There is a moment in tea ceremony, after all the tools are in their place, for the host to take a moment and mentally center him/herself before proceeding to purify the tools and make tea. The very first time I practiced temae (the tea procedure), I took what was meant to be a deep, slow breath, but which came across as a loud, nervous sigh, to the laughter of everyone in the room. Determined to not repeat that at future lessons, at the next lesson, I took the opportunity to ground and center in a way most people of Pagan background would, by closing my eyes and drawing that nervous energy into a calm center.
Sensei stopped me.
“Rhett, please do not close your eyes when you stop to compose yourself. I know many people do this to bring calm, but when you close your eyes, you’re shutting out the world for a moment. Shutting out the world means shutting out the room and the guests, when connecting with your guests and showing your care for them is the reason for sharing tea. Do not separate yourself from your guests by becoming separate from them, even for a moment.”
I have, since then, been acutely aware of the closing of eyes in a ritual environment. It’s an incredibly common part of many Pagan rituals and a generally accepted part of prayer and even for secular moments of silence. Yet, what if, in times when people are coming together for ritual or prayer, they are actually instead taking time to shut one another out and be in their own worlds? How would people differently experience acts of community ritual (of all kinds) if they never, except to blink, closed their eyes?