I was part of a group of sisters that met monthly to discuss spiritual stuff. I remember one meeting when we were having a deep discussion on the meaning of life and someone asked, “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?” We started around the circle and it was the second or third person that said, “What gets me out of bed in the morning is the thought of my first cup of coffee.” We laughed. Then another sister said, “Me, too, especially if I remembered to set the timer the night before and can smell it already brewing.” Then a third. A fourth. Until three-fourth of the sisters gathered admitted they got out of bed in the morning for the taste of fresh coffee.
That discussion prompted a poem in the book I’m writing called “Old Monk.” The poem goes like this:
No light yet. Old Monk pours
steaming hot coffee in a mug and sits.
Same ritual, morning after morning—the years a blur.
“If upon awakening
your first thought is of God,
you are a monk,” Wayne Teasdale wrote.
What if your first thought is of coffee?
What does that make Old Monk?
“A lover of pleasure”
would do as an epitaph.
Then I read this reflection by Brother David Steindl-Rast and everything fell into place:
“What is it you tend to tackle with spontaneous mindfulness, so that without an effort your whole heart is into it? Maybe it’s that first cup of coffee in the morning, the way it warms you and wakes you up, or taking your dog for a walk, or giving a little child a piggyback ride. Your heart is in it—and so you find meaning in it—not a meaning you could spell out in words, but a meaning in which you can rest. These are moments of intense prayerfulness, though we may never have thought of them as prayer. They show us the close connection between praying and playing. These moments when our heart finds ever so briefly rest in God are samples that give us a taste of what prayer is meant to be. If we could maintain this inner attitude, our whole life would become prayer….” –from “David Steindl-Rast: Essential Writings,” edited by Clare Hallward (Orbis)