February 2, 2011

Zen Coffee

There is something romantic about simplicity, about a certain asceticism that rejects needless attachments and the boundless neurosis that comes with. We are busy, of course, and surrounded by a near constant bombardment of sensory stimuli, all of which can make it very difficult to properly enjoy things -- even those things we purport to love.

But we tend to blame the external for this too often, when, in truth, it's our own minds that complicate matters. That is, regardless of what is going on outside, we control our reaction to it. We can frame it as we like, and thus remove a great deal of the stress that we seem to accept as inevitable.

If this sounds overtly philosophical, there is a reason for that. Full disclosure: I've just finished reading Zen and the Art of Running. So, if my mind is drifting a bit towards pseudo-enlightenment, you'll forgive me. Also, I'm listening to Raining Blood right now, so I think Slayer cancels out whatever meditative state I might be flirting with.

But I digress. In any case, the book did inspire me a bit. Importantly, it gave me some mental tools that I imagine will be valuable in my fitness endeavors. It also led me to try something this morning: Drinking coffee.

"But wait?" you ask. "Don't you drink coffee every morning?"

Why yes, yes I do. But perhaps not so intently as I might. That is, I've written about the context of coffee a lot, and perhaps in doing so, not emphasized the coffee itself as much as I ought. I wrote, yesterday, about drinking coffee, while eating breakfast and watching the snow. The focus of that post was on how coffee enhances the experience of a snow storm, or again, how it fits in to a larger picture.

But this morning, I wanted to try something else. I wanted to drink my coffee, and, as much as possible, do nothing else. I would not think about the weather, work, how far I might run today, what I could make for breakfast -- nothing. That is, I wanted to co-opt the zen practice of mindfulness -- of living in the moment -- and apply it to my morning coffee drinking.

Was this a bastardization of the idea? Perhaps, but I don't think so. Zen practice -- if I'm remembering my Eastern Civ and Chinese Philosophy classes correctly -- involves intently focusing on things which might otherwise seem mundane. More specifically, it involves truly experiencing the now, because that's really all we've got.

So this morning, I made my coffee, and drank it, careful to do little else, and worry about less. This was my morning meditation, my attempt at mindfulness. I don't know if it was "legitimate" or not, or even if it was a worthwhile thought experiment. But I know that I enjoyed my coffee.

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