Coffee and Mindfulness
I have enjoyed coffee for quite some time, but it’s not until recently that I think I’ve started to truly enjoy coffee, as opposed to all the things that go with it. I can’t really remember when I first started liking it, but I am pretty sure that the experience of going to get coffee with friends or stopping to pick something up before work played a big role.
Jerry Seinfeld addresses this well in an interview with NPR, commenting on why he thinks coffee is so central to our culture:
I think the answer is we all need a little help, and the coffee’s a little help with everything — social, energy, don’t know what to do next, don’t know how to start my day, don’t know how to get through this afternoon, don’t know how to stay alert. We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.
I think all of these are likely true for me at various points in time, but I also find it really useful sometimes to step outside of some of my habits, and explore them as ends in themselves. Recently, I discovered that there were many ways to make coffee other than via drip machine or espresso machine.1 After doing some research, I found that the AeroPress was highly recommended, and I decided to purchase one, since it’s affordable, simple, and compact.
My morning coffee routine starts with beans I buy every week or two from Joe Bean here in Rochester, NY. My method is pretty similar to Stumptown’s, although I do less measuring or precise timing. I start boiling enough water for my mug. I grind two scoops of beans and add them to the AeroPress, add water, stir, add more water, wait a minute, and then flip it over and press it into my mug. I then top it off with hot water (or occasionally frothed milk).
While I make coffee this way almost every morning, I try to be mindful of the process (and it no doubt helps that it’s a bit more involved than my drip machine). I focus on each step as I go, paying attention to what it is that I’m actually doing.
Mindfulness is a term that has been around for a long time, and is characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present. Through mindful living, we are both better aware of and able to accurately see the events in our life, instead of being reactive to or pushed around by them. Bringing this heightened awareness to life in general has been linked to many positive outcomes, both mental and physical.2 We’ve all experienced lapses in mindfulness, when autopilot takes over and we end up rushing out the door without the things we need for our day, or so caught up in worrying about things in our lives that we don’t enjoy the people we are with, or places we are at. What a waste of life.
One of my goals is to be more mindful in my day-to-day life. With something as little as my morning coffee, I begin my day with just a little less mindless routine, and a little more awareness and enjoyment. I find it even helps with those little questions quoted above, like what to do next or how to start my day.
If you’re interested in reading more on mindfulness and savoring life, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, one of my favorite blogs, offers some excellent further reading on this. In the end, it’s not all that complicated. Just do whatever you are doing, and be wherever you are.