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.

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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.

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12 thoughts on “9. chronicling the self through coffee

    1. Thank you for sharing this Anna! One of my favorite coffee rituals has been sharing a cup with you during the last couple of years at U of C. May there be many more cups of coffee together to come 🙂

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  1. This is a perfect description of how I feel about that morning cup of coffee. I usually will have it after the kids leave to school which means the sun is already up. I would love to wake up early enough to have my coffee before the sun rises. This would feel like a form of meditation. Love your view on this. You inspire me to be more mindful of the little things in life, one of your beautiful qualities.

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    1. Thank you for this message amto! I remember you mentioning that your coffee is important to you, that it’s a quiet time of the day for you. Let’s have a morning coffee together soon inshallah.

      Love,
      Andrea

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  2. Andrea, Andrea, Andrea…you are a breath of fresh air. ❤ I find myself anticipating each morning eager to read the newest post you have written, and because of this, I too have now established somewhat of a routine from your blog posts alone (LOL!) — Let me summarize what that routine somewhat looks like: 1). 7:15 am–overly obnoxious "ducks quacking" alarm goes off at the highest volume and awakes me from my angelic sleep–I know you especially can appreciate this one. 2). Shut that "ish" off immediately and give myself 10 seconds to re-calibrate my brain from that foolery that is my alarm clock. 3). Check my e-mail and look for my Finjan Half Full e-mail notification (because I subscribed!) alerting me of the title of today's brilliant piece of work. 4). Start reading and notice my jaw dropping more and more with each paragraph that I finish, because I am in absolute awe of how clear and concise, yet how powerful and thought-provoking your writing is…what sticks out to me is that you write with such INTENTION, AUTHENTICITY, curiosity, and with your WHOLE heart….and on top of that, ALL with such grace and EASE! You really do make it look too easy, Andrea…very similar to watching gymnasts at the Olympics tumbling and flipping to their crazy-ridiculous floor routines like it's nothing, and then you just sit there and are like…"wait, WHAT?." I thank God everyday for making me lucky enough to have Him choose me to be your sister. I truly won the lotto. I learn so much from you, and everyday at that…even if you are on the other side of the world. Never forget how special you are, Andrea. You are a gift, and a gift that I am going to treasure forever! Love you mi hermanita bella.

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    1. Rachelle! How do I even respond to this? I think this is the comment of the year. Despite all the amazingly kind things you said, my favorite sentence in this whole epic paragraph is about your duck alarm. Thank you for making me laugh and filling me with warmth today! So lucky to have you reading on the other side of the screen. Love you sissy!

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    2. Rachelle, It does not surprise me to read this about your sister because I know how much you love her, even from the very beginning when you guys were little. It just warms my heart to see and feel the love you guys have for each other. What you wrote about Andrea it doesn’t surprise me, you always expressed so much love for her and your brother. I am the lucky one in this picture! You three are the biggest gift any mother can ask for. I’m truly BLESSED!🙏
      QDTB. TQM. Always!❤️🙏❤️

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  3. Andrea, again, what can I say…I’m in awe everyone I read your beautiful and inspirational stories. Just like Rachelle says; I look forward to reading it every day …One thing I know is, that I’m the lickist mother on earth, knowing that you are my special daughter, so gifted and so talented…and above all, so lovable and so kind. Thank you God!🙏

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  4. You ladies are making me cry- what a delightful trio! Andrea, I second everything Rachelle and Reina write about you – your writing is inspiring! It flows so naturally and makes even a mundane routine task that you perform seem so much more. Never give up on this gift that you have – keep writing! Thankful for the ray of sun in my inbox despite this cold,snowy and dreary Jan weather!

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  5. I really enjoyed and appreciated this post, read late but on a morning where (induced by jetlag) I am up (and awake) much earlier than my usual start time. I love your writing, Andrea, and your reflections have been guiding my musings. Big hug from Chicago!

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    1. Alo Cristina! It is so great to hear from you. What a delight to know you’re back in Chicago, and you’re reading these posts. There’s nothing like jetlag to get us reflecting on life 🙂 Sending you a big hug from here in Amman, and hoping that our paths cross soon.

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