Tea, at its origin, was a medicine in ancient China. Celebrated through tea ceremonies throughout China and later, to other parts of Asia. The process of making tea, naturally slows us down. The act of putting water to the boil, waiting for the leaf to steep and then slowly sipping tea that is a little-too-hot to drink, shoulders in a window of time for pause, where nothing else matters. The very act of making and drinking tea can be mindful and meditative. Science is revealing more benefits of meditation than we had ever imagined from reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, increasing mental function and just making us all-round nicer human beings!
Below is a simple exercise to transform your next tea drinking experience into a powerful mindful experience:
1. Start by eliminating as many distractions as possible (TV, screaming children, hungry cat etc.)
2. Prepare your tea cup with your infuser or teapot. Pause for a moment and take in the sounds and smells of the dry leaf, the shadow your teapot is casting etc.
3. Bring some water to a boil and take the kettle, cup and tea over to a quite space. Find a comfortable spot to sit.
4. Place your hand on the kettle handle and the other on your tea cup and pause here for a moment closing your eyes. Take 3 deep breaths from the bottom of your stomach trying to think of nothing in particular other than being aware of what you are feeling and hearing. Try not to judge what you hear and feel. Simply acknowledge it as things happening to you.
5. Slowly pour the water into your cup or teapot watching how the steam dances. Continue breathing deeply and from the bottom of your stomach.
6. Holding the cup, focus on the warmth and continue taking long, purposeful breaths focusing on not thinking about anything other than observing and feeling.
When you have thoughts forming in your mind, visualize picking the thought out of your mind and throwing it into a river. Watch as it is washed away and return to the rhythm of your breathing.
7. Continue taking slow and mindful sips of tea, coming back to your breath and concentrating on what you’re feeling and smelling.
The act of mindfulness doesn't need to be a daunting task task that requires levitating monks and yoga pants. It's often the most humble and basic of routines that can have most effect on our lives when transformed into a mindful activity.
Photo credit: Global Tea Hut. Special thanks to Wu De and the team at the Global Tea hut to first introducing us to tea meditation.