Breathe Before You Rush: A Yerba Mate Story
From: June 3, 2012
In order for me to elaborate on the topic of why Yerba Mate is so necessary today, I need to first introduce you to two people: Charles and Brad. Charles is a 34-year-old man working at the financial services firm, Goldman Sachs, as an Executive Director of Private Wealth Management. He lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his dog Arty. Brad is a 37-year-old man who also works at Goldman Sachs. He title is Vice-President of Equity Capital Markets, and like Charles, Brad also lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Unlike Charles, Brad lives with his girlfriend and her 16-year-old daughter. The two executives met each other over seven years ago, at a recruiting event, and have been friends ever since.
Despite the fact that Charles and Brad are similar in age, work at the same company, hold senior-level positions, and live near each other, they couldn’t be more different. Let’s look at their daily routines. Charles wakes up at 6 A.M., makes a pot of coffee, and drinks an entire mug before heading to the shower. Once in the shower, Charles soaps up, shampoos his hair, and is out with his towel before 4 minutes is up. He always has his ties knotted, and his clothes picked out two nights in advance, so he gets dressed quickly and heads out the door without feeding Arty. He rushes to grab a bagel, a second cup of coffee from a vendor outside, and hops on the N train. Charles arrives in the office by 7:15 AM, even though work starts at 8:30 A.M. He prepares for his presentations, surfs the net for good restaurants that deliver, and does a load of other bullshit, with the same levels of intensity and rush, to occupy himself throughout his day. He gets home around 9 P.M., feeds Arty, quickly jumps into his pajamas (which he lays out on his bed in the morning) and falls asleep while watching American Idol. This is a normal day for Charles, and has essentially been same for the past eight years. Wake up. rush. Shower. rush. Eat. rush. Work. rush. Sleep. rush.
On the other hand, Brad has a different daily routine. He wakes up at 6 A.M., like Charles, but instead of making a cup of coffee, he walks to the florist next door, and buys his girlfriend a fresh handpicked bouquet of flowers. Then he returns back to his apartment, and usually makes his girlfriend’s daughter one of three things: A mushroom, onion, pepper, and flaxseed omelet, two pieces of toast with an egg in the middle of each with salt and black pepper lightly sprinkled on top, or a steamy stack of blueberry pancakes with maple syrup on the side. After making breakfast, he heats up some water to the point right before it begins to boil—75 degrees Celsius, as always. After the water is ready, he pours it in a thermos, and puts it on the kitchen table before he heads into the shower. After his shower, Brad goes through his collection of Yerba Mate brands—Guayaki, Canarias, Palo Alto, Aviva, Maté Factor, EcoTeas, Cruz De Malta, etc.—and eventually settles on one. He goes through the Mate preparation routine—pour the yerba in the gourd, give it a little shake to get some of the polvo out, put the bombilla in (sometimes he puts in at the end), add the cold water in order to protect the nutrients, then the hot water—and takes his first sip of the day at 7:15 AM. After slowly finishing two gourd cycles, Brad heads into his room and picks out his clothes for the day. Once dressed, he kisses his sleeping girlfriend, and heads to Goldman Sachs with his Mate gourd in hand, and his thermos attached to the top of his briefcase. He sips a few gourds on his 20-block walk to work, and arrives at the office at 8:15 A.M. He takes the 15 minutes before work start to get himself organized, speak with colleagues, and call his girlfriend. His takes a break around 2:15 P.M., and heads to the park. He likes going to the park because every once in a while, a stranger comes up to him and asks him about the Mate he is drinking. He sits down, explains the history, tradition, and experience of the drink. They end up wanting to share some, so Brad (being the cebador) prepares them a gourd. They share stories about their pasts, their jobs, their lives, and their greatest joys. These daily interactions make Brad’s days unique, different, and new. After his break, he heads back to the office, and is extremely productive throughout the whole day. Brad leaves the office around 6:30 P.M., and meets his girlfriend’s daughter at a local basketball court. They play ball for about an hour, and head back to his apartment—sweaty, dirty, and exhausted. Brad’s girlfriend usually has dinner ready by the time they get back, and they all share a meal together. Wake up. Breathe. Buy flowers. Breathe. Make breakfast. Breathe. Boil water. Breathe. Shower. Breathe. Prepare Mate. Breathe. Work. Breathe. Take a break. Breathe. Play basketball. Breathe. Dinner. Breathe. Sleep. Breathe.
On weekends, Brad and Charles meet up and discuss the events that took place during their weeks. Sometimes Brad brings Mate along, but Charles doesn’t drink it. On one of these weekends, Charles asks Brad a question that surprises him. “Hey Brad, can I ask you something?” “Shoot.” “How did you do it?” “Do what?” “How did you become less like me, and more like who you are right now? I remember when I first met you, we were basically the same. You were always in such a rush, remember? I recall you once telling me that the present was dead, and that you were already living in next Tuesday. What happened?” After hearing all of this, Brad stared into his friends somewhat confused face. After a minute of silence, Brad smiled widely before he spoke. “Remember that time I went to Paraguay, before I met Annie?” “Yeah, you said it was an enlightening experience. Actually, I think that was when you began to change.” “Exactly. I went there as a representative for the Equity Capital Markets division, and spent a few days in the hotel that Goldman picked out for me. After a few days, the water pipes in my room burst and the whole room became flooded. For some reason, the hotel couldn’t put me up in another room, and asked if I wanted to move to one of their affiliated buildings. I said yes, and as I was packing my things up, the woman who came to clean my room daily asked me where I would be moving to. I told her to a nearby building, and she suggested that I stay at her home with her and her family. I’m not exactly sure why I said yes, but I decided to take her up on the offer. She told me to wait around, and that she would take me to her home in a few hours. I spent an hour in the lobby working, and then she came. We took a slow bus that dropped us off on a dirt path in front of a building that looked like a glorified bathroom stall. She told me that her family of six lived there, and that they were probably all inside right now.
I walked inside and was greeted by a circle of people sitting down, all passing a weird cup around. The woman told me that it was called Mate, and that the gourd was shared by one group of people. Her husband greeted me, and told me to sit down. He passed me the gourd, and told me to not touch the straw, if possible. The first sip of the drink was bitter, but glorious. I immediately felt the warmth and love of those around me, and felt a surge of energy that I only have after a few cups of coffee. We shared Mate for hours, and I became closer with that family than I had been with others in years. I witnessed the fact that slow doesn’t automatically mean bad, and that the potential for joy, laughter, and life is infinite within any given moment. Something just clicked inside me, and it forever changed me.”
“Wow, Brad. Do you think you could rub some of that on me? Or maybe force some of that Mate down my throat so that my life can change, too?” Brad laughed. “It wasn’t just the Mate, Chuck. That was the vessel, the social catalyst. The real change comes from within yourself. Try substituting rush with breathe.” “Yeah, I’ll definitely try that. In the meantime, can you pass the gourd?”