We all know that it is important to relax in our busy world today. Relaxation revitalizes the body and especially the mind. When the mind is relaxed it is easier to have new thoughts and new ideas and to think creatively and to solve problems.
So what is the best way to relax?
That depends. I have already written a blog about why ocean sounds are relaxing (The Problem of Ocean Sounds). But if one is not near an ocean, there are other ways to relax. One very good way is to exercise. Running a reasonable distance and swimming laps in a pool are very good, as is walking, hiking, rock climbing, etc. Some sports are good at developing a relaxed state if they involve a lot of running, as with tennis, and some, like golf, typically involve a lot of walking. Yoga, Tai Chi, and meditative exercises can also be very relaxing. There are, however, other ways to relax. e. g. via body massages. Yet another pathway to relaxation that I have not viewed very much written about, at least in English, is the Japanese tea ceremony.
Years ago on a business trip to Japan I had the opportunity to volunteer as a participant in several Japanese tea ceremonies at different locations. These were staged for tourists and were not authentic tea ceremonies. When I did, however, attend an authentic tea ceremony, I was in for quite a surprise.
I was with a group of about 7 individuals in a Tea Room, sitting on floor mats around a low table. The Tea Master, who was fluent in English as well as Japanese, added the fine green powdered tea, Matcha, to each tea bowl. Encouraging us to listen to the sounds of the water, like natural bubbling brook sounds, he added hot water to each cup, and stirred the tea with a bamboo whisk before serving a cup to each individual. It was all quiet and peaceful, and the Tea Master explained that we are having thin tea and that there is also thick tea, with more Matcha, that has the consistency of pea soup. One of the sarcastic members of our group asked the Tea Master: “Is this all you do?” The Tea Master replied: “As my father says, it beats working for a living.”
It was then and there that it hit me, like a sledge hammer. The tea ceremony, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing and relaxing, is therapeutic. Anything asked or said is moderated by the Tea Master to create a more positive atmosphere. It is perhaps a bit like group therapy. I recall leaving the event feeling refreshed, optimistic, and much more content than when I went in. Much later I learned that in addition to art, an aesthetic environment, a pleasant ritual, and group therapy, the tea ceremony also incorporates a form of agricultural biotechnology. Green tea is a cultivated and processed, complex substance that has many beneficial biochemical components. Matcha, which is powdered Gyrokuru tea, has a higher concentration than any other tea of the biochemical L-Theanine. What is L-Theanine? It is an amino acid that modulates glutamate receptors in the human brain and produces a prolonged anti-anxiety state. In some studies, it has been found to increase alpha rhythms in the electrical activity of the brain, resulting in a meditative state and enabling one to work or craft or create with contentment for long periods of time. According to some sources, L-theanine can be as potent as the best tranquilizers, but without drowsiness or any other side effects.
After I learned about L-Theanine, I thought about my earlier tea ceremony experience and how tea ceremonies have been commonplace in Japan since perhaps the 9th century. I also recalled a vertical scroll situated on the wall behind the Tea Master, a Japanese painting with four large Kanji characters (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing) – a most beautiful calligraphy, as I recalled. One of the scholars in our group asked the Tea Master what it said. He replied: “Wind and light. Every day is new.”
I also learned that green tea is rich in catechins, antioxidants that have beneficial physiological effects including body fat reduction. That being said, today I drink an occasional cup of coffee, but I am primarily a green tea drinker. I believe that green tea helps me to relax and enables me to be more creative in my work and my problem solving.
Let me know if relaxation helps your creative thinking and problem solving skills, and whether green tea works for you as a method of relaxation..
Japanese Tea Ceremony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_tea_ceremony
Wikipedia on L-Theanine (w. scientific literature references): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theanine
Catechins (Early study: Green Tea and Body Fat Reduction): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640470