There I was in the kitchen yesterday morning, whipping up some good ole' fashioned oatmeal and apples for Ryan and myself.
Well, technically my body was in the kitchen as my limbs maneuvered ingredients from the cupboard into the pot. But my brain and attention were completely elsewhere – lost in the avalanche of to-do's for our upcoming wedding in Montana (side celebration: we're getting hitched over Labor Day – yay!!). But back to the oatmeal.
I felt frazzled with everything on my list and regretted taking time to cook (30 minute steel cut oats, mind you). Cheerios, where art thou?? About 15 minutes in, my mindful lightbulb clicked on and I realized....RENA....where are you? Be present! Tune in!
I paused, and in that single moment, it was as though the world sprung to life in front of my eyes. I was in a wash of pleasant sensations....the warm, nutty smell of slow cooked oats wafted into the cool morning air. I watched the steam rise up from the oats in a brilliant, opaque swirl. I could hear the little *poof* *poof* of each air bubble as it journeyed from the pan's floor to the surface of the mush. I could smell sweet hints of the raisins I had spooned into a bowl. I listened to the satisfying crunch of chopping walnuts and then lifted one up to investigate. MY GOD. Have you ever looked closely at a whole walnut? They're incredible! Next time you're in close proximity, take note.
I felt my bare feet on the floor. The cool tile was refreshing and sympathetic in the midst of this hot, smoggy weather. I sensed the tension I’d been carrying in my shoulders all morning and let it soften with a big sigh.
I looked down at Jack, our roommate’s sweet old dog who had been fervently standing at my toes from the moment I turned on the stove. He looked up at me and cocked his head with this look that said, “See….I’ve been mindful this WHOLE time. Now can I please just have a bite??” ;)
I could go on and on about the things I noticed in that teensy moment. I'll spare you, but what I will say is this:
The richness of life is unfolding in front of our very eyes, moment by moment (the delight and the struggle) and we miss so very much of it when we’re always somewhere else. Where? And to what end?
This practice of mindfulness is nothing short of a tremendous gift. One that helps us inhabit our lives. Our modern world is fast and busy, and more than ever we need tools to shift out of autopilot. To slow down and find our center. To smell and listen and feel all the feels. To find gratitude in the simplest, yet profoundest of things. Like our own heartbeat. And walnuts.
In my own life, pausing has been the key to calm, space and fulfillment amidst the hustle. My invitation to you this week is to pause and explore bringing mindfulness into the kitchen. Even pouring a single cup of coffee. Be fully present for just that.
This reminds me of one of my favorite Tibetan sayings...“Short moments, many times.” Living in the moment can feel impossible or out of reach when we're continually engulfed by future plans, thoughts, and worries. I love this saying, because it reminds us how we can can do this –how we can fold practice into our modern lives.
Short moments. Many times.
This week, practice training your mind while preparing a meal.
1. Set your intention to be fully present for this activity (if possible, let your to-do's, plans, and problems shift to the background) – each step is an opportunity to be mindful.
2. Notice your mood – are you approaching this begrudgingly as a chore, or as an opportunity to be creative? To relax? See if you can just notice this, without judgement.
3. Appreciate each ingredient with your beginner's mind (or open curiosity) as if you were experiencing it for the very first time. What is this red pepper? These seeds?
4. Tune into all five of your senses as you peel, chop or mix the food. Notice the colors, aromas, textures, sensations on your fingers. Listen to the sounds.
5. Let yourself focus on one thing at a time. "When you cut the carrot, cut the carrot," as zen teachers say. When your mind wanders, just gently return to your task at hand.
6. Pause to appreciate the finished product before your first bite. Notice the shapes, colors, smells, and the nourishment that you've created for your body. Then enjoy that first bite fully!
About the Author
Rena is a meditation instructor, writer, and designer and has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for eleven years. Her studies began in college at the University of Redlands Meditation Room, one of the first "contemplative classrooms” in the country, where she studied meditation alongside her degrees in business and graphic design. She worked as a health coach for a Portland-based wellness organization, and spent six years developing her coaching and meditation skills through her work in the nonprofit sector.
Rena is currently studying positive neuroplasticity with Dr. Rick Hanson, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, and is pursuing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification through the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.