A few months back I found myself working on a meal in the dining hall of my community. As I was concentrating on prepping, someone complimented on the amount of focus I gave my food. The compliment took me completely by surprise and without a hesitation, or moment of thought, I heard myself reply: “Thanks, it’s like meditation for me.”
It was this radically present awareness accompanied by my spontaneous comment that illuminated the idea of cooking as meditation, and how to actively practice it. This brought me back to my time in Spain as a young adult, on a budget, and in a new culture. The Spanish people know their food and living there taught me how to interact with food on a spiritual level.
How can one arrive, fully there, for the food? While it’s important for us to know what we put into our mouths, it may be far more vital to our overall experience with food that we acknowledge how we eat, too.
Many of us in the western world have busy lives, schedules which may not allow for time to sit in lotus posture in order to meditate. I would like to assume that we all eat food; most of us prepare ourselves at least one meal a day, if not many. My question to you: Can we take the time to meditate on and engage with the present moment while we cook?
In Spain, as well as many other cultures, food preparation is key to maintaining a healthy absorption of the energy carried within. From India, Ayurveda says we each have five different layers/bodies that make up who we are. Our essential being, if you will. Each one of these has its own needs and ways of interacting with the outside world.
So it is first from preparing food that we ready it to nourish our physical bodies, where it is transformed into energy, then flows into Mind, Wisdom, then finally Bliss.
Meditation does not need to be done in stillness, but should embody loving kindness and compassionate awareness; it is any action which quiets the mind and allows for the flow of awareness to the presence of the present moment.
Here is a meditation exercise on food–an excerpt from my life in Spain:
Opening the fridge I see an array of colors, all vying for my attention. I spend moment by moment absorbing each tune of the soon to be ingredients and I wonder what is it I am going to cook.
Let us look inward, then. I should probably hydrate first, drink some water to engage the fluidity of movement.
Focus on the food.
I reach in and grab some sprigs of fresh green kale, I extend my arm with my muscles and I take hold of two bright orange carrots. Carefully I place them on the cutting board. I look back and feel my inner pockets of energy. My yellow center chakra is low on frequency, I make sure to grab the turmeric bottle for my added spice. My crown chakra thumps in the back of my awareness and I grab a red onion to fuel its purple.
Calmly, I close the door. The fruit of the earth pulsates on the countertop and I begin to split atoms. My knife driving itself through the food. I make sure each and every bite is carefully sized.
More deep breathing, there are no words for this yet, and I witness the experience of joy. Colors awaken my vision.
Every bit of this food in front of me was shining bright within the sun, and was transferred, layer by layer, through a wheel of life cycles until it found its way amidst a vast green landscape and then to me.
I see the rolling hills covered in “green” edible foliage, flecked with colors of mother natures labor. I see a sifting through the brush, collection of vegetables. I have a concentrated box of “orange” in my fridge. How much “green” was needed to produce the other colors?
Awareness and attentiveness stay with me as I grab the coconut oil and spoon it into my pan.
I watch the white pure cream melt into clear and clean liquid, how heat can transform things so gently.
As the vegetables slowly sprinkle their songs into my ears I have a moment to stop and do absolutely nothing but watch. Watch, and observe, and see, and absorb all.
I am naturally and almost magically pulled back to my pan as I sprinkle my spices on top, smelling the kitchen fill with molecules of infinite expression. The universe loves to watch itself through my eyes.
As I plate the meal I think about how “I” just became a level of expression in the energetic play of life. I took resources around me and molded them into something new, edible. I have all the power of creation in the palm of my hand. Food was meant to be placed in my presence. Purpose is all I can hear.
My physical body prepares for the food, excited as ever to bite into full experience. The energy within the food mingles with mine as I swallow and say thanks to all of life. My mind, now calm, allows for everything to happen, no resistance. The wisdom, my true and highest Self, recognizes this as another level in the infinite transformance of energy. Filled with this, I find my bliss.
A Resounding Yum!
Would you give cooking as meditation a try?
More in mindful eating: 3 Ways to Practice Conscious Eating
Also see: 7 Practical Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Photo: Laura D’Alessandro via Flickr