Settling the Grounds

By Steve Baker

Your big decision could well be a better one by letting it percolate a while longer.

The 100-degree heat leapt off the sandstone walls, searing any patch of unprotected skin. At our feet, the 40-degree water of the Colorado River made ankles ache with cold. A group of strangers gathered around huge rubber rafts, getting ready to challenge the Grand Canyon.

Art, the lead guide, was orienting everyone to the routine of river travel. Though barely out of his teens, he talked as if he were as old as the hills. When he addressed “morning coffee,” the group acquired a sudden focus. Camp coffee, after all, is one of The Great Outdoor traditions, the very soul of any adventure. It’s simple to make. Just add a spoonful of coffee for every cup of boiling water in the pot (plus one for the pot), stir, and allow it to steep beside (not on!) the fire for a few minutes. The hardest part is settling the grounds.

Art solicited ideas for settling the grounds. Options included:

  • “Drop in an eggshell and wait while the grounds collect around it.”
  • “Pour a cup of cold water in the pot and let it settle for a few minutes”.
  • “Grab the handle and swing the pot around in a circle to let centrifugal force do the job. Wait a minute and you’re good to go.”
  • “Take a …”

Well, you get the idea.

Then he asked, “What’s the common element in all these methods? That’s right: we wait a few minutes.”

Busy people constantly face the temptation to “fix” a problem by ordering the latest gadget that promises to save time and money now. But, what is not so obvious is that it brings higher costs later. Quick resolutions appeal to human impatience. And yet, we may often be best served by doing nothing for a while.

Jon Kabat-Zin writes in Wherever You Go, There You Are about the power of “Non-Doing.” He emphasizes the importance of taking time for quiet appreciation of who and where you are, of tuning out distractions and focusing on the essential. Some call it meditation and others, prayer. Still others just sleep on it. Whatever the label, your big decision could well be a better one by letting it percolate a while longer.