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Lions Roar : March 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2010 41 your heart return and abide in things. Your capac- ity for cooking will grow and develop from your devotion to being in the dark, not knowing what to do, but carefully finding your way. You enter the kitchen and become intimate with cooking through cooking. You begin to trust your own aesthetic, and your close experiencing of cooking (and the sometimes uncomfortable feedback from others) starts to inform your aesthetic further. After a number of months as the cook at tassajara Zen center, i went to suzuki Roshi with another problem:“How do i get my fellow workers to practice the way they should?” i explained to him that i was endeavoring to practice his instruction to wash the rice, but that others in the kitchen often came late to work, disappeared for long bathroom breaks, and that when they opened their mouths, their hands stopped moving. “How do i get them to really practice?” Roshi did not say, “tell them to be more mindful.” He listened attentively, as his nods punctuated my litany with what i took as confirmation: Yes, i know, it’s hard to get good help these days. He seemed so completely sympathetic. when i finished speak- ing, he paused for a bit, then startled me by saying: “if you want to see virtue, you’ll have to have a calm mind.” “that,” i protested to myself, “is not what i asked you.” i had something new to study. How will you survive the kitchen? make it through the fire? one key i found is not to calm my mind first and then look for virtue, but simply to look for virtue. there it is. what you look for—you’ll get more of it. when you look for fault, you’ll find it. i started looking for virtue. seeing virtue encompasses two aspects: the relative and the absolute. when you taste what you put in your mouth, you may notice sweet or sour, earthy or sunny, and along with these rela- tive characteristics you can sense something essential, some- thing from beyond. this something is not a thing. go ahead and taste it—the virtue inherent in your careful, attentive, receptive experiencing of the moment. when your awareness is in the dark, and you are opening your perception, you can also taste your own inherent goodness and the virtue of others working with you. You may meet sincerity, kindness, wholeheartedness, vulnerability, grief, anxiety, determination, stubbornness. And you may meet mind itself: vast and spacious. Awesome! You can shift your effort, shift your attention. From doing it right, aiming to gain approval, you shift to meeting and working with the ingredients at hand. looking to see what is available, you dream up what to do with the ingredients, while honoring their virtue. our ordinary effort is to dream up a picture of how we want things to be, and endeavor to make it come true. now, in the dark, you feel your way along, and your wisdom flashes: a salad, a soup; the virtue of spinach, apple, and walnut speaks to you. the body comes alive, because you are doing something. Yes, it’s good to stop and sit and allow the usual impulses for motion an opportunity to move inwardly instead of outwardly—beauti- ful work there. Yet hands love to be hands. You give them life by allowing them to find out how to do things—how to wash and cut, stir and knead, ladle and mop. Your consciousness comes out of its nest or den in the head and finds its way into activity. these are the hands that have an eye in the middle of the palm which can see and connect with the object of touch. in this con- nection is health and healing—you are learning to work with the virtue of things, and receive the blessings of being human. everybody knows that cooking can be stressful. when your awareness becomes overwhelmed, stop for a few moments and make a mental (or even written) checklist of what needs to be done. Revise your list in accordance with reality: how much time and energy you have, and what is the one thing to do next, so that you can give that one thing your undivided attention. when stressed, stop and check, before proceeding step by step. As suzuki Roshi mentioned, “when you are in the dark, you don’t know where you are going, but when you carefully feel your way along, where you find yourself will be okay.” to your health and happiness, joy and well-being, in the kitchen and out. let’s taste the blessings of the moment. ♦ EdWARd ESPE BRoWn is author of the tassajara bread book and tassajara cooking, which were seminal books in the movement toward healthy cooking and eating. His new book is the complete tassajara cookbook, an updated collection of recipes and writings. pHotocouRtesYoFRoAdsideAttRActions cook’s temperament is a passion for life— put it to work.