In my previous post, I mentioned that I stopped drinking coffee (and swapped it for my trusty green tea). Once I put an end to that daily habit shared by billions of people worldwide, I started wondering what else I do out of mere habit rather than conscious desire. What conventions do we partake of that we don’t need, are a waste of money, and may even be harming us, simply out of common practice?

For instance, I don’t use lotion. Or hair conditioner. Or sunscreen, fluoridated toothpaste, and a million other things that are a part of many people’s daily regimen. Yet my skin is clear and glowing, my hair is softer than ever, I haven’t had a cavity in years, and I’m the healthiest person in my family. (Quick tidbit: If you follow the standard advice of brushing after every meal, it will wear the enamel off your teeth and actually give you more cavities.)

Here’s a quick list of some common everyday items and practices that many folks stick to out of mere habit or custom, and the natural / more affordable alternatives that I use:

  • Coffee: I’m back to green tea!
  • Body lotion: I use almond / coconut / olive oil after a shower.
  • Hair dye: 100% henna powder (indigo can be used to achieve darker shades).
  • Hair conditioner: None (the henna is plenty conditioning).
  • Blow dryer: I sun-dry my hairSleep aids: Chamomile tea.
  • Antiperspirant: You’re supposed to sweat. I stick with just deodorant.
  • Buying new books: Check them out for free at the library.
  • Diamonds and precious gems: Costume jewelry and cocktail rings.
  • Treadmills: Nature trails.
  • Facebook: Real life.
  • Tanning salons: Um, the sun?
  • Anti-wrinkle creams: None. I want to look my age and be respected for what my years have accomplished.

I can go on and on. Of course, none of these are intended to be cynical (well, maybe those last few), but rather to make us stop and re-consider why we do the things we do, and why we buy the things we buy. Does your little French poodle really need a $3000 designer carrying case? Is it wise to go knee-deep into debt for a wedding, rather than invest the money in your lifetime of marriage? And is there ever a good reason to sprinkle edible gold on your baked potatoes? C’mon now!

This mindfulness most certainly comes back to tea. As a coffee drinker, I simply prepared my morning brew and downed it immediately, perceiving it as a means to an end (caffeine kick!). But now that I’ve returned to tea, every day begins with a mini matcha ceremony.

Instead of a waking dash to get the coffee maker started, I patiently allow the water in my pot to heat up for as long as it needs to, as I lay out my traditional Japanese tea cup, bamboo whisk, and matcha spoon. Instead of ears perked for percolation, I listen for that silent sizzle that lets me know the exact moment the water is ready. My mornings have gone from a frantic dependency on coffee to a mellow delight in my tiny warm cup. A mad rush has been replaced with a soft, slow indulgence, and I think that’s pretty amazing.

There’s something almost sacred about tea, and I want to keep it that way. Coffee plugs us directly into the madness of the world, while tea allows us to tune it out. Tea is about the internal world, the present moment, the conscious enjoyment of the Now. It affords us a moment to breathe, to re-evaluate, to let go and accept. Perhaps a warning label is in order: Caution! Drinking tea may cause profound moments of mindfulness.

It’s amazing how our world starts to change once we become hyper-aware of our habits and begin questioning the little things in everyday life. I am very unattached to my material possessions, and there is so much freedom there. I save my money for experience, not *stuff*. I value a person’s character, not their connections. And I drink my tea slowly, because a mindful morning creates a thoughtful day, which ever-so-subtly creates a meaningful life.