Mindfulness is everywhere these days. We hear sports stars, business leaders, and health gurus all give credit to mindfulness for helping them focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and achieve more each day. Even elementary schools are teaching children how to ‘belly breathe’ and use imagery to calm and focus their minds.
Why practice mindfulness? What are the benefits? Can you practice mindfulness with Green Tea?
‘Mindfulness’ uses the techniques of meditation, but without any religious affiliation or content. While religious traditions use meditation to achieve spiritual aims, mindfulness focuses on our daily physical, emotional, and mental health. It can be adapted to suit just about anyone, it can be practiced just about anywhere, and it doesn’t require special tools or equipment. The core concept of mindfulness is to focus your mind on the present moment, observe with your five senses, and breathe. For centuries, Japanese people have used the simple pleasure of preparing and drinking a cup of green tea as a focal point for this practice. While the Japanese Tea Ceremony takes years of dedicated study to master, you can incorporate the underlying methods and enjoy many of the benefits by creating your own Mindfulness practice using Green Tea.
How to practice Mindfulness with Green Tea
1. Set aside a few minutes (5-10 is plenty!) a day to enjoy a mindful cup of tea. It can be hard to fit in new habits, so choose a time when you normally have a cup of tea already! I almost always need a little pickup around 10 am every morning, so I chose that time.
2. Select a cup or tea bowl that makes you happy, and if possible, boil the water in a kettle on the stove. The traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony uses very specific, simple and beautiful tools for making Matcha, and tea ceremony experts believe this attention to every detail makes the experience deeper and more spiritually renewing. For me, the best kind of health habit is the one you can actually stick to! It’s much more impactful to practice mindfulness a couple of minutes a day with microwaved water and a paper cup than to practice once a week with the perfect clay bowl, bamboo whisk, and kettle. (That being said, using a real bamboo whisk really elevates the experience of making Matcha –it’s worth a try, for sure.)
3. Before you start, collect everything you need – hot water, cup, tea leaves/diffuser or ground green tea. Don’t forget to turn off any technology alerts that might distract you! Take several deep breaths, feeling your belly and lungs expand with each inhale, and allowing any muscle tension to dissipate with each exhale.
4. Prepare the tea, watching your hands and observing the changes as you stir in the matcha, or wait for the tea leaves to color the water. This is a time for ‘single-tasking.’ You may notice emotions bubbling up – frustration or boredom as you wait for the tea without scrolling through your phone. That’s OK! Just acknowledge the emotions, and let them pass by you, like a cloud in the sky.
5. Engage each of your five senses to bring yourself back to the present moment. Listen to the bubbling of the water. Can you hear the hiss of the water and tea meeting? Note the color of the tea, the scent rising on the steam from the cup, the warmth of the cup, and finally, the taste and sensation of the tea as you sip.
6. When your mind wanders – which it will do – return to observing your breath, and the present experience of drinking the tea. Take notice of the changes as you go – does the flavor of the tea change? Has the tea cooled?
7. As you finish drinking your tea, express gratitude — for a few minutes of calm in your busy day, for clean fresh water to make your tea, for the calm alertness that green tea brings to your morning, or for whatever makes you feel good in that moment.