It’s 5:00 am. Wrapped in a plaid blanket, I’ve settled at one end of the living room couch. Usually I’m sitting on my meditation cushion at this hour, but today I’m choosing a different morning meditation. I call it my Tea Meditation.
I lift the softly quilted cozy off the small squat teapot that sits patiently on the end table. The pot’s white roundness, its handle edged with a single blue stripe, promises a well-kept heat in its porcelain belly. Fingers and thumb curl into the curved handle with just enough pressure to counter-balance the weight of the steamy liquid within. Next to the pot sits a favorite cup and sauce, resplendent with a hand-painted garden of French flowers. I hover the spout over the expectantly waiting cup and with barely a tip, the mahogany stream connect pot and cup. There’s no sound as the stream swirls in the bottom of the cup until I interrupt the flow by tilting the pot upright when the cup is half full.
My left had slips two fingers into the gently looped handle of the cup, while the right encircles the cup’s bowl cradling a bouquet in the palm of my hand. Tendrils of ascending steam and bright smell close my eyes and soften my shoulders as I deeply inhale and exhale. In the simplicity of bringing my attention only to this cup of tea, I am freed from my habitual worries and busyness. This cup of tea is a gateway to freedom.
Some mornings I chose to do Alternating Practice. Then I fully engage in the experience of drinking tea and when I’ve finished what’s in the cup, I set it down. I then bring my all of my attention to reading for a time. When I want more tea, I set the book down and go back to everything about the next sip of tea. The beauty about Alternating Practice is that it incorporates doing two different things . . . but one at a time. Perhaps you really like to read while you sip your coffee or tea. In this practice you can drink and read by doing one of those wholeheartedly, then switching and doing the other with the same focus. When drinking, just drink. When reading, just read. Doing one thing at a time allows us to commit so we can fully connect with that experience. We have the opportunity to savor the sensory experience of drinking or reading, and be nourished by each.
In the simplicity of my one-focus Tea Meditation this morning, there’s a sense of relief — the relief of not having to multi-task. I’m aware of feeling content and that drinking this tea is enough. Perhaps, I too, am enough, just as I am in this moment. I recognize that I have choices and that I know ways in which I can take care of myself. This morning’s quiet interlude is one of the ways I do that by nourishing body, mind and heart.
Perhaps it’s the warmth of the tea or the stilling of my body or my one-tea focus that quiets my mind and wakes in me the possibility of being fully alive in even more moments of my life. Being fully awake through my senses and thriving, one sip at a time.
What do you like to do while you eat? How would you experiment with Alternating Practice? What simple practice nourishes you?