Mindfulness with Tea

Imagine this:

You hear the kettle rumbling as you reach for your chosen tea. You open the bag and smell the fragrant aroma, it takes over your complete attention as you take in the soothing scent. You spoon out your desired tea into your cup and appreciate the vibrant colours and shapes of the leaves and petals. You poor the hot water over the herbs and watch as the herbs open and soften. When the time is right, you lift the warm cup and take your first sip. You feel the warm liquid move down your throat, warming your body from the inside. And in this moment, you are fully present and at peace with what is.

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This is my morning ritual, a time that is completely my own. The whole experience lasts about 15 minutes, but it establishes a solid foundation for the rest of my day. I believe tea provides the perfect medium for meditation. It evokes all five senses to bring your awareness to the present moment and allows you to take a break from the constant chatter of the mind.

Mindfulness with tea is not a new concept. Tea has been used in ceremony throughout the world for centuries. The most well known is the chanoyu, also known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Modifications of these ceremonies were made by a great Zen thinker, Sen no Rikyū, in the 1500’s. Rikyū evolved the chanoyu to involve the philosophy of wabi-sabi - wabi means simplicity and sabi means to appreciate the imperfect. These ceremonies were typically held in small teahouses surrounded by nature. Before drinking the tea, you must first walk through nature to shed the busy outside world and then enter the teahouse through a purposefully small door to ensure that you bend down in honour and equality. I love the mindful and philosophical practice enriched in this style of tea ceremony, and I believe the modern Western world could use more of these teachings.

I also believe that you can have your very own tea ceremony right at home! If you find it difficult to meditate or to enter into a state of mindfulness, I encourage you to try mindfulness with tea. The trick is to drink your tea as if it is the first time you have ever experienced tea. Here is how you do it:

  1. Take 3 deep breaths into your belly to help to switch your attention away from your thoughts and into your body.

  2. Listen intently to all the sounds involved in making the tea - the kettle boiling, the tea bag rustling, the water being poured into the cup.

  3. Pay attention to the colour and shape of the herb. After pouring the water, watch intently as the herbs soften and slowly change the colour of the water.

  4. Smell the aroma of the tea and let it completely take you over. Does it remind you of anything? What can you pick out from the smells you are experiencing?

  5. Feel the warm cup in your hands, and as you lift it to your lips, feel the warm sensation as you swallow the warm tea. Can you taste each herb that is in the tea? Is it bitter or sweet? What does the warm liquid feel like?

You can do this practice at any time of the day when you feel you need to turn off the busy world around you and return to your inner stillness. Choosing certain calming herbs can also facilitate this experience, learn about the difference herbs you can use on my Local Plant page.