Sometimes, dirty dishes can be beautiful.
I haven't counted, but my rough estimate is that I've written around 250 Weekend Meditations over the past five years and so, somewhat randomly, I thought this would be a good time explain why I do this and why it is important to me, and to The Kitchn.
Cooking for ourselves and our loved ones is a very practical matter. It simply must be done. Most of us can't afford to hire a cook and since we want to have delicious, healthy things to eat, we usually have to cook for ourselves, even if we are tired, even if we are broke, even if we don't know how to cook, or are bored, or busy, or uninspired.
These days, there are a lot of tools available to help the home cook, many of them free, such as this website. There's a constant stream of instructional videos, cookbooks, magazines and newspapers, classes, workshops, and apps galore. Endless are the opportunities to be instructed in the very important and much-needed practical art of cooking!
But when I sit down to write the Weekend Meditation post, I'm thinking about something a little different than the mechanical side of cooking. I wonder about things like why we cook, why we make this effort. What is the whole experience of cooking, beyond techniques and equipment? I think about the internal aspects that we engage when we cook and prep and clean up, and what are their emotional, psychological, and spiritual expressions. What sustains us to return to the kitchen, over and over again? My hope is to encourage us to see cooking not just as a daily chore but also as a place to discover more about ourselves, to open our senses, to express our love and connection. The kitchen as a place of discovery.
Mostly, after all that musing, I end up with the same basic message: to encourage people to notice their experiences, to pause and take it in. To do this, I usually lean towards the positive, more sensuous side of things because so much in our daily lives encourages us to be suspicious, defended, and separate. The kitchen is a place where we can open up and let in the beauty and lushness that is present in life. There's so much there to smell and taste and feel. Even a sometimes dreaded thing like doing the dishes has the potential for a moment or two of beauty, if only we can remember to look for it.
Of course, it's not all sweetness and light in the kitchen. It's easy to cut ourselves, to burn our tongues, to wrench our backs lifting a pot. We get angry, disappointed, bored, impatient. We make huge mistakes and we fail. But that, too, is the beauty of life in the kitchen. It's not some remote, special ashram-like cloud where everyday life is banished. Like life, it's a very real, very elemental place, and at times it's intense.
Most importantly, the kitchen is an ideal place for us to meet ourselves, no matter what or who we are in that moment: if we're controlling, if we're lazy, if we're distracted, the kitchen will for sure show us this. It will also reveal our passions, our hungers, our talents, and our true hearts. It will give us the important opportunity to take a deeper look, not as a path to judgement but as place to examine and accept and even to celebrate.
My approach to life in the kitchen is deeply informed by my training in meditation, a practice I've been doing for over 20 years. This practice basically boils down to one word: notice. It's a simple thing to say, but often a difficult thing to remember and an even more difficult thing to do. If you're like me, then you will need a steady, helpful reminder to pause, notice, accept, release.
So that's why every week for five years, I've sat down at my computer and tried to offer an honest, heartfelt encouragement for you to join me in this practice, which fundamentally is just about being alive in the most kind, open, available way possible. As with all important things, it really blooms when it is shared and experienced with others. We do this together.
Thank you so much for joining me here.
(Image: Dana Velden)