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Animal training and enrichment

Teacup Meditation

Ilana Bram

In my quest to train myself to meditate regularly, I've settled on a simple practice that works for me. Googling shows me I'm not the first person to think of it, but I'm really happy about it so here it goes.


When I wake up in the morning, I shut everything out and think, "First tea, then we'll deal with the rest."


I stumble to the kitchen and fill the kettle with water, turn it on, and arrange tea in my teapot: green tea, mint, and sage from my mother's garden.

I tidy up a bit while the water boils and then when the tea steeps—start laundry, gather stray dishes, empty the dishwasher. Short duration easy stuff.

When the tea is done, I settle myself on the couch in the living room with my cup, watching the squirrels outside.

Teacup meditation

Then I meditate. I use the tea as a focal point for my attention. My mind is a very noisy place in the morning. I notice thoughts darting around in my brain, and I notice that I don't control them -- they just happen to me. I notice, then bring my attention to the hot cup in my hand, how it feels, how it smells. I close my eyes, and just think tea. More thoughts come, and I put the thoughts into categories, "Hm, our thoughts keep returning to this girl's problems. We are spending a lot of attention on this." Drop the thought. Get back to tea. Smell, warmth. More thoughts, notice them, "There are a lot of worries about finishing all those little work tasks on time." Drop it, tea, take a sip. I become aware of how my body feels, a tightness in the chest, a worry. I drink the tea and slow down, zooming out of myself. I watch the squirrels and imagine what it's like to be a squirrel going about its squirrely business, WANTING the things squirrels want so badly, and see myself and my wants reflected in them. More tea, taking larger sips as it cools, focusing on the sensations and flavor. Feeling gratitude and seeing my problems in perspective. I drop those thoughts, too, and go back to tea.

Short duration and a reinforcer

The meditation ends when the tea is gone. Sometimes I drink it quickly because that's the kind of morning I'm having, and sometimes I drink it for an hour.

And there you have it.