While periodic vacations are great for recharging our batteries, we need small “vacations” every day—times to release stressful thoughts having to do with our responsibilities, “to-do lists” and “shoulds,” and other concerns and to exist completely in the moment. More and more people are learning yoga or one of the various forms of sitting meditation for this purpose. Other people garden, take walks, swim, spend time with pets, do crafts or paint, or engage in various hobbies or volunteer work to “lose themselves” in a pleasurable and restorative activity.
Our friend Laura likes to sit outside in her backyard, pay attention to breathing in and out, and say to herself: “Here I sit, like laundry flapping in the breeze, free from the past . . . free from the future . . . free from evil . . . free from “good.” She then pays attention to her physical sensations, accepting them for what they are, and releasing any little tensions she may feel, while savoring each moment.
Letting go of thoughts about the past or the future, and of judgments, are important elements of living in the present moment.
A recent article in the Buddhist journal Lion’s Roar by Joseph Emet suggested “Drinking a Mindful Cup of Tea” as a daily ritual for release and renewal by attending to the present moment. Here are some suggestions from this article:
- View this ritual as a productive and important part of your day.
- Pause to hold your warm cup of tea before drinking, and take a few conscious breaths.
- See the soil, rain, and sun that grew this tea; all the men and women who played a part in growing and harvesting the tea and getting it ultimately to you.
- Let the aroma of the tea fill your mind so that there is no room for thoughts.
- Now take a sip. With each sip, ask yourself, “Who is enjoying this tea?” When you encounter that person, be they a mother, a worker, someone who is worried, someone who wants something to be different than it is, someone who is trying to do it “right,” someone who is very pleased with themselves—whatever, let them go. You may be that, but you are more than that, deeper than that.
- Then, with each sip, say to yourself, “Just this.” “Just this.” And, Emet says, “Sit and breathe like a flower in a meadow, enjoying the sun.”
Step #1 is particularly important since our culture doesn’t value taking time to simply “be” or “be mindful,” without having a specific goal or objective in mind. The truth is, as Emet reminds us, when you are able to relax and live in the moment, you become more creative and able to see more possibilities in any situation. However, paradoxically, in order for it to have this effect, the activity must be done for itself rather than to attain any specific goal.
Happy tea drinking!
Emet J. Drinking a mindful cup of tea. Lion’s Roar. May 2017, pp. 29-30.