There are so many beautiful ways to bring the history and spirit of the East into our everyday lives. Today, we focus on tea. While throwing a teabag that you found in your desk drawer into a cup of microwaved water might be your current tea experience, fear not. Traditional tea practices aren’t as difficult to bring into your lifestyle as you may think. And, their basis in mindfulness will help you live a more peaceful and grounded life.
A Short History of Tea
It’s widely stated that the origin of tea was in China around 2700 B.C. Legend has it that it was discovered accidentally by Emperor Shen Nong, a scientist and Chinese ruler. While boiling water in his garden, a tea leaf found its way into his pot. Shen Nong enjoyed the infusion so much that he began to research the plant, and discovered its medicinal properties.
Tea consumption became widespread during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was named China’s national drink, and the Chinese government imposed a tea tax. But, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that tea made its way to Europe. Even then, due to its cost, tea drinking was limited to the wealthiest in society; it became a status symbol. At the same time, tea was making its way to America via the Dutch.
Today, tea is the worlds second most popular beverage (only water beats it)! Americans were the first to produce commercial tea bags (patents were on record as early as 1903), and iced tea was invented during the 1904 World’s Fair in Saint Louis. Tea has become a mainstay in our culture, filling shelves in nearly every grocery store across the country. But, there’s more to tea culture than may meet the eye. Read on to discover ways in which to use tea for a more mindful, health-focused lifestyle.
Mindfulness in the Traditional Tea Ceremony
A traditional Japanese tea ceremony is a performance in and of itself. The entire process of choosing the tea variety that will be served, preparing the tea, serving the tea, and experiencing the act of drinking the tea are executed with the utmost care and consideration. But, the ceremony is more than just executing this series of tasks.
The tea ceremony provides an opportunity to bring mindfulness and an open heart through a simple task. The intent of the ceremony is to help participants recognize that there has never been a moment like this before, and there will never be another again. It’s all about the present moment. And, there’s an opportunity for the preparer of the tea to show a great level of care and grace – an open heart – to their guest.
Our world moves so fast. But, wouldn’t it be lovely if we adopted the mindfulness opportunity of the traditional tea ceremony into our every day lives? The act of choosing a pleasing tea blend, preparing it in a beautiful kettle, and sharing it with someone you care about with an open heart is simply beautiful. And not at all difficult to achieve.
Today, there is an increasing amount of research showing the mental, physical, and spiritual health benefits of meditation. Yet, many of us make the excuse that we’re too busy, or just can’t “shut our brain off” to meditate. Well, let us introduce the concept of tea meditation. Similar to the traditional tea ceremony, the purpose of this practice is to become present and aware through the act of drinking a cup of tea.
When Thich Nhat Hanh was on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, he said that it takes an hour to drink a cup of tea. By using a cup of tea to bring your mind back to your body and become fully present, you’ll enjoy the same meditation benefits as someone who choses to meditate in a more traditional way.
Elements East Tea Classes with Being Tea
We’re thrilled to welcome Suzette Hammond, owner of Being Tea to Elements East this summer. For the last 15 years, Suzette has travelled extensively as a professional tea trainer. Her background is multi-disciplinary and diverse. She’s studied Alexander Technique, MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), restorative yoga and complementary somatic studies. Suzette enjoys researching sensory-based therapies for healing trauma, trauma stewardship, and applying the practice of tea to these areas. She’s also been a formal student of several tea ceremony traditions, including chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony).
Suzette will be offering Introduction to Tea + Meditation on June 20, Summer Meditation with Green Teas on July 18, and Tea Mindfulness for the Seasons on August 15. For more information about these sessions, or to rsvp, please visit our events page.