Meditations Series part 3 – Short sessions and tea

Short sessions and mindfulness practices to help build your meditation skills. They are not a full practice in themselves but are a useful and helpful addition to life.
Quoting an article from Science News: “Zeidan likens the brief training the participants received to a kind of mental calisthenics that prepared their minds for cognitive activity.
“The simple process of focusing on the breath in a relaxed manner, in a way that teaches you to regulate your emotions by raising one’s awareness of mental processes as they’re happening is like working out a bicep, but you are doing it to your brain. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to release sensory events that would easily distract, whether it is your own thoughts or an external noise, in an emotion-regulating fashion. This can lead to better, more efficient performance on the intended task.””
There are a lot of brief exercises that can be done anywhere that are tools to help you learn the process and to help you with stress management.
One is Anchoring. Stop, breath, and feel your feet (remove shoes if you can.) Just feel whatever sensations they are feeling, feel them completely and move up through your lower body. This can be done sitting ,standing, walking, or riding.
Another is the many forms of simple breathing exercises that can help you with your breathing during longer meditation sessions. Some of them you count, some you just feel the breath. Most involve slowing the breathing to breath deep and even. One even uses a simple motion to focus you…run a finger slowly along the sides of the fingers on your other hand. Starting with the thumb, you breath in as you go up and out as you go down. If you pause to do this with both hands you have a decent moment of meditation that is small and contained enough to do in most offices.
One breathing exercise/mindfulness exercise came from a medical journal recommending it to doctors in a busy hospital. It uses a doorway because that is a natural passage from one metal space into another. Pause before opening the door. Stop walking, reach for the handle, close your eyes and take 1-3 deep breaths before you open the door.
Tea is my preferred choice to stop to focus and center. The practice of stopping for a few breaths to focus just on those breaths and clearing the mind and emotions can help settle you, prepare you, and maintain your self and peace. Pause before entering a room and be present and aware, breath and feel the door handle you are touching or the feeling of your feet on the ground. But, let’s be more specific, how do I use tea as a meditative practice?
A tea meditation starts when you enter the room or space you will prepare the tea. You slow down and do each thing with intent, mindfulness, and quiet. Think about the traditional tea ceremonies. This is the same idea. The full ritual continues through finishing the tea and cleaning up after. When you are busy at work, you may only have time to do it in 2 parts, one making the tea and for the first couple swallows, and again when you drink the last swallow and stop to clean the cup rather than just setting it aside. It can often be very worth it to stop and have a full cup of tea (or coffee if you can prepare it and have the same experience.)
The basis of most tea rituals is that you be aware that this moment is totally and completely unique, and will never come again as it is right now, you drink your tea with complete awareness and appreciation of the moment. It is a balance if internal and external. You are fully present and aware of the moment, of a guest if you have one, and of the ritual of preparing and drinking the tea. That is all you are doing and all you are focused on. For most ritual forms the process begins well before you heat water, as you prepare for tea, then boil the water, then steep the tea, pour the tea, breath the tea, taste the tea, and clean the cup and pot.
After preparation, pause. Be thankful and breath in the steam. consider the tea and how you came to have the tea and the moment to savor the tea. breathe until you are quiet and calm.  Drink the tea in small savoring sips, being mindful of the motions involved, the feel of the steam, the feel of the hot tea, the taste, the smell, every part of the experience. You are becoming a part of this experience only and for a brief time leaving all other parts of life aside. You are fully committing to this moment and knowing it is one moment and will not occur again and has not occurred before.
Both of these – tea and short sessions, are areas that you can find a lot of information on and I recommend you do. the short sessions especially are very personal, so try it until you find the ones for you.
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