fast drinking

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.


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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