The Power of Tea to Transform Your Life

the power of teaBig question. Is it coffee or is it tea? If it’s coffee, keep an open mind. If it’s tea, you will love this.

Tea is about getting your mind and your soul through the day. Coffee is about getting your body through the day. The caffeine content of coffee pushes and propels you further into your busy life. In essence, it is about drug-taking. With half to a third of the caffeine in a cup of coffee, a cup of tea is filled with beneficial substances that shore you up, sustain you, and comfort you. For example, the polyphenols in tea have been widely researched and show amazing antioxidant properties that fight those cancer producing free radicals. As if that isn’t enough, polyphenols also slow down the body’s absorption of the caffeine that is in tea, so it is delivered slowly without the cardiovascular and blood circulatory punch of coffee.  The caffeine has a more positive, slower, steadier, and longer effect. The amino acid L-Theanine in tea is even more helpful because it helps us to concentrate and essentially soothes as it stimulates.

So physically, tea is the winner but the best is yet to come when you think about the psychological and spiritual benefits of tea drinking. Tea’s greatest asset is that it demands something of you – your time and your attention -if you are to prepare it properly and drink it well to reap its full measure.

Quite simply, tea is a method and metaphor for living life fully. It works for me, and for many centuries, millions of others. Two billion cups of tea are drunk every day all over the world, making tea the most consumed beverage of all time. In our fast-paced, coffee- chugging-even-while-you-are-driving or walking nation, we are missing out on a powerful way to become centered and more fulfilled.  When the popular saying changed from needing time to “smell the roses” to “smell the coffee,” we really got it wrong.

I have been a clinical and corporate psychologist for thirty years in the middle of New York City and I have come upon some very basic truths about how to have a more successful and fulfilling life. Here is one:  Tea requires preparation, if you are going to make a good cup, and it requires time to drink it properly. Life also requires preparation, and when we take the time to prepare for life and make time for the living of life, we have some of the ingredients for a life worth living.

The Chinese philosopher Tao The Ching wrote: “To hold and fill a cup to overflowing is not as good as stopping in time.” Since legend traces the origins of tea to the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737BC, the Chinese have had ample time to create a culture that values the physical, psychological and spiritual merits of tea.  So have the people of Japan who today are valuing the calming and strengthening properties of tea the way the people of Great Britain did during the World Wars, giving them courage to face the nightly blitz and daily casualty reports.

Our culture needs a way to slow down and calm itself and rediscover its values. With almost twenty million Americans diagnosed with anxiety each year, another twenty million diagnosed with depression, and two million children  – and the numbers are climbing – with a diagnosis of Hyperactivity/Attention Deficit Disorder, we are not a nation at peace with ourselves. Add to that road rage, school shootings, and a host of other acts of violence, as well as a growing unconscious anger at the poor and less fortunate, and it is clear that we are becoming a nation out of control.

We are addicted to moving and to doing, and the anxiety and depression, and the hyperactivity and the anger, are the result of this. We have been losing our ability to reflect and to quiet ourselves. Our worlds click along with the speed of a mouse and we enter and delete fragments of our lives and of ourselves, not realizing that our souls and our hearts and our minds cannot keep up.

All day long we make our technological efforts to be connected – we email, we text, we tweet, we link, we befriend, but is anyone really connecting and reaping the calm and comfort of true connection? And so we are short-circuiting all over the place, in our relationships, in our parenting, in our friendships, our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our communities.

A daily tea break can keep you from having a break. It will give you the time and purpose to connect to yourself and to others.  If you do not connect with yourself so that you really can know who you are, what you want, and what you don’t want in life, you will be like so many people I see who wake up one day to find that they are living someone else’s life. Unconnected to the people they care about and to their dreams that have become buried under a pile of goals, they sit with me and drink a cup of tea and the work of recovery begins.

You can begin today also to let the power of tea transform you. Stopping each day to reflect and regroup, to understand and be with yourself and others, to bring your dreams into daylight is not a luxury, it is how you can create a life you will enjoy living.

From the book in progress, Dr. Shelley Reciniello’s “Ten Teas: The Power of Tea to Transform Your Life©”

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