“Freedom is that faculty which enlarges the usefulness of all other faculties.” – Immanuel Kant
As a yogi and meditation teacher, I consider myself to be relatively aware of my body’s signals and the ramblings of my mind. But if you follow a similar path, you know that there are always hidden recesses of the self that remain to be uncovered. It took me a long time to be willing to take an honest look at my dependence on caffeine.
One afternoon as I was working in my office, I suddenly realized how often I was looking at my watch. I was awaiting, not a call from a loved one or an evening out with friends, but my next cup of coffee. As the sun spread its warm rays through my office window, the full force of the thought struck me: “Is this what my life has become? The high point of my afternoon is a caffeine fix?”
This moment sparked a journey to kick my coffee habit. It took me a few days to move beyond the intense headaches and mental fog of peak caffeine withdrawal, and two weeks for my body to completely realign with its natural cycles. Once I arrived on the other side of that struggle, I began to notice profound shifts in my life as a result of being caffeine free, some that I fully anticipated and hoped for, and a few that far exceeded my expectations.
I sleep better.
I always believed that caffeine no longer affected my sleep, and even boasted that I could consume coffee late at night and go to bed at the usual time, but once I quit it became clear that these were the delusions of an addict. As I moved beyond the agony of withdrawal, I began to experience the deepest sleep I had had for a very long time. It turned out that even though I was able to fall asleep immediately after downing a cup of coffee, the quality of my sleep was being compromised. Caffeine free, I remained asleep for more of the night and awoke in the morning feeling well rested. I also practically eliminated the urge for an afternoon siesta.
I am tuned into the needs of my body.
Until I stopped drinking coffee, I had no idea how often I was pushing through the needs of my body without paying them any attention. Instead of resting when I was tired, I headed out to the local coffee shop for a double shot. Instead of drinking water when I was thirsty, I was subjecting myself to the diuretic effects of caffeine along with my fluid intake. When I should have been eating because my body needed energy, coffee was instead suppressing my appetite, and every time my body longed for movement and fresh air, I responded with more coffee.
Without the crutch of caffeine, I was forced to pay more attention to what my body needed – and, it turned out, that sleep, exercise, food, water, and meditation satisfied most of the needs that coffee was merely glossing over. And as a bonus, when I truly listen to what my body needs, I stay satisfied for longer and feel healthier and happier.
I experience less stress, and cope with it better.
Now that I no longer drink coffee, I find I am much more relaxed at work. When challenges arise, as they inevitably do, I am able to remain calm and address them without succumbing to the stress. I feel less rushed and overwhelmed as I go through my day, and am able to maintain my focus more consistently and for longer periods of time. Meditation and yoga continue to be the cornerstone of my strategy for dealing with difficult situations, but I now find them to be more effective than they were during my coffee drinking days.
I incorporate healthier ways of maintaining my focus and energy levels.
For many years, instead of being powered by the energy of the rising sun and excitement for the day ahead, I relied on a pot of coffee to launch me into my morning and to propel me through the many energy dips I experienced every day. Since kicking my coffee habit, not only is my energy more stable, but I utilize much healthier strategies when I require a bit of a boost. I start my day with meditation and a brisk walk and go to the gym regularly after work. I’ve also rebooted my yoga practice, and find that breathing exercises and a few yoga poses can be really helpful if I’m feeling sleepy or unfocused during my day.
I am more present and feel more alive.
I was shocked to discover that caffeine was creating a barrier between myself and the ability to be present in the moment. However, once I was no longer drinking it, I noticed that my meditations improved. You may say it is my imagination, but I also felt that my vision and sense of hearing were sharper. It is as though I have regained the ability to fully experience life as it is, rather than through the lens of my addiction. As I have slowed down and begun to truly pay attention to how I’m feeling, I have received an unexpected gift: the full, unadulterated freedom of being alive.