The Coffee Drinker’s Guide To Being Present

About five years ago, my friend Tommy told me what I thought was an insignificant thing: that he’d taken a ceramic mug to his office and had started using that for his morning coffee instead of a travel mug. He said it made him feel less rushed.

In the span of those five years, Tommy’s little seed of an idea stuck with me, and gradually and almost subconsciously grew into a full-blown life philosophy. I too tried to start drinking out of ceramic mugs when possible. I minimized drinking coffee in a car, preferring to schedule a few minutes for drinking coffee somewhere stationary, whether it was my apartment or a coffee shop. Every coffee shop I visited, I specified “for here” to avoid being served coffee in a paper cup. I noticed at hotels and sometimes airport coffee shops in Europe, coffee was served in ceramic mugs, and how much I liked it compared to a hotel breakfast in the U.S., served on all disposable dishes and cups. (Obviously it’s also better for the planet if we’re not creating a piece of trash every time we drink a cup of coffee, but I’m talking about something else here.)

I wouldn’t have expected that concept to change my life in a big way, but now I look at to-go cups and travel mugs like the equivalent of drinking wine out of a glass vs. straight out of the bottle. Or maybe more accurately, sitting down to eat a sandwich at an actual table vs. wolfing down a drive-through meal while navigating in freeway traffic. I’ve learned to like my coffee like I like my conversations with good friends: not rushed.

But we all feel rushed, don’t we? We live in a world that seems to get faster and faster every month. And how do we deal with it? Most of us try to adapt and keep up with it all, without even thinking about it. We have eight different methods people can use to contact us and we have to check them every 15 minutes just in case we missed something. We eat lunch at our desks, and drink our coffee out of non-spill vessels, often in our cars. And nobody just sits and drinks coffee anymore, except this legendary Starbucks customer spotted in 2015:

Yes, it’s great that we’ve been able to make lots of things portable, including drinking coffee. But while the actual coffee is portable, the experience of slowing down and taking a minute to be present is not so much.

Maybe my friend Tommy is onto something with his ceramic coffee mug, and he knows something most of us should admit: that rushing the things we love isn’t making us any happier—even if it is making us able to scroll through 12 to 15 more meters of social media feeds every day. Maybe instead of trying so hard to keep up with everything, we should all take a small step in resisting the velocity of our discontent.


More stories like this in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.