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Conscious Cookery: Savoring Our Attention

Dandelion MandalaIn the last few decades, meditation has undergone a media makeover.  Once the province of Eastern mystics, oddballs, hippies and woo-woo adherents, it’s now mainstream, touted as a treatment for high blood pressure, auto-immune diseases, cancer, PTSD, depression and more.  Top universities and scientists are hooking up long time meditators to discover what’s going on as practitioners engage in the simplest of acts – simply paying attention to their own minds.  No matter the specific technique (vipassana, transcendental, zen, mindfulness, etc., the data shows that meditation works to make us feel calmer, be more present and become happier.

So what does this have to do with food?  In a word, everything.  Putting aside for a moment the evidence that mindfulness meditation helps alleviate eating disorders and helps people enjoy their food more by cultivating awareness and (often) gratitude, nurturing our consciousness will make us better cooks.  Really.

Cooking Meditation – Three Easy Steps to Culinary Happiness

These three steps are the core of cooking meditation.  We get it that this may seem to way-out for lots of folks.  So, if it’s just too much, by all means, PICK ONE and stick with it.  We think you’ll feel better cooking and the result will taste better too!

Garden BuddhaStep OneClear Your Mind Before Measuring.  Before you start to gather your ingredients and prepare your food, take one or two minutes (or more if you have time) and focus on your breath.  You can set your kitchen timer.  Sit comfortably and notice your breath entering and exiting your nose.  Don’t worry too much about “doing it right” — any simple breathing works.  When your mind starts to wander, don’t worry.  Just gently bring your attention back to your breath.  This simple practice will set the stage for more conscious cooking.

Step TwoGive Thanks.  Think about all the ingredients you will be using and where they came from, including all of the beings who were part of bringing the food to you.  In your mind (or out loud if you like), express your gratitude to all, including the people who will be enjoying what you eat (even if it’s just you).  Focus for a moment on just how connected everything is – the interdependence throughout the food chain from the start of a tiny seed, to the cultivation, the harvest, the shipping, the marketing and finally to you.  Consider what will happen after your food is eaten and, without judgment, note your thankfulness for being able to enjoy this wonderful experience of consuming this food.  As you cook, you can come back to this to make sure a little extra love gets in your food.

Step ThreeVisualize the Recipe.  Before you even pick up a spoon, read the recipe and run through the recipe steps in your mind.  If you can, try and picture yourself chopping or stirring.  Practice creating a mental image of what will happen at each step.   Imagine the final result, with all the details:  The crispy edges, creamy texture, spicy taste, tantalizing aromas or whatever.  By having conjuring these images in your mind (or even just thinking about them), it will become easier to move through each stage.  You will at least have set the intention of how your recipe will turn out. When you have taken one or more of these steps, then begin cooking.  You should be calmer, more focused, and more able to savor the experience as well as the result.

Romanesco CauliflourOf course, remember, that just as we are not in control of what happens in our lives, the same holds true with food preparation.  Recipes will go awry, stuff will happen.  This brings us to the most important lesson – lighten up and enjoy.  Some say that in life, our failures are our greatest teachers.  That goes for cooking too….  And here, we can literally gobble them up.