This past week, I find myself rising before the sun to sit and write. It’s a meditative way to start the day: the feel of putting pen to paper, of pressing keys so that they form words on the screen before my eyes. I start to brainstorm while the world is dark, I push through the narrative as light enters the room in imperceptible increments, and I finish the last sentence with the sun high in the sky.
Sometimes I wake up just early enough to hear the call to prayer issuing from the neighborhood mosque. The church bells will toll an hour later. These sounds of worship bring me solace. I am not the only one awake; I am not the only one at this hour practicing devotion, albeit of a different sort. I picture the others as silhouettes in a window, their shadowy forms cast against the warm glow of a bedroom light, as they kneel to a higher power, or slide the beads of a rosary while reciting the Hail Mary and meditating on the first mystery.
Beside this imagined spiritual community, I am also accompanied by my french press and finjan, a little cup for coffee. My favorite part of the morning is pouring that first cup: watching a stream of black silk fall into white porcelain engraved with delicate silver flowers, sipping something warm and sharp as my brain slowly catches up to my body.
As I reflect on this, I realize that my morning coffee keeps me company in another way, too.
It connects me to earlier versions of myself that performed this same ritual.
This insight comes with the help of a couple talks I heard. One is on the importance of ritual in fostering connection with others. The other stresses the importance of keeping old friends because they help us remember earlier versions of ourselves; they return us for just a few moments to the people we were in their company.
Repeated action performed with intention connects us with others, and perhaps to ourselves as well. Keeping a person or a practice that has accompanied you in the past helps us integrate our experiences and make meaning of the present.
Consciously or not, I am comforted by the first cup of coffee because it brings me into communion with the self (selves?) that sipped her (their?) morning brew yesterday, a month ago, 2 years ago, half a decade ago.
The variations in my ritual — where I drink the coffee, how I prepare it, what I choose to focus on while I am drinking it, whether I drink it alone or with company, and if the latter, who that company is — serve as a reminder of change. And yet the intentional repetition of the act grounds me to a constant.
In this way, perhaps that humble cup of coffee in the morning represents something more than an addiction to caffeine. Maybe one could dare to say that it is something of a spiritual act. Or at the very least, a filing system for chronicling the self. A ritual that, for me, cultivates awareness and connection to something outside my present form.
Dear reader, do you have a similar relationship with a seemingly mundane habit? Do you also meditate over your coffee? Do you think it is total blasphemy to suggest that the drinking of a caffeinated beverage can be a spiritual act? All thoughts, whether in agreement or disagreement, are welcome! Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.