Slowing Down with Meditation // Love Lessons

Welcome back to class sisters!

In case you missed the first class, ‘The Wonderful World of Tea’, catch up here.

What’s this all about? Find out in detail here. Love Lessons is my new series of blog posts all about a love of learning, and learning about things to help you love yourself, or just get inspired. The first lesson was about tea, and this second lesson is about…

Slowing Down with Meditation

What is meditation?

To most people in Europe and America, meditation is the latest health trend, to those in Asia, it is a sacred practice.

As a beginner, I see meditation in two halves. The first is a daily dedicated ritual, the second is a continuous perspective and mindfulness of the present moment.

So meditation can be many things viewed from different perspectives. In the purest sense meditation is simply taking time to pause. It is stopping and saying, “I don’t need to do anything right now. All I need to do is breathe, and be aware of my present self, without changing anything or trying to solve anything.”

How can it help me?

The benefits of meditation are widely documented, from ancient tradition, to modern revelation. It’s important to remember that even though this is a global movement, mediation is personal and can be tailored to you. You can practice almost anywhere, at anytime. You do not need to sit cross-legged, burn incense and chant mantras. But you can if you want to. Don’t worry about all the accessories and stereotypes. If you prefer, you don’t even have to call it meditation. It could simply be your quiet time.

The purpose of meditation is to slow down, to find focus, to observe your mind and your surroundings and to live in the present moment.

Beyond that it can develop into other things with further benefits which you can research in the numerous books, blogs, podcasts and videos on the subject.

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Find your inner calm – a quick illustration by me!

How can I meditate?

Personally, I have found guided meditation most helpful. This can be found in the form of an app, where I would recommend both ‘Headspace’ and ‘Stop, Breathe & Think’ (plus they both have great design!). The first is good as a starting point, with cute and useful videos, but after 10 days you need to subscribe if you want new content. ‘Stop, Breathe & Think’ is great because it asks you to ‘check in’ each day too, so you can track your moods over time. I also recommend reading this article: Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind, from one of my favourite blogs.

Otherwise you could simply put on relaxing music, or sit in silence, set a timer for between 5-20 minutes, and try the following:

  • Begin by getting comfortable – on a chair or on the floor – closing your eyes, resting your hands on your knees and taking a few deep breaths.
  • Now notice the connection of your body to your surroundings, notice any sounds around you.
  • Then bring your attention inwards and begin to count your breaths up to 10, and begin again at 1, for a few minutes.
  • When thoughts distract you, simply step back and watch them pass, then return to counting your breaths. Don’t become frustrated or try too hard to focus.
  • You could then do a ‘body-scan’ where you go to each part of your body, working from head to toe, and see how you feel. Move your mind around your body.
  • At this point you could also meditate on a certain subject, such as gratitude, or compassion for others. Guided meditations are useful for this.
  • Or you could bring your attention back to your body and surroundings, stretch, open your eyes and continue your day with a refreshed perspective and sense of calm.
  • As an additional step you could write down your thoughts and feelings, plans and dreams in a journal.

 

Homework: This week sit down for just 10 minutes and try meditation, using the advice above. How do you feel now? Do some further research for bonus marks! Report back here, or on social media. I can’t wait to hear how you got on!


Coming soon…

  • This Sunday: Playtime episode 10. A music mix tape from me to you!
  • Wednesday: Venture out into the wild Spring countryside with me in my next YouTube video! Find my most recent video below.
  • Friday: Is it that time already? The end of the month means April Happy Highlights.
  • Next Sunday: My monthly review, reflection and plans to move forward with my creative ideas, business and personal life.

 

Enjoy the weekend sisters, I hope it brings you love and learning!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

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The Wonderful World of Tea: Part 1 // Love Lessons

Hello sisters! Welcome to the start of term at this very special corner of the Sunray Sister blog which I have called Love Lessons. Please read the introduction to get a taste for what’s to come and why I’ve started this new series.

For now, are you all ready to learn, with open minds and blank pages? Then we can embark upon our first topic:

The Wonderful World of Tea

 

Where does tea come from?

All tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis (a rough example is shown in my illustration!) This mostly grows in Asia, and was first used to make tea in China thousands of years ago. Ancient stories say it was discovered by accident when a leaf from the tea tree fell into the emperor’s cup of boiled water!

  • There are three main varieties of Camellia Sinensis: sinensis, assamica and cambodi.
  • Farmers then take these main varieties, and cultivate them to create sub-varieties called cultivars.
  • The location, micro-climate, altitude, picking method and other elements all affect the final taste of the tea.
  • As soon as the leaves are picked they begin to oxidise (like an apple turning brown), which also changes the final flavour.
  • The tea will not taste exactly the same each year, so tea companies will often blend their tea in order to remain consistent. Tea from a single estate may alter in taste but is pure.

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How is tea processed?

Once the tea leaves are picked, they can be processed in a number of ways to change the final product. This leads to six further types of tea: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and pu-erh.

White tea:

  • Least processed of all
  • Buds and small, young leaves are used
  • Handled very carefully, withered in the sun
  • 0% oxidised
  • Light, delicate, elegant

Green tea:

  • Contains the most caffeine of all teas, which is balanced by theanine, the amino acid which makes you feel calm, and is also responsible for green tea being so good for you!
  • Bud and small leaves used
  • Briefly withered in sun, then baked (Chinese, most common) or steamed (Japanese) to destroy the enzyme which causes oxidation
  • 0% oxidised
  • Fresh, grassy, slight astringent taste

Yellow tea: 

  • The most rare tea; not a lot is made and it was once reserved only for emperors
  • Same process as green tea, but after baking/steaming, it is covered up to reabsorb the moisture in a hot environment
  • 0% oxidised
  • Between a white and green tea, less grassy. Pure, soft, light, calming.

Oolong tea: 

  • Larger leaves are picked
  • After withering in the sun the leaves are rolled, which causes oxidation
  • Different amounts and techniques of rolling, lead to different levels of oxidation and a wide variety of oolongs
  • 15-85% oxidised
  • From light, fruity, milky and fresh, to dark, roasted, sweet and complex.

Black tea: 

  • Young leaves are used
  • Rolled and baked to almost complete oxidation
  • 90-95% oxidised
  • Strong, robust, malty and comforting
  • Called red tea in China
  • Most common tea in Britain
  • Top tip: try a good quality loose black tea without milk to truly appreciate the flavours!

Pu-erh tea: 

  • Very different to the other teas
  • Semi-wild, large leaves are used from a very specific cultivar of the tea-plant, grown only in Yunnan province, China
  • Withered and baked, and then fermented
  • Can be either ‘raw’ or ‘cooked’:
    • raw Pu-erh is left to ferment naturally for 20-25 years!
    • cooked Pu-erh is piled up in huge warehouses where the temperature and humidity is very high, for around 2 months.
    • can also come as ‘tea cakes’ where the leaves are tightly compacted into a ball
  • Earthy, clean, fresh flavours
  • Contains statins which can control and lower cholesterol, also good for digestion

 

Phew! Yes, there is indeed a whole world of tea out there, beyond Yorkshire, Tetley and PG Tips. And this is only the beginning of our journey of discovery!

In addition to these basic types of tea, there are different blends, varieties and scented teas, as well as herbal and fruit infusions. There are also different rituals, methods and benefits associated with drinking tea. All of which and more I will be covering in further posts as part of my Love Lessons series!

Homework: try a tea you’ve never tried before (and perhaps never heard of)! Make notes and report back in the comments, or over on social media.

I love learning and I want to share this love with you. I’m especially interested in specific and unusual topics. What would you like to see on the Love Lessons syllabus? Let me know and I might include it in the future!


Coming next on the blog:

  • On Sunday I will be sharing my alternative opinion of Easter, and why I prefer to celebrate Spring without religion.
  • Then on Wednesday I will have a new YouTube tutorial video showing you how to make a notebook! For now you can find my latest video below…

 

 

Have an incredible weekend sisters!

Peace and love,

Rachel x