My monk, Titch Nhat Hanh, practiced something called a tea meditation. It’s said he would spend an hour drinking a cup of tea with his fellow monks. It sounds glorious. Honestly, I’m saying that without rancor or sarcasm. In his book Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames, he talks about how a cup of tea, when drunk with mindfulness, will bring us back to ourselves. The whole world melts away when you spend the time thinking about nothing else but drinking the warm infusion of leaves, smelling the botanical aromas and feeling the concoction infuse your soul with each sip.
I have started my own tea ritual at night before bed. I’m not able to completely concentrate on the tea, I don’t quite have the discipline yet. I also have a bird who demands my complete attention after being left alone all day. I have a small one-ounce cup I try to put out for her when I drink but she doesn’t seem as interested in the tea as she is in pushing the small cup off the desk. She makes me smile. The tea does make me pause, to inhale the floral bouquet (tonight is lemon balm) and try to exhale the feelings of being overwhelmed, overworked and inactive in the direction I want to go. The herbals I drink at night are designed to promote calm and restfulness of mind after the long days I’ve been having, and the spice teas I drink during the day are to get more liquid and less chemicals into my body for better health.
I didn’t practice last night. I was too tired to do anything, including sleep. I was irritated because work was long, lunch was gastro-intestinally distressing and the work environment dredged up some old forgotten feelings from long, long ago of people long since passed. I watched TV eating salted caramels from Costco and stayed up well past my bedtime (8:30pm!) and still couldn’t sleep. I eventually got up around 10pm took some Tylenol then rubbed a melatonin infused lotion on my legs and feet and eventually fell into a quasi-restful slumber. I blamed my restlessness on the family interaction from the night before, I blamed it on working too much, I blamed it on being too tired to sleep. In reality, I didn’t bring myself back to center with a cup of tea after being scattered mentally, physically and emotionally from the day. Rituals are powerful tools, even when they are as simple as a cup of tea.