Last year I was on my way to sing at an event. I had prepared myself lovingly that morning and felt very still and light. On the way, I had a meeting at a cafe. As I hadn’t had any caffeine at all in my body for two years at that point, I perused the menu for some herbal tea, and ordered Peppermint. I sat down with the tea and took one sip and thought “boy, this is strong peppermint tea.” I took one more sip and began to feel very strange. It began with a sensation that my head was swelling up, then my heart began to race, and I became incredibly shaky and slightly anxious and began to speak much faster and a hardness came into my voice. My muscles contracted, most noticeably in my jaw and face, and my whole body felt inflamed and hijacked. It reminded me of the first time I had something with a lot of caffeine in it as a child - a vivid memory for me - and I knew that my tea was not caffeine-free. I went up to the counter to ask if they had given me the wrong tea and it turned out that they brewed it through the same machine as they brew all the caffeinated teas, and so my tea had been contaminated with some black tea. It would have been a very small amount, but a body that has had none for so long can feel it. I then had to leave the cafe for my gig, but instead of going to sing with my body still and light, I went to sing with a body that was wound up, racy and tense.
Before I gave up caffeine I used to feel that it didn’t really affect me much at all - just a little energy lift. I used to feel ‘normal’ when I had a black or green tea, but at the moment of the 'peppermint tea mishap', I realized that this had always affected my body like this - I had just completely acclimated to it. I looked around and realized that everyone around me was buzzing on caffeine, but to most of them it felt normal. Yet we all know that caffeine is a major stimulant. Recently I was talking to a yoga teacher who said to me “I love coffee but it doesn’t work well to drink it before yoga.” I would agree! But is not true yoga how we live in every moment? So, I feel that in truth it does not work well to drink coffee to be who I am. Do we really love coffee/caffeine drinks, or do we need them as they allows us to function and get through the day? Need them because of the world-wide epidemic of exhaustion. We have on nearly every commercial corner a shop selling alcohol, one selling sugar and one selling caffeine. Our legal drugs that help us function. But we are not meant to merely function. We are here to Live!!
While I can’t say that caffeine affects everyone the same way as it does me, one thing I deeply know in my body - caffeine directly sabotages stillness. Anything that sabotages stillness sabotages us being all of who we are. Just to be clear, I share this never with the intention to tell anyone what to do, but just to present it lovingly to feel into. Just recently I was called out on a choice I was making that was not loving. When this happened I realized I was just waiting for someone to call me out on this as I knew, “Just under the surface” that it was harmful. Once that happened I immediately renounced that choice and made a change. Sometimes we just need a little help and it just takes another person to confirm by reflection what we already know.
I leave you with some comic-relief - one of my favorite scenes from Moscow on the Hudson where Robin Williams plays a defector from the Soviet Union. This is his first time in an American grocery store coffee isle. Enjoy!
With love and care,