Heal & Harm | Morning coffee and little rituals

More mornings than not, I take a short walk.

The specificities of my destination can vary, but I always end up at one cute coffee shop or another! As a freelancer with no set schedule and an itinerary that can shift radically from one day to the next and from one project to the next, these early morning (or sometimes afternoon) coffee walks can be a deeply stabilizing part of my day – sometimes the only common thread between days that always look quite different, especially since for me ‘weekend’ is a foreign concept.

Recently, one of my students asked about my daily and weekly routines, and after some reflection I had to honestly answer that for the most part, I have absolutely no routine. No two days of mine look even remotely alike – and I like it this way! My efficacy shifts from day to day depending on what my body is doing, and as someone living with trauma and multiple disabilities it has been important for me to cultivate an attention and sensitivity to my radically fluctuating capacities. The best-laid plans – of course – aren’t terribly reliable when living with the disabling effects of trauma. Instead of policing and judging my productivity, I’ve instead embraced a non-judgmental responsiveness towards my body.

Chatting with my student also inspired me to remember that I’ve always organized my time around deadlines. I like to focus on what’s directly in front of me, hustle like crazy, rest, and move along to the next thing, one step forward at a time. Having reasons to leave my apartment studio/office can be very helpful, and my morning coffee ritual serves this purpose – among others – for me. In a routine with no routine, this simple near-daily morning coffee ritual is a process of rooting, stabilizing, taking the time to check in with myself, with my insides and my outsides. Of being in my body and let it lead me to what it wants – and (more importantly) listening.

I think that’s one thing I really enjoy about this little routine – it gets me in my body in ways that are pleasant and sensual rather than painful or uncomfortable (yay chronic pain and trauma, ha).

The coffee I drink is hot and delicious and feels good in my mouth. I like feeling the warm liquid move through my insides, I like discerning the difference between flavours and textures at each espresso bar in my neighbourhood, noticing how each non-dairy milk brings out different flavours in the espresso. I like how it wakes me up, gets my ideas flowing, makes me excited to work.

Sometimes it can be difficult to feel motivated to get out of bed, as someone living with chronic pain which is at its absolute worst in the morning (and worst during cold winter months). Coffee wakes me up, invigorates me, makes me feel excited to begin fresh.

My little walks – depending on the shop I choose – take between 10-30 minutes. This is some time just for me, to watch the world wake up, to be alone with my thoughts and check in with myself. To plan my day and see what I feel like working on, what I feel able to work on. Taking – and prioritizing – this intentional moment to pause and reconnect with my body, mind, and soul has become a really important part of my day, and something I’d rather not do without.

Would I save a lot of money if I didn’t have a coffee everyday? Yeah, totally. Can everyone afford a coffee every day? No. Does everyone want to spend this much money on coffee? Again, no. As someone who works in the same space I sleep, I see it as a more enjoyable alternative to spending that sweet coffee money on renting a shared office space. This little morning ritual connects with me with my senses. With my body. My tongue, my stomach, my mind. This simple ritual connects me with my feelings. Leaving my apartment to go on a little walk is something I experience as an intentional reset, an intentional reconnection to myself. In a world where femininely gendered folks often have to un-learn a constant attention to other people at the expense of themselves and their own needs and interests, I see this act as a crucial one, of reclaiming space on my own terms.

One small step at a time. One little ritual at a time.

Maybe you hate coffee, or maybe you’re just flat broke. Or both! No problem – there are still so many other ways you can engage intentionally to carve out little moments in your daily (or almost daily) lives in a ritualized way.

There are so many ways to deeply ground and centre yourself, with or without spending anything at all. Maybe you’d prefer to make coffee or tea at home and go on a little walk. Maybe you’d like to sit in bed and spend 20 minutes meditating every morning, first thing – or, every evening, right after you brush your teeth. However we carve out this time and space to reconnect with ourselves, to be silent and still in our own bodies, to be attentive, to pay attention to and notice and listen our own (mis)alignment(s) – the doing of these rituals is so important. Each small ritual is part of a bigger picture, a cumulative relationship with ourselves and with our spirit and our environment.

I’m not saying everyone needs to start every day by going to grab a coffee from your local spot. But: my little ritual of doing this – a ritual that evolved pretty naturally, without much intention at all – has become a savored and holy part of my day. If I’m feeling unwell, it’s a quick way to bring myself back on track.

My attachment to this ritual has led me to spend some time reflecting on exactly why it is that this simple series of actions is so important to me, and why I will fight hard to keep being able to do it. For me the ritual is so much more than just buying a fancy latte.

We all take time to treat ourselves in different ways – or, at least, I hope we do! Maybe that’s something like getting your nails done once a month, or getting a haircut every two weeks. Maybe that’s buying the fanciest beard oil that you can afford. Whatever it is, we all have little rituals where we invest (be it time or money or both) in ourselves, in our well-being.

We all have those little things that we do just for ourselves, for no one else. I’d like to invite you to take this full moon as an opportunity to take an inventory of what you do for yourself in a ritualized (that is: intentional, repeated, again) way. How do you care for yourself? What are the little things you do regularly to make yourself whole again when you fall off the wagon? Maybe you do these after feeling depleted, or maybe you do them right before you hit that threshold. Whenever I get home from a trip abroad I always order pizza as soon as possible, and eat half it in one sitting.

What are your little rituals?

There are little rituals we put in place because we notice we feel good when we do them.

Maybe we feel more like ourselves, more light and energetic, refreshed, calm. Maybe we just wanna honour that we really love the taste of a good donut, diets be damned! Some people start every morning with a smoothie or going to the gym – some of these rituals are untouchable, sacred, immovable. Sometimes it can throw us off to be thrown off our routines, or thrust away from our little rituals due to random circumstance. Pay attention to this! It’s all crucial information about yourself: what feeds you, what depletes you.

How do you replenish yourself? How do you connect to yourself? Do you take enough time to yourself, to connect with your flesh, body, mind; your senses? Do you take the time to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling? Do you take the time to be silent? To listen?

On the full moon today, make a list of these things you do to feed your body, mind and soul. What little pleasures in life do you look forward to? These can be big, they can be small. They can be things you haven’t told anyone about, that you never share. Or these rituals can involve big groups of people, be enormous communal events.

It’s common to make the mistake of thinking that ritual needs to be BIG, long, loud, dramatic, with lots of bells and whistles and a special outfit. Nope. It can be as simple as the little pleasures we hold close to our hearts and cherish as the little rituals they are. These actions and habits may help us to better access ourselves, in order to inspire a shift in mindset, body feeling, a shift in consciousness. When done again and again, with intention – these are the powerful stirrings of ritual. Little by little.

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  1. Beth says:

    I love this post. I’m a ritual/routine nerd who loves nothing more than hearing about how others do or don’t structure their days – especially fellow freelancers/solopreneurs, for whom self-motivation is a daily question.

    My favourite routines/rituals are similar to yours Sabrina. They’re interchangeable depending on weather/mood/body/money/who’s about/deadlines or work priorities, but I currently do at least one or two of the list below every day. Also I think it’s important to say, these are ideals. Sometimes our rituals and routines get totally derailed. Sometimes I’m fine with that, and sometimes it feels like my world is gonna come crashing down if I can’t claim the routine/ritual I was planning, y’know? (Especially the first one!)

    Early early mornings are precious to me. I get up between 6 and 7 and absolutely relish that peaceful time before anyone else is up. I do some very personal routines (oil pulling anyone?) and make my first coffee, open the back door whatever the weather, and, if neccessary/possible, free-write, make lists, pull a tarot card, plan my day. Then I’ll jump into my inbox and usually get it dealt with before the day really begins.

    Forage walk – I’ve developed a really lovely circuit around my home that can take 30 mins or 2 hours depending on what I find or become engrossed in. I always return with some lovely treasure to turn into art, magic or medicine.

    River swim – new routine for summer sunshine only! I’ve started going for regular lunchtime river swims (just about to go for one now!) BLISS. Here’s my fave spot:

    Spin class – 1-3 times per week I’ll do a morning spin at the leisure centre. It’s great after rising early, doing coffee and emails early, by 9.30 I’m super ready to go do 45 mins of full on cardio. Not always in the mood though!!

    Walk out for coffee – just as you’d describe – it gets me out of the house and into society. In the tiny town where I live (pop. 2000) there’s not a huge number of places with good coffee, but there are enough that I can choose – or sometimes I hope the train and go to a bigger town half an hour away.

    Post work drinks. Though I really value setting my own hours, sometimes it’s super nice to clock off when my employed friends do, and grab a pint or have a brew in the back yard when Em or my housemate comes home.

    Late night smoke. Well, not that late, I’m usually in bed by 10.30! But I love to sit out with a tea last thing before bed, smoke and look at the moon.

  2. Nico says:

    Wonderful ideas, thank you very much. As I’m not ready to spend so much money for overpriced coffee from shops (just my opinion), I think I could prepare one at home, pour it into a take away mug and have my stroll. This also feels better for me as I don’t want to produce so much disposable plastic. – Yes Beth, oil pulling also over here! My other rituals are 20 minutes of meditation, 15 minutes of exercise, and a walk in the evening in a small forest close by.

    • HA no worries, my partner totally agrees with you about the “overpriced coffee” and that’s actually what inspired this column! I got a bit defensive and it inspired me to reflect about why exactly it is I cling so hard to this ritual, why it is SO meaningful to me, and how it has been so hard won.

      I think preparing coffee at home sounds like a great idea if that’s what feels best for you! Your evening forest walks sound so lovely


  3. Angharad says:

    This is such a beautiful reminder of the sacred in everyday things. My morning ritual is a spell of grounding in the yard, watching tiny dog scampering around and checking in with my plants while the bread is toasting & the coffee brewing. Spell in the sense of a length of time – but as it’s something I have to do anyway, I’ve learned that the magic of that moment is all in the way I approach it and open myself up to the experience 🙂

    And as for unlearning constant attention to other people and reclaiming space on your own terms – I hear you. I’m at the stage where I no longer reflexively get out of everybody’s way, but still have some way to go towards occupying the space I’m opening up for myself.

    • Thank you for sharing this! I really love the double-meaning of ‘spell’ as ‘length of time’ and also ‘a little magic’ and it works so well here. 🙂 I am with you IRT the importance of approach and orientation – simple acts of opening up can make all the difference.

      I wish you all of the best vibes on the journey towards occupying more space – it really is a lifelong journey.


  4. Liz WM says:

    I really loved this. Thank you. ? I’ve been trying to think of new daily rituals for myself today, and your post really made me consider what I enjoy/savour rather than how I ‘should’ ritual.

  5. Laura says:

    I love this SO much. When I was younger (and often very depressed) I used to skip the day’s food to go out for a coffee despite being dead dead broke, because I needed those moments in atmosphere not my own, in a place not my home, but still surrounded by people, to disconnect from stress at home, feel part of the world and just be, and then try to write. I probably didn’t need it more than food, but I thought I did. I was paying for a lot more than just a coffee 🙂

    I now live with my partner who has an amazing coffee machine so I can get pretty great coffee at home but to me it fulfils a completely different function.

    I have a young kid now and any routine I try to have is constantly disrupted. That’s just what it is but I need to figure something out…this piece describes for me so eloquently how I used to use rituals of this kind to stay in touch with myself. I hadn’t realised till I read it how lost I feel without them. & because it’s so much harder to work without them and when I can’t work I’m miserable.
    Thanks for writing this, it really made me think.

  6. Laura says:

    My daily rituals/routines are flexible too, and sometimes can’t happen or look differently depending on my strange irregular work schedule, but generally…

    -the slow morning – I like to take a good amount of time to make myself breakfast and a coffee (or two), then sit and relax while I have them. I’m really attached to this one and it’s the routine I feel most disrupted without. Often this is alone time, which I like starting my day with.
    -morning cards/journal – Generally, a few tarot and one or two oracle and a dice roll and a brief journal on the upcoming day. I’ll also usually write a few reflection sentences on the previous day too (if I didn’t do it in the evening).
    -outdoor time – Weather dependent, since sometimes it’s horribly cold where I live, but I try to get outside for a little bit any day I can. Preferably it’s a walk to the park to watch dogs swim, or a walk downtown for a pint, or sitting by the river, but often it’s just taking my coffee or a book on the deck for a while.
    -late night unplug – I try to ensure that whenever I plan to go to bed, I’ve got screens off and my work put away an hour before that. I sleep better, and this is more quiet time where I can either fit in things I don’t always make time for (reading work-unrelated books, etc) or just give myself extra sleep time.

  7. Michelle says:

    I have a gaiwan tea set I use for tea ceremonies that I’d pull out when friends are over, or on a particularly luxurious weekend where I felt like I could sit and do nothing but have tea for a while. About two months ago, I started using it every day. It doesn’t slow down my caffeine process by as much as I’d feared- having to refill a small cup doesn’t interrupt my work that much-and the added ritual and forced reflective time it brings to my mornings has quickly become sacred. It’s got me thinking about what other parts of my day I should pay more attention to- maybe brushing my teeth?

  8. Carmen says:

    Hi, Sabrina and the rest. I completely agree with you. As coping with disability as well, these little things of life get much more importance and make me feel better and go off these thinkings that living in a so limited way isn’t worthy… In this moment, I´m enjoying a lot with doing some soap batches. It ‘s a ritual I do from time to time, but this time it is taking me one week! (in a local natural shop they have sold the ones I let there, and people is asking for more!! :-)) I put on music, prepare all the things quietly, and let me fly enjoying the textures, the semelles, the alchemy it is produced… All my senses are engaged into in, and I feel naturally well, in the moment. Time goes by without noticing it, and I feel that intoxicating scent of essential oils that gives me a big pleasure. When I finish, I feel tired, but as happy as can be. Have a nice day all of you. A big hug from Spain

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