Many of us start a new day with a quick cup of tea or coffee: an energising burst of caffeine to kick-start our momentum. Each sip infuses our heart with a gentle warmth that invites us home, if only for a split second. But what if you could extend this experience beyond mere moments? This habit is a type of morning ritual that most people usually bypass the significance of.
At a recent tea ceremony, I discovered how to invite greater meaning and intention into everyday life. “In China, the doors to the tea houses are small so everyone who comes in has to bow down to the same height. This way, it does not matter whether you are a street sweeper or a dignitary, everyone is considered equal,” says Bo Wong, our gently-spoken ceremonial leader who sits in the centre of our semi-circle.
Bo’s calm voice and precise movements are almost hypnotic as she rinses each of the small ceramic bowls in front of us. As she carefully distributes a generous pinch of the dried purple and silver leaves into each bowl, Bo tells us about the origins of the plant. This particular one is the white peony; a white tea from The Steepery. Reading up on its origins, I learned it was delicately harvested from a wild tea garden in the Fozi Mountains of China. Only the unopened buds and two newest leaves of the tea plants are plucked. Then traditionally dried, the tea retains the rich natural minerals from the fertile mountain soil.
As we wait for the water to boil in the specially crafted clay kettle, Bo demonstrates how to hold the bowl in a gesture of receiving. We connect with the tea at and from our heart space. As she continues to speak about the tea plants, our small group has fallen quiet with curiosity and contemplation. Like most ceremonial practices, it is a space of no judgement, openness, kindness and joy. Today, Bo serves us three rounds of tea, although traditional houses serve upwards of seven. “Three is a good number to begin with,” she tells us. “One is not enough. By the second round, people have just started to centre and ground. But, it is by the third round that people drop into a deeper space of presence and connection.” And it is true.
The small cluster of unbroken tea leaves swirl in the small bowls as she pours the water in. We watch as they spin and settle at the base, gently infusing the water with a soft and subtle flavour. I wasn’t sure if I should be thinking or praying in a particular way, so I simply greeted the leaves in my mind as I held the bowl to my heart, and thanked them for serving me. If nothing else, I thought of Dr Masaru Emoto’s incredible research on the molecular structure of water and how perfectly the crystals formed in response to the words “thank you.” I was being hydrated with water, minerals and love.
As the second round was poured and handed to us, the silence was more comfortable. “Hello again,” I said to the leaves in secret communion. A warm familiarity enveloped me as I raised the bowl to my lips. In the stillness of everything, my senses were heightened. The taste, scents and textures were more apparent and with the tea to focus on, my mind quietened as I settled into a meditative peacefulness. With the third bowl, we were lulled into a tranquil open-hearted presence. It was a state I didn’t want to emerge from and I listened in gratitude as Bo opened the space for questions.
Bring ceremony into your day
“The tea, teaware, water, space and heart are all essential to making good tea,” Bo explains. She has been sitting and drinking tea as a meditative practice daily for a few years now, and credits it to changing her life. The power is in its simplicity.
This ceremonial start to the day also helps you stay balanced as it aligns your heart, mind and spirit. Beginning each day with a deep sense of love, gratitude and stillness organically transforms how your day unfolds. Rather than rushing out of bed into a cascade of busyness, your decisions and actions have time to become more intentional and grounded. Life becomes more meaningful. “I now do one thing at a time, I feel calmer, I can handle stressful situations better, I see the world differently,” Bo says.
After experiencing this tea ceremony, I can understand why, when sipped in the sacred way, tea is said to hold the key to good health, happiness and wisdom. This ancient Eastern tradition reminds us of the beauty and uniqueness of the present moment.
Bringing sacred meaning into everyday life
With so many of people working in skyscrapers, surrounded by concrete jungle, our society has lost connection with the earth. Long days in the office are confined to artificial lighting and recycled air. Food comes in packages or from a café or takeaway shop on the way home where you have no way of knowing where the food came from, who prepared it, or even what’s really in it.
According to Diabetes Australia, there are 280 people developing diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes. Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes and affects 4.2 million people in this country.i In any one year, around three million Australian adults will experience depression and/or anxiety,ii and suicide is the leading cause of death today for Australians aged between 15 and 44 years of age.iii
A lack of meaningful connection to the planet, to the community, to each other and to ourselves can contribute to a deep sense of dissatisfaction, restlessness and longing. People might change jobs, change relationships, move cities, or lose themselves in any number of addictions—food, alcohol, drugs, work, gambling, shopping—to resolve this state of discomfort.
You can invite more meaning into your day with this short practice. Select tea that has been sustainably harvested and dried naturally in the sun and shade so the connection to the plant’s natural form is more apparent. Enjoying it in simple ceremony is a little like coming home. You feel present with a sense of gratitude to the tea for being of service to you as it hydrates your brain with its mineral-rich elixir. When I sip tea in this way, I naturally feel a deeper desire to care for the plants and the earth, and so it becomes a reciprocal relationship.
Every culture has a rich ancestral lineage of sacred connection to the earth. If you follow your family tree back to your ancestral origins, you will discover a luscious treasure trove of sacred cultural practices to invite into your day.
The rituals don’t need to be complicated or time consuming. It can be as simple as inviting more presence and intention into your morning when you have a cup of tea. Try ordering a small bag of traditionally harvested tea online, learn where it came from and sit quietly for fifteen minutes in a heart-centred space, as you pour, sip and honour the connection between you and the plant.
The benefits of mineral-rich hydration
After 6-9 hours of fasting during sleeping, our bodies crave immediate hydration. Without it, we won’t be firing on all cylinders. Beyond that, most people simply do not drink enough water throughout the day which leads to feeling lacklustre and fatigued. Studies have also established an association between habitually low fluid intake with chronic disease.iv
Instead of rushing out of bed and making a quick brew of commercial tea or coffee, imagine starting your day in stillness with a refreshing and hydrating uptake of nutrients to infuse your cells. Tea is renowned for its antioxidant properties, rich in polyphenols, flavonoids and amino acids. You only need to Google: “Types of tea and their health benefits,” to discover pages of research and rave reviews.
White tea has the least amount of processing, thereby ensuring an even higher amount of polyphenols than any of the other teas. It is rich in trace minerals, vitamins and nutrients, and its gentle flavour means it can be also enjoyed without additives such as milk or sugar. Green tea is another that has received plenty of attention for its anticancer and antioxidant properties, and its role in reducing risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, stroke, and heart disease.v
To add some colour to your morning, try hibiscus tea. It is a beautiful red colour, also rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and bioflavonoids. Whichever tea you choose, the nutrient-rich hydration will set your body up for the new day. As the cells are re-energised, you can feel greater clarity, improved regulation in body temperature, more sustainable energy levels and a generally improved sense of wellbeing.
Regardless of where you are in your day, taking the time to sip tea with presence and intention can immediately influence your mindset for the better. When you feel gratitude for the plant in being of service to you, you can also feel gratitude toward yourself for making the choice to be present and alive in the moment. And what a beautiful place to be.
Jennifer Faulkner is a writer and the creator of Word Symmetry where she teaches the art of story and meaningful connection. She is passionate about inspiring change and helping people find a deeper sense of gratitude and fulfillment in their life’s experience. www.wordsymmetry.com.au