Tea and resilience

The process of preparing tea leaves ready to be enjoyed is a lesson in resilience. Tea leaves are plucked, then dried out, then oxidized, where the chemical composition of the leaves fundamentally change for its full flavors to be realized and then enjoyed*.

The care, time, and technique used in each step of the transformation of the tea leaf can be lessons for us in building resilience, which is defined here as “mental toughness through pliability”. Mindfulness practice builds our resilience muscle–a strengthening and stretching of the mind and heart.

Mindfulness stretches our minds because the silence and stillness helps us tune into our thoughts. We can hear our own voice, our thoughts, and re-align ourselves with our values in the silence. As Christians, we transcend the chatter of that voice of ours to begin to resist the pulling and tugs of temptations. Temptations such as: self-glorification, self-centeredness, self-comfort, are all challenged by the rigorous training by our Lord Jesus’ generosity,”the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

The rigorous preparation of the tea leaves generously gives a full-bodied flavor to the hot water they bathe in.  When we resist in our minds our self-absorbed chatter: “what will happen to me?”, “how can I get that raise?”, “why am I so misunderstood?” we give way to focus and attention towards the outer. God’s promise of the first becoming last comes true. What was so worrisome becomes so blasé and out of touch with life’s reality. We are here for a short time, we are but dust, and therefore our attention should turn to the work of the kingdom.

Mindfulness therefore stretches our hearts towards others. In the quiet space where we can thoughtfully and wholeheartedly relinquish our self interest to the throne of God, our hearts inform our mind. Like the tea leaves’ oxidation, we change our composition. Outward we begin to think, then feel, then behave. Our bank balance gives way to more giving, our time is more focused on people and relationships, our emails are points of connection, our workplaces, productive with purpose.

Ideally of course, these are the ultimate rewards of mindfulness practice. The practice of course, is just that, a practice..it is a worthwhile time devoted and dedicated to build that muscle of resilience that will stand the test of the age and its agenda.


*Reference: Adagio teas: Tea class, lesson 06. Retrieved from http://www.teaclass.com/lesson_0106.html

Author: regimadi

I'm an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Azusa Pacific University, an avid tea sipper and researcher on mindfulness.

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