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October 29, 2015

When Cooking becomes Meditation.

Todd Quacker
A few short months ago, I began graduate school and a job.

Suddenly, my life was extremely busy . As I took on the extra responsibility on top of parenting and everything else that comes along with family life, I watched meditation fall to the wayside. It wasn’t long until it almost didn’t exist anymore in the way that it used to.

That is, it didn’t exist on the surface. I wasn’t sitting with my legs crossed, eyes closed, and hands resting. I never looked like I was meditating, or truly practicing mindfulness, for that matter. I still don’t look like I am meditating most times. But that’s okay.

For a long time I had this idea that in order to meditate, I had to be sitting. I had to be practicing the prescribed method. As I became a parent and even more so once I started graduate school, this image of meditation changed. I realized that more often than not, I was “too busy” to sit for a while.

That’s what I told myself. I knew I wanted to meditate. I understood its benefits from a personal and scientific standpoint, yet I felt a resistance. I wanted those precious 15 minutes to watch my son run around and laugh. I wanted those 15 minutes of extra sleep. I began to see sitting as a nuisance.

That is a problem. Somewhat.

We all lead busy lives. I get that. I, too, have suffered from over-booking my schedule and running myself too thin to focus fully on any one topic. This is a common problem today. I strive to avoid that these days. I gave up some of the extra activities that didn’t mesh with my goals or meet those goals as fully as maybe something else did. I planned more time at home. Consistency, really, was a big factor in improving the over-scheduled, over-worked life I was leading.

I still didn’t focus on meditation, in the popular sense of it, to aid in those improvements I was making. Meditation can look different for each and every one of us. It doesn’t need to be this prescribed method.

I once read something said by Thich Nhat Hanh in which he suggests that we should practice meditation even while cooking. I recall reading about how, even when cooking, the Buddhist monks may use that as time to meditate and practice mindfulness. Cooking may take hours because pleasure is taken in every moment. Cooking can be slow. Cooking can be relaxing.

One busy evening after my son had gone to bed, I was rushing, trying to find something to cook for lunch the next day. I was stumped. I came across a recipe for something like a cross between stir-fry and pasta. It appeared to take 15 minutes to cook. I was intrigued. It looked tasty, and as a surprise to me, I had (almost) all of the ingredients.

I set out to cook this meal by gathering all of the ingredients from my refrigerator and pantry. I then gathered each cooking utensil that I would need along with a pot and a pan. Before I knew it I was peeling carrots, chopping broccoli, and boiling pasta. Really, this looked no different than almost anyone else cooking a regular meal on a Tuesday evening. It wasn’t until I was fully done cooking, the meal packed neatly into our lunch containers for the next day, that I realized I was in meditation all along.

I had a silent mind focused only on the present moment. I savored the aroma filling the air. I saw what each individual ingredient brought to the meal. As I sliced the carrot with a peeler into strands resembling noodles, I thought about how that sweet carrot would complement the other flavors, and how they would work together. When I sautéed the vegetables, I thought about how that act would bring in a new flavor. As I stirred the boiling water with the pasta in it, I watched in wonder how the bubbles surfacing and joining the air were a part of what I was cooking, the air I was currently breathing, and the food I, and my family, would soon eat. Everything was one and everything was meaningful.

I appreciated the experience.

I took a small bite to taste my newest creation. It was wonderful and each ingredient complimented the others. The flavor was pure and full of flavor.

That wasn’t even the best part. Once the meal was packed into our lunch containers, it occurred to me what just happened, and what I had been experiencing with many of the meals I had cooked in recent months. I had been meditating.

Sure, it’s not the traditional form of meditation. Instead, I was being mindful of every action, choosing what to do with purpose, spending time in the present moment. Isn’t that the goal of mindfulness meditation? To live in the present moment, content.

I’m no expert on the subject, but my experience has taught me that even in a hectic life filled with motherhood, school, and a job, mindfulness and meditation can still be a part of that. It taught me that this could take many forms. Right now, that form is while I am cooking.

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Relephant: 

14 Benefits of Mindfulness. {Infographic}

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Author: Monica Amman

Intern Editor: Danielle Ferrara/Editor: Travis May

Image: Todd Quaker/Unsplash

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Monica Amman