Pull the curtains shut, try to keep it dark
But the sun is burning
The world awakens on the run
And will soon be earning
With hopes of better days to come
It’s a morning yearning
Another day, another chance to get it right
Must I still be learning
- Ben Harper
Oh my, you have a very soft fire, uttered Dr. Rosy Mann as she read my pulses. Soft fire? Now what am I supposed to do with that? True, I often joke about the fact that I have no goals. I prefer to stay in the present and float along through life. What to make of this alleged soft fire?
I was advised that due to my Vata/Kapha, inherently cold, nature, it would be wise to consume a ½ a cup of black coffee or black tea each morning with breakfast. Dr. Rosy, that just might kill me.
I had always abstained from caffeine. As a rug-rat, my brother and I would nab sips of our Grandmother’s Moravian style coffee. When discovered, she would exclaim- Don’t drink coffee, it will stunt your growth! Being the ever obedient and literal child, I took this advice to heart and never drank coffee, even in college. As a result, I am super sensitive to the stuff, yet, vertically challenged. Even green tea gives me the shakes. My heart palpitates and I start to scribble a living will on the nearest paper napkin.
Why Caffeine as Medicine?
When the mind begins to grow heavy and foggy (Tamasic, in Ayurvedic psychology), the lens through which we perceive life gets smudged. The world is less glamorous and sparkly. It’s hard to rip yourself from bed. Everything is just blah and meh.
Tamas queen- that was me towards the end of my year-long internship at Kripalu. I was in a moderate panic about leaving the nest. My solution? Escape with excessive sleep and binge watch Pretty Little Liars (don’t judge). As you can imagine, this increased the Tamasic, heavy qualities in my mind and body.
Presenting-THE GOLDEN RULE OF AYURVEDA:
Like Increases Like, Opposites Decrease*
*Remember this, tattoo it on your forearm if need be.
Allow me to give you a quick run through on our friend Tamas. Tamas is the principle of dullness, heaviness, ignorance and decay. While these qualities seem overwhelmingly negative, Tamas is required in our lives. No Tamas, no sleep. No sleep, no Sattva (purity, harmony, joy).
Similar to the three doshas (Vata, Pitta & Kapha) the Maha Gunas (Sattva, Rajas & Tamas) are present in everyone’s life. While it’s ideal to live a Sattvic existence, we all need a heaping scoop of Rajas (stimulation, action, turbulence) to get s@#t done. What would life be without a sprinkling of Tamas? Without Tamas, we would be floating in the ether; probably wearing dinosaur printed weighted vests like they were going out of style. However, we must be cognizant of our behaviors to keep Tamas in check.
What Increases Tamas?
- Foods that are processed, frozen, stale, old, leftover, unnatural, nuked and canned. These foods are lacking Prana, our energy & life-force. Get FARMY (my farm friends like to score old ARMY shirts and sew an F in front of ARMY). Fresh, local, organic, sustainable, ethical… Michael Pollan’s new documentary series, Cooked, is a true masterpiece. Check it out for a full education on the importance of getting your keister back in the kitchen.
- Refined Sugars
- Excessive Sleeping
- Lack of physical movement
- Hanging out in the dark while using your computer, phone or tablet all day long.
- Violent television, movies, video games. These behaviors start out as Rajas, but overtime morph into Tamas.
Like increases like, right? Picture this- intern sleeping ten hours a night. Eating vegan ginger scones and gluten free carrot-coconut muffins like the apocalypse is happening next week. Texting her long distance boo for hours. Watching a teenage drama in a dark, dank house. You get the idea. No good. I was in rough shape. Certainly not surprising that Dr. Rosy could not find fire in my pulses that September afternoon.
Thus, the prescription to drink coffee. Liken the caffeine as a way to crack open the painted shut windows. A means to air out the mind, and refresh the situation. Reboot the brain. Coffee is stimulating. Know that you can only move from Tamas to Rajas, not straight from Tamas to Sattva. Once you land on Rajas, only then can you strive for Sattva. Essentially, I had to bring on the Rajas to begin to glimpse the golden wisps of Sattva in my daily life.
How to Drink Coffee- Ayurveda Style
Energetically, coffee is considered a stimulant due to its hot qualities. An Ayurvedic riff on the Bullet Proof Coffee phenomenon involves adding a teaspoon of ghee to your morning cup of joe.
- Aids in Digestion
- Stimulates Brain Function
- Improves Memory
- Increases Concentration
- Boosts Energy Levels
The ghee will actually help moderate and sustain the caffeine inspired energy for a longer period. Vata types will benefit from adding ghee to their coffee. This unctuous semi-liquid gold helps counterbalance the bitter, drying nature of coffee. However, if you are feelingoverwhelmed by kapha, the ghee may not be the right choice. Instead, opt for a sprinkle of warming cinnamon and cardamom to add flavor, boost digestion and cut down on the acidity.
While I can’t say I have woven the caffeine recommendation into my daily routine, I did decide to test out an Americano the other day. Go big, or go home. Indeed, the espresso gave me some zip and I yipped a blue streak at The Glenview Grind. It was fun and gifted me a new spin on things.
If you are feeling like you are overburdened with Tamas or possess a soft fire, I invited you to experiment with consuming ½ a cup of coffee in the AM. ½ a cup, 4 oz max, not your gargantuan Venti Starbucks variety. Black coffee with a dash of spice and/or ghee. Notice how you feel, and decide if this is the right medicine for you.
Everything can be medicine. Everything can be poison.
Coffee can be medicine. Revere it, don’t abuse it.