Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A MINDFUL CUP OF TEA

I'm taking part in my first Carnival - a kind of online magazine. This is my submission for the March Mindful Mama Carnival: Mindful Mama Challenge, hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month participants have challenges they've set for themselves toward becoming more mindful. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other participants.

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It's hard to be mindful when your babies are young and impatient, when chaos reigns all around and screaming becomes the main vacuum of communication. But there's a daily practice I started a few years back that I've been trying to reconnect with since I got lost in baby madness after the birth of my third child ten months ago.

It is the daily ritual of having a quiet and mindful cup of tea. Taken at the same time each and every day as the world carries on around you. The idea is that you take time out of your busy schedule to clear your head and reconnect with your soul. 

It's something I started after reading a Waldorf Steiner book about regaining control of my life. It doesn't matter how small the ritual, just by challenging yourself to something regular and trying to stick to it, you are taking a significant step in the direction of taming the chaos. 

Set yourself this daily goal with the intention of soothing your stresses and simply holding and 'being present' in a segment of time - in all its mindful glory. Anyone can do it. That is the beauty of this simple ritual.




My time has always been 3 o'clock. It's that point in the day when I'm experiencing 'afternoon lull' - lunch is over and hopefully cleared away and the kids are settling down into an activity and hopefully the baby is sleeping. It should be a point in the day when I can breathe deeply and check in with myself.

Last year before Baby Lorci came along it was easier, as my toddler slept and the older one wanted to watch a DVD. These days, I don't get the luxury of downtime as my baby refuses routine, instead powernapping for 20 minutes in the afternoon, and my non-sleeping Terrible Twoer clings to me like velcro, whining for milkshakes or ice scream until brow-beaten I give in. So in practice, 3pm is often chaos time, but my plan, perhaps ambitiously, is to regain my hold on this potential slice of Me Time, thereby giving myself something precious in the day that will ground me, soothe me and make me a calmer parent as we approach the Witching Hour Battle to Bedtime.

All it takes is a bit more mindfulness on my part to distract them/get them to nap so that mummy can take a five minute break once a day. It's nice to have a daily slot that I know is mine, all mine, and as they get older, I'd love it if they'd start to appreciate that mummy doesn't ask for much, except for a small segment of downtime in the middle of the day. Babies can wait - unless there is pain and suffering and they desperately need me. And hopefully it will lead to a new awareness of mutual respect of personal space in a world when I don't even get to go to toilet alone. I can but dream.

I come back from my teabreak so much more refreshed and happier to smile through whatever they throw at me for the rest of the day.

I don't wear a watch, mainly because I don't like to be trapped by time and I prefer to trust my own instincts for telling time. Often I can look at the position of the sun and guess exactly what the time is. Besides, who needs to wear a watch when all around us are clocks: in the car, on our phones or watching over us on the wall.
But because my smallies refuse to be put into a routine and our days are one long whirlwind after another, it's really rather tricky to know exactly when 3pm is. So, here's what I've done. I've set an alarm on my phone to tell me when 2.45pm is, so that I can boil the kettle and get the kids occupied elsewhere, and pour myself that lovely cup of tea all in good time.

Just the very action of setting a daily alarm that appears as a bell icon in the corner of my phone throughout the day has had a knock-on effect of making me more mindful in my daily chores. It sits there as a reminder that I will get a reward if I don't complain about all the work that has to be done beforehand; with tidying, laundry, cleaning, cooking, feeding, wiping bums, getting dressed, blah blah blah, playing, waitressing, picking up everything they discard, dealing with meltdowns, oh I could go on forever....

But my cup of tea ritual is like magic. It becomes a symbol of Me Time. It makes my tireless work all seem worth the effort as I finally allow myself a reward.
Any flavour will do, although my current favourite is Manuka honey, for that extra immune-boosting sugary pick-me-up, and for the childish delight I get from pouring hot water over a spoonful of honey and stirring until it dissolves.

I have to be outside in or around 3 o'clock, cup of tea in hand, taking deep breaths, looking at the sea, rain or shine, minimal noise, preferably alone. I like to sit on my seat swing, just rocking back and forth, cup of tea in hand, mindfully sipping the hot manna as steam drifts up and tickles my nose, closing my eyes, reconnecting with myself, opening my eyes, reconnecting with nature, noticing what's going on with the sea over my garden wall, becoming aware of the birds in the tree and the weather (it often takes a while to notice the rain) and start to feel my body again, and realise I'm still there, and I can still smile and give myself a figurative pat on the back; I'm doing ok, I'm surviving.

Sometimes I'm out and it doesn't happen, or the kids are just too demanding, but as 3pm passes I stop and take a breath, I smile in quiet reflection, and try to take a drink in full awareness instead of just mindlessly drinking. Yesterday, on Mothers Day, I took time out of our busy family-filled house, poured myself a glass of wine (a bit racy for early afternoon, but I figured I was worth it on this special day), went and sat outside and sipped my wine, stretched my body and took a few deep breaths. It was lovely.

When the planets are in alignment and my Mindful Cup Of Tea happens effortlessly like it did today (after bribe of chocolate buttons, playdough & DVD to older two and a well timed nap from the baby), I feel a curious sense of achievement.

I'm always proud of myself for making it happen. Proud that I have taken time out for me. Proud that I'm trying to reclaim me in order to be a more mindful mama. But most of all, proud of my kids for allowing me the thinking space to calm down and de-stress.


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Mindful Mama Carnival -- Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ Visit The Mindful Mama Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Carnival!
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Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

7 comments:

loveparenting.org said...

It really is the simple things in life that can give the most pleasure. The warmth of sunshine on your skin, a smile fluttering across the face of your sleeping baby, seeing a vase of fresh tulips on the kitchen windowsill or taking a moment to drink a steaming mug of tea. Lovely!

Tree Peters said...

I love this. I also love that little polka dot tea cup. Is that your real cup?
You're so wise and the peace you have to handle the rest of the day and evening with a smile is such a gift to your children.
3 is a lot. It's so amazing for them to have each other. I'm one of six and I loved that.
Even though I only have one child now, I have to start doing something for myself as well. Otherwise I'm not giving her a very good example.

Amy Vickers said...

Thanks Ladies, only just checking in now after a busy day with 3 extras on top of my own 3! My link is wrong on the list, so I'm amazed you both made it here, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Lovely to 'meet' you both. Yes, Tree it's my real cup of tea ;0(
xx

kellymseow said...

I LOVE this post! This is such a brilliant but simple idea that I can't wait to implement. I can just feel the comfort and rejuvenation that would come from such a lovely ritual...it's like I'm almost there already.

Thank you so much for sharing your challenge - truly inspiring.

~Kelly @BecomingCrunchy

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

Oh, yes. There's something about a ritual that feeds us. And if it's a ritual around tea, well that's even more so. The entire experience of slowing down and enjoying a cup of tea is sensual and brings you directly into the present. I love this gift that you give yourself every day and the benefits you've noticed in your life when you take the time for this practice.

Thank you for participating in the Mindful Mama Carnival.

kellymseow said...

I'm not sure if my comment got through, so re-posting :)

I LOVE this post! This is such a brilliant but simple idea that I can't wait to implement. I can just feel the comfort and rejuvenation that would come from such a lovely ritual...it's like I'm almost there already.

Thank you so much for sharing your challenge - truly inspiring.

Rani said...

Love your post!!! teatime is me time!!! simple pleasures always seem to make the day a bit better.....kudos to you for recognizing it!