How to de-stress with a simple tea meditation
Adult life is demanding whether you’re keeping up with your studies, going to work everyday, helping your kids navigate life or do a mix of all three. We tend to have to give a lot – attention, our skills, actual care, time – and sometimes fall short of getting back. But why frown if you can take matters into your own hands? Our monthly series looks at simple routines that you can easily adopt in everyday life which will allow you to let go and enjoy some well-deserved Me Time. We aren’t looking for complicated and or time-consuming practises like a mobile phone-diet or an excercise plan but will introduce you to pleasant and effective practises. The first “Me Time / Tea Time” is a simple tea meditation.
Unless you are a coffee-totaler you might already be making yourself a cup of tea once in a while. But quite possibly you’re not enjoying it, especially if you’re trying to make tea at the office or any other communal space: Chances are high you have to go search for the last remaining cup in the cupboard and the one you are lucky to find is most likely a mug with the image of either Garfield or a “Diddle”-mouse doing thumbs up saying “I’m the boss”. The only kind of tea in the communal kitchen is “Stinging Nettle Cheesecake Flavor” and the water from the electric kettle tastes so chalky you can almost chew it. Don’t fret, though. Instead consider bringing your own tea cup. If you feel like that’s something only an eccentric secretary would do, think again. Surrounding yourself with beautiful objects and focusing on them can already help you de-stress from office hell or tedious tasks. If you have a desk of your own you can set up your favorite mug and a pretty jar with your tea in it. And that little ensemble can be your altar of peace – just looking at it will remind you of your capability to withdraw from the madness and tune into a more peacul state of mind. I personally like the so called “Gaiwan”, a lidded bowl that serves as both teapot and teacup in one. It also allows you to go for loose leaf brewing rather than just steeping a tea bag in hot water. And that’s where the tea meditation comes to play: It’s nothing more and nothing less than the act of mindfully preparing a cup of tea.
On one of my trips to Japan I had the great pleasure of enjoying a traditional tea ceremony. Seated on my knees on the floor I got to watch the cautious and ceremonial gestures of the tea master, a wonderfully poised elder lady, whose every movements were utterly mindful. Whether she was measuring water with a dipper, beating the deeply green Matcha powder with a bambus broom, holding the ceramic bowl in her hands before she set it in front of me with a bow. Lateron I learned that the idea behind the tea ritual is to cherish the moment as unique and irretrievable. There’s even a Japanese phrase that describes this – “ichi-go ichi-e” which means “one time, one meeting”. It is meant to remind us of the beauty of the present moment and that life is ever-changing. When you adopt this idea you drink your tea with complete awareness and appreciation of the moment. Looking into the idea of the tea meditation further I came across Sen no Rikyu, who was the founder of the Japanese tea ceremony. Here’s how he described the Tea Ceremony to one of his students: “First you must make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so the water boils; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in the summer suggest coolness, in the winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.” Now this may not sound like much but if you do them fully with mindfulness and your hear in the moment it is no easy task. To absolutely and completely give every ounce of yourself to the moment of preparing and drinking the tea – that’s the tea meditation.
Here’s how to do it: Do every step of preparing your tea, to sitting down, to actually drinking, to finishing and cleaning up in mindfulness. That means – no checking your inbox, instagram or whatnot on your mobile in between, no flipping through the pages of a magazine or going over the list of groceries you need to get lateron. Give yourself completely to the process of preparing and drinking your tea. If your are in a communal space and colleagues want to chat you up, either include them in your ritual by inviting them to join you or kindly ask them to come back later. When you’re in private, don’t allow for distractions. Once you’ve made your tea find a nice and quite place to sit and drink it. Before drinking it take a moment to notice the aroma, the look and color of your tea.
Now this might sound weird, because at first sight whom should you thank when you’ve just made your own cup of tea? Again, reconsider. Contemplate on the fact that you can sit and enjoy a wonderful cup of warm tea when there are many people who don’t even have access to clean drinking water. Take a moment to be thankful for all the things that helped make your cup of tea a reality.
Fully commit to the act of drinking your tea and take in all sensations that arise: From the taste of your tea to the feel of the teacup against your lips, from the way you deliberatly pick up and set back your teacup. Gently acknowledge all sensations as well as thoughts and emotions that come with it. Observe them and let them flow through you. Understand that this moment and this tea will never exist again.
Giving thanks again like you did in the beginning helps you to put the tea and the meditation in perspective. Now you might feel like this blows an everyday kind of ritual out of proportion and puts too much weight on an otherwise fleeting moment. That’s the beauty of it, though. You take a chance on an everyday kind of moment and elevate it. Sen no Rikyu, the Japanese Tea Master said to his disappointed student, who had hoped to hear a greater truth about the Tea Ceremony: “When you can do all that well, then I will be your student.” Do give it a try and you will see the benefits of the tea meditation right away: It helps you cultivate a sense of gratitude for life, it helps you to de-stress and find greater peace of mind and it has all the benefits of meditating with mindfulness.
All images by Anna Rosa Krau for Fair-a-porter. Anna Rosa Krau is represented by Klaus Stiegemeyer
This series is part of a collaboration with Paper & Tea, a speciality tea company founded in Berlin. The white tea Gaiwan, handmade wooden tray and wooden jar are part of the goods that the team brings home from their ongoing explorations of the world of tea. If you happen to be in Berlin we recommend you visit one of their stores in Prenzlauer Berg or Charlottenburg where you will be welcomed with a cup of freshly made tea from their latest finds.
We choose to work with Paper & Tea as many of their teas are organic certified and they source all of their whole-leaf, hand-processed teas at origin with respect for its makers. They adhere to one of the four criterias of the Fair-a-porter standard.
Text: Alex Bohn
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