Coffee Meditation

April 9, 2019
Coffee Meditations, Edward Espe Brown, Sounds True

During the twenty years I lived in a meditation center, I rushed through my morning coffee. After all, if I didn’t drink it fast enough, I’d be late for meditation. It was important to get to meditation on time; otherwise, one had to endure the social stigma of being late (obviously lacking the proper spiritual motivation), as well as the boredom and frustration of having to wait outside the zendo to meditate until latecomers were admitted.

When I moved out of the center, I had to learn to live in the world. I had been institutionalized for nearly twenty years. Now I was out and about. What did it mean? There was no formal meditation hall in my home. I could set my meditation cushion in front of my home altar, or I could sit up in my bed and cover my knees with the blankets. There were no rules.

Soon, I stopped getting up at 3:30 am. Once I did awaken, I found that a hot shower, which had not really fit with the previous circumstances, was quite invigorating. Of course, getting more sleep also helped.

Then I was ready for coffee—hot, freshly brewed, exquisitely delicious coffee. Not coffee in a cold cup from an urn; not coffee made with lukewarm water out of a thermos; not coffee with cold milk, 2 percent milk, or nonfat milk—but coffee with heated half-and-half. Here was my opportunity to satisfy frustrated longings from countless mornings in my past. I would not have just any old coffee, but Peet’s Garuda blend—a mixture of Indonesian beans—brewed with recently boiled water and served in a preheated cup.

Unfortunately, by the time I finished the coffee, I had been sitting around so long that it was time to get started on the day, but I hadn’t done any meditation. With this heavenly beverage in hand, who needed to meditate?

The solution was obvious: bring the ceremoniously prepared coffee in the preheated cup to the meditation cushion. This would never have been allowed at the center or in any formal meditation hall I have visited, but in my own home, it was a no-brainer. Bring the coffee to the cushion—or was it the other way around?

I light the candle and offer incense. “Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, the Lovely, the Holy,” I say. “May all beings be happy, healthy, and free from suffering.” I sit down on the cushion and place the coffee just past my right knee. I cross my legs and then put the cup right in front of my ankles. I sit without moving so I don’t accidentally spill the coffee. I straighten my posture and sip some coffee.

I feel my weight settling onto the cushion, lengthen the back of my neck, and sip some coffee. Taste, enjoy, soften, release. I bring my awareness to my breath moving in, flowing out. If I lose track of my breath, I am reminded to take another sip of coffee—robust, hearty, grounding. Come back to the coffee. Come back to the breath.

A distraction? A thought? Sip of coffee. Enjoy the coffee. Enjoy the breath. Focus on the present moment. Remembering the words of a Vipassana teacher of mine: “Wisdom in Buddhism is defined as the proper and efficacious use of caffeine.”

I stabilize my intention. “Now as I drink this cup of coffee, I vow with all beings to awaken body, mind, and spirit to the true taste of the dharma. May all beings attain complete awakening at this very moment. As I visualize the whole world awakening, my mind expands into the vastness.


Friends, this is one of the teaching stories that is shared in my new book, The Most Important Point. This offering comes to you with my gratitude for the efforts of Danny S. Parker, who edited over 60 of my Zen talks for inclusion in this volume.

Lastly, I invite you to try the Tea and Ginger Muffins recipe that accompanies this story. Danny must have enjoyed them!

Edward Espe Brown is a Zen Buddhist priest and was the first head cook at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

Danny S. Parker is a longtime student of Brown’s and is an ordained Zen Buddhist priest.

Pick up a copy of Edward Espe Brown’s newest book, The Most Important Point, today!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Edward Espe Brown

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Edward Espe Brown: Sincere and Wholehearted

Edward Espe Brown is a Zen priest and the former head cook at Tassajara Mountain Zen Mountain Center who helped found Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. He is the author of No Recipe and the classic Tassajara Bread Book. With Sounds True, he is publishing The Most Important Point: Zen Teachings of Edward Espe Brown. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Edward about the origin of his newest book: a quote from his teacher Suzuki Roshi, who said, “The most important point is to find out what the most important point is.” Edward describes his discipleship with Suzuki Roshi and why Zen practice can sometimes be like feeling your way through pitch darkness. Tami and Edward talk about the tradition of “taking the backward step” and moments of realization that transcend your expected practice. Finally, they talk about Edward’s path away from extremely low self-esteem and the role of difficult emotions in Zen contemplative practice. (77 minutes)

Coffee Meditation

Coffee Meditations, Edward Espe Brown, Sounds True

During the twenty years I lived in a meditation center, I rushed through my morning coffee. After all, if I didn’t drink it fast enough, I’d be late for meditation. It was important to get to meditation on time; otherwise, one had to endure the social stigma of being late (obviously lacking the proper spiritual motivation), as well as the boredom and frustration of having to wait outside the zendo to meditate until latecomers were admitted.

When I moved out of the center, I had to learn to live in the world. I had been institutionalized for nearly twenty years. Now I was out and about. What did it mean? There was no formal meditation hall in my home. I could set my meditation cushion in front of my home altar, or I could sit up in my bed and cover my knees with the blankets. There were no rules.

Soon, I stopped getting up at 3:30 am. Once I did awaken, I found that a hot shower, which had not really fit with the previous circumstances, was quite invigorating. Of course, getting more sleep also helped.

Then I was ready for coffee—hot, freshly brewed, exquisitely delicious coffee. Not coffee in a cold cup from an urn; not coffee made with lukewarm water out of a thermos; not coffee with cold milk, 2 percent milk, or nonfat milk—but coffee with heated half-and-half. Here was my opportunity to satisfy frustrated longings from countless mornings in my past. I would not have just any old coffee, but Peet’s Garuda blend—a mixture of Indonesian beans—brewed with recently boiled water and served in a preheated cup.

Unfortunately, by the time I finished the coffee, I had been sitting around so long that it was time to get started on the day, but I hadn’t done any meditation. With this heavenly beverage in hand, who needed to meditate?

The solution was obvious: bring the ceremoniously prepared coffee in the preheated cup to the meditation cushion. This would never have been allowed at the center or in any formal meditation hall I have visited, but in my own home, it was a no-brainer. Bring the coffee to the cushion—or was it the other way around?

I light the candle and offer incense. “Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, the Lovely, the Holy,” I say. “May all beings be happy, healthy, and free from suffering.” I sit down on the cushion and place the coffee just past my right knee. I cross my legs and then put the cup right in front of my ankles. I sit without moving so I don’t accidentally spill the coffee. I straighten my posture and sip some coffee.

I feel my weight settling onto the cushion, lengthen the back of my neck, and sip some coffee. Taste, enjoy, soften, release. I bring my awareness to my breath moving in, flowing out. If I lose track of my breath, I am reminded to take another sip of coffee—robust, hearty, grounding. Come back to the coffee. Come back to the breath.

A distraction? A thought? Sip of coffee. Enjoy the coffee. Enjoy the breath. Focus on the present moment. Remembering the words of a Vipassana teacher of mine: “Wisdom in Buddhism is defined as the proper and efficacious use of caffeine.”

I stabilize my intention. “Now as I drink this cup of coffee, I vow with all beings to awaken body, mind, and spirit to the true taste of the dharma. May all beings attain complete awakening at this very moment. As I visualize the whole world awakening, my mind expands into the vastness.


Friends, this is one of the teaching stories that is shared in my new book, The Most Important Point. This offering comes to you with my gratitude for the efforts of Danny S. Parker, who edited over 60 of my Zen talks for inclusion in this volume.

Lastly, I invite you to try the Tea and Ginger Muffins recipe that accompanies this story. Danny must have enjoyed them!

Edward Espe Brown is a Zen Buddhist priest and was the first head cook at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

Danny S. Parker is a longtime student of Brown’s and is an ordained Zen Buddhist priest.

Pick up a copy of Edward Espe Brown’s newest book, The Most Important Point, today!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Edward Espe Brown: No Recipe

Edward Espe Brown is a renowned chef and Zen teacher who is best known as the first head cook at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. In addition to writing several cookbooks including the classic Tassajara Bread Book, Edward founded Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. With Sounds True, he has published No Recipe: Cooking as Spiritual Practice. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Edward about Zen teachings on what it means to have to feel our way through the dark—both in the kitchen and on the spiritual path. They talk about cooking as a form of offering and why working with food can be one of the most potent ways to express our hearts in wholeness. Edward shares what he learned in his turbulent first days as the head cook for a spiritual community, including insights from his first Zen teacher, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Finally, Edward and Tami discuss what it means to seek out our heart’s true desire, as well as how to embody that search in all that we do. (72 minutes)

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Have you ever sat down to meditate and found it nearly impossible to relax and find the stillness you were hoping for?  There’s a little known sound healing secret that may just help you to overcome the initial restlessness when starting your practice.

The secret can actually be found in the opposite of silence, by using the sound of your voice and vocal toning to ground yourself, calm your nervous system, and clear your mind. 

How Sound Deepens the Silence

Chanting, mantra, and vocal toning have long been practiced in tandem with silent sitting meditation by both ancient and modern yogis and buddhists.  You may have experienced this yourself in a yoga class meditation that starts with three AUM’s.  There are different reasons why various types of voice are incorporated into the practice, but when it comes to preparing for silence, knowing this one concept can make all the difference.  

When we begin a practice by filling our bodies and our meditation environment with sound, whether that be our own voice, the sound of a singing bowl, gong, harmonium, or other instrument, it creates contrast with silence when the sound is gone.  There is a big difference in how we experience silence when the silence is preceded by sound, and once the sound is taken away, the silence can be experienced much more deeply.  

Peace Is A Stable Consistent Vibration

The foundational practice here is to use your own voice to create a stable consistent vibration within your body.  By repeatedly toning a vowel sound such as Eh, Ah, Oh, Uh, or AUM, on the same note, your body and mind will automatically begin to relax and become more calm and focused.  The vagus nerve, which runs through your neck, is right next to your vocal chords, and the effect of the voice on nervous system regulation is well studied.  

Vocal toning and humming increases nitric oxide, which can reduce blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and slow brain wave speeds from high functioning beta to slower meditative states of alpha, theta, delta.  You can even literally sing yourself to sleep (I know because I’ve done this myself by accident while toning!)

Singing IS Breathwork – Breathing IS Sound Healing  

Sound healing is not just about audible frequencies, but also about rhythms and the frequency of rhythms within the body.  The breath is one of the most fundamental rhythms we can access for reducing stress and restoring peace within the body.  

It is well known that extending an exhale longer than the length of the inhale will slow down the heart rate and calm the nervous system.  When we’re singing, toning, humming, and extending the length of that sound, we are essentially extending the length of the exhale to be longer than the inhale.  

This is why singing IS breathwork taken to the next level with the sound of your voice.  While it may seem a bit awkward at first, your body LOVES the sound of your own voice, and you can nourish your body in profound ways using the gift of this internal instrument.

How to Practice Vocal Toning Before Meditation

Go ahead and get into your meditative position, whether sitting or laying down.  For best results, I recommend at least 3-5 minutes of toning or humming to really give yourself time to get lost in the sound.  

  1. Using your voice, find a note that feels comfortable in the moment.  This will likely be a lower note in your normal speaking range, or maybe even slightly lower than your normal speaking voice.  It should be a note that doesn’t create any strain or tension in your voice, and can allow you to relax while maintaining the pitch.  
  2. Find a vowel sound that feels good to you.  For the most grounding and calming effect use Ah, Oh, Uh, or a combination of all three such as AUM (Ah, Oh, Um).  For more “clearing effect” EE, and Eh sounds can be effective for releasing stuck and negative thoughts or emotions.  Humming with the mouth closed is also a very effective method that can be thought of as singing down into your own body by keeping the sound inside rather than projecting it out.  
  3. At the beginning of each cycle of toning, take a long deep breath through the nose to receive as much breath as you can, and then begin to let the sound emerge from your voice in a slow and controlled manner.  Try to extend the length of your sound by releasing only enough breath to create the sound.  You may find that after a few rounds of toning you are able to take in more breath and extend your sound for longer periods of time.  
  4. If you feel any self-consciousness, awkwardness, embarrassment coming up, this is totally normal, even for experienced singers!  Let it be an opportunity for letting go of any self-judgment and try to stick with the practice.  You will find that these feelings will soon go away and will be replaced with feelings of peace and even the experience of timelessness.
  5. See if you can feel the subtle vibrations traveling through your body.  You will likely find that you can feel the sound traveling all the way to your toes, fingers, the hair on your head, various parts of your skin.  Just notice where the sound is traveling.
  6. To take things even deeper, bring in the emotions/intentions of gratitude or love and visualize those positive feelings riding on the sound waves from your voice to every cell of your body, filling yourself with beautiful vibrations.  
  7. Practice for 3-5 minutes or however long feels most comfortable to you, and when you are ready, let your final sounds dissipate into silence.  Continue to breathe normally and take notice of how much deeper the silence now feels.  You may continue your silent meditation practice from there for however long you desire.

Finding Your Homenote and Balancing Energy with the Voice

If you’re enjoying the use of your voice for stress relief and for starting your meditation practice, there are ways to get even more intentional with the voice.  We have the amazing ability to clear energetic blockages, restore balance to energetic deficiencies, and return to a state of peace using our own voices.  You can learn more on my website 1:11 Sound Healing.  

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Nicholas Penn, 1:11 Sound Healing

Nicholas Penn is a life-long musician, producer, and sound therapist with a certification in Sound Healing through Globe Sound Healing Institute.  Nicholas is passionate about educating and empowering individuals to access the gift of their own voice to restore peace and improve wellness for themselves and loved ones.  He is also a producer for Sounds True and leads strategy and content creation for the Sounds True YouTube channel and Eckhart Tolle Spotify Channel.  Learn more at 111soundhealing.com   

Authenticity is a Unique Superpower That We All Have

People often think that “personal branding” is a dirty word. That it revolves around ego and vanity and self-promotion. After building and running my personal branding agency, SimplyBe. and reflecting on our unique approach to this space, I realized that there was something much deeper to this work.

Each of us is here for a specific reason. Each of us has a light that we need to shine. And most people don’t know how to technically, practically tell their own story. Most of all, they don’t feel they have the permission, the confidence, the support, to take the leap. My book, Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself, is that permission slip—for you to get out of your own way, to dive deep and take the journey within. Although often perceived as a practice in exterior image, personal brand is really about how you see yourself, how you know yourself, how you come to cherish yourself. That is the journey that awaits you in Be.

There are a lot of people who don’t want to be on social media or don’t want to be “famous” and therefore feel like the work of personal branding isn’t for them. But frankly, it doesn’t matter if you use social media every day or if you never touch it for the rest of your life—you have a personal brand.

Your personal brand is your value. It’s your worth. It’s the impression you leave behind in any room or crowd. It’s how you make people feel. It’s how you interface with people wherever you go—the way you treat your barista, the way you talk to your children’s teachers, the way you communicate with your team at work, how you create relationships in our community. It’s your legacy. All of these daily interactions are opportunities to hone and master your brand on your terms. That is personal branding.

My background is in marketing and branding. I’ve cut my teeth in the world of social media working with Fortune 500 brands over the last 15+ years. That said, in this book you will find frameworks and easy DIY tools to build your brand from the ground up and to take it online and leverage it to build your business, your career, your reputation, your followership. You’ll learn how to craft a message and a strategy, build PR awareness, create original content, identify your competitive landscape, and much more. It is a very tactical book in that sense. But my biggest inspiration and passion is bringing more humanity to business. Be. is a personal empowerment book at its core. Simply put, Be. is a study in the power of authenticity. 

Authenticity is a unique superpower that we all have. It’s a practice in you simply being you, inclusive of all of your shadows, sh*t, failures, weaknesses, AND all of your successes, triumphs, talents, and unique gifts. That’s what Be. will really challenge you to own—your fully unapologetic YOU.

My book is far more than what meets the eye. I hope you pick it up and learn that you, indeed, have a brand and that this simply means that you have something worthy and meaningful to share with the world. Personal branding, at its core, is an act of service. It is about what we are here to give versus what we are here to get. And when we architect a personal brand from that place, we come alive.

The world needs your light.

The world needs you to shine.

Every one of us has not just the privilege but the responsibility to step forward and simply be.

Don’t let us down.

With love and light,

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Founder & CEO, SimplyBe.

 

Jessica Zweig is the CEO and founder of the SimplyBe. agency, a personal branding company that helps millions of people worldwide. She's been named a “personal branding expert” by Forbes, a Top Digital Marketer to Watch by Inc., one of 2020’s Most Notable Entrepreneurs by Crain’s Chicago Business, and the 2018 and 2019 recipient of the international Stevie® Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year. She's been featured on FOX, ABC, NBC, Thrive Global, Business Insider, and more as an expert on how an authentic personal brand is the key to a more successful career. For more, visit jessicazweig.com.

Jessica Zweig is the CEO and founder of the SimplyBe. agency, a personal branding company that helps millions of people worldwide. She’s been named a “personal branding expert” by Forbes, a Top Digital Marketer to Watch by Inc., one of 2020’s Most Notable Entrepreneurs by Crain’s Chicago Business, and the 2018 and 2019 recipient of the international Stevie® Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year. She’s been featured on FOX, ABC, NBC, Thrive Global, Business Insider, and more as an expert on how an authentic personal brand is the key to a more successful career. For more, visit jessicazweig.com.

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Lynne Twist: Finding Fulfillment in a Purpose Larger t...

At a time when many of us are feeling hopeless, angry, or cynical, how can we reclaim our joy and choose to see possibility instead? How can we change what we tell ourselves about our lives and our world? In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with author and activist Lynne Twist about her new book, Living a Committed Life, and discovering the role we each must play to usher in a new era for humanity. 

Tune in for an inspiring discussion of strengthening your “possibility muscle”; the power of disruption; the breakthroughs hidden in the breakdowns; choosing to tell a new story; the relationship between pain and joy; the willingness to be “proximate to suffering”; grief as medicine; the origins of the Pachamama (Mother Earth) Alliance; why everyone has a role to play in the healing of our world; finding your calling and answering the question “What breaks your heart?”; envisioning a new kind of human being, a new kind of humanity; and more.

This episode first aired live and on video on Sounds True One. To watch Insights at the Edge episodes live and on video, and to access additional bonus Q&A, please visit join.soundstrue.com to learn more.

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