Deeper Sense and a Sip of Espresso
Coffee takes many forms – as a leading commodity, a ritual of pleasure, as emotional fuel in throw-away cups – or at its most artful, the commingling of espresso and frothed milk. Love goes not only into the brewing, but also the appreciation of a cappuccino, which is rich in more than flavour: there is wisdom to be extracted, with notes of antique beauty. These appeal to the finer senses of smell and an equanimity of being. Espresso is not unlike John de Ruiter’s meetings, appealing to multi-levelled appreciation. Would you have thought that a tranquil sip could be a guide to so much inner meaning?
The aesthetics of espresso are profound. One of the pleasures is thinking of all the machinery required to produce one cup. The calibrations are exact, the manual details critical. The science gives mystique to the seconds of extraction, the moment of enjoyment – ‘now’ – essential to espresso. Yet not all the production is beyond observation. The steam hisses from the wand, the grinder hums, the velvet espresso pours forth. These processes have physical beauty and symbolic import. Vapour, pressure, boiling, a compressed flow of molten black, conjure an imagery of creation. How primeval, yet so modern. The precision is wrapped up in the dynamism of heat and sound; the primal impulses are contained within the art, and at last you see the still surface of the crema.
Espresso is deep, black, hot, and rich, like the meaning burning at the brink of awareness. The barista coolly brews an offering of the highest gastronomical quality. The motions are fluid; the fluid evokes profound inner motion. Fine grind, heat, and pressure yield the goodness. In John de Ruiter’s words, ‘oneness within pain enables oneness to realize its own depth and expansiveness, creating an awakening of experience.’ Espresso is a delicious symbol of that truth, the serving is small, the experience brief. Those few grams recall ‘the tiny little bit’ of true knowledge, distilled under pressure through purity of heart, perhaps bitter to the palate, but rich. A symbol for ‘the tiny little bit,’ but espresso also offers awakening of experience. In Copenhagen, 2001, John highlighted the practical relationship between espresso and consciousness.
Do you enjoy a cappuccino? You cannot even enjoy a cappuccino without dropping out of your mind and into your heart. Notice what is happening when you are enjoying a cappuccino: your whole system is responding. The response of your own system shows you how to be. The next time you sip a cappuccino, notice the meaningfulness within…a flow of beingness. Notice a very subtle meaningfulness in every little thing in your life. You will be amazed at how much life is actually full of nectar when you are being in it. The more subtle the noticing, the deeper the nectar. You are used to noticing everything that appears as big within your mind. What you are overlooking is the very tender little. It touches your heart, and connects you with meaning.
What accomplishes this alchemy? To a large extent, the olfactory system. According to Kate Fox’s ‘The Smell Report’ on sirc.com, ‘the so-called taste-buds on our tongues can only distinguish four qualities [whereas] our smelling function is carried out by two small odour-detecting patches – made up of about five or six million cells.’ Fox goes on to explain that ‘ Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where “cognitive” recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated.’ The sense of smell is sophisticated on one hand and primal on the other – perfect for that modern yet primordial caffè macchiato. The millions of olfactory cells attune to the flavour while the basic response is simply ‘yes.’
Beneath its humble profile, the sense of smell has a philosophical soul. It reflects the experience of sitting in a meeting with John de Ruiter, absorbing meanings without relying upon comprehension. The sense of smell is like the perception through which John can be understood. They say ‘the nose knows,’ evoking response before comprehension. For the BBC News March 14, 2014, Helen Briggs reports that humans can detect one trillion different odours while ‘the human eye uses three light receptors that work together to see up to 10 million colours’ and ‘the ear can hear almost half a million tones.’ Unlike the other senses, especially sight (focused on appearances) olfaction places little stress on identification. Lastly, sight can judge from a distance, whereas for the scent of a thing, you need proximity. If you evaluate John by appearances, or believe everything you hear, you will miss the information available when you sit in a meeting and open your mind.
In between the flashes of spoken and visual interaction, the meetings contain worlds of meaning. These open up as soon as you relax and let honesty flow. Any word – ‘trust, love, magnanimity’ – can be an entrance to new avenues of awareness. You can feel your toes or your finger-tips, or fill your heart with a particular relationship, and let warm honesty make it whole. The millions of olfactory receptors hint at what’s available in honesty, beneath the obvious senses. Honesty is like the sense of of smell, subtle and often overlooked. The quiet inner senses are reliable while easily misinterpreted by the mind, but if the smell is sweet, open up and breath it in.
Espresso is openness in a sip. It contains the fine-tunings of the barista, who extracts a velvet stream from roasted coffee beans. The experience is cool, while the beverage is steaming. The grind is earthy; the operation is technical. The machine at The Jewel Cafe is golden, and when the ancient brew pours into my cup, I’m reminded of the intensity of meaning within graceful forms, and the beauty that grows around deep black truth. I feel the crema at my lips, notice the flavours, and feel the enjoyment tingle in my chest. When I look into the cup and see the last drops, I remember that espresso, with all its resonating meanings, is now.
The above quote comes from a dialogue with John de Ruiter in Copenhagen in 2001, entitled ‘Loving Knowing.’ The transcript can be found at jdrgems.com.