Tea & Meditation
Tea is a great teacher.
It reminds us to slow down and be a little more present.
It reminds us to be patient, and to let go of expectations.
It reminds us to make time in our lives for ourselves, and for the people around us.
It reminds us of the importance of space, as is silence in music.
In Chinese and Japanese culture throughout many centuries, tea-drinking rituals have been of great importance and meaning. Great attention and care is given to the selection of tea, the vessels in which it is served, as well as to the method of preparation and the physical surroundings. The intention is to create an atmosphere in which tea drinkers may enter fully into the experience, in a way that is uplifting to the senses, mind and body.
The tea-drinking ritual is very much a practice of active mindfulness, and cultivates the same qualities that we practice both in silent meditation as well as when applying mindfulness principles in everyday life. Creating an attitude of openness, and of being fully present to what is before us in the moment, is at the heart of mindfulness practice.
It is believed that tea seeds were first brought back to Japan by Buddhist monks for its ability to enhance meditation. Along with caffein, some teas contain L-theanine and Gaba, a combination of psychoactive compounds that increases alpha brain waves, inducing a polarity of effects for our minds; clarity and alertness from the caffein, calmness and relaxation from L-theanine and Gaba.
Puer is an unique tea from Yunnan China that is typically pressed into cakes and left to naturally ferment. If stored in the right conditions they can be aged for decades. A transformation of the tea's chemical composition takes place as it ages, resulting in a change in flavours, textures, fragrance, and bodily effects. Drinking a good fermented Puer can induce a harmonious feeling of relaxation, clarity, calmness, and alertness, making it a perfect companion to mindfulness-meditation.
The use of tea with meditation, practised by monks centuries ago, has survived to this day. April and I accidentally stumbled across this practice through a small tea community in China a few years back. It was there we felt for the first time the mind altering effects of aged Puers, lifting our sensory experiences, clarity of mind, connectivity with others and our flow of creativity. Anyone can do this; all that is required are a few grams of aged Puer, a pot, a cup, and time intended for the experience.
Mindfulness meditation is an ancient practice that's used to train our busy minds to slow down and pay close attention, without resistance nor judgements, to our moment-to-moment experiences (thoughts, emotions, sensations). The meditative state may sound like some mystical out-of-reach experience but the truth is, it's the state we were all born into. As our memory and language-skills develop, we forget our innate ability of living in the present and mindfulness meditation is simply the practice of regaining it.
Scientific studies have shown that regular meditation can significantly improve one's well-being which may include benefits such as heightened awareness and attention, improved learning and memory, mitigation of anxiety and depression, increased levels of compassion and empathy through self-awareness, and better regulation of emotions. As exercise is for the body, it is the exercise needed for a healthy mind. It is a skill like any other, it's simple to learn, and with a little persistence and practice, we can experience the results for ourselves.