As I get older, it gets harder and harder to keep up with the speed of life. And, while it seems like we are doing a good job to maintaining the pace, we must admit that our bodies were not made for this fast paced lifestyle of modern society. We are still struggling with early morning school bus runs, scheduling one activity after another, and electric lights that let us stay up way past dark.We have so many options that weighing the slight differences between two equally good choices drive us toward our breaking point. I go in and out between periods of anxiety about the future, about plans that franly can change in a blink. I am only 24, but I feel completely burnt out.
And that’s when tea saved me.
In the hustle of living in a city with commitments pulling me in 10 different directions, I repeat this phrase from Gandhi, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” We must make the commitment to take the time for ourselves. Self-care is not a one time thing. It is a lifestyle and a conscious decision to put one’s self first. I had such a hard time doing this at first. I was always taught to be helpful, kind, and thoughtful to others. The idea of putting myself first seemed selfish.
That was until mother Oprah (blessed be she) told me something that has stuck with me. She was speaking to mothers who were getting a makeover, who had let themselves go for the sake of their children. And when I say let themselves go, we’re talking 80’s style perm, mom jeans, only resting for the 4 or so hours of sleep they would get before repeating their exhausting routines. Oprah looked these women up and down and told them, “In order to be a good wife and mother, you need to first take care of yourself.” I realized that, to be our best selves, we needed to take care of ourselves first before helping others. Although we might think we are helping our friends and family by putting them before our own needs, we are not helping anyone by giving them a lesser version of ourselves. Still, it was hard for me to learn that it was ok for me to give myself the attention I was giving to others.
And that was when I gave myself the gift of a ritual.
Rituals are not necessarily big, ornate, and religious expressions. No, I am referring to the rituals that slow us down and connect us to the present moment. They allow us to connect to simple, personal desires and to forget, even if for a couple of minutes, the expectations and obligations society places on us. Instead, we focus on something simple, a state of being where we are actually not thinking. One is only focused on the act of doing, the act of being, without the cacophony of noise.
There is just something so cathartic about rituals. For those couple of moments, we are living in the present. When we are living in the present, we are better able to choose what we want and go with our gut. Life is short and about enjoying the experiences it offers us. So why rush through it all? Why blow right through the seemingly transitory experiences we have?Savor, inhale, and embrace the smallest nuance. There are no guarantees we’ll even have the next moment. So why not make the most of the one we’ve got?
Anything can be a ritual. Brushing your teeth, cooking breakfast, or taking a shower can all be considered rituals. However, the ritual that I cherish most is brewing a cup of evening tea. Ever since I was a kid, tea has been a way to help soothe me to sleep. Taking the time to make tea in the evening is more than the final product, as delicious as it might be. This seemingly mundane process, one that many people rush through without a second thought, is one I take my time to savor. It allows me to reflect about my day and think about my day and my goals.
So how can you start a tea ritual? I make a point in my food budget to buy some high quality, delicious, and soothing teas. The brand I am hooked on right now is ALOHA sleep tea. The lavender and camomile taste are so soothing and help me fall asleep in a flash, and each tea bag comes individually wrapped in a silk bag. While you can make a tea ritual around any tea, I find that using a high quality tea makes the experience that much more worthwhile.
I heat water in my electric kettle. Watching water boil is awesome. I’m serious. It’s science and magic together. Witnessing the application of heat to still water, and then the transition of water to steam really is magic, and a great first step. I witness the water for the 2 minutes it takes to boil. The tiny bubbles dance, comingling to form larger, hotter bubbles. Finally steam blasts out of the kettle and the switch snaps magically to automatically shut the kettle off. It is amazing how cold water can magically vaporize before your eyes. Witnessing this is awesome, and sets the stage for making great tea.
I wait a second, then pour the hot water over the tea bag. Just like magic the water darkens into the familiar, rich brown color. The aroma rising up to fill my nostrils. It’s intense and soothing. I sip. What aromas rise up in the steam? What does the body of the brew feel like in my mouth, dry, thin, chewy, full? What taste persists? Any good tea should take you on a gustatory, sensual journey. Good tea ignites the senses and allows the drinker to entirely engage into a fully present moment with the leaves.
That’s my tea ritual. Please copy it, improve on it. And remember that once you make it a habit, it’s easy and invaluable. It slows you down, starts you up, connects you to the moment, and gets you out of the moment. All with just some water and leaves.