Because matcha tea is so closely linked to the traditions of Zen Buddhism, including meditation, many matcha drinkers see the two as naturally aligned. But what if, like so many of our readers, you’ve never meditated before? Perhaps you find meditation intriguing, but also intimidating.
The first method we suggest below—focusing on the breath—is the one most commonly associated with Zen Buddhist meditation for beginners. The other two are mindfulness exercises commonly employed by Westerners; though they’re not a part of Zen tradition, you may find them relaxing and useful.
The truth is, no one is naturally good or bad at meditating. Rather, it’s a skill that you can develop by making a habit of it. So go ahead and prepare yourself a cup of Matcha Zen tea, find a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and set aside ten minutes to begin a journey into your own mind.
1. Focus On Your Breathing
For those seeking an entry point into the practice of Zen meditation, focusing on your breath is usually the best place to start. To begin, find a comfortable, upright sitting position; many meditators will also close their eyes, though you don’t need to.
Try to focus in on the physical sensations of breathing. Keep in mind that you don’t have to breathe especially deeply—you can simply allow your mind to concentrate on the inhalations and exhalations as they occur naturally. As you’re doing this, your mind will begin to wander, and that’s okay—simple notice it wandering, and gently return your attention to the breath.
2. Pick a Mantra & Repeat It
True to popular cultural images of meditation, you may imagine a person with their legs crossed as they chant a vaguely Eastern-sounding word.
Yes, it’s true that repeating a mantra, a word or short phrase, is a great way to calm the mind and begin to observe your own thoughts. However, you don’t have to say anything in particular—you can choose your own mantra, and it can be an English word or phrase. You don’t even have to say it out loud, though you may find that the action of speaking the mantra makes it easier to stay focused.
3. Visualize your “happy place”
One of the key goals of meditation is to become more mindful, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to close your eyes and imagine a place that is especially soothing and positive for you. It might be a clearing in the middle of the forest, or a beach along the ocean—perhaps somewhere else springs to mind as you read this!
While visualizing, consider the details that will help bring this place to life in your mind, including unique sights, sounds, and smells. See how long you can focus in on this setting before your mind begins to drift—then bring it back.
These techniques may seem difficult at first, but they’ll get much easier with practice. Start out by meditating for about ten minutes at a time—eventually you can try upping that to an hour or longer. If you’re finding it hard to focus, make yourself a soothing cup of matcha tea—the L-theanine will help foster a calm concentration.
The key is to understand that you’re not trying to control and corral your mind, thoughts, and feelings—you’re simply trying to become more mindful of them.