Each day I wake up looking forward to the benefits of dinacharya—the practice of building routines into each day that helps the natural rhythms of our body work as they should. In doing this, we support our overall health and well-being. An Ayurvedic tea ceremony is one of my favorite dinacharya practices. For me, the outward-facing ritual of preparing and drinking tea manifests inner harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. It is a meditation that by providing time and space to learn about the inner self while showing respect for the material world invests not only the tea but also each step of the ceremony with positive value.
It might surprise you to know that there’s a scientific basis for understanding how the tea ceremony works. Modern experts on the topic point out that this ritual can help focus and calm the mind by stimulating both sides of the brain. The Buddhist monks who developed the tea ceremony in ancient times understood that experiences that comprise a sequence of fixed, repeated steps and that activate all five senses can induce a relaxed yet alert state of mind that fosters a feeling of well-being and inner peace.
Smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight converge with the various elements of the ritual: the earthy aroma of the tea and the straw in the floor matting, the smooth texture of the pottery’s glaze, the flavor of the tea, the sound of the water bubbling in the teapot, the décor inside the room, and the sights and sounds from the natural environment outside the room. With all five senses awakened and in tune, the entire brain is engaged in the ceremony. The left brain hemisphere enjoys analyzing the material and factual aspects of the ceremony, such as the implements and the steps in the process, while the right hemisphere focuses on intuitive elements like the beauty and serenity of the ambience and the emotions of the participants.
When I’m planning a daily tea ritual, my first step is finding handmade ceramics from local artisans. By doing this I am not only supporting my community, but also surrounding the ceremony with a culture of respect for artistry. Equally important, the visual beauty and delightful feel of each container awaken my sight and sense of touch.
My second step is sourcing fair trade organic herbs and spices from reputable dealers. I’ve committed to this practice because I believe that one person can make a difference. Buying organic supports organic agriculture, which reduces the overall exposure of the soil, air, and water and the food supply to synthetic pesticides whose toxic effects include an increased risk of myriad diseases from asthma to cancer. This commitment also contributes to the growing demand for sustainable farming methods. Over time, if there’s enough demand, the industry will have to change to accommodate consumer preferences.
The third step in the planning process is creating the right environment for the ceremony. The quality of energy in the environment greatly affects our mental state. Hence it is not always something tangible that might make it difficult to focus when you sit for tea. You should learn to be able to differentiate between the positive and negative vibrations in different areas of your house. This is a relatively easy task. All you have to do is to observe your emotions. Places where you find it easy to think good thoughts are energetically appropriate for meditative rituals. There are surely more than enough corners in your house where you could feel these uplifting spiritual vibrations.
Setting up a dedicated space can make or break your ceremonial tea habit. Imagine you have to put away your current project, clean up counter space, pull out a teapot, tea cups, and tea. By now you’ve exhausted most of your willpower just by thinking about getting to the point of making tea. Choose a place in your house that has the positive vibrations that I mentioned, and reserve this space for your ceremony. The décor should be a very simple reflection of the natural world. Spaciousness and simplicity in your decoration is essential to enable the mind to relax and reflect.
Now let’s talk tea! One of my favorite herbs to use in my daily tea ritual is tulsi. Aromatic, delicious, beautiful, and sattvic (“pure, harmonious”) tulsi is one of those magical Ayurvedic herbs that can benefit just about everyone.
When preparing the tea, stay present with each step: heating the water, steeping the tea, and pouring the warm water over the tea leaves. Inhale the aroma of the tea. Notice the smell: Is it gentle or pungent? Is the aroma cooling or warming? Let your eyes take in the colors as the tea is infusing; notice the texture of the tea leaves. Allow your gaze to take in the colors of your ceramics while your hands are holding the cup. Let your gaze be gentle, passively taking in all there is to see.
Before drinking the tea, offer up appreciation. Take time to remember and give thanks for each being that went into the making of this tea: the sacred water, the cherished plant, and the many hands that tended to the tea that’s now in front of you. By setting this tone you are allowing your senses to embrace the experience entirely, and you will watch stress start to melt away. As you sip, joy will fill your heart, starting the day off with a deep sense of wholeness, gratitude, and self-awareness.
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