I’ve decided today to focus on two quintessentially Irish values, the notion of Mind Yourself, and of course our love affair with tea! I love the Irish turn of phrase ‘mind yourself’. We say it as a farewell greeting, in much the same way as Americans say ‘have a nice day’. It’s such a lovely way to leave someone, by telling them to look after themselves.
In the past two days I have found myself unexpectedly chatting to two very close people in my life about mindfulness. Sure it’s the trendy topic de jour says you so why wouldn’t it be popping up in conversation left right and centre.
One of the chats was about a course in mindfulness that my friend had signed up for, and was stressing her out. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it, stressful mindfulness?? The chat got me thinking, are we over complicating what mindfulness is in an effort to be on trend?
At the end of the day, for me, mindfulness is about being present at any given moment. So if I am brushing my teeth, I should be entirely focused on the brushing, and of moving the toothbrush around my mouth, of the sensation of the frothing toothpaste, and the pressure I am applying to my gums. And that to me is mindfulness.
Our attention spans have shortened so much, that we are too impatient to be present and focus on just what is happening in the moment. Our minds have moved on, to what we will do next, or say next if we are in company. Or even worse, our minds move back, and go over and over what has happened or been said, and we dramatise things that no longer matter and we can’t change even if we wanted to.
To mind yourself is to be mindful. We are our own greatest asset, but we invest so little time and energy in minding that asset. Indeed we are often destructive to that asset. The second chat I had was with my sister about something that had happened that was worrying her, and she said she would be sick with anxiety about it until it was resolved at the end of the month. That’s weeks of anxiety and worry that she just sentenced herself to. Why do we do that? We need to give ourselves permission to be kind to ourselves, because we really do deserve it.
We are lucky, as Irish people, to have embraced tea and chat as a fundamental part of our culture and our psyche. To sit and have tea with someone fulfills a basic need to be socially connected, for we are social creatures and we need social connection with others to thrive and be happy. Tea in Ireland has almost medicinal properties, and has been long know to solve or at least salve, all troubles and woes.
When I was growing up, the Irish mammy had blind faith in the restorative properties of tea:
‘I’ve lost my job Mam.’ ‘Ah that’s terrible love. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.’
‘He dumped me Mam.’ ‘I’ll put the kettle on love. There’s plenty more fish in the sea.’ (my Mam believed the sea to be chock full of fish, each one better than the last we pulled out)
‘I’ve a terrible pain in my head Mam.’ ‘Have a cup of tea love. And if that doesn’t fix it a walk in the fresh air should.’
‘I’m too hot. (back in the days of yore when Ireland had a summer worth sweating over) ‘A nice cup of tea will cool you down.’
Little did the Irish mammy know that the ancient Chinese agreed with her. They first began to drink tea for it’s perceived medicinal properties. The Chinese still believe tea to have many life enhancing properties, including its ability to enhance concentration, alleviate drowsiness, act as a digestive aid, and be used as a skin ointment.
When I was asked recently to contribute to a piece in a national newspaper on the rising trend of Afternoon Tea here in Ireland, and to what I might attribute this current love affair Irish people are having with the decadent treat of Afternoon Tea, I had quite a lot to say, as you might well imagine! http://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/food-news/pots-of-money-afternoon-tea-becomes-big-business-in-irish-hotels-35201672.html For me, Afternoon Tea fulfills a basic need in our lives, that of breaking bread together. ‘When we come together around a table.. We talk, we share what’s going on in our lives and we reconnect.’ The relaxing intimacy of the Afternoon Tea party is such a lovely and genuine way of engaging with one another, of chatting at ease, and laughing at will.
Make time for tea and chat in your daily life. And mind yourself.