Meditation is being proclaimed by magazines, medical journals, and adherents everywhere as the Next Big Thing: a cure for stress, for headaches, for pain, even for obesity. While I'm not personally in a position to make any huge claims about meditation's efficacy as a cure for any ailment, I can certainly say that it has helped me achieve and maintain a sense of balance in my own hectic life.
But meditating was extremely difficult the first several times I attempted it; it's difficult, in a world full of chaos and busyness, to attain a state of stillness.
I wonder now if, had I been a tea-drinker at the time, it would have been a little easier.
Sitting down with a cup of tea is often my gateway for entrance into meditation now; tea makes the transition from consciousness to awareness so simple.
If you are new to or intrigued by meditation, here is a simple step-by-step guide to turn your next tea-time into your very first meditation.
1. Bring your tea to nature. It's often easier to disconnect from the outside world if you are not surrounded by computers, TVs, cell phones, and so on. You can even just step outside to your backyard or porch and ask your family not to disturb you for a few minutes; the simple change of scenery will help you detach from your day-to-day life.
2. Try to stop using words. When you raise your cup to your lips to take a sip, just experience that sip and that sensation: don't name it. Naming things cheapens them, and starts your mind chattering. It's much easier to not start thinking in the first place than to try to stop the thoughts from flowing and disrupting your mindfulness.
3. Don't judge the thoughts that rise up through your consciousness. Just acknowledge them and let them go. Don't interact with them; don't reflect on them. Just let them be.
4. Focus on each sip of your tea. Continue focusing on the feelings and sensations without naming them: the touch of the glass or mug against your lips; the sensation of the tea filling your mouth, its flavor, its subtle intricacies; the way it feels as it slides down the back of your throat and into your stomach.
5. Spend as much or as little time on this exercise as you wish. Then get up and resume your normal life -- with a renewed sense of balance.
Mindfulness becomes easier in time. It is very counterintuitive -- but also very beneficial -- to spend time devoid of any thoughts or feelings. Using tea as a vehicle for meditation makes it simpler -- and, of course, also more enjoyable!