I made tea this morning.
Starting with fennel seeds.
I added a few into a small pot. Having just managed to get out of bed, my eyes were barely open and my body moved slowly. The licorice-like scent emanated gently, giving me a slight nudge to wake up, and the motivation to continue.
After the fennel seeds, comes the cardamom.
I placed the small, dark brown seeds into a mortar. My arm felt stiff and awkward with the pestle, but it gradually warmed up and eased into the movement. As I felt the seeds turn into powder, their sweet, spicy, and slightly floral scent filled the space, promising something special.
Now, the ginger.
I placed it in the mortar and beat it down—slowly and gingerly at first. The loud pounding of the stone against the flesh of the ginger, interspersed with the occasional bang of stone against stone, resonated through the house, egging me on. I came down on the last few shreds of root hard and unforgiving, as if my life depended on it. I was fully awake now, and invigorated by the intense smell of earth and fresh herb.
I filled the mortar with water.
The water drowned the spices, and I poured the mix into the pot. A few strands of ginger remained, which I collected. The stove rang tick, tick, tick, and I watched for a flame, placing the covered pot on the burner.
Waiting for the water to come to a boil, I closed my eyes.
Standing in front of the stove, I placed both feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-distance apart. I straightened my back, rolled back my shoulders, giving them a few rolls backward and finally allowing them to settle as far back and away from my ears as I comfortably could.
I took a deep breath.
Focusing on my breath, I counted four breaths in and four breaths out. I felt the scent of the fennel, cardamom, and ginger slowly fill the air around me. The ginger quickly took over the other spices, until it was the only recognizable scent. I continued breathing, inhaling and exhaling to a count of four until the lid rattled softly on the pot.
I took one final deep breath and slowly opened my eyes.
I reached for the milk in the refrigerator and poured it into the pot. As the cold milk came into contact with the violently bubbling water, the pot sizzled briefly and then gave into the cold—easing once again into calmness. But the calmness wouldn’t last long and I remained in front of the stove.
This time, I did not close my eyes.
I couldn’t afford losing any milk. I keep my eyes on the pot, leaving it for no more than a few seconds to twist my body from side-to-side and up and down, stretching it lightly.
The milk came to rise.
I placed the tea into the bubbling liquid, and its familiar aroma neutralized the scent of the cooking milk. The milk calmed a little, but in moments, started to rise again. I lowered the fire on the burner to a safe level, at which I knew it would not boil over. As the tea simmered away, I allowed myself a few more minutes of meditation…
One, two, three, four…until I counted to 100.
The tea was ready. Strong and spicy: just as I liked it.
I let the tea cool for a few minutes as I cleaned up. A thin layer of brown fat formed on the top, which I disposed of before taking my first sip. The sharpness from the ginger scratched my throat, while hot, herbaceous liquid filled me up.
Hints of cardamom and fennel told me I was nourishing myself.
As I drank the rest of the tea, I grabbed my phone to check what the night had left behind and prepared for what the day had to offer.
I discovered this ritual of making tea, interspersed with moments of mindfulness, after several failed attempts of heeding advice to start my morning with quiet time for myself. I had wanted to include meditation and light stretches before grabbing my phone and getting bombarded with alerts and emails. I knew this would make me feel calmer and more focused as I started my day.
I tried many times to get a mindfulness practice going soon after waking up, and before leaving my bedroom:
>> I tried sitting on my meditation cushion, but felt rushed, with one eye peeled on the clock.
>> I tried laying in bed, but invariably ended back asleep.
>> I tried stretching as soon as I got out of bed, but gave up after the second day.
And, because my phone was on my nightstand, it was irresistible. It was too much temptation not to grab it before doing anything else, which definitely killed any possibility for mindfulness.
I had to think of something else.
Since my phone was my biggest temptation, I first tried to not keep it in my bedroom while I slept. I left it in the hallway outside my bedroom. But, I still used my phone as an alarm clock. As soon as the alarm rang, I got up to grab it from the hallway, but ended up back in bed, phone in hand.
So I had to get a different alarm clock, and I resorted to using a traditional digital clock. My phone now stays in the hallway outside my bedroom, and remains switched off, until I drink my tea.
Next, I had to figure out how to incorporate mindfulness. Tea making was not the first activity that came to mind. I first tried mindfulness while brushing my teeth, and used counting the amount of time I left my electric toothbrush on each tooth as an anchor for my mind. I then tried mindfulness in the shower, and focused on the routine movements of soaping and shampooing as moments of being mindful.
Having successfully incorporated mindfulness into my daily routines, it occurred to me that I had moments of inactivity while making tea that were perfect for meditation. Each time I waited for the water to boil and the tea to simmer, I got two to five additional minutes a day to meditate.
Finally, it seemed natural to add something during the other moment of inactivity, which came when I watched for the milk to boil. I added stretching. Again, it was just a few minutes, but it made my body feel less stiff.
When I finally put my morning routine together with the tea making, mindfulness, and stretching, I noticed a big difference.
My mornings were calmer, and my day felt more purposeful. I felt ready to get going.
Finally, movement, mindfulness, and deliciousness marked the start of each new day.
Author: Sonee Singh
Apprentice Editor: Erin Chen/Editor: Travis May