The Messy Truth is the Most Beautiful Truth

(Image credit: Dana Velden)

The picture above is an illustration of my average cooking session. Actually, it’s somewhat less messy than my average cooking session. I know. I’m not supposed to show you this, but it’s how I cook and, even better, I suspect it’s how a lot of people cook. I’m showing it to you because sometimes we get caught comparing ourselves to an ideal, to some pretty Instagramed notion of how life should be. I’m showing you this picture because I want to encourage us to stop comparing our lives to the flicker and glow of fleeting images and instead to just meet the moment we’re in, whatever it is, without judgement.

Comparisons are truly destructive. It doesn’t matter if we find ourselves lesser in comparison or if we are inflicting this on another and finding them wanting. When we engage in comparison we are engaging in judgement and judgement creates separation, primary sources of pain and sadness in a human life. It can stop us from doing something simply because it isn’t doesn’t look as nice as, or taste as delicious as, something else. It can blind us to a beauty previously unknown but weighted with a truth that could change our lives.

The kitchen is a place fraught with opportunities to compare. We see other people’s kitchens as being neater, prettier, better designed, bigger, more well-stocked with better stoves, better natural light, better selection of wooden spoons! It can be really discouraging. And of course the output, the food we make, is also prime for comparison. It’s so easy to look at that gorgeous picture of a perfectly crimped pie crust, or the multi-course dinner part and just want to give up.

In some ways, we can’t help it. Our comparisons are often automatic, almost habitual, and therefore become our primary method of determining how we feel about something. How can we know what we like and don’t like if we don’t compare? Is it even possible to have an experience without automatically categorizing it into pleasant or unpleasant, like or dislike?

It’s worth experimenting with. With a little awareness and intention, we can guide ourselves away from comparing and into a place of just experiencing the moment. Whatever the moment is holding, whatever it is expressing, we can try to experience it first, if even for just a flash, before our critical mind rushes in and separates it into good/bad, like/don’t like, better/worse. What would that be like? What can that teach us?

I’m not saying we should stop Instagram or Pinterest and the like. Lord knows I am a frequent user and enjoyer of these tools and find them to be wonderful ways to share our lives and to discover new things. I think, however, that we need be careful about our relationship to them and how we use them. There are many wonderful, important, deeply felt moments that aren’t Instagramable, that don’t translate to a tweet. These are moments of connection and unexplored beauty and they are often hiding in plain sight, right there in the messiness of our everyday lives. Please, don’t miss them.