We’re hearing a lot about mindfulness these days.
But there’s nothing really new about mindfulness. It has been around for centuries in Buddhist teaching, and is something that Western psychology is now embracing.
We know that stress is something that happens in our minds, and we know that chronic stress (spending long periods of time under stress) causes problems with our health.
Our stress response - the fight or flight mechanism - is a great piece of handiwork in the human body when we are faced with a situation that poses a threat to our lives.
But spending a lot of time in fight or flight mode disrupts nearly every system in our body. Our brains and bodies are flooded with stress hormones that eventually become toxic to us, our heart rates are elevated, the body puts aside some longer term, non urgent projects– after all, what use are the digestive and reproductive systems, for example, when fleeing a woolly mammoth! That’s fine in short bursts. Obviously though, it wasn’t designed to be a way of life.
In Eastern writing, the mind is often described as a drunken monkey being bitten by a scorpion.
Mindfulness can be a springboard to so many things, but at its most basic, the practice of mindfulness can help us take charge of how we experience the world, and how we relate to others. It can help us manage stress.
Mindfulness is simply the act of noticing or observing without judgement or assessment. It might be in noticing the flow of thoughts or taking a few moments away from the flow of thoughts to observe the environment or others around us.
What’s all this got to do with tea?
We know about l-theanine found in tea, and how it effects the nervous system and production of alpha brain wave activity, enhancing our focus, alertness, and creativity.
We know the Buddhists made tea central to their day-to-day lives, and that tea assisted them in their long periods of meditation. We know that they established rituals and ceremonies – meditations as it were, with tea as the focus of attention.
We can start the practice of mindfulness and meditation anywhere at any time, but like anything else, getting the benefits of it takes time – it’s a bit like building up physical fitness. Sometimes it can seem difficult to pick the right moment so it’s a good idea to start a ritual with something you enjoy.
If you enjoy tea, it provides a wonderful focus for mindfulness meditation. There are so many aspects to its preparation to incorporate into a daily ritual – which can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Employ the five senses and total curiosity to immerse yourself in the moment.
Tea&Sympathy runs a Tea & Mindfulness workshop most months where we talk about the links between tea and Asian philosophy, drink lots of tea, and learn a tea meditation ritual for everyday practice. We also run the workshop for groups – please get in touch if you are interested in finding out more.