Monday, April 26, 2010

A Smattering of Thoughts

Coffee update: I have not had any coffee since I last wrote. I've been sticking with black and green tea and it's going great! One thing I didn't mention before is that part of the reason I really want to quit caffeine is because I've started a meditation practice in addition to yoga. And meditating when your brain is ping-ponging around on a caffeine high is unpleasant.

So yesterday I went on a meditation retreat. It began at 9 a.m. with yoga, then we switched between sitting and walking meditation until 3:30, with lunch in the middle. Then I did another yoga class from 4-6. It was a long day, but I'm glad I did it.

Meditating has been a challenging thing to do, because it's hard for me to sit quietly with my mind for 30-40 minutes, or even for 10 minutes. Part of what I find challenging is that I'm self conscious about it. I often feel like I'm not doing it "right" because I'm not seeing immediate results. One thing I've been learning, though, is that all you have to do is sit, and over time you will see the benefits. There is no end to the practice--you never reach a final point and then say, "my meditation practice is complete." Even if you reach enlightenment, or nirvana, or you leave your physical body for a few seconds, you always come back to Earth, and then you try again, and so on. This has been a hard concept for me to grasp, and so it's hard for me to write down, but I hope it makes sense. To quote Hey Arnold, the journey is the destination.

I keep thinking of something that my clarinet teacher Rick Faria said to me once. At the time it meant a lot to my clarinet practice, and now I'm finding that it's really relevant to most areas of my life. He said to me that even though it feels like your playing is having all these dramatic peaks and valleys - one day you're playing something perfectly, and the next you're squeaking all over the place - your general ability is progressing, and that's what really matters. So when you think you are in a rut (or harder: when you're flying high), just proceed as usual and know that you're heading in the right direction, as long as you're moving forward.

So I'm learning that each moment is brand new, and the moments that came before don't dictate the moments that will come later. And knowing this, my mind and heart are slowly opening more and more. It's pretty neat.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Caffeine Chronicles: Prologue

Hello there. It's been so long since I've posted, I can hardly believe you're even reading this right now. Have you been waiting since January, checking my blog each day, thinking to yourself "maybe today..." and then letting out a long sigh when you find that my blog's latest post is still the one about some book? Well, today you will sigh a sigh of relief, because I'm back! And I'm here to write about coffee.

I have been addicted to caffeine for a long time. I don't remember when it started, but it was somewhere between high school and college. It flared during the summer after my senior year, when I was watching Gilmore Girls excessively while house sitting. The gilmore girls are hopelessly addicted to coffee, and they speak about coffee every 5 seconds. All that mention of coffee, combined with boredom and the novelty of being in someone else's house, I started drinking coffee about 3 times a day.

Four months later and I was living in New York City, working two jobs, one of which was the closing shift at Starbucks. Working at Starbucks fanned the flame, to say the least, and before I knew it I was drinking a venti iced red-eye on the way to work in the mornings. (A red-eye is coffee with a shot of espresso in it.) My addiction continued unchecked for another year, give or take a couple months.

Last winter, I vowed to make over my life. I had started doing yoga, and I wanted to begin a macrobiotic diet. Macrobiotics doesn't allow caffeine (or meat, dairy, tomatoes, or alcohol), so I tried to quit cold turkey. I have to say it was extremely difficult to cut off all vices in one fell swoop, and all of them slowly crept back into my life. But I did manage to stop drinking coffee and switched to black tea. I stayed with black tea until very recently, when coffee slowly came back into my life, and now I am a lunatic for the stuff again.

Now, you might say, black tea has almost as much caffeine as coffee, so what's the big deal? The big deal is that I can function in the mornings before I have tea. I don't have dramatic ups and downs in energy level. I don't turn into a huge b-i-t-c-h or fall asleep at my desk if I don't have a cup of tea in the afternoon. Coffee, though, has a vice-like grip on my brain, and it makes me nuts.

So, I'm going to start over. I know what's coming: blinding headaches for a couple days, irritability. But I know that it's worth it, and I think it will help to write about this endeavor in this here blog, and I hope you'll bear with me. I'm going to take a step-down approach, switching to black tea first, and then down to green tea.

The sad irony is that what fuels my determination to quit coffee is, in fact, a giant cup of coffee.