by ITMA Certified Tea Master Chas Kroll
Mindfulness is one of the keys to expanding the ability of the mind to pay attention to the thoughts, feelings and sensations experienced in the Now. One way to do this is by being present in the moment while preparing and consuming tea as a meditative practice. Brewing tea Gongfu cha (the formal presentation of tea) slows the experience and allows the mind to be still with the tea.
In the practice of mindfulness, it is important not to judge the experience, but rather observe it without aversion or attachment. Similarly, when drinking tea, it is important not to judge aromas, tastes, or textures, but simply observe them without aversion or attachment.
When your mind wanders, it takes away from your true enjoyment of the tea and out of the present moment. By focusing the mind and body on each sip of tea, subtle nuances will be noticed, appreciated, and enjoyed.
Mindfulness of tea should also pay attention to the way it affects your body. What are the qualities of the cha qi (energy of the tea)? Does it make you jittery? Calm? Anxious? How does it affect your productivity and focus? Noting these things helps you determine if you should consume the tea again.
Even if you aren’t a mindfulness practitioner, drinking tea while being present to the experience in the present moment allows you to notice subtle flavors, aromas, and textures. It can even allow you to notice subtle feelings and emotions created by the tea.
Mindful tea drinking allows for the mind to relax in the present moment. Remember to slow down and enjoy the experience.
It is important not to let the mind wander into judgments about the tea while we are drinking it. Doing so will often result in the mind missing subtleties offered by the tea from one steeping to the next.
To become more acquainted with the concept of aversion and attachment, try this simple mindfulness exercise:
- Become centered and grounded in your space.
- With your eyes closed, take in a slow, deep “Cleansing Breath” through your nose, tongue to the roof of your mouth, filling your lungs completely. Hold the breath for a few moments and exhale slowly through your mouth (repeat three times).
- State your intention (non-verbally) in the moment, that is, “My intention is to:” say to yourself whatever you wish to create right now.
- Take in another “Cleansing Breath”, hold it and slowly release it.
- Give thanks and acknowledgment to Source for all your Blessings and Gifts.
- Take whatever time you may need to contemplate your own healing (replacing unhealthy cell production with only healthy cells; quieting your nerve endings to eliminate discomfort; restoring your energy; or whatever is analogous to your present situation).
- When finished, take in another “Cleansing Breath”, hold it and slowly release it.
- Open your eyes and become aware of what you created for yourself.
When you begin to acquire the information necessary to embark upon your own program of mindful meditation is immaterial. Just begin. Take the first step and the rest of your journey will take care of itself.
Bringing awareness to aversion and attachment in tea drinking is an easy way to enhance your experience and notice subtle flavors, aromas, and even feelings that the tea induces. Try it out for yourself and see how it affects your senses as you sip your favorite tea!