“Spirituality” is a word that’s thrown about often these days, although there’s considerable confusion as to what it actually means. The definition that resonates with me is from spirituality4now, which concludes that “basic to this understanding of spirituality is the premise that we regard the human being and / or the rest of creation as composed not only of matter, but of something immaterial, something invisible, something beyond our present knowledge. There is always more to what we can perceive with our senses and know with our reason.”
In practical terms, I believe spirituality represents the essence of who we are as individuals and is housed in both our body and our mind. I also believe there is a unique connection between our beloved brew and spirituality. In addition, that connection can actually have a positive impact on our health and wellness.
So how can we tap into that connection? I’d like to encourage each of you to develop a ritual or habit of making tea each day. It can be the perfect way to start or end your day, or provide a much-needed break during the course of the day. The key is to establish the habit of making tea so that the behavior becomes a carefully orchestrated set of actions that don’t vary. Once it becomes a habit, you’re well on our way to nirvana.
I think a better understanding of what constitutes a habit might help to explain how we’re able to benefit from them. A habit is a group of actions that we don’t have to think about; the activities surrounding them have become part of our consciousness. Habits can represent automatic behaviors that we do each day. For example, upon waking up, each of us has a different routine or ritual. I get out of bed and walk to the bathroom and begin my morning ablutions. Next, I brush my teeth and floss before jumping into the shower, where I begin at the top of my head and work my way down. I start with shampoo and then condition my hair. While I wait for the conditioner to moisturize my hair, I soap up my body, again working from top to bottom, by which time my hair and body are ready to be rinsed. I grab a towel while still in the shower and dry off; then, using a different towel, I wrap my wet hair in a turban. Once clean and dry, I head down stairs for my first cup of tea. On the weekends, my ritual is modified, as my thoughtful husband brings me my first cup of tea while I’m still in bed. I know each one of us has a routine that we follow effortlessly. We don’t debate it; we don’t ask ourselves if we should head into the bathroom; we’re simply on automatic pilot. These established habits allow our mind to be actively engaged elsewhere, like imagining a stress-free future, focusing on our breathing, or taking a mini-vacation on a warm sunny beach.
Ann Graybiel, a researcher from MIT, has written the following about the habitualization of behaviors and the development of rituals:
“Scientists in many different fields have been attracted to the study of habits because of the power habits have over behavior and because they invoke a dichotomy between the conscious, voluntary control over behavior, considered the essence of higher-order deliberative behavioral control, and lower-order behavioral control that is scarcely available to consciousness. A broad spectrum of behavioral routines and rituals can become habitual and stereotyped through learning.”
If we can develop the habit of this simple routine of tea each day, we will create a ritual that has the power to become an integral part of our lives. We can start or end each day in a state of mindfulness and in harmony with our mind, body, and spirit. Through the wonders of classical conditioning (remember Pavlov’s dog and the ringing of a bell), over time, we will begin to feel the effects of this ritual as we start to prepare the tea. We will come to associate this simple act with the peace and harmony that will follow. Essentially, our bodies will learn to associate tea with relaxation, balance, and a feeling of calm. I encourage you to make a commitment to this process for 30 days. That will habituate the behavior, making it an essential and welcome part of your day. Just imagine what impact that can have on our bodies, providing a much-needed break from our stressful and hectic lives.
Don’t even get me started on the innumerable physiological health benefits associated with the actual consumption of tea. We’ve published countless posts on the health benefits of tea, ranging from cardiovascular, cognitive, anti-cancer, and anti-aging. Let me share my favorite quote from a scientist who hails from the National Institutes of Health and was an early contribuor at T Ching. Dr. John Weisberger is over 80 years old and faithfully drinks eight cups of tea each day. He attributes his longevity and vitality to tea – along with exercise and a healthy diet. According to Dr. Weisberger, “Tea is the healthiest beverage on the planet. It’s healthier than fruits and vegetables.”
On that note, I’ll leave you to create your own unique tea rituals that are sure to support your health and wellness.