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Predawn Tea – Awaken your senses gently

 [ IMAGE: Tea by candle light ]

The pre-dawn hour is often being recommended as the perfect time for meditation. That sweet moment after a good night’s rest and before the hustle of the day catches up with us. It’s a time when we are especially receptive and willing to surrender control – maybe because the controlling part of our brain is still half asleep.

Being an early morning person myself, I am surprised that it’s taken me until this past weekend to actually try drinking tea in this magical hour. And already, after just 4 consecutive days of practicing this predawn ritual, it has had a big impact on my approach to tea. In this post, I want to share some of my experiences, insights and thoughts with you – hoping that it might inspire you to rise early, heat some water and let tea take over control.

A word of caution to start with: I am by no means an expert on this subject, I have just started this practice earlier this week. But I feel like I’ve learned so much already and think that some of it might be useful for someone else out there.
I have been thinking about this practice of drinking tea before breakfast for a long time, but somehow never got around doing it. It might be the fact that, even though I often wake up around 5:30 or 6 a.m., the warm bed is somewhat more attractive than a cold room at this time of the day. But whatever inspired me to brave the cold last Sunday at 5:30 a.m., I’m utterly grateful it happened. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook about my first morning:

Yesterday, I decided to get up in the predawn and have some meditative tea – something I’ve surprisingly never done before. I chose an aged oolong a friend of mine sent me last year, lit a few candles and tried to just be with the tea. After about 2 infusions, I felt the chi moving through my body – or rather felt the chi move my body. What started as a slight sway turned into a gentle seated dance. Pouring the tea became a dance – as did bringing the cup to my mouth. This has never happened before and I did not have any intention to make it happen. The tea simply moved me.
The ease and inevitability of the process deeply touched me and set me up for a day full of being touched.

It was an intense, very emotional experience. It brought tears to my eyes.
I do think that we are more open, more vulnerable and more willing to let go at this time of the day. I have had many tea sessions where I focused exclusively on the tea, enjoyed the company that the cup and teapot were to me – but still felt like I was trying to control too much. I feel much less of an urge to control at my predawn tea sessions. I happily give control to the tea and the flow of things. It’s easy and it feels like the natural thing to do. I pour the water over the leaves, close my eyes and the rest – kinda just happens. It’s pretty weird.

It’s a meditation, but you get to do things (preparing and drinking tea) – which makes it a lot easier for me to empty my mind. I close my eyes and I notice the faint light from the gentle flicker of the candles. I hear the soft breath of my sleeping dog right next to me, the first bird calling out, soon to be followed by a chorus of many other birds. And underneath it all, the subtle aroma of the tea fills the air and the comforting heat of the tea cup warms my hand. It’s one of those moments you want to freeze-frame and stay in forever.

A few insights I’ve gained so far:

– You might not start out fully receptive, your senses have to wake up. For example, initially, I don’t smell too much of the tea but by the third pot, my sense of smell is in full swing.
– You don’t always get the same amount of enjoyment out of the process. It’s o.k. to have a ‘bad’ day and not find the right mindset – it’s all part of the process. But keep doing it, you’ll find it again the next day or the day after.
– Allow yourself enough time. Sometime, you might have had enough after 15 min, but it might take an hour at another day. You don’t want to be under time pressure.
– You will be much more acutely aware of sounds you would normally miss or ignore. The fan of my little induction plate for my kettle suddenly became a major nuisance in the silence that surrounded me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good solution to this problem yet.

A few helpful hints:

– Try to avoid any electric light. Use candles if possible. The warm, unsteady light lends itself perfectly to the harmony that you are seeking.
– Organize everything the night before. Setup your tea table; fill the kettle with water; have tea, teapot and cup ready. You don’t want to be searching for your equipment in a haze of being still half asleep!
– Have a comfortable place to sit, put on comfortable and warm clothes (including warm socks!) and maybe put a light blanket over your shoulders. You want to be warm and as comfortable as possible.
– Drink a tea that you are familiar with and that you know how to prepare. The flow of your ceremony will be much better and easier if you don’t have to worry about ‘getting it right’.

If you have any experiences with predawn tea sessions, I would love to hear about your views and impressions.

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