Taking it To-Go

I have had several friends from foreign countries point out to me something funny about the modern American culture: we are always going somewhere with a beverage.

The to-go cup of coffee is seen everywhere. We carry sodas, smoothies, teas, and protein shakes in travel cups, tightly sealed so that we can enjoy them on the go. 

Are we really enjoying them though? If we are moving about the world in such a rush, how can we focus our attention on the drink in hand? Enjoyment requires attention. In order to really appreciate something we must give it our attention. Do we truly enjoy the cup of coffee if we cannot smell it? So much of flavor and aroma are linked to our sense of smell, but our to-go cups place a barrier between us and the coffee, so how can we really get a sense of what it is really like?

What are we really looking for in these moments? Are we there to appreciate the coffee, or do we just want caffeine? Are we sipping on a soda in the car for the pleasure of it, or are we just looking to distract from the drive? Do we really appreciate the taste of the smoothie, or do we just want food without having to dedicate our attention?  

Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy. A good cup of coffee can completely change your day (and not just thanks to the caffeine). Take a moment to enjoy the aroma. Think about the people who were involved in the planting, tending, and harvesting of the beans. Express gratitude to those that fermented, dried, and roasted the coffee. Take a sip and listen to what your senses are telling you. Even if you’re in a rush, you can still take 30 seconds to appreciate, savor, indulge, and be grateful. I promise you it will be worth it.

 

The Poison is in the Dose

As humans, we are constantly consuming. Many of the things we consume we could not live without. Without air we would quickly die. Without water our body would not function properly. Without food we would not have the energy to work, build, create, heal, or procreate. Life would be unable to continue.

Many things that we consume we could live without: television, news, candy, coffee, alcohol, drugs, and tea. These are not life or death necessities in our lives. 

There is, however, a tremendous amount of joy, beauty, and pleasure that can be obtained from the consumption of these things. One could certainly go on living by drinking only water and eating a complex, nutritious sludge (soylent green anyone?). Given the proper balance of nutrients, one could certainly live, grow, and maintain their health.

Would that life be worth living? Pleasure is good for us. There is a tremendous amount of value to be had in enjoying a beautifully prepared meal with a glass of well-made wine. I enjoy a cup of coffee for the boost in energy and concentration, as well as for the simple fact that it tastes good. 

There is a simple, elegant concept in toxicology that one can apply to consumption: the poison is in the dose. The difference between a medicine and a poison is in the quantity we consume. 

A cup of coffee can be a pleasurable way to improve your productivity. Ten cups of coffee could put a tremendous strain on your nervous system and prevent you from sleeping.

A glass of wine elegantly paired with a beautiful meal can be nutritious for the body and the soul. Three bottles of wine and several trips to an all you can eat buffet will harm your body, and will eventually kill you.

Many of the things in life that bring pleasure also tempt us. Our brain and body evolved in a very different world than the one we currently live in. Food is all around us. Alcohol is offered in almost every restaurant. Coffee shops are on every corner. Marijuana is now legal in many states. 

There is almost no limit to the temptation, so how do we control the dose?

Intention. 

Why are you consuming? Why are you eating? Why are you drinking? Is it because you’re hungry? Is it because you’re sad? Is it because you’re stressed?

Attention.

Listen to your body and your emotions. Pay attention to how what you are consuming makes you feel? Do you feel uplifted? Nourished? Or do you feel heavy, drunk, and sluggish?

Pay attention to your senses. If you take your time and enjoy one glass of wine, observing it, smelling it, engaging sense one by one as you enjoy it, you will certainly obtain more pleasure than chugging a whole bottle. 

Slow down. It helps us to consume better. It makes us better, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It allows us to show up better for those around us.