The big square table in the Wabanaki Resource Centre at St. Thomas is set with tea cups of different sizes, while the steaming tea pots fill the room with a sweet, fruity scent. The chit-chatting of students becomes quiet when STU student Mitchell Syvret-Caplin tells everyone to close their eyes.
“Breathe in, and breathe out. And again. Breathe in, and breathe out.”
It’s Wednesday evening, and Syvret-Caplin invited students for a cup of tea and a relaxation activity.
“It’s a really nice time to come in for an hour and just get away from the whole world itself. If you have a paper going on, let be for an hour, come here and take a moment for yourself,” he said.
The idea came to Syvret-Caplin last summer when he was working at the health and social services building on his reserve, Gesgapegiag, QC. Helping with the administration, he noticed doctors, nurses and social workers rushing by. Everyone was busy and there was no real interaction, he said.
He started to serve tea and goodies to the staff every morning. At the end of the first week, he was told to continue because, “everyone was happier and they were not as stressed when running around.”
Arriving at STU last fall, the 21 year old thought it might be a good idea to introduce tea ceremonies on campus.
“I realized university is stressful for every student, no matter if you’re just passing or excelling,” he said.
“Tea is very warm and comforting for me … Usually it helps me to unwind and take the time for me to make myself grounded and be relaxed.”
He also wanted to integrate his own Mi’kmaq and Maliseet culture. He said the Elder in Residence, Miigam’agan, sometimes joins to talk about indigenous traditions such as the tea ceremony.
“In our culture it would have been for ‘Moon Time,’ … the period of the month for ladies. So, it would be a way to de-stress from that as well,” said Syvret-Caplin.
The activities offered at the tea ceremony range from muscle relaxation, guided imagery and self-affirmations. For the next ceremony on Feb. 19, Syvret-Caplin is planning to have laughter yoga.
Third-year student James Pye plans to bring a watermelon tea for the next ceremony. Pye came after seeing a poster on campus.
“I thought it was very unusual,” he said, adding he expected a club of some sorts.
“I never thought that it would be a tea group.”
Since Syvret-Caplin started the group last semester, he’s received a lot of positive feedback.
To accommodate those who don’t like tea, he has a pot of coffee and iced tea ready as well. Syvret-Caplin plans to continue the ceremonies next year and hopes the group will be eligible for funding from the STUSU. The expenses are now all out of his own pocket.
“I just like to see people happy.”
The next tea ceremonies are scheduled for Feb. 19, March 12 and 19, April 2, 9 and 16.