The sound made by slowly stirring the hot tea in a porcelain cup and saucer with a metallic teaspoon and the slowly moving ceiling fans was almost meditative and hypnotic.
It may sound counter intuitive but on a hot summer’s day, the best way to cool down is to drink hot tea. The hot tea stimulates our blood capillaries to expand slightly and making you feel cooler.
Now, unlike coffee and chocolate, the theophylline (an alkali) in tea seeks to stimulate yet calm one’s body. It is slightly diuretic which is good for encouraging intake of fluids and their expulsion from the body which detoxes and also takes away heat.
I have read a research a very long time ago about the drop in body temperature when drinking cold, warm and hot teas. The research found that when one drinks a cold tea beverage, one’s body temperature drops by 0.5°C. Warm tea appeared to have lowered the body temperature by 0.4°C to 1.5°C while hot tea reduced body temperature by 1°C to 2°C.
Fierce Heat In the Zen Room of Master Hengzi
Everyone rushing like mad to flee the heat —
only this Zen Master never budges from his room.
Could it be that heat doesn’t reach a Zen room?
When mind is stilled, the body will be cool.
– Bai Juyi (772-846)
Original text in Chinese:
– 白居易 (772-846)
Science aside, at my grandfather’s coffee shop in Batu Pahat in Malaysia, many customers would slowly nurse a hot cup of tea (or dare I say coffee) in the middle of a hot afternoon. The sounds made by slowly stirring the beverage in a porcelain cup and saucer with a metallic teaspoon and the slowly moving ceiling fans were almost meditative and hypnotic.
I remembered fondly an old Chinese saying that my mom or aunties would tell us children – “still mind naturally leads to a cool body” – when we complained of the heat and humidity after playing too hard. As a child, I always found that mildly irritating, as surely a cold ice lolly or iced soft drink would be a much better way to cool down. However, as I grow older, I am beginning to appreciate its wisdom.
This saying actually comes from one of the great Chinese poets Bai Juyi (白居易) from the Tang Dynasty. Legend has it that on a hot summer’s day, Bai went to see a Zen master called Hengzi (恒寂). All he saw was the Master simply sitting very quietly in his room. Bai asked the Master if they could find a cooler place as the room was stifling hot. But the Master said “I’m actually feeling cool here.” Bai immediately felt “enlightened” by the Master and wrote the poem “Fierce Heat In the Zen Room of Master Hengzi”.
This realisation that if you have a still mind, you will not be bothered by the heat, is Bai’s very personal experience of the Zen Master’s wisdom. My Buddhist teacher, Ajahn Brahm, always jokingly says that he is not afraid of the heat when he visits Singapore or Malaysia as he has “natural air-conditioning” in his heart. This cannot be more true as feeling agitated in the heat will simply makes it more unbearable. Accept the heat and find its natural beauty.
So in the heat of the day, like the customers in my grandfather’s coffee shop, as I slowly brewed and sipped the hot tea, the sounds and the actions of brewing very slowly calmed me down. As I calmed down and exist in the stillness of the moment, I gradually realised that I am at ease with the heat.