Meditation Articles Series
Zen in a Tea Cup
How Green Tea can Help you Meditate
Each morning I take my grandmother’s old bone china teapot out of the cupboard. I remember how proud she was of her teapot and delicate cups and saucers. They were only used on special occasions. The teapot is a lovely shade of pale green but it does have a crack along the bottom. It must be almost a hundred years old now. Following in her footsteps from so long ago I remember to warm the teapot with hot water. What has this to do with meditation you may well ask? Well, this preamble is to share with you some interesting research I have just discovered. And the tea that goes into the teapot is what could help your meditation practice. It's called green tea.
I began drinking green tea some years ago because of its antioxidant properties, which protect our cells from free radical damage. Free radical damage is the cause of many diseases. Now I have discovered another amazing quality of green tea. Green tea contains L-Theanine which is an amino acid that has been described as “zen in a bottle” because of its calming effects on brainwaves. A study done by K. Kobayashi, a Japanese researcher, concluded that Theanine promotes the state of alpha-brain waves and also induces relaxation. Alpha is not the highset or lowest band of brainwave frequencies but it occurs in wakefulness where there is a relaxed effortless alertness. As our meditation deepens we experience this effortless alertness. In this state we become rested, calm, peaceful and focused. Theanine also enhances our ability to learn and remember. When we are relaxed our worries are lessened and our attention span and concentration increases. Theanine increases a brain chemical as well called GABA that is calming and creates a sense of well-being.
If you are meditating but you begin to feel resistance to your practice first of all accept and allow that. Just about everyone at some stage feels that they just don’t want to meditate anymore. However, if you have reached a point of frustration and are about to throw it in, consider taking a cup of green tea before you sit down to meditate. Some people may disagree with this and say that you just have to work through your resistance. However, if it is the difference between giving up meditation and continuing to deepen your practice then I believe a cup of green tea may be just that little bit of help that could inspire someone to carry on meditating.
Here are some tips on using green tea:
- When you buy green tea avoid buying tea bags. I believe that the quality of the tea is not as high as loose-leaf tea.
- Prepare the leaves in an earthenware teapot if possible. Let the leaves float about in the water to bring out the subtle flavour.
- Warming the teapot with hot water and then tipping it out is an old fashion secret when making tea.
- Place the tealeaves in the pot. I use half a teaspoon to a cup of boiling water for one person. Let stand for about three minutes, and then pour through a strainer. Leaving the tea to steep too long makes it bitter.
- Sip slowly and enjoy. The ritual of making tea can be a meditation in itself.