We all need ways to come back to center! For me (and I’m guessing you, too, since you’re reading this), one of my mainstays is the everyday ritual of tea. Anytime I make and settle in with a cuppa, I feel more present. Sometimes, I like to create more space around my tea time and consciously make it a presence practice.
For this, I love the invitation of the Japanese tea ceremony: To get to the tea house, you have to enter through a gate and wind your way through a carefully planned garden. You sit on a bench to wait, then when all is ready, you pass through another gate, stepping into another world, where the refuge of sacred, everyday simplicity and serenity can be found.
We can adapt the main elements of this ceremony so that we, too, can create a place of simplicity and refuge within our daily lives:
- You’ll want to plan for a 30-minute or more break, undisturbed.
- You will need a spot that is comfortable, nurturing, and supportive to sit in to take your tea. Make sure there is a place for your tea setup, too.
- Decide how you want to spend this time in a way that is mindful. Simply sipping? Or with your journal? (Find some great journaling prompts here.) With music? Crafting? Reading poetry? Meditation?
Preparing Your Tea
In the preparation, we can engage in a care-full and mind-full process to help us move into deeper presence.
Put the water on to heat and while you wait, sit down and do a short Bodysoul Check-In:
- What does my body need right now? (What are your sensations telling you?)
- What does my heart need right now? (What feelings are arising or have been during the day?)
- What does my mind need right now? (What is the quality of your mind — dull, busy, speeding, lethargic — and what kinds of thoughts are catching your attention?)
- Is there something my soul wants me to know?
Now that you know what you need, you can choose a tea that will actually support you! If you’re tense, feeling upset, and over-busy in the mind, choose something calming or caffeine free. If you’re low on energy, feeling cut off from emotions, and sluggish/dull, choose something energizing or caffeinated. (You can stimulate with or without caffeine, and choose varying amounts of caffeine depending on the type of tea.)
You can choose your tea set based on what you need, too. What matches your mood? Consider color, style, and function. Teapot and cup? Mug? Thermos of tea?
It’s finally time to brew your tea! Isn’t it interesting that we usually get to this step without being mindful of the above steps? Perhaps with this attention to sacred detail, our teatime rituals can support us even more!
Measure out the tea and pour water over it. Bring your tea set to your spot and settle in. While it’s brewing, take a few breaths and let yourself land. Closing your eyes, sensing the support of the chair, let yourself sink into it. Feel the gift of connection you are giving yourself. Let your mind rest in this.
Your First Sip
If needed, pour your tea into your cup. Slowly lift the cup, feeling the warmth, the texture, the shape of the cup. Holding it in both hands, say this gatha (mindfulness verse) from Thich Nhat Hanh:
This cup of tea in my two hands, mindfulness held completely. My mind and body dwell in the very here and now.
Practice savoring your tea as a mindfulness practice to help you land in your body, in the present moment.
- Look at the tea carefully and notice everything you can about its appearance.
- Smell it and notice all the aromas.
- Touch the cup to your lips and notice the warmth and texture.
- As you take the first sip, really taste it — all the flavors — from when it first touches your tongue until after you swallow it.
- Give yourself a moment to sink into a place of deep appreciation and enjoyment.
Opening Your Awareness
Bring your awareness back to the place you chose to sit. Softening your eyes, your heart, and your belly, look around and take in your surroundings with relaxed eyes and body. Let yourself drink in the support and nourishment all around you, sinking more deeply into the chair, receiving the ordinary beauty and perfection of the moment.
Continue sipping and engaging as many senses as you can to fully take in the tea and your presence. If you feel called to the mindful activity you prepared for, let yourself engage in that in a slow, relaxed way.
With a cup of tea, we are invited to relax into all of ourselves, not letting the busy mind run the show. Let your mind be at ease, supported by this time of sacred presence you have given yourself. Allow any questions, reflections, or contemplations, but set aside to-dos for later. Keep breathing deeply, savoring your tea and any chosen mindful activity, landing ever more in the refuge of the present moment.
Receive this gift of sacred ordinary time, of simplicity and serenity.
When you feel complete, move slowly, finding a way to bring your presence — this open, relaxed body, heart, and mind — with you back into your day.