Tea and the Art of Meditation
The practice of meditation is argued to have existed since the beginning of mankind. The most credited for the art of meditation are the Buddhists. They not only practiced meditation, but they believed that tea could help the meditative process by aiding in the cultivation of both the body and mind. It is written that monks from the Song Dynasty would, “get up, wash their face and hands, and drink tea in the morning. Then, they sit during meditation and then take a nap. When they get up, they wash face and hands, and drink tea. They have a meal. Then, they wash face and hands, and drink tea.”
Wow! That’s a lot of hand/face washing and tea drinking. These guys were serious about cleansing the body and mind. The Buddhists have used tea as a means of maintaining focus and mental awareness during meditations sessions. We know that tea contains caffeine and other vital nutrients for the body, but what does the science say surrounding meditation and how can we incorporate it into our daily routine.
What is Meditation?
Meditation comes in many different forms and may serve many various purposes. It has been practiced by many different people throughout the ages and across the globe. Meditation in its broad definition is defined by dictionary.com as, “continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation”. Meditation is also seen as a means of training the mind to live in the present moment, to build awareness. Some believe that meditation means, turning off our thoughts and feelings; however, meditation can also simply be a way of mindfully observing those thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way.
The Buddhists used meditation as an awakening, or as a path toward liberation from worldly suffering. Many other religions or spiritual teachers have developed their own traditions or modes of practice that could also be considered in the broad definition of meditation. Meditation is not only used in a spiritual or religious sense but as a way to focus and clear the mind.
How is Meditation Practiced?
As we talked about before, there are many different ways to practice the art of meditation. We will share with you a form of meditation we practice as part of our morning routine. You may use this as a baseline to get you started and as you learn more your meditative routine may evolve into something different.
- Determine your Space: Are you looking for a quiet space away from distraction or a place where you can listen to nature or other external noise. The space you meditate in can be directly correlated with your specific process or meditative purpose.
- Determine the Most Comfortable Position: You may choose to sit cross-legged on a cushion or couch. You may choose to sit upright in a chair or even laying down. Whatever is most comfortable and will allow you to focus best.
- Close your Eyes and Breathe: As you breathe deep, deliberate, and paced breathes, listen to your body. Feel the ground beneath you and be aware of where you are in space and time. Remain present.
- Observe your Thoughts & Feelings: As thoughts and feelings come to you, observe these thoughts as an outside observer with no judgment. Let them flow freely. You may strive to understand their origin, but as you do allow yourself to empathize; be kind to yourself.
- Express Gratitude: Find the mundane experiences of life and express gratitude for each one. Be specific and focus on the privileges you are able to experience.
- Incorporate Affirmations: An affirmation is a statement you express either vocally or within your mind that is an assertion that something exists or is real. These affirmations help us build our belief system about ourselves and the world around us.
Why is it Important to Practice Meditation?
Meditation has been practiced for ages as a means of achieving enlightenment, but it turns out that there are many other health benefits. These benefits include improvements to your overall physical and mental health. Here is a list of some of the many ways meditation improves your health.
- Reduces Stress & Anxiety: Stress can lead to increased levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone that leads to inflammation. Inflammation causes many health concerns within the body. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress thereby decreasing the damaging effects of cortisol. In addition, those who suffer from anxiety disorders found that meditation including yoga activities led to lower levels of anxiety and stress.
- Heightens One’s Self-Awareness: Studies have shown that meditation leads to a greater sense of self. It gives a person an awareness of their thoughts and feeling which leads to more constructive thought patterns.
- Improves Symptoms of Depression: In the form of mindful meditation, studies have found that recipients walked away from the meditative experience with a more positive outlook and experienced a reduction in negative thoughts when being exposed to negative images.
- Increases Empathy: As participants engaged in Metta, a form of meditation that aims at developing kindness toward self and others, they found that they were able to increase positive emotions and improve interpersonal interactions with others.
- Better Sleep: For those suffering from insomnia, meditation helped relax the mind and release undue stress in the body allowing for longer sleep patterns and fewer symptoms of insomnia.
- Better Control over Dependencies: Meditation helps you develop mental discipline which has been shown to improve our ability to manage emotions as well as our visceral impulses. This helps us avoid destructive addictive behavior such as drug dependencies and food addictions.
How to Incorporate Tea into your Meditative Routine?
Tea is an excellent tool used to help maintain focus and awareness during meditation. Some even practice meditation as part of their tea preparation routine. The best meditation routines are the ones you will follow most consistently and the best meditation routines always begin with tea. Below we have compiled a list of our favorite morning meditation routine teas that will keep you focused and aware.
Gyokuro is a Zen-inducing green tea that abounds in beneficial compounds and nuanced flavors. The needle-like leaves of our Gyokuro Green Tea produce a brew that is surprisingly soft and luscious. It has a satisfying, brothy flavor and mouthfeel that’s known as umami in Japan. This tea is a perfect pre-meditative tea.
This soft, earthy green tea is the most well-known of Chinese green teas. It’s light-bodied with a subtly sweet aroma. With a slight astringency, it hits the senses with soft floral and herbaceous flavors. Being a green tea, it’s loaded with nutrients and just enough caffeine to keep you alert and awake during your meditation session.
When you open the bag of this delightful green tea sencha, your senses are hit with the amazing aromas of fruit and green tea leaves. With the flavors of sencha, berry, and citrus, you are in for a delicious and energizing experience. This tea is packed with antioxidants as well as vitamins A & C. It offers servings of iron, zinc, and beta-carotene. This should make your meditative experience worthwhile.
If you’re looking for an herbal option try Yerba Mate for energy and awareness.