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Random Thoughts About Whatever Comes to Mind

Mindfulness and Tea Drinking

It's always interesting to find a new perspective on an old topic, and for me there are few topics older than tea. Being Southern, I grew up in a culture where iced tea was the go-to beverage, the colder the better. My mother, however, was a lover of hot tea, and she introduced me to it when I was a little girl. I went from being a drinker of tea to a believer in tea's special qualities very quickly. Like one of Sheridan LeFanu's characters, I came to rely on tea as an adjunct to study and writing. The next step was the discovery of afternoon tea as social custom on travels in England. Along the way I began writing about tea, which leads me to the new perspective.

Some time ago, I began writing about the Japanese Tea Ceremony. It was an interesting topic to research, and I found myself increasingly fascinated by the ceremonial uses of tea to reinforce political power and transmit culture. Jump ahead to Amazon's Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), where I encountered fellow tea lover Ken Cohen, an impressively knowledgable tea scholar. Ken narrated the audiobook of The Japanese Tea Ceremony and the Shoguns, providing a nuanced treatment that much enhanced its content. It was a bonus that he was so pleasant and incredibly easy to work with.

In addition to his podcasts on REP Radio dealing with the world of arts and culture in the Philadelphia-Greater New York area, Ken's started a tea podcast and invited me to be his first guest. He's an effective interviewer and I enjoyed our session this afternoon. It was in the course of that discussion that he mentioned a friend has become a Zen officiant and, as part of his practice, takes a break each afternoon where he sets aside other concerns, drinks tea, and focuses consciously on gratitude. Ken mentioned this in the context of the currently hot topic of "mindfulness."

He's exactly right, of course. Drinking tea while consciously considering an important aspect of life is a perfect example of mindfulness. Further, it's an obvious extension of tea-drinking's origins as a device to aid in the practice of Zen. For some reason, the connection hadn't occurred to me, so I owe Ken thanks for bringing this to my attention.

This podcast on tea will be available soon on Ken's Talking Tea site. As soon as there's a link for today's session, I'll put it in the QUICK LINKS column.
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