This is the third edition of this blog entry over a span of ten years. People and circumstances change, I have changed, and many a lesson learned along the way. The preceding blog entry was about The Art of Slowing Down, and one of the challenges of doing so is learning to enjoy the little things, the simple things.
I recently shared the meditation of the cup with a friend, one of my all-time favourite meditations and my preferred manner of beginning the day. Nothing peeves me more than the invasion of that zone between sleep and consciousness which I enjoy stretching out a little longer by holding a cup of coffee. It is the first moment of gratitude of the day: for being alive and awake. Carpe diem!
While I sit at my desk and attempt to sort through the foggy haze that my brain finds itself in, I close my eyes and feel the heat, the comfort, the slowness of the moment. The rush of the day will come, and I will meet it head-on, but I need that precious moment of silence to slowly come around. Conversation is superfluous at that point, and coffee my best friend.
In this madcap, rat-race lifestyle that we often get caught up in, nothing slows you down to catch your breath better than a steaming hot cup of coffee (or tea). Unlike a softdrink that you can grab on the run, a hot drink has to be treated with the utmost respect, given time, and never rushed through – just like anything worth doing in life. Sure, there are coffee bars all over the world from which you can buy your steaming hot coffee and take with you as the Starbucks generation will proudly point out, but even they can’t make you drink the coffee or tea any faster.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s summer, winter, or the middle of the monsoon. I love the feeling when I wrap my cold hands around a warm cup and know that this is my moment of peace. Of particular joy is when I can sit in the dark with nothing but candlelight around me and the pouring rain outside. The thunder and lightning can battle it out all they want, I have my cup (and cat) to anchor me. It is my private moment when I can ignore the rest of the world and retreat into the safety and warmth of a cup to reflect on the world and other such trivial matters. The silence grounds me, brings me comfort and inevitably, a smile.
Zen masters will tell you that a hot cup of tea brings together “the spirit of the heart, quietness and tranquility” (Tea Master Genshitsu Sen). If done properly and respected, there are centuries of wisdom behind these words. Many Eastern cultures have developed complex tea ceremonies, all shrouded in silence and tranquility. You are pushed to your limit to tolerate the heat, but rewarded by the soothing sensation of the warmth spreading throughout your body, no matter what the weather. Tea ceremonies set a tone, establish a bond, and ultimately, give you that gentle nudge to find your peace.
The rush you get from a coffee – whether you are facing an espresso in Italy or a large cafe au lait in France or my personal favourite, a cappuccino – is invigorating and refreshing. Unlike a cup of tea that carries a certain gentleness and grace, a coffee is more social and gives you that often much needed jump start in the morning, thus setting you in motion.
If what you need is silence, peace and quiet then a cup of tea is your answer. If your soul yearns for conversation and company, then a coffee is definitely the way to go! Whatever your need, wherever you may be, even if it is just ten minutes, savour the forced break in the day. That single cup has the power to bind body and soul together – honour it and respect it, take the time.