By Kari Grady Grossman
When tea was brought to Japan by Zen monks, they used it to stay awake during long meditations. Zen teachings emphasize that everyone can achieve enlightenment, but mundane thoughts stifle it. They believe that enlightenment can be found in the midst of everyday activities. Drinking tea therefore was like a kind of “meditation in action.”¹
Although Zen monks are credited with cultivating tea for the purpose of meditation, you don’t have to be one to get the blissful benefits of a tea meditation.
If you’ve never meditated before it can be hard to just sit down on a cushion and will yourself to have “no thought.” When the monkey mind won’t cooperate, you spend the whole time wondering if you are doing it right. Tea is a helpful tool to get the mind to calm down and focus inward. It’s the easy way to quickly achieve an aware state of profound relaxation and focused calm that alludes so many who try to meditate. The tea meditation process is a simple mindfulness exercise; anyone can do it.
Tools: Your favorite loose leaf tea, brewed to perfection in a tea infuser or meditation cup so that you can stop the brew and see the leaves. A teabag limits your interaction with the tea.
Sit with your cup of tea and become fully present by closing your eyes, taking full deep breaths and focusing the mind on the sensations that the tea brings through the five senses.
Start by holding the cup and feeling the warmth in your hands, then engage the eyes to stare deeply into the wet tea leaves. When ready to engage your sense of smell, take in the wet leaves first and then move your nose over the liquor to see how they are represented there. Slowly and mindfully experience how each one of these senses helps enhance the flavor once you take a sip into your mouth and hold it there for as long as possible to focus on the sensation it brings. The next sip you can focus your mind on the terrain, weather and natural elements where the tea was grown before you swallow it. The next mouthful you can focus on the community of people who grew the tea and infused it with their life force. In this way, you take the tea in with your mind as well as your body. You will become aware of how the energy of the tea travels in the body and fills every cell with its vitality.
It only takes 11 minutes drinking tea this way to achieve what Harvard researchers have called “the relaxation effect,” a phenomenon that could be just as powerful to your health as any medical drug but without the side effects. ”We found a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group,” says Dr Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the research. His studies have shown “the benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice: the more people practiced relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.”²
Practice tea meditation with your first cup of the day and later when you’re feeling tired, overwhelmed or unfocused, take your afternoon tea and return to the blissful state by simply closing your eyes, recalling the morning meditation through your sense of smell and taste and Wala! Stress dissipates, focus returns. It is profoundly rejuvenating. Try it!
Brew yourself some loose-leaf tea, keep the brew basket handy, close your eyes, hit play and enjoy the bliss!
Suggested teas for meditation
China Monkey King: The tip bud and young leaf sets are pan-fired, pressed flat between layers of cloth in a bamboo basket, and gently roasted over a charcoal fire to finish. The dried leaf has an intricate crisscrossing pattern left from the cloth. The flavor is smooth, sweet, and herbaceous with a delicate floral aroma. The leaves are awesome to stare at during your meditation, like beautiful pieces of art!
China Imperial Mojiang Gold Bud: To create this delectable tea, young tender buds are carefully rolled to coax out their leaf juices which stain the whitish, silvery buds into their deep golden color. They are gently twisted and heated, which give them whimsical curled and spiral shapes. A color, texture and flavor that is exquisite for meditation!
Rooibos Strawberry Sunshine: A burst of refreshing, clean, and crisp flavor make for a real crowd pleaser. Green Rooibos is blended with orange peel, marigold petals, dried strawberries, and peach flavoring harmonize together. This is living proof that health and taste can and do walk hand in hand. Meditating with this tea is like a walk through strawberry fields forever!
Ayurvedic Shanti: Shanti means “peace within”. Ayurvedic teachings suggest a peace of mind to balance the spirit and physical health. Shanti is a blend of tulsi leaves and the popular Indian spices of fennel seeds, dried orange peel, and spearmint. Meditate on it and bring peace to your day!
- Zen and the Art of Tea by Alyssa Penrod https://www.lagrange.edu/resources/pdf/citations/2011/01_Penrod_Art.pdf
- Seven Health Benefits of Meditation http://www.foodmatters.com/article/7-health-benefits-of-meditation
- The Way of Tea: A Religio-Aesthetic Mode of Life https://www.jstor.org/stable/1061891?seq=18#page_scan_tab_contents