In last week’s column I came to the conclusion that Mrs Doyle had something in common with Buddhist monks—their love for tea—though I think that’s were the commonality ends. I don’t recall Mrs Doyle slowing down or being silent long enough to experience mindfulness through the art of tea making but that is exactly what Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk living in France recommends for a healthy and happy life. So, as promised from last week I will explain how his writings and a tea room in France inspired my new found interest in tea making so to share a few tips on how to have a mindful cuppa that has the potential to slow you down and de-stress your life. It might stop you craving the biccies and chocolate as well if you are giving up for lent!
I used to look on a cup of tea as a way to warm my hands or to make a moment feel better. It’s a welcome drink for any visitor and a cheery reprieve from problems or the cold weather. It is also a good excuse to simply take a break and sit down for a while. The drinking of the tea was less important than the idea behind it. I didn’t give much thought to the type of tea either until I visited a tea room in France.
An intense and rich aroma met me as I entered the shop. Everything about the shop’s interior was simply stunning, a floor to ceiling wall display of tea, delicate tea pots, products and accessories. The shop was solely dedicated to the art of tea making, the history of tea and the chance to try some of the varieties in an imperial style tea room that was both formal and casual. I was handed a menu, an extensive collection of teas from China, Japan, India, Korea, and more. There were as many varieties, black, green, blue, white and flavoured. I thought France was all about coffee. Not so. A whole afternoon was whittled away in that tea shop. Mrs Doyle would have had a field day but I doubt she wouldn’t have paid as much attention to Thich Phat Hanh’s writings as I did, on how to have a mindful cup of tea. Before I left, I bought some teas which I am now enjoying in a mindful kind of way.
Thich Phat Hanh has written extensively on the “Art of Mindful Living,” and though I haven’t mastered it yet I do aspire to living in the ‘here and now’ and happy to try anything that keeps me focused, relaxed and stress free. What better way to start than with a cup of tea.
Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to have a mindful cup of tea by bringing our attention to the boiling kettle, choosing a cup, pouring and drinking the tea while focusing on our breath, the tea, texture, warmth, and the taste to be fully present in the here and now. In this way meditation (and peace) is much easier to access than many people believe, and this is where mindful practice comes into being. You don’t have to sit by yourself in absolute silence for hours on end in order to be mindful. Mindful practice can be performed throughout the day doing any ordinary everyday activity such as drinking a cup of tea. So next time you prepare a cup of tea, give the mindful practice a try. You may be surprised just how much more pleasurable and peaceful a mindful cup of tea can be.