The Things That Define Us (Words and Work)

Daily Grind (and Meditation)

Each morning, my coffee habit coerces me into a minute or two of self-awareness and meditation.  This is because my morning routine begins with hand-grinding enough beans each day for my two cups of French press.

For years, I relied on my resident Cuisinart Grind-and-Brew to provide “fresh ground” coffee.  At the push of a button each morning, the machine would loudly roar to life, and produce the caffeinated beverage like a magic little robot.  It was like there was a miniature coffee shop hiding inside the device, just ready to take my order. 

Recently though, the grinder’s buzz began to sound more like a lawnmower’s blade, and the nightly maintenance began to feel like a prison chore (it seems that the petite café doesn’t include an operations staff).  At the same time, the black and grey machine sitting on the counter appeared less like a mechanized helper from the future, and more like an ominous monolith from the Stone Age.  In (domestic) discomfort, there is always an opportunity for growth. 

So, I purchased a manual coffee grinder and French press, to go along with my stovetop teakettle.

The result is a four-step morning meditation (and much better coffee). 

1. Fill teakettle with water and set on stovetop to heat. 

This allows reflection on, and true appreciation for, easy access to clean water and energy on demand.  I notice in grateful amazement how humans still use an open flame to heat food.  Despite all our technology, our basic needs are met with fundamental practices.

2. Pour coffee beans into grinder and turn handle (and keep turning). 

The effort of spinning the hand grinder is the most impactful step – primarily because my first reaction is one of disdain.  This little tool requires that I repeatedly twist its spindly handle, again and again, while the ceramic burrs crush the hardened, non-cooperative beans, at an hour of the day that… well… I’m not exactly a morning person.  But then, that’s the point. 

The exertion asks me to experience gratitude for being able to physically complete the task.  I am asked to be grateful for my health and my body.  The resistance of the beans reminds me that this is first an agricultural product made by the sun, water, and earth.  I am pushed to be mindful of my connection between my food, the planet, and me.  I am also reminded that this product has been brought to my counter by many human hands that have farmed, harvested, transported and roasted the coffee.  I am given the chance to be thankful for their work and my many blessings.

3. Pour ground beans into French press and add heated water.

The basic act of combining the water and ground coffee invites me to reflect on the simplicity of the drink and its millennia of history.   As the coffee brews, I am given five minutes of time to meditate on the insignificance of my daily worries and my gratitude for my family.

4. Drink.

And with this, I am offered the chance to plainly enjoy drinking coffee.  I am thankful for my sense of taste, smell, and the warmth of the mug on my hands.  Nothing more is needed.

Thank you to Barbara Flanagan and Thich Nhat Hahn for leading me to the tools of this daily practice. 

Kevin RoseComment