“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast? said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.
—Winnie the Pooh
We have to be on the look out for small exciting moments and glimmers of magic (like breakfast and chai). The magic I speak of is not one of fantasy, but one of the everyday, of delighting in small life-happenings. If you doubt the magic of this world, simply keep a look out for these moments below.
A list of modern magic:
- Cat naps
- A fragrant rose
- Slow Sunday mornings
- The way watercolors blend and bleed
- A good dark chocolate bar
- An afternoon with friends
- A night hike under the full moon
- Soft cat purrs
- Laughing until you cry
- Pie in all its forms
- Speaking a foreign language
- Homemade chai
This kind of magic is of course individual, so I highly recommend making your own list and keeping an eye out, lest you miss the magic happening all around you. I recently rediscovered the magic of reading (and apparently alliteration!). Have you ever become so absorbed in a story that reality slips away, taken over by the narrative unfolding in your mind?
Reading is one of the purest forms of magic I know. Sinking deeper and deeper into the depths of a story, I lose myself. All of a sudden I’m swallowed whole, consumed by another place, another world, another time. It’s such simple magic, so easy to escape and transform into someone else for a while. Within a story you can be anyone, anywhere, anything. What an astounding power!
If you also have a hankering for this king of magic try The Book Thief or The Book of Speculation, both are excellent. The magic of words is infinite. For a different kind of magic, check out The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. The Tao of Pooh recounts the tenants of Taoism through the lens of Winnie the Pooh. It’s quite charming and endlessly wise. It set me thinking about busyness and this quote:
“First I was dying to finish high school and start college.
Then I was dying to finish college and start working.
Then I was dying to marry and have children.
Then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work.
And then I was dying to retire.
And now, I am dying – and suddenly I realize that I forgot to live.” ~ Unknown
Enjoying exactly where I am in life is often difficult because I am easily caught up in the cycle of busyness. One might even call it a disease. Always having a list of tasks to accomplish. It even bleeds into time when I am resting, leaving me feeling less-than-relaxed, with guilty feelings of having accomplished nothing. However, as The Tao of Pooh points out, nothing IS actually something. Even doing nothing is a challenge as we constantly adapt to an ever increasing amount of stimuli from computers, tablets, phones, watches, advertisements, television, etc… The almost neurotic cultural reflex to fill our time with Something makes it quite difficult, in fact, to fill it with Nothing.
“What Chuang-tse, Christopher Robin and Pooh are describing is the Great Secret, the key that unlocks the doors of wisdom, happiness and truth. What is that magic, mysterious something? Nothing. To the Taoist, Nothing is something, and Something – at least the sort of thing that many consider to be important – is really nothing at all.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
Today marks almost 85 days of meditating and meditation is possibly the ultimate nothing-that-is-actually-something. This practice has subtly transformed my perspective, bringing a refreshing sense of awareness to my daily life.
One might be wondering, what, if anything, all this has to do with chai, but parallels emerge with a bit of thought. This version of chai is slow. It takes time and it does not hurry itself by boiling because then it takes on a bitter cast. I urge you to make time to focus on the process of making it. Smell the spices as they toast, watch the small bubbles rise to the surface as it simmers, listen to the burble of the liquid as you strain it into a mason jar. Then, give yourself a gift. Do not turn on the television, pick up your phone, or even read a book. Simply do nothing while you savor its warming, spicy aroma and creamy taste. Let the nothingness be ok. And you may find that even drinking chai is a meditation when sipped mindfully.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
— Lao Tzu
Serves 6-8 (depending on how long you boil it down)
This drink is rich with spices, but can become bitter if they are boiled, so keep it to a simmer. I did not add any black tea, which is a traditional part of chai, because I can’t have caffeine, but feel free to add some in the last few minutes of the simmering process if desired. Check out Mountain Rose Herbs for bulk spices and tea! I find this spicy infusion incredibly creamy with homemade cashew milk, but choose the plant or dairy milk of your choice. Pay attention and drink it slow.
- 25g or about 8 sticks cinnamon
- 5g or 1 tablespoon allspice
- 15g or scant 1/4 cup clove
- 1 star anise
- 10g or 1 heaping tablespoon black peppercorns
- 25g or 1/3 cup green cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 vanilla beans
- 75g or 7 inches of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 2 quarts of filtered water
- honey or maple syrup to taste
Place cinnamon, allspice, clove, star anise, black peppercorns, and cardamom pods in a large, wide pot. The wider and flatter the pot, the more it will cook down into a concentrate. Toast spices on medium low. Make sure not to burn spices (aka do not try to speed up the process by doing it on high) or you will be drowning your tears in a cup of undrinkable, bitter chai.
While spices toast, zest orange, slice ginger, and cut vanilla beans down their length. When spices are fragrant, scrape vanilla bean seeds into pot and add in water, zest, orange juice, ginger and vanilla bean pods. Bring liquid to the edge of a boil and immediately turn down to a steady simmer. Let simmer for 1 hour and then strain out spices.
Dilute concentrate with milk in a ratio of 1 part concentrate to 2 parts milk of choice and add in desired level of sweetness. Heat in a pot until hot and serve in your mug of choice!
You can even add more water to the strained spices and start the process over again to get extra milage out of them.
Basic Cashew Milk
Makes 5 cups
This is really a non-recipe, but cashew milk is so delicious with this chai recipe that I thought I should share anyways.
- 1 cup cashews
- 4 cups filtered water
- pinch of salt
- maple syrup to taste
Soak cashews until soft (at least 2 hours or up to overnight). Rinse cashews and place in blender with water. Blend until smooth. If blender does not blend the cashews completely, continue blending or strain the milk in cheesecloth or a nut-milk bag. Store in a glass container in the fridge. Add a pinch of salt and maple syrup if desired.