Tracy Ryan wasn’t known much for following popular trends or doing anything because of outside influence. When she went vegan, it was after months of nutritional research on the subject. When she switched to all natural-fiber clothing no one else in the office had even heard of such a thing. She was buying her coffee organic fair-trade long before it was easy to find. If anything, she found the trends that followed rather annoying. She did nothing for the purpose of being inclusive.
Tracy’s morning routine was perhaps her most predictable and independent trait. Up at 5 A.M. every morning, including weekends, she would don her cotton workout clothes, a jacket if necessary, and run the 2.3 miles to the bakery that sold, in her opinion, the best organic bagels in the city. There she would have a bagel with soy nut spread and a bottle of water before heading back home. Six days a week, it was straight back home, but on Tuesdays she would stop at the fair trade coffee shop around the corner from her apartment to pick up the beans she would need for the rest of the week. Always three-quarters a pound.
Once home, she would set a folded blanket on the hard wood floor, put water on the stove, and begin stretching. When the water was ready, she would pour it into the waiting french press and stretch just a bit more. When the coffee was ready to pour, she was ready to begin her morning yoga routine.
Unlike most who practiced yoga around the city, Tracy shunned classes. She had been doing yoga since she was twelve and felt she had the routine and exercises down pretty well. Classes were unnecessary, and the serenity of her own home, and coffee, helped her prepare for the often chaotic day ahead.
Tracy had been keeping up this routine for the better part of three years when, quietly, a seemingly minor interruption took place. When it first happened, she thought nothing of it, dismissing the vent as incidental, an unnoticeable wrinkle on an otherwise smooth day. But as it continued, the calm manner made it too large and too noisy to miss.
He was a small man, the sort that looks as though he might break if anyone looked at him too heard. certainly not physically intimidating by any stretch of the imagination. He wore his hair long, and his beard touched his chest without effort. Most days, he smelled of jasmine, with a hint of mint. His smile was large, but closed mouthed. His English was more than passable, but his accent, whether natural or contrived, gave him a sense of old-world wisdom that compelled one to listen. And he liked coffee.
Rarely were any other patrons in the coffee shop so early on Tuesday mornings, so his mere presence that first day was an anomally. He said only two words: “Peace, child,” but they stuck in Tracy’s head for months after he said them. She never asked his name, but she had a feeling he knew hers.
He never approached her, never tried to make physical contact, ask for money, or give her a card. That alone made him unusual for a city where everyone seemed to be hustling something, or someone. He simply smiled, and gave her a few words that would ultimately guide her meditation for the whole week until she saw him again. And often, that wisdom was wrapped in some way around coffee.
“You may have the beans,” he said one day, “but it’s not coffee until you add hot water.”
A rather obvious platitude, she thought. Yet, the more she thought about and dissected the statement, the more she found meaning. She thought about the act of pouring hot water into the french press, a process that cause a chemical process causing the ground beans to switch from an inert to active state, blending with the water to form an enjoyable liquid. The act had to be deliberate, though. It would not happen on its own.
Likewise, Tracy reasoned, did life move from inert to active states. The most delicious and satisfying results came when she, herself, added the hot water that forced her, and sometimes those around her, to react. She stretched harder, and longer, that week. She found herself more limber than she expected, and as sweat poured down her back she thought of how her body was steeping to perfection for the day.
Another day he said, “Peace, alone, makes the coffee cold.”
That one took some thinking, but by the time Tracy reached the elevator in her apartment building, she understood that just as one must move to drink coffee, peace is not achieved through passivity. She focused that week on the fluidity of her movement and found that doing so made her more calm and able to deal with conflict.
So, it seemed off balance when, this Tuesday, the old man wasn’t there. Tracy found herself looking for him on the street, hoping perhaps he was just a little late that morning. She didn’t see him.
Back at her apartment, Tracy found herself feeling on edge, disturbed. He wasn’t there. No one had spoken to her as she left. It was Tuesday and she had … and there she caught herself. Without realizing it, she had become dependent on his sayings. She had linked herself to his energy, rather than relying on her own.
She waited patiently for the coffee to steep, then poured her a cup before sitting in the middle of the floor. She took her time. These moments, after all, were about her and her own health. She could not be healthy relying on energy from anyone other than herself. Tracy held the warm mug in her hands and let its heat radiate through her arms and into her body. With her eyes closed and her head back, she began to feel the aches and pains melt. Slowly, with cup in hand, she began to move. Moon salutation. Plow pose. Shoulder stand variation. Fish pose.
For the next two hours, she moved with her own grace and own energy. She thought not of the old man and his sayings, nor of peaceful mountain streams or idyllic pictures of grandeur. Rather, she thought of coffee. Warm. Rich. Peaceful.
Tracy found it interesting that, at the end of her session, her mug was still warm. The coffee had not grown cold. Rather than taking energy from someone else, she had given energy to her coffee.
As she stripped down to shower, Tracy smiled at her new revelation. The secret to health was not in the words of anyone else, but in the relationship between her and her coffee. The world could not be any more perfect.
MODEL: [Lisa Marie]
[ed. note: I do not condone attempting to perform yoga with a full cup of hot coffee unless one has achieved a level of experience where balance is sufficient to avoid the danger of spilling.]