challenge, lessons learnt, every piece of experience and wisdom shared.

Practical lesson: Attention to the details

The wide variety of details that master needs to take into consideration when preparing to the ceremony: season, guests and their tastes, time span available influence the choice of wagashi, chadogu, ikebana, scroll etc.

When working on the project, we need (applying principles of Wa Kei Sei Jaku) to pay attention to all of the details and prepare thoroughly before getting to work.

Photo: Georges Seguin

Practical lesson: It is weight that gives meaning to weightlessness

In the Japanese tea ceremony, light things are handled as though heavy, and heavy things as though light. When something is really challenging and hard to handle, try to accept it lightly.

But no “too easy tasks” exist. Respect your work and value every of your (and other’s) effort.

Practical lesson: Give without expectations

If you’re expecting something in return, it’s not really “giving”.

In the tea ceremony, master is only preparing tea for the guests. No gift giving, no sharing the wagashi. Master puts all of the efforts into giving the best experience to the guests.

Try to approach the most meaningful projects in your life in the same way. You never know what the real return will be.

Photo: MaxPixel

Practical lesson: Do it yourself

If you want something done right, do it yourself!

The masters who practice Cha-no-Yu for their lifetimes, usually make almost everything needed (chadogu) by themselves: create clay pottery, carve bamboo utensils, sew silk clothes.

Though delegating is really important skill, for every main aspect of your work you need to have real hands-on experience.

Closing Thoughts. “Oshimai ni itashimasu”

“Please let me finish” — which is one of the few phrases that can be said during the Ceremony.

Cha-no-Yu is not something that you can learn in a year or two, it is more like exercising meditation and mindfulness practices.

The lessons learnt during these practice can really be helpful in everyday life and work.

Try it!

What to do next? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter and LinkedIn!

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