Allies in Alchemy by Gaia Terza Groups, rituals, retreats Los Angeles, CA and Santa Fe, NM

How to Meditate with a Cup of Tea

I take the position that everything is medicine, or at least it can be if we are willing to expand our beliefs around what constitutes relationship and reciprocity. In a world of frenetic activity and overstimulation, we can find our central nervous systems taxed, frazzled, and depleted on just an average day.

If we follow nature’s cue, it would seem that nourishment is really the only viable initial option or antidote for a battered central nervous system. Nourishment is the foundation of feminine essence. The first thing a new mother instinctually does with her seconds old newborn is to bring the baby to her breast.  Nourished, we are soothed, strengthened, balanced, refreshed, restored, inspired…. We are alive.

My clients frequently inquire about the “how to’s” of meditation and often find themselves overwhelmed by the seemingly ominous task of finding peace in the mind.  I like to engage a dynamic way of meditation that expands beyond traditional methods and offers a viable route into a quiet and present mind, and that is the simple act of drinking a cup of tea with awareness. Approaching your morning cup with a little imagination and devotion can lead you to a wellspring of deep nourishment of spirit and access to what we are really hungry for, which is connection.

Before I dive into the meditation, I want to speak to how critical it is that we ensure that what we consume is ethically sourced. Just as with food, know where your tea comes from, as child labor and substandard working conditions run rampant in the worlds of tea, coffee, and chocolate. The tiniest infraction in the vast web of life indeed affects us all.

So let’s begin. I recommend this practice at sunrise. Take a moment to choose a teacup or bowl that feels good to hold in your hands. We are preparing to drink with all of our senses, and aesthetics of visual and tactile beauty add a level of comfort and reverence to the experience.

Electric tea kettles are convenient, but there is something ancient and alchemical about bringing fire to a vessel of water and watching as the fire arches up, swaddling the pot, and the glow of the flame in the quiet and cool of early morning. Notice the flames, listen to the burgeoning sound of pressure and bubbles forming and releasing. How does it feel to be in the energy of anticipation? Just observe.

As you wait for the water to boil, I encourage you to contemplate the notion of receptivity. What is your relationship to it? I meet many people who are uncomfortable with receiving due to trauma and confuse it with vulnerability and lack of safety. If you fall somewhere on the continuum of mild discomfort to abject terror in regards to receiving, then I invite you to practice the art of receiving with tea. Mindful preparation and drinking of tea could not be a safer, softer, or more compassionate exercise in this most essential feminine act of “allowing in”.  As we all embody both masculine and feminine traits, this is for all of us, regardless of gender.

Have you ever paid attention to the generosity inherent in a cup of tea?  She (tea) gives of herself and her life force completely. Spending the totality of herself in a singular cup of warmth. Yielding the fruition of her journey from seedling held tight in the earth, pushing her roots deep into the loamy unknown, to her branches and leaves reaching up and out towards the sky. Soaking in sunshine by day and moonlight by night. Sipping water by rain, aquifer, and rivulet. She heeds the imperative call to nourishment and she offers this medicine to us with neither condition nor reservation. The energy of all these cycles and natural allies in growth are contained inside her and are integral in her offering. Have you ever taken the time to notice? Take a few breaths to feel into the depths of this loving, alive, dynamic, pervasive generosity and unconditional love. Breathe with it… this is meditation. This is nourishment.

As bubbles rise in the pot, be curious about what bubbles up inside of you.  This is an exercise in congruence. Being congruent in this manner means aligning yourself with natural phenomena and exploring the guidance and example she sets. When I talk about “medicine” I am referencing healing…the solution. Do you really want the medicine? If so, how much? How deep do you want to go with this? What if nature, our environment, is simply mirroring us in an effort to give us the recipe for a complete remedy. This perspective demands a comprehensive paradigm shift. Where there is drought, peer deeper. Where are WE parched, dehydrated, and devoid of sustenance, physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Could she be that generous? That communicative?  Are you willing to look into the mirror she holds up? Mirroring of this magnitude is facilitated by the deep, abiding, and unconditional love of The Mother.  As the tea said to me one morning, “a true mother is willing to do whatever it takes, to teach her daughter the lesson of herself”.

These may be challenging questions, but we can start by looking into our own teacup and see who is looking back. Can we meet our reflection with willingness to see all of ourselves? Can this gentle mirror be an intimate, honest, and daily exercise in living responsibly?

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Back to the tea at hand…

Observe the mosaic of elements accompanying this ritual. The fire under the pot, the water, tea leaves in your cup embodying earth. Air is swirling in the form of steam and beginning to drift upwards and out of the spout, mingling with your breath. These elements have an energy, a dharma, maybe even a spirit all their own. There are subtle yet potent relationships to be explored and friendships to be found everywhere if we take the time to pay attention and invite connection. This is where we find stunning magic in the most mundane, invisible, and overlooked activities of the day.

The kettle sings and the welcome splash fills your cup. Watch as the leaves soften and unfurl in the little makeshift womb you now hold in your hands, swirling and deepening in hue. Bring the cup to your lips and pause. Ride the current of steam together, communing with breath. Take your time simply breathing together.

Once ready, take your first sip and become acquainted. Greet her more deeply now as she flows into you. Invite her to ground you, to nourish your roots, and warm you with her medicine. She greets you where you are, without judgement. Ask her to reveal her medicine to you. Listen for messages…engage.

The clock ticks and the day arrives regardless, but fed by your tea, with a still warm and now empty cup, how do you feel? Perhaps this brief encounter was your singular time for contemplation today. Or maybe you will invite her back for a nighttime bath to wash away the day. If you get quiet enough, she just may sing you a lullaby and whisper of sleepy dreams to come, as you usher in the darkness together. Isn’t that what friends are for?

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Warmly,

Gaia Terza

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