Kitchen Koans

Weekend Meditation

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You're perfect just as you are ... and you could use a little improvement. 
— Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

Here's a koan: is life about improvement or acceptance? Should we keep striving to be better, to achieve our goals, always refining and improving ourselves? Or should we accept who and what we are, own it and celebrate it, and realize that it's actually enough?

Like all good koans, both choices are are right and both are wrong. Both will lead to rewards and both have many challenges.  How can life not be about improvement, how can we not try to do better, develop our skills, refine our efforts? And at the same time, how can we be anyone but ourselves, perfect just as we are, enough just as we are? As we struggle with this question, we become more intimate with it and that intimacy allows us to glimpse a little of our own inner workings. Maybe what matters isn't so much which one we choose but what the choosing opens up in us.  

I've found that there's no hiding from this question in the kitchen, because the kitchen is a perfect place for discovering who we are. Whether we're cooking or cleaning up, eating alone or feeding our families, we will encounter whatever qualities are in our hearts: competitiveness, nurture, efficiency, creativity, sadness, love, distractedness, exhaustion, inspiration, boredom. The whole catastrophe! Our concerns and preoccupations will show up in the soup just as certainly as the onions and salt. How we work with our mistakes and failures, and how we present our successes, is our mirror.

So of course this post won't solve the acceptance/improvement koan for you but it does ask you to look a little deeper into how it arrises in your life. How do you treat your imperfections? Are they something to root out or embrace? Do they define you? Who would you be without them? 

What's cooking for you right now?

(Image:  Dana Velden)

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Dana Velden has just finished writing her first book: Finding Yourself in the Kitchen: Meditations and Recipes from a Mindful Cook which is based on her Weekend Meditation posts from The Kitchn. (Rodale Press, Fall, 2015) She lives in Oakland, CA.