Tea drinking is ubiquitous. On every continent on Earth, each with unique cultural traditions, you will find people who engage in a moment of stillness and tea. Tea has been ingrained into the fiber of human lives, throughout history. A mug of tea provides respite, calm, and ceremony. A moment of tea drinking is not simply a delivery mechanism for caffeine and health benefits - it is a reprieve, a filibuster against the constant demands of life. As the pace of our lives becomes progressively more rapid, we require a counter balance. Enter tea, ever-present and humble, to make space in our schedules to slow down, regroup, and reflect. Setting aside a small amount of your time to treat yourself to a cup of tea can foster well-being for your mind and body.
But, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is defined as being aware of the present moment, without focus on memories or possibilities. Pay attention to the experience you are currently a part of, without dwelling, and without projecting. This sounds simple enough. We are always somewhere and we are always doing something. But, are we always present and aware? Or, are we aloof? Dreaming? Worrying?
How can we use our humble mug of tea to guide us more easily into a mentality of contentment?
Set Time Aside
With any mindfulness practice, you need to be free from distraction. Set aside just 10 minutes in the morning before work, during your lunch break, or before bed. Once you have designated your tea time, allow it. Reduce the amount of other verbs. Try to simply sip and breathe.
For this moment, turn off your television or computer. Donâ€™t flip through your phone. Multitasking is great when it saves time. But, it also creates a web of distractions that keep your brain moving. Allow yourself to take a break from the kidâ€™s, the laundry, or the deadlines. You might discover that you will be able to step back in refreshed and recharged!
Focus On Your Senses
A mug of tea is a great focal point for a meditative practice. It stimulates so many sensory organs. As you sip, try to focus on the taste, smell, and feeling. Allow yourself to pay attention to the subtleties of the flavor.
Cultivating contentment can be easy when you set aside your big stresses and deadlines. Bringing your attention to the enjoyment that comes with your sensory experience. Even an action as simply as drinking tea has so many facets to be grateful for. Becoming consciously aware and contemplative of the experience can broaden to a more grateful attitude toward the little details that surround you each day.
Why Include A Mindfulness Practice In Your Routine?
Slowing down and taking in the small details of the day calms the mind and clarifies the thoughts. Scientists studying the mind's reaction to meditation have discovered physical changes that occur in the brains of individuals who practice mindfulness. The areas in the brain that allow us to control our emotional responses and our ability to stay attentive are strengthened. The brain and body are connected. Relaxation of the body promotes relaxation for the mind, and vice versa. The results of this simple exercise in calm are innumerable. Blood pressure levels lower when the mind is calm. Stress lowers when the body is calm. The results of one positive impact directly relate to another.
By meditating on a cup of tea, you get the added benefits that come from the leaf itself. Tea contains an amino acid called L-thenanine, which stimulates natural calm within the mind. In fact, L-theanine specifically stimulates alpha brain wave activity, thus facilitating a focused and calm mind perfect for your mindfulness practice.
Tea Culture, Ceremony, and Mindfulness
Japan's tea ceremony is renowned for it's beauty and attention to detail. It is a Zen Buddhist practice known as Chado, literally "Tea Way." The elegance and focus is attributed to this philosophy. In The Book of Tea, KakuzÅ Okakura explains: "a special contribution of Zen to Eastern thought was its recognition of the mundane as of equal important with the spiritual. It held that in the great relation of things there was no distinction of small and great, an atom possessing equal possibilities with the universe." This mentality went well with the simple act of brewing tea. He continues, "the whole idea of Teaism is a result of this zen conception of greatness in the small incidents of life."
Now that we have explored the historic relevance of mindfulness and tea drinking, we can learn from the traditions of the cultures that practiced them. Perhaps a little ceremony added to our fast-paced lives can provide the focus we need. Whether you seek to be pore productive, calm, or thankful, you can cultivate these habits through self-study and a moment alone with tea. Be grateful for the small details and flavors in the cup. Be thankful for your amazing ability to taste, smell, and explore your sensory world. Consult with yourself, and turn off the outside stimuli. You might smile at the reflection in the mug.