The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 14: Reflecting on coffee

spoon with line of coffee It hit me over breakfast, or rather, as I sipped the pre-breakfast coffee he'd made for me, that The BF has finally matched, if not surpassed, my ability to make a good, stovetop Americano.

It also struck me that coffee, while not traditionally associated with zen buddhism, is a dandy example of the Zen of Everything.

First, there is coffee as a metaphor for self-development. We're born with neither knowledge nor need of it. We fall in love with the idea of it long before we come to fully appreciate the full experience of it, if we do at all. To embrace it marks the move from childhood into adulthood, which is why we put up with the bitter, unusual taste of it at the start.

Coffee can also be used as a meditation on...well, meditation.* You can continually refine your coffee-making technique, or you can settle in on a practice that varies little, if at all, from day to day. You can interact with it by rote, or you can bring your full attention to each step, each sip. You can overindulge to the point where you are not yourself, where you are disengaged from the world. (I'm particularly guilty of this, where coffee is concerned, anyway. I've never been able to sit still long enough to meditate.)

Finally, there are the ways in which our taste for coffee mirrors our different perspectives, and offers an exercise in appreciation without judgment. As a devotee of strong, black and espresso-driven, someone else's ideal of "cappuccino" is not entirely foreign; while not my cup of joe, it's something I can at least understand or relate to. I have to work much harder to embrace as equal the weak cup of Sanka or the sugary, flavored coffee. Even coffee served in the "wrong" type of container constitutes a challenge: styrofoam and delicate, wide-mouthed bone china cups seem equally preposterous to me.

I'm sure there is even more to be learned from coffee, and the nature of it, and my relationship to it. But for today, the main thing to be learned is probably...

Lesson #15: What is not all things to all people, can still be an entry point into all things.

xxx c

*Although I would not advise meditation under the influence of coffee, except perhaps as a one-off experiment.

Image by *Kitto via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.