Exploring Cultures of Rest: Tea Time

Series Description: This new series of blog posts revolves around cultures of rest and what it means to take time out of the day – to pause and recharge – so that one can be their best self the rest of the time. I am not saying that the glorification of busy is unique to the United States. I am saying, rather, that being busy has been glorified in the United States and there are many cultures around the world that build rest into the day in a way that a 9 to 5 work schedule does not. They build rest into the day through culturally specific rituals. 

After my first trip to the UK, I wrote a post on this blog about just how much I love tea time. This second trip the UK did not disappoint and I fell in love all over again with this specific ritual of rest that happens from 2-5 (and according to this infographic, after as well).

Where to Tea Time in England

Fitzbillies (Cambridge)


Fortnum & Mason (London) 

Tea Time Checklist

  • tea
  • milk / cream
  • clotted cream
  • jam
  • scones or a baked good
  • a good book or good company

 

Exploring Cultures of Rest: Aperitivo

Series Description: This new series of blog posts revolves around cultures of rest and what it means to take time out of the day – to pause and recharge – so that one can be their best self the rest of the time. I am not saying that the glorification of busy is unique to the United States. I am saying, rather, that being busy has been glorified in the United States and there are many cultures around the world that build rest into the day in a way that a 9 to 5 work schedule does not. They build rest into the day through culturally specific rituals. 

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As far as people go, I’m fairly low-maintenance. Scratch that; I would more readily refer to myself as middle-maintenance. But high-maintenance? I’m often too independent to a fault for that. That said, the one thing I get fairly high-maintenance about is being brought drinks. This refers to all sorts of drinks: coffee, tea, wine, beer, seltzer, you name it. I took a 5 Love Languages (Dr. Chapman) quiz about a year ago and one of the five – one I deeply appreciate – is “Acts of Service.”

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

When I am brought a beverage, either in the morning or before dinner time (especially by a lover), I feel overwhelmed with a sense of deep ease. The ritual of coffee tells me that the day is beginning and there’s goodness to come, and the ritual of sitting down with a glass of wine or seltzer with some grapefruit juice squeezed in tells me that the day is over and there’s not much more I have to do except relax. That feeling – especially after a busy day – is a truly amazing one. The fact that it’s before dinner and the only expectation is to sit around and watch the sunset is and feels beautiful. That is aperitivo, the culture of rest we’re exploring today.

This article from HuffPo explains it phenomenally.

Aperitivo originates from the Latin verb aperire which means ‘to open’; the idea being that the drink opens (or stimulates) your appetite.

I have loved resting into the aperitivo ritual while in Tuscany. At 7:45pm every evening, we all pour ourselves a drink – alcoholic or non-alcoholic (it REALLY doesn’t matter!), sit around the sunset and enjoy one another’s company. It’s a daily ritual for slowing down nested into another ritual (dinner), which I so appreciate.

So pour yourself a drink, or demand that your partner does as an act of service. Lean back in a chair. And rest.

15 Ways to Re-start the Day (after it has already begun)

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I don’t know about you, but there are days that just don’t go as planned…or that just don’t go well. I find it a lot harder to do a mental re-start at, say, 3pm, than at 7am, yet the need to re-start, rejuvenate, and recharge can be just as necessary when the day is halfway through.

Okay, I’ll get less abstract here. As you all know, I went to Indiana over my spring break to spend time with my guy. The morning we were going to do our day trip to Indianapolis to go to this fantastic brunch place, I overslept…by three hours. The people who know and love me best were so proud of me when I told them this; balancing work, graduate school, and a side hustle has left me with a fairly high strung and generally early schedule that makes sleeping in a challenge. However, I did not see my morning of necessary rest in this light (heck, I didn’t even see the rest as anything resembling a necessity). Instead, I woke up totally freaked out that I wouldn’t have time to do yoga before being in a car for an hour and a half. I had an icky feeling all day, was a tad reactive to certain situations, and deeply craved a more grounded and yogic perspective. It wasn’t long before I realized what I needed to do: start my day over! So, to spread the love of the starting the day over in the middle of the day practice, I am sharing this list of ways how here.

  1. SUN SALUTATIONS – While they are meant for the morning, doing them in the middle of the day is a phenomenal way to channel that morning fresh start energy. My yoga teacher suggestion is to do five rounds of Sun Salutation A. If you’re feeling ambitious, three rounds of Sun A and three rounds of Sun B work great as well!
  2. MAKE A CUPPA coffee or tea – Allow the ritual of the beverage to re-set your brain, heart, and mind. Make it a mindfulness practice as you sip the beverage peacefully and maybe catch up on blogs, the paper, or magazines as you do so.
  3. WASH YOUR FACE – Splash cold water over your face and apply face wash and moisturizer. Breathe deeply as you massage your cheeks. This is especially good if one of the reasons you need to restart your day is because you need a bit of a wake up!
  4. SET AN INTENTION – Write down an intention for the rest of the day. How do you want to act? How do you want to perceive yourself? How do you want others to perceive you?
  5. INVERT THE BODY – Go upside down! This can be a downward facing dog, shoulderstand, headstand, or handstand (it can even be legs up the wall!).
  6. MEDITATE – Set a timer for ten minutes. Put your hands on your lap. Press your feet into the floor beneath you. Close your eyes or focus on one point in front of you. Breathe deeply. Namaste.
  7. 10 DEEP BREATHS + PRATAYAHARA – Pratayahara is one of my favorite niyamas (abstentions) of the yoga practice. It means to shut out some / most of the senses as a way of drawing inward. It can be incredibly rejuvenating, especially after a long day with a lot of external stimulation.
  8. SEX – Speaking of stimulation…with yourself or someone else sometimes it provides just the reset.
  9. 1-MINUTE DANCE PARTY – Blast some Beyonce. Turn off the lights. Rock out.
  10. PHONE A FRIEND – This 75-year-long Harvard study says it all: connection is the most important contributor to happiness. Feeling connected can be as attainable as a call to a long distance bestie.
  11. JOURNAL – Write about why you need to re-start the day, and how you can go about doing it. You might be surprised by what comes up!
  12. TAKE A NAP – Literally go asleep and wake up anew. This is something that I tell my students when they emerge from savasana: to stretch out like they’re waking up first thing in the morning…even if it’s 7pm. Start fresh!
  13. TAKE A WALK IN NATURE – Go outside and breathe in some fresh air. Fresh air, plus the lateral motion required in walking can do wonderful things to simply re-set the brain.
  14. SING IN THE SHOWER – Just do it. You’ll thank me later.
  15. STRETCH – Forward fold. Roll up vertebrae by vertebrae. Lift your arms up in the air and flex the palms like you’re doing a handstand on the ceiling. Take a big breath in. Really, it can be that simple sometimes.

Tea Time + Taking Time

  I began writing this post in Edinburgh while delighting in the tea time I manufactured for myself on the train back to London. That morning, I bought a spelt scone at Loudon’s, a truly incredibly bakery / eatery with the sweetest staff in the university neighborhood. Now, I’m at Le Pain Quotidien before a Soul Cycle class + grad school + after my first day back at work after spring break. Needless to say, this feels as different from lounging on a train for four hours as possible. I am enjoying a different kind of spelt scone just because it looked the best, and I am sipping Earl Grey tea that is not nearly as good as the Yorkshire tea I got on the train, but it is Earl Grey and it is 4pm and my body now craves tea time for its calming and re-setting properties more than anything else.

Upon returning from the U.K., I started reading Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman’s Guide by Sharon Ables. The nature of the book is permission-giving. Where Ables identifies herself as a Francophile, I now absolutely identify myself as an Anglophile. Judging from her book, one thing the French and English seem to have in common is the enjoyment of simple pleasures / luxuries as a way of resetting the day. And, in order to preserve those simple luxuries, boundaries are necessary. And, oh, how much easier boundaries are when there is nothing pushing against them! And, oh, how vital they are when there is.

Ables writes,

Once you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you can more easily establish the areas in which you are willing to be a bit more flexible and those on which you need to stand firm.

Establishing your boundaries in life is one of the healthiest and simplest things you can do to prevent frustration. And the only way to truly know where your boundaries are is to take time to be by yourself. What are you unwilling to compromise on because it is at the core of your values and beliefs? What can you give a little on and not feel as though you have lost a piece of yourself?

 

What do boundaries have to do with tea time, you might ask? Everything! Healthy boundaries have everything to do with tea time! Tea time – taking 15 minutes, a half hour, 45 minutes, whatever as long as it is something – to stop what you are doing, pour a cup of tea and bite into some fuel while the day still is, believe it or not, young, is totally revolutionary. The experience requires a thoughtful pause to luxuriate in the sensuous.

So take this post as permission because sometimes, even though we don’t, a busy society tricks us into thinking that we need it. Relax. Grab a cup of tea. Blissfully luxuriate in your own company, and see where the pause leads you.

Edinburgh in Four Days

This post is part of my EuroTrip 2016 series on the blog.

What a phenomenal trip! Now that I’ve woken up at home in Harlem after a great flight back on Virgin Atlantic, I’m opening up the travel journal to reveal the best of the last leg of this trip: Edinburgh, where my sister, E, is studying abroad. She gave us a fabulous tour of this lovely city that doubles as a college town; it is special in that it is as much one as it is the other.

Here are the sights I saw, the art I experienced, the food I ate, and the libations I drank!

SIGHTS

 Royal Mile + The Castle – On our second day, we took a very long walk up Royal Mile to arrive at the Castle. After a fairly expensive admission fee, we explored the premises of the castle that seems to have maintained its original state except for the fact that the canons that decorate the periphery are likely modern replicas. That, and, many of the vast wings of the castle are now museums dedicated to battle and dress of the time. The highlight was getting to see the Scottish Crown Jewels. A large theme of this trip is that there is something to say for living history – history that is still in use today. The Crown Jewels are excellent examples of that phenomenon.

The University – The University of Edinburgh contains within its grounds the oldest student center in Europe! It even includes a library bar!

Calton Monument – This huge statue of pillars located a short climb up a many-stairs park looked practically two-dimensional because of the lines along it.

St Giles Cathedral – It wouldn’t be a EuroTrip without visiting quite a few breathtaking cathedrals. St Giles was a newish cathedral with some remnants of old times. Our lovely guide took us into the Thistle Chapel where royalty prayed. While the cathedral was made / renovated in 1911, though parts remain from the 15th Century.

Arthur’s Seat – On our third full day in Edinburgh, we hiked the famous Arthur’s Seat. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking.

FOOD

  • Bread Meats Bread – It’s the Bareburger of Edinburgh for sure.
  • Checkpoint – We became regulars at this delicious establishment that has really good vegetable dishes.
  • Grey’s on Greenmarket – Delicious salad + salad boxes + wraps for under five pounds!
  • Farmer’s Market – You must visit the macaroon lady! And the record booth owned by a Beatles collector who bears a strong resemblance to Paul McCartney.
  • Loudons – The last food stop on this trip had the most delectable flat whites!

LIBATIONS

 

Lovecrumbs – I am legitimately obsessed with this cafe. It has amazing flat whites + teas. I went there for teatime, to write my postcards, and just to get the morning caffeinated libation.

 

Hula – This was the first cafe E introduced us to in Edinburgh. We all got flat whites, and their date-sweetened “Snickers” bar is delish.

 

Panda + Sons – Whiskey…because Scotland. I got a cocktail called the Birdcage. It was brought to me inside a huge glass cage and, as the bartender lifted the cage off the drink, smoke emanated from it.

Meadowlark Cafe – This cafe located to the left of the Meadowlark Yoga Studio (post forthcoming) and has freshly-pressed green juices.

 

Anteaques – E smartly made a reservation for us here as soon as it opened. It is tucked away in a very non-touristy neighborhood and hit the spot immediately after that big hike up and down Arthur’s Seat. It is what it seems: a spot for afternoon tea inside an antiques shop. It was super old-fashioned in the best possible way; no technology whatsoever, and it truly encouraged us to pause, sip our tea, out our unbelievable scones (with their signature rose petal jam!) and relax.