A Meditation on Matcha

Published on 2023-09-02 on Sebastian Mellen's Blog

I often drink matcha. Matcha is a bright green powder ground from green tea leaves. Taking matcha powder and swirling it into water renders a luxuriant smooth tea.

An image of a green cup of matcha on a simple patterned background

A cup of matcha, as imagined by Midjourney.

This tea is something of substance — a suspension that would not be the same without its constituent components — a solid and a liquid blended into something entirely new.

It is only if we are privy to the process of creating the tea that we have some understanding of its true nature. Once crafted, it is hard to see that the tea is comprised of two very different elements.

The beauty of matcha is that it is an impermanent creation, always in flux. Two forms of matter rely on each other to become something else. We no longer see a liquid body filled with dispersed particulates, we see something complete.

Yet, even if we are not the preparers of the matcha, if we simply allow the cup to sit undisturbed, its nature is revealed to us: a bed of sediment falls out of the water, and the drama of creation is deconstructed.

Our own lives and internal states are not unlike this proverbial cup of matcha. We, too, exist as a momentary suspension: a collection of thoughts and emotions suspended in the mind of a bipedal primate. Our individual existence and identity depends on this swirled up state of affairs. Without the drama of our finite and infinite components coalescing into one being, we would cease to be who we are.

So, in and of itself, this swirled up state is not bad. As with the matcha, what gives us life is precisely this temporary mix of the finite and infinite, of the solid and the liquid.

But if we’re not careful, we can lose sight of the fact that we are made up of the same simple elements as everything else. And (in the absence of careful introspection) we find ourselves searching for permanence and substance in temporary assemblies — things, people, and the self. This myopia drives us into all sorts of strange and twisted up ways of being.

Matter flows from place to place
And momentarily comes together to be you
Some people find that thought disturbing
I find the reality thrilling
— Richard Dawkins

From the Symphony of Science, Our Place in the Cosmos

The beauty of meditation is that we allow ourselves a moment of stillness, during which the sediment of our thoughts and emotions is temporarily allowed to fall out of the liquid of being, and it is revealed to us for a glorious and timeless moment that we, too, are transparent.

The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We’re made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself
— Carl Sagan

From the Symphony of Science, We Are All Connected