These days, we all strive for a more balanced, mindful life. It’s not easy to maintain the modern lifestyle with peace of mind. Yoga and meditation have become household methods for slowing down. But what we drink also plays a vital role in shaping our mental state. Tea might just be the best drink for a more calm and meditative life.
The history of the tea ceremony reveals some secrets about mindfulness. Zen Buddhism played a major role in the development of the tea ceremony. In fact, the history of Zen and the practice of tea drinking have developed side by side and have greatly influenced one another.
The story goes that Shuko, a budding student of Buddhism was expelled from his temple for his failure to follow orders, his tendency to fall asleep while meditating and his overall restlessness. His problems followed him as he got older and became a Zen priest. Finally, he begged a renowned doctor to find him a cure for sleepiness. The doctor ordered him to drink green tea. The tea worked and his meditation practice grew deeper. From then on, Shuko studied tea ceremony and became a devoted tea enthusiast. Word spread of the powers of tea, and soon it became a common meditation aid in monasteries. The monks developed formal tea rituals to suit the monastic life, and eventually, the drink spread outwards to the surrounding towns.
Tea is known to help us with tranquility and concentration while also keeping us alert and focused. This is the affect of a combination of properties found in the Camellia sinensis plant: caffeine, polyphenols and theanine. The stimulant caffeine helps to keep us alert. Tea also contains theanine, a psychoactive amino acid. There has been evidence to suggest that theanine increases calm, improves cognitive performance and, in synergy with caffeine, actually improves our mood.
Interestingly, studies in the Japanese population, where green tea is very popular have found overall, green tea is associated with lower levels of psychological stress than in cultures where green tea is uncommon.
For those who feel too mentally activated by caffeine, some herbal remedies will provide similar affects. Blends with active ingredients like kava kava, lemon balm, lavender and passion-flower will promote calm and reduce nervousness.
Whether you’re a meditator or just want some more Zen in your day, replacing common high sugar drinks with tea remedies can really help. So be mindful of what you drink! And know that tea has a long history of helping us finding peace of mind.