The best cup of tea is made of good quality leaves and steeped in hot, not boiling water. My father-in-law makes the best tasting cups of tea because he takes the time to allow the leaves to steep properly.
He first pours a bit of the hot water in the teapot and the cups we will use, then swishes it around a bit, and then finally, pours it out. These are not normal-sized tea cups; It takes two hands to hold these cups of tea and they’re almost as large as the pot. That’s also part of why they are the best.
My father-in-law pours all the swished water out because it has done its job of warming the pot and cups up. Now they’re ready receptacles for the tea leaves. He then gently places the tea leaves in their infuser; hot water is poured through and into the pot. The tea leaves are left to then steep in a very hot and very comfortable climate.
A timer is then set. Black and Green teas steep for at least 4 minutes, herbal teas, 5-7 minutes and maybe even a bit more. Perfection.
Like the teapot and cups, my mind needs a bit of swishing before I can settle into a mindful state. Going from work tasks to mommy tasks to jumbled messes of tasks to be done (right now!) I need a bit of warming up of before I can settle and steep into a meaningful mindfulness practice.
Why is this?
Mindfulness is about steeping. It takes some time to build tolerance to the practice because if you’re anything like me, my mind buzzes and flits about, oftentimes very aimlessly. Like Isaiah says to God, “my mind is not Your mind, my thoughts are not Your thoughts.” I know I need some of my thoughts to be swished out before I’m ready to be steeped. The steeping time is where things begin to calm down. In these moments, I’m steeped into a state of mind that is open and connected with God. Somehow, I’ve transcended time, reached out for God, and He seems ever present, ever attentive, as He always has been. I’ve warmed back up to Him again.
I do not claim to be an expert or scholar of Chinese Buddhist philosophy, but I’ve noticed that the concept of time is not the same as our western standard of time. Time is a construct that has little meaning. Chinese poets, artists and philosophers try to capture this idea through descriptions of nature standing still or moving slowly in their natural states–birds painted as if caught in mid-air, carp with bodies curved in serene motion through the gentle-flowing waters, horses whose manes flow up like a cirrus cloud. The creatures of earth are depicted in written and visual forms as representations of the middle kingdom of heaven, which is timeless.
For those practicing Buddhism, one learns that paying attention to time and our need to control it is an attachment to a world that does not reflect our ultimate reality. For me as a Christian, I know that one day on earth is like a thousand to God.
So, the dilemma for me oftentimes is, do I take the time to steep, to be mindful, to transcend time and connect with a God that is timeless? Do I believe that this time is worthwhile?
Over and over again, for me, the answer is yes. I need time to steep and when I do, everything tastes better…