Over the past few years I have noticed a new trend in the spiritual marketplace. Maybe it is simply a fad that is going on in NYC that keeps getting shoved in my face, or perhaps it is something more. Between the spike in the popularity of Yoga, Buddhism, and Julia Roberts starring in a movie called “Eat Pray Love”, who knows what will be next?
I will tell you what comes next. “Meditation and Cooking”. The name sounds as obvious as “Love and Basketball” (which I couldn’t stand when I saw it years ago), but that is because I thought it up myself. So what is meditation and what is all this fuss about it? It seems to be getting more and more popular amongst the common folk these days. Meditation, from my experience, is great, if followed and understood correctly. But there are a few things that most people seem to miss out when attempting to meditate and because of this they rarely give it enough of a shot to significantly affect their life.
You can; sit in your room, in lotus position, turn off the lights, light a candle and some incense, put on tibetan chant prayer music, and try to clear your mind and relax. After months of hard and focused practice you might even get somewhere. Might achieve some level of inner peace or clarity. But let me offer up one piece of advice that most people seem to miss on out. While clarity and inner peace might seem like a nice idea, it can only take you so far. How do you really know that you are making personal progress? Maybe you are simply learning how to block out your problems while in a relaxed and controlled environment. Perhaps you are just slapping a band aid over that deep cut of yours hoping that it will just take care of itself.
What I am getting at here is that meditation is not simply something that you do in your room with the lights off (though I can think of a few things that one would do DO in this fashion). It is actually something that you can be doing at any moment. While having a conversation with someone, while playing an instrument, and even, while cooking. Meditation is not much different than a deep state of thought and awareness, with the “goal” of no-thought. It has little to nothing to do with sitting, eyes closed, in the lotus position surrounded by candles and statues of the smiling Buddha. Sure, that is one way to meditate, but it is not the only ONE WAY. In order for that aspect of meditation to really work you have to go out in to life and confront yourself, face your fears. Then, when you have time, you can come back and relax, in whatever comfortable pose you would like, to reflect on the situation and put your mind at ease.
I suppose it seems like we are getting far far beyond anything related to food. But what could matter more than your life? And so this is where I tie in what I know about meditation with what I have experienced while cooking. Cooking, if understood correctly, is no more than a way to express oneself. A way to challenge, to inspire, to encourage, to take risks, and to connect with others. Cooking, if not seen in this way, can be a hellish nightmare. The sharp knives, hot stoves, terribly long recipes, they can all be very off putting. But if you learn to cultivate patience while cooking, it can be quite peaceful and relaxing.
So how do cooking and meditation come together? They are really one in the same. Meditation is not a noun, there is no person, place or thing involved, it is simply a state of awareness that you put yourself in while living and breathing, moment to moment. You can be having a conversation with someone, playing guitar, cooking a meal, or even eating one, and be in this state that most of us know as meditation. Sure, most people sell it in the way that I previously mentioned, with all of the beads, statues, candles, and glory. That is a nice idea, but tends to steer people in the wrong direction. Learn to achieve these moments of clarity, of relaxed and aware thought while you are experience life and then you wont even have to think about having your special dark place to run off to. Again, it is not that the legs crossed, candles lit, meditation is bad, it’s just that there is a lot more to it.
If you are in to cooking, or anything else for that matter, see how you feel after a few hours of really getting in to it. Do you feel relaxed? Are you cooking because you enjoy it? Are you writing a poem because it puts your mind at ease? What are you trying to accomplish with your hobbies and interests? If you are searching for peace and clarity, try to look at the things that interest you as a way to find them, don’t seek refuge in your dark cave of a room. No one said that there was anything wrong with that, it can be quite nice and serves its purpose, but how far has it really gotten you? And if it has gotten you somewhere, how much further can it take you? Isn’t it time that you started going out and exploring your life instead of simply trying to comprehend it in your mind?
No one ever said that this shit was easy. It takes months, or more likely, years to learn, but why wait? There is an ancient chinese saying that goes something like this “the best time to change is 20 years ago, the second best time is now,” so what are you waiting for? If you want to learn how to cook, to meditate, to draw, to public speak, or to fly (not a plane, yourself ) why wait any longer? In 3 months I taught a neighbor how to play guitar and i’ll be damned if she wasn’t giving me a run for my money and borderline brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard her beautiful voice sing to me (it was the first time she heard herself sing, she never knew she could).
So what is this post really trying to say? That isn’t up to me, it is up to you, reading this right now. I am not writing as if I have all of the answers, or to give you the exact way to meditate while cooking, I simply wanted to offer up a few ideas as to what meditation might be and how it can be extremely useful to you if done correctly. Think about it and see what happens.
And there you have it, as promised, the post that was simply too weird for a friday.