Hot (Coffee) Minute

I can make coffee four different ways in my house: drip, French press, pour over, espresso. When it gets warm enough for cold coffee again, I will also be trying out the new cold brew bag I bought while in Idaho (if you’re ever in Nampa or Boise, check out the Flying M¬†coffee garage. Amazing). But most mornings, my sainted husband (or I) make me a Cuban Americano, made of a quad shot of espresso pressed with raw sugar and cinnamon, mixed with hot water and half and half. For me, this drink is love, through and through.

I adore coffee. As a vata-pitta, this can be a problem–lots of coffee can be an irritant to people who are already in high drive and hurtling from one thing to the next. Because I love the people around me, and I don’t love headaches, I’m not going off coffee. Fortunately, Tiffany, my friend and Ayurvedic consultant, didn’t tell me I had to. She did suggest I monitor how much caffeine I drink, and also suggested I try cutting the harshness of coffee with more spices. The cinnamon in my drink is warming, which is good for Vata people, and she suggested I try adding cardamom (also warming) to the espresso.

I’ve been doing this for a few weeks and have enjoyed the extra spice addition, although fresher spices, or using a cardamom pod instead of ground spice would probably make the flavor more noticeable. One thing Tiffany pointed out is that a hundred years ago, people cooked with hundreds of spices. Now they use about twenty. According to the authors of ¬†Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way, food, and especially spices, are not just calories, but “packets of universal intelligence,” or rather, nutrition and knowledge in flavorful food groups. They feed your body on multiple levels.

Since starting my Ayurvedic journey, I’ve noticed that much of Western food feels like either punishment or indulgence. It errs on the side of speed, convenience, fat, and sugar, rather than flavor. The result is that whether the food is healthy or not, it can feel like eating punishment. Ayurvedic food usually doesn’t feel that way. While I balk at some food suggestions, like not eating fruit with any other foods, and eating everything cooked, the emphasis on flavor and spice (which means taking time to care about the food) results in delicious and satisfying food that never makes me or my stomach hate myself later.

Of course, that takes time. And sometimes when you’re low on time you make K-cup coffee with almost-expired Irish cream chocolate flavored creamer and eat a granola bar laced with chocolate chips and corn syrup. If I ever have children, Lord, hear my prayer.

The good news is that good habits, really good ones, tend to reward me enough to keep going. Exercising feels much better than not exercising. Eating good food means I’m usually not tempted by restaurants (at least not the ones in this town). Writing, even on bad, numb-brain days, feels much better than not writing. I’m getting to the point where trying something new–whether the food I eat or the way I write or my reactions to my spouse–feels much better than running down the same well-worn rut the rest of my life.

I didn’t make a New Year’s goal, but I’ve been thinking about risks and new things a lot lately. On Sunday I tried an online yoga class called “Power Yoga Bruce Lee Style” which was a kung fu inspired yoga flow. It was a lot of fun. One highlight was pulling off an arm balance that usually results in me on my face; another was doing yogi pushups on my fists, something I hadn’t been able to do (or felt confident doing) the last time I tried the class. However, the most powerful moment of the class was at the end, when the instructor quoted Bruce Lee as saying, “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

I teared up on the mat. I’ve been at a plateau professionally for a while, in great part because I don’t feel focused or confident or like I have enough to do extra. Physically I stay at plateaus because I worry about falling out of headstands and arm balances, so I do what I’m good at–over and over. And I almost didn’t write this blog today because I didn’t know how I was going to get a post out of coffee, or who would want to read it. It’s all safe, and pretty unsatisfying.

So here’s to putting cardamom in my coffee, trying new pushups and scary arm balances, and blogging about coffee. I think this might work out.