“While there is tea, there is hope”
– Arthur Wing Pinero
Everyday life is about managing stress to some extent; it can motivate us to achieve outcomes and complete goals, but unreasonable and sustained amounts of stress can feel like a threat to the body, at times affecting our ability to function.
This short, mindful act can help us to slow things down within ourselves for a moment, move the focus away from the endless stream of “to do” lists, internal chatter and phone-checking, and allow ourselves to have a break.
So, let’s take time to be in awareness – to attend and appreciate this moment – through the making of a cup of tea, or another hot drink.
How does it work?
Take notice of your environment – where you are – whether at home or your workplace (or perhaps your home is your workplace!).
Fill the kettle, switch it on, and pay attention to the sound of it boiling and whistling.
Prepare the tea bag or leaves, the milk or sugar, adding them to the cup or pot.
Pour the water – hear the sound and watch as it hits the tea, noticing the colour change.
Hold the cup, feel the warmth and weight of it in your hands.
Take a sip of tea – notice the instinctive nature of your hand as it moves to your mouth, taste the warmth of the tea as it flows through you.
Pause for a moment and notice how you are feeling while sipping the tea – is there a wish to drink it quickly so you can move onto the next thing?
How is this different from making a usual cup of tea?
1: Your senses are activated. By consciously making ourselves aware of physical sensations and our immediate surroundings, we’re more able to tune into what we’re experiencing in the moment. We just need to allow ourselves to notice and feel it.
2: You’re paying attention to every part of the process, moment by moment, and trying to resist moving into “auto-pilot” or letting your mind wander from the task. It’s OK if this happens – notice it, don’t pass judgement on yourself, just bring yourself back to the tea-making. You are deliberately focusing your attention on the here and now, with purpose and care – responding, not reacting.
3: You’re setting aside time to focus solely on the process of making and drinking your cup of tea. Even if you start feeling restless or impatient, and ready to move onto the next thing, try to gently acknowledge this, and bring yourself back to the task. Like anything, this requires practice – and plenty of compassion towards yourself as you work through the process.
Reflecting on your mindful cup of tea
If you’re in a shared kitchen, colleagues, friends or family members may appear during this mindful time, and that’s OK – just do what feels comfortable. You might explain you’re making a mindful cup of tea and need a bit of space, or you might like to talk them through it, in case they wish to join you – whatever you do, do it while being present in the moment.
Try to notice how you experience this process from one day to the next. On some days, you may feel less distracted or more present, and find the exercise easier, on others it may seem more of a challenge, perhaps due to thoughts entering your mind. This is OK and it’s important to not pass judgement on yourself – just be aware that each day will be different depending on how you’re feeling and what you may be managing at the time.
Every time you set aside a few moments for a mindful activity of this kind, you’ll be building your capacity to be more present in the moment, more aware of where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re thinking and feeling – all of which can help to manage and reduce feelings of stress, and benefit mental and physical wellbeing.
What are the origins of this practice? This exercise is based on Mindfulness – a practice which integrates Eastern Buddhist philosophy and Western Behavioural psychology, and was brought into the mainstream by John Kabat-Zinn – however it is also a version of a Tea Meditation, part of the Tea Ceremony which has its origins in Zen Buddhism, the Japanese strand of Buddhism.