Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tea and Tranquility

As I sat sipping my Lotus tea - a green tea with lotus flowers - I was admiring my tea mug. It is Degas' Woman in a Bath Sponging Her Leg. I was thinking how very much I enjoy not only taking long, hot, leisurely baths, but that it seems to be the perfect place for me to meditate.

I discovered that many people who drink tea also meditate. Considering how peaceful and soothing sipping a delicious hot cup of tea can be, it seems a logical connection. Do they go hand in hand? Well, yes, but that doesn't mean everyone who drinks tea also meditates (but they should!) I have difficulty imagining a stodgy upper crust Brit sitting in a lotus position chanting om. Actually, the very image makes me giggle.

But back to meditating and tea.

I've read how some who do meditate and drink tea find the process of making tea after meditating another meditation in itself. I am reminded of the rice washing meditation that many Zen Buddhists practice. "When you wash the rice, wash the rice," is the saying, which tells us to be mindful in all we do, to be present to the moment in our daily actions, and not letting our mind wander all over the place. This makes sense when you consider how difficult it is for many to meditate. They suffer from what is called "monkey mind", the problem with trying to quiet the mind and being bombarded with a variety of distracting thoughts.

Many tea drinkers have also noted that they seem to be able to detect flavors better in their tea after meditating. Many people simply load their tea with sugar and lemon and don't even realize the subleties they are missing out on. Perhaps a bit of mindfulness is in order. Close your eyes and breathe in the scent of your tea. Take a sip of your tea and don't immediately swallow, but let it sit on your tongue. Let it flow over your tongue and around your teeth. Feel the warmth, try to pick out the different flavors. Swallow and wait a moment before your next sip. Continue to feel the warmth and decide if there are any other flavors you can now detect that you didn't notice until after you swallowed. Open your eyes and consider what just happened. Repeat. Did you become more aware of the treat you have allowed yourself? I bet you did.

Now try doing that with the food you eat and open yourself up to a whole new world! Welcome to mindful meditation.

Did you get that? You just meditated and didn't even realize it. By focusing on that sip of tea, you were present only to that experience. And you didn't even have to get into a painful sitting position.

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