Oprah Chai


“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

I cannot tell a lie. The first time I walked into Starbucks and saw “Oprah Chai” on the menu, I felt irritated. I love Oprah and chai tea, but the two together felt too gimmicky. Oprah chai costs more than the regular chai. But it’s less calories and a portion of the profits goes to youth education. And it is delicious. When I told my brother I tried an Oprah chai, he warned me that I might start yelling things like "Gwyneth PalTROW!" in the excited way Oprah did when she would introduce people on her show. Fortunately that has not happened yet, but I'm not sure it won't.

The other day, I typed “the truth about Oprah’s chai” into Google. I’m not sure what I was looking for; probably a reason why I shouldn’t be drinking it. Instead I found out how important tea was to Oprah. She talked about her "daily ritual" consisting of a cup of tea and an inspirational reading.

Recently I have thought a lot about rituals. The kind of daily rituals that we may not look at as sacred but if we didn’t participate in them, we might feel like something essential was missing or not quite right. Moments like having a cup of coffee, or for me, snuggling with my blankie before bed. (That's right, I still have my baby blanket.)

For me, a ritual is an invitation to welcome meaning, beauty, and comfort into my life. When so much can change, it is nice to have something that happens day in, day out no matter what is going on in our lives. When viewing a walk with my dog as a ritual, it allows me to see everything from a different and more grateful perspective. It is an opportunity to slow down, keep my phone in my pocket, and be joyfully aware of the sights and smells: ominous clouds, my neighbor mowing her lawn in a sports bra, the fragrant jasmine vines crawling on fences, and the cardinals hopping from one branch to another.

When we take something we have to do every day and treat it as a moment for prayer or mindfulness, we imbue this seemingly meaningless task with sweetness. As is true with our breath, a daily ritual keeps us anchored to the present and is a perfect antidote to anxiety and fear.

Then we can slow down, pause, sip and savor our tea with great awareness and appreciation. Then the simplest moment becomes a ritual. And if we're lucky, we may even experience an "aha!" moment just like Oprah.