Your world in a cup
With all the busyness of life around us, it is easy to get lost in the trees and lose our ability to see and appreciate the bigger picture—the forest. Sometimes we simply take things for granted, or lose our ability to recognize the miracles all around us. In these moments when we lose sight of things, my go to is to take a moment to look at one thing closely. This helps me reset my perspective.
To do this, I borrow from a Zen exercise of looking deeply into one thing. Since so many of us start the day with a cup of coffee or tea, this is a good one to start with. If we look deeply into the miracle of a cup of coffee or tea that we enjoy in the morning, we can see something quite remarkable. In Zen practice, looking deeply is mindful concentration. Let's take a look.
For most of my life I thought that what was required to make a cup of coffee in the morning was some coffee beans or a tea bag, some milk, and maybe some honey or suger. Sure, someone somewhere will need to grind those beans. But that's about it, right. As it turns out, the cup of tea or coffee we so enjoy in the morning, requires everything in the universe. Let's take a closer look.
To enjoy that cup of coffee in the morning, we need the sun, a ball of fire about 150 million kilometers from Earth. The sun enables coffee trees—and every other plant on earth—to grow. Without this far away burst of energy, life on Earth could not exist, not to mention our cup of coffee. That cup of coffee also needs the clouds and the oceans and the rivers to bring water to the trees.
Coffee trees need soil too, soil that is enriched from trillions of dying things that decompose and create a living system of infinite micro-organisms, worms and other critters that aerate the soil. Even if all these miracles somehow occur, and someone somewhere decides to grow coffee trees, how does it get to your home? It takes thousands of people to get it there, from farmers and processors, and all the people who make all the products required to make it happen, like the sacks to put the coffee beans in for shipping, coffee cups and spoons, milk and sugar, trucks and gasoline to get the beans to market, the people who build the trucks and the roads, and coffee machines and everything in between.
Dive into any one of these items, like milk for example, you'll be heading down an endless thread of more things we need to make a cup of coffee. Everything in our world is woven together, interconnected and interdependent, and you need it all for that cup of coffee in the morning. The sun and the clouds and the rivers have stirred your coffee, with love. Honestly, it takes the entire universe to make that cup of coffee or tea be there for you in the morning. We are connected, literally, to everything in our universe. Humans are 70% water. We have millions of organisms like bacteria, living within us, where home to them is us.
Seeing the world in this way is to see far beyond the forest, and to do this we must hike out of the trees and rise above to see what is there and see the absolute truth of our world, the impermanence of all things, and the total interconnectivity of all things—the oneness of all things. If we take a moment to see deeply into the “forest” of our work, we can see the bigger picture and how our actions ripple across the landscape. Sometimes, when working with a group, I have everyone pick up their chairs and arrange them in a half moon—a half circle. Sitting there together, we can see that we are facing the same direction, the same destiny, and together, we can move forward with this new view of how things work in this world.