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Lions Roar : March 2010
40 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2010 it is wrong. that does not sound like mindfulness to me, which is to be aware without judging. do you want to prepare food, or to be mindful? And is there a way to do both? i’d like to offer alternatives to the usual explana- tion of “being mindful in the kitchen,” but i would caution the reader to feel your way along in the dark and to investigate the most important point. in others words, find out for yourself how to make working in the kitchen a source of awakening. when i asked suzuki Roshi for his advice about working in the kitchen, he said, “when you wash the rice, wash the rice. when you cut the carrots, cut the carrots. when you stir the soup, stir the soup.” though very similar, this is not the same as, “be mindful in the kitchen,” which makes it sound like you have two things to do: washing and being mindful, cutting and being mindful, stirring and being mindful. what would that mindful- ness part look like? probably a bit stiff, as your impulse will be to move slowly and carefully so that only a moderate amount of energy and emotion arises to meet the circumstances. in other words most people hear be mindful as keep yourself in check. Yet what is magnificent and magical is finding out how to manifest the cutting of carrots with your whole body and mind; how to wash the rice with your eyes and your hands, connecting consciousness with the senses and the world—not just going through the motions. this brings me to a pivotally important point. when you stop going through the motions and manifest the stirring of soup, alive in the present moment, emotions may surface. while some find this problematic and recommend dis- passion, my suggestion is to invite your passion to cook. instead of tying yourself down so that nothing volatile arises, use what is vibrant and volatile—feelings—to energize your presence in the kitchen. invite them to handle, stir, wash, touch, scrub, scour; invite them to see, smell, taste, and delight in the play. cook’s temperament is a passion for life: give it a field in which to practice—put it to work. if i were to cook only when i was most loving, kind, and benevolent, i would have starved long ago. i am not telling you to act out in the kitchen; my encourage- ment is to turn afflictive emotions, as well as enthusiasm and exuberance, into something edible and nourishing—food. so along with mindfulness, washing the rice when you wash the rice is putting more emphasis on concentration, focus, attention, and energy. these actions rather blend together: prepare food! make it happen! wash, cut, cook, taste, savor. gather yourself, as many disparate parts as you can muster. Zero in on the activity and how to do it easily, effectively, effortlessly (not just going through the motions). give your attention to observing and perceiving rather than giving out directives and enforcing rules. let your life-force bloom and sparkle. Interact. study how to use your body to do the work of cooking. this kind of instruction accords with the oneness of practice and realization. when you make food you are actualizing the fundamental point. You are making food real. it’s not just talk; it’s not just a head trip—we can eat it. engage in what you are doing. Zen master dogen’s advice is to let things come and abide in your heart. Let your heart return and abide in things. All through the day and night. to engage is to meet and connect, and out of that meeting and connecting, to respond. Responding from the heart, your implicit intention is to bring out the best. this is learning to relate with the things of this world and your own body–mind, rather than seeking to hide out in a place where you don’t have to relate with anything. there are recipes to follow in order to get it right and gain approval. there are no recipes for telling you what your heart knows, and precious little workable advice for trusting your heart rather than your head. You choose to do it, and practice finding your way in the dark. manufactured products say, “i’m quick. i’m easy. You won’t have to relate with me at all. put me in the microwave and i’ll be there for you, just the way you want me to.” Recipes say, “do what i tell you, and everything will be okay—you too can make masterpieces (and if it’s not going to be a masterpiece, don’t even bother).” to engage with the world is to study what to do with a potato, a carrot, cabbages, and bell peppers. what to do and how to do it. Are you in the dark yet? touch with your hands, see with your eyes, smell with your nose, taste with your tongue: let things come and abide in your heart, let Arugula salad with Avocado and cashew nuts Arugula delights me with its meaty tenderness and its pun- gent flavor of mustard or radish. Here it is offset with the creamy avocado and crunchy cashews. serves 4. 1 bunch arugula 1⁄2 cup cashew nut pieces 4 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons balsamic or fig vinegar Salt and pepper 1 avocado prepare the arugula: cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths and sort out and discard the stems. wash and spin dry the leaves. set aside. Roast the cashew nuts in a dry skillet until lightly browned. toss the arugula with the olive oil, then with the vinegar and 2 to 3 pinches of salt. grate on some pepper. slice the avocado and toss half of it in with the greens. place the re- maining half on top and sprinkle on the cashews. delicious! From the complete tassajara cookbook: Recipes, techniques, and Reflec- tions from the Famed Zen kitchen, by Edward Espe Brown. @ 2009 by Ed- ward Espe Brown. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications.