Unmindful Tea

By Tom Reinert One recent morning, my first business meeting finished early. Since I had about 45 minutes to "kill" before the second meeting in nearby Bethesda, I decided to stop for a cup of tea. I thought I could spend half-an-hour collecting my thoughts, reviewing my notes, and preparing for the rest of my day. Not exactly a moment of mindfulness, but at least a break in an otherwise hectic day.

I sat down with my hot tea and took a sip. Good. My cell phone rang. The 11:30 Bethesda meeting had been changed to Washington, D.C. at noon, and I needed to handle some things in the office first. I had two minutes to finish my tea, get in the car, and drive downtown. Damn. I took a fast gulp of tea. Hot! Tried another quick gulp. Really hot! Then I realized you cannot drink really hot tea any way but mindfully. You have to slow down, take a sip, wait for it to cool, take another sip. Rushing only burns your mouth. That is the genius of tea drinking as a mindfulness practice.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to drink my tea at all, let alone mindfully. With regret, I tossed the full paper cup into the trash.

But that night, I made myself a cup of tea. I watched the steam rise and smelled its fragrance. The hot cup warmed my hands. I sipped slowly. It was very good.

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Tom Reinert practices law in Washington, D.C., meditation at the Mindfulness Practice Center in Oakton, Virgina, and tea drinking at his home in Vienna, Virginia.

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