It’s not uncommon to find me in the kitchen chopping vegetables or preparing fruit for snacks or a meal. I enjoy it. Sort of how I enjoy doing the laundry. Sometimes it feels like a chore, but mostly that’s when my anxiety is getting the best of me. Overall it’s one of my favorite things to do, which explains why I include recipes on my blog about positive inspiration.
One of the things I love the most about doing things such as laundry or cooking is how it’s a methodical task that I can focus on. When it comes to coping with anxiety, even though I’m on medication, keeping my mind focused on something helps me stay positive. With laundry it’s the routine of wash, dry, fold, hang up, repeat. My mind can wander a bit, but it’s kept just focused enough to make me feel in control. The feeling of lacking control is one of my problems with anxiety.
With cooking I feel that same focus, however I don’t have as much freedom to let my mind wander because I need to pay attention to cook times, knife cuts, and what ingredient I’m adding when and where. Over the years I’ve turned this routine of mine into a meditation.
Much of the meditation focuses on my family. I like to cook, it’s something I’m good at (at least in my amature opinion, though my family agrees), and it’s something I can give to my family. Fresh vegetables always taste the best and cook up the best. It’s important to chop everything uniformly so that requires focus. That focus on what I’m doing and who I’m doing it for composes a lot of my meditation.
I’m not repeating a mantra over and over. Similarly, I’m not holding my hands in a mudra, which is a traditional placement of hands you often see in yoga type meditations or even something a buddha statue might be doing. I’ve meditated with both of these methods and they are fantastic meditations, however for me, cooking is my meditation. It’s one of the reasons I prefer to cook alone and without distraction.
There is something about the process of cooking that almost puts me in my own little kitchen world for a short period of time. While I’m cooking I’m not worrying about bills or what I need to accomplish on my to do list. I’m in the moment. I’m focused. And I’m content.
If you want to give kitchen meditation a try here’s some basic tips to make it happen.
- Make sure you have all of your ingredients at the ready. Not necessarily measured out yet, just make sure you have plenty and they’re within reach. Nothing ruins the focus of cooking like the frustration of realizing you can’t find something you need or that you didn’t have enough.
- Create some distraction free time to cook. Send the kids outside to play or ask the family to head out for a walk or to run an errand. Sometimes it even works for me to just ask my family to give me some distraction free time and everyone is focused enough that they are able to keep the usual everyday noise at a minimum with quiet activities, although I usually am the default parent for questions, so that doesn’t always work.
- Pay attention to what you are doing and don’t rush. Be intentional with your knife cuts and measurements. Don’t try to multitask or think about what’s going on for the rest of the night. The best time to do a kitchen meditation is when you don’t have any other obligations for the rest of the night or a set timeframe for dinner.
- If you like visualizations you can always picture yourself in a bubble and the only thing that matters is what’s inside that bubble with you.
- Turn off your phone. Don’t let an unexpected call distract you from your kitchen focus.
- Focus on who you are cooking for. Think of your family and good memories and thoughts about them. If you’re cooking a little something for yourself, think about how awesome you are. It’s okay, you’re awesome and you’re allowed to acknowledge that.
A kitchen meditation isn’t structured, so it’s difficult to tell you exactly what it looks like. What works for me might not work for you. It may be difficult to keep yourself from multitasking or thinking about your to do list, but with practice you can do it. One thing I learned when I studied zen meditation is if your mind starts to wander from the place you want it, just gently acknowledge the thought then bring yourself back to what you want to be doing. It does take time to master, but it’s a wonderful feeling of connection with the food, the process and your family when you finally figure it out.
Do you have anything you like to do that takes on a meditative form? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.