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The healing power of a cup of tea

by Professor Lynn Basford

Chado Tea Meditation

Thich Nhat Hanh's Tea Meditation

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Tea Meditation on Oprah’s Soul Sunday – see the video at end of article

There are simple active meditation techniques that can be incorporated into your daily life style. No extra cost, no expensive treatments, or, clothing and no adverse danger to health. Just pure and simple focused-mindful pleasure.

Today we are looking at tea meditation. CHA-DO (meaning Tea – way/hot water) Having a cup of tea is an every day occurrence, but instead of rushing around boiling the kettle, throwing in a tea bag into a cup and then drinking on the run, or leaving it to go cold as you continue with your work, we shall encourage you to look at tea in a new way. To take that tea break time to be focused and mindful so that you can truly relieve your stress, and drop the unwanted baggage that you so saintly carry around with you – as the gurus say if you don’t need it release and let it go!

And if you happen to be enjoying the menopause, then don’t miss the section below on medicinal teas as there are some good recommendations on teas specific to some menopausal symptoms.

You might think that this is too easy, meditating with tea, well you are so wrong! Tea (black tea, green tea, & herb teas) have been used throughout the millennium.  Primarily, as a healing modality, and latterly as a meditative forum that could be shared within a community. Just stop and think for a moment regarding what happens in your household when someone has had an accident and in shock. YES – someone says they will put the kettle on and provides the person with sweet tea. Or, a neighbour or friend calls in to share a particular problem or concern, then yes again, you put the kettle on! I am sure you can count the many times when tea is used on such occasions as both a comfort and a focused activity.

Consider these Questions:

nursing teaDO you ever nurse your cup?

IS drinking tea a soothing activity?

OR, A sensual relaxing pleasure?

Do you open up to a friend more easily if you have a cup of tea in hand?

You only have to think of of our stressful lives that is becalmed by the simple act of putting the kettle on!  in my own family, the kettle is  always put on for tea as part of a greeting ceremony when people visit, And, I for one, find nursing the cup of tea has a soothing effect.



A Brief History of Tea Meditation

Tea Meditation, and its subsequent Tea Ceremony, was first established by Buddhist  Japanese Monks  who after visiting China in the latter part of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) recognised teas value to aide concentration and meditation.  Up until this point the Chinese had kept tea to herself as part of healing remedies and as a social beverage.

The Tea Ceremony itself has embraced the principles of oneness, harmony, respect, tranquility as pathways to achieve personal goals. The art of taking tea has evolved over time and to some extent the speed in which tea is consumed today overshadows its importance as a medicinal herb and an aide to bring calm and balance back into ones life.

Rosehip tea with books in the background

Medicinal Effects of Tea

Plants/herbs have throughout Human history played a part in healing the body physically, mentally and spiritually. Tea has become associated with promoting a relaxed alertness, which aids in contemplation and meditation.  This is due in part to tea’s high concentration of the amino acid L-theanine –known for its ability to relieve mental and physical stress and to enhance cognition and awareness. Most botanists will tell you that the thousands of combined chemicals found in a single plant cannot be duplicated by another plant (or distilled or fabricated into pill form as a medicine). So what tea offers is a unique combination  of chemicals that delivers wakefulness, awareness, relaxation, and perhaps something extra that cannot be named.

Medicinally speaking tea was not always used as a tonic or beverage, but used externally in the form of a paste to relieve joint pain, sprains and bruising.

Whilst black and green tea have many beneficial effects on the body, and, indeed our five senses, for a women suffering from menopausal symptoms the following herb teas  offer  some relief, and bolster your immune system.

Symptoms: Night sweats, mood swings and hot flushes

Try Black Cohosh tea. Black Cohosh is grown in North America and is a native American plant that is used for women’s health, promote fertility and regulate  menstrual cycles.

Symptoms: Hot flushes and Night Sweats 

Try Red Clover tea. Red Clover originates in Africa and central Europe. The properties of red Clover mimic sthe effects of oestrogen in a woman’s body having high levels of Photoestrogens.

Symptoms: Vaginal Dryness, lack of energy

Try Ginseng tea. Ginseng has been long used in china for a range of issues, not least vitality, increase energy and vaginal dryness.

Symptoms: Poor libido and hormonal imbalance

Try Chasteberry tea. It has been known to balance the female hormones and increase dopamine levels in the brain.

Symptoms: Mood swings and depression

Try Ginkgo Tea. grown in China form the Ginkgo Biloba herb. commonly used to increase circulation and cognitive function it is said to support hormonal imbalances and lift depression and mood.2

There are other herb teas, but these are the main ones associated with menopausal symptoms. Once you have chosen your tea (preferably loose tea) you can begin by being focused (mindful) on making the tea.


The Tea Ceremony

According to  Thich Nhat Hanh, The tea ceremony is a form of practice that follows a particular art, something like a musical score that someone else wrote and others are trying to emulate.

The ceremony itself is based around awakening our mind to the five senses; sight, sound, hearing, taste and touch. Everything and everyone in the tea room matter- all are equal. All movement is slow with precision that adds beauty to the senses.

Unfortunately, westerners have come to view taking tea as a beverage to be drunk; breakfast, lunch and in the afternoon. In the Buddhist way it becomes a ritual expression of  focused mindfulness.

It is hoped that reading this  article it will incite you to make tea using all your senses. Approaching it with a sense of purpose that will enhance your health and your life.


TEA Meditation: Using five senses

If you have the time ( and sometimes you have to create the time) follow this regime. Adapt it if you have to suit your needs and circumstances.

1. First: Sit comfortably: Focus your mind: empty it of  chattering.

2. Breathe in through the nostrils feel the cold air in breath warm air on the out breath tune in to your breath, feeling joy and happiness.

3. Sight:

  • Watch the kettle boil, steam rise in the air,
  • See the hot water put inside the pot
  • Watch the steam rise,
  • As the water bubbles see its bubbling laughter, joy and anticipation,
  • Pour the tea into the cup, watch it swirl around, and the steam rise on air       currents. see where the steam goes in the room. Let your thoughts and baggage drift away with the steam.
  • See the reflections in the tea.

4. Hearing

  • Listen to the stillness in the air,
  • Listen to the silence,
  • Listen to your breath,
  • Listen to the kettle boiling,
  • Listen to the sound of the liquid been poured into the cup.
  •  Take your hearing outside of the room, listen to the outer sounds- birds,          wind, noise. Now bring your attention to the noises in the room, be mindful and focused.

5. Touch/feeling- 

  • Feel the cup, its shape, texture curve of the handle,
  • Feel the warmth of the steam and liquid travelling  down your throat to    your stomach. feel it nourishing your soul, the essence of who you are.

6. Smell

  • Be aware of the aroma,  what does it smell of?
  • Is it refreshing, calming, soothing?
  • Does the smell tingle in your nose and go down to the back of your throat?

5. Taste

  • Experience the taste  and saviour it.
  • What does it taste of? is it warm?
  • Now relax, be aware of your mind, become mindful, playful,
  • Visualise a happy, joyful person, full of live’s energy, hormonally balanced.

When completed turn your cup over onto the saucer.

Lay down on your mat and still your mind.

When you are ready, bring your senses back to the here and now.

Young woman meditating in the streetShort  Tea Mediation Practice

If you only have time for a short meditation just follow the process of filling and boiling kettle with mindfulness.

Be aware of all elements of your senses.

Once brewed sit with your tea cup, pour in the liquid from the tea pot and nurse the cup allowing your thoughts and baggage drift away with the steam.

NB. this process can be as long or as short as you want. it is part of the journey, so enjoy each moment.










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