Posts Tagged ‘Kitchen Wisdom’

7 ways to make Thanksgiving mindful

November 20th, 2017    -    4 Comments

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Of course you want it to be good. You’d like the mashed potatoes to keep warm, the stuffing to stay moist and the gravy to taste homemade. You’re hoping the pies turn out, the guests turn up and the TV gets turned off. You’ll be grateful to have it over with, but can you take a week of hectic cooking and turn it into a mindfulness practice?

The sages did, and still do.

Mindfulness practice is exactly like preparing a holiday dinner. In fact, one of the most profound and practical texts in Zen, “Instructions for the Cook,” was written nearly 800 years ago for the monastery kitchen staff. That ancient teaching inspires these 7 ways to prepare your Thanksgiving meal more mindfully. read more

cake recipe

January 26th, 2017    -    8 Comments

I was 5 or 6 years old when my sister and I would play a certain game. Whenever we got a bowl of ice cream for dessert we would mash and stir it into the consistency of batter before we ate it. We called the game “Making a Cake for President Kennedy.”

This game was not the measure of our innocent imagination. It was a sign of how much we adored our president. Alas, we didn’t get to play for long. Adoration, ice cream, childhood—and noble presidents—disappear too quickly.

After the euphoria of the marches on Saturday, the reality of our national wound dawned fresh and ugly. What can be said about an affliction so huge, an ignorance so insistent, a menace so malevolent? A lot, it turns out; but then again, not much.

A few days ago I heard from a friend and favorite author, Katrina Kenison, who writes with depth and heart about everything. She has been quiet of late. Quiet since the election. What do we say about the unspeakable? What do we do about the undoable? She wondered if she would ever feel moved to share a cake recipe on her blog again.

Yes, she will. We will all share recipes. We will shop, chop, blend and stir. Preheat the oven, oil the pan. We will set the table, pour the wine. Dress the salad, butter the bread, slice the cake and scoop the ice cream. We will invite people into our homes and feed them, you see, because that’s what the resistance does, in so many words: care.

Small things loom large in times of unfathomable crisis. Small things are how we serve.

Here is one of Katrina’s cakes.

And here is a helpful article with self-care tips for those who care. I’m passing it around for seconds.

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how to peel an orange

February 6th, 2015    -    2 Comments

Grandpa showed me how to peel an orange.

Hold the fruit in one hand and the pocketknife in the other.

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First, score a circle in the rind around the navel below and the stem on top.

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Draw the blade down the sides in vertical strokes all around the whole, no deeper than the skin, an inch between each cut. Be careful. Go slow. Do not harm the flesh.

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Lift off the top and bottom pieces.

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Pull each section of rind away from the fruit. It will come easily, and with it, the pith.

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Wedge your thumb into the center and splay the fruit wide open.

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There will be ten or so segments—enough to share.

Once you taste the living truth, you are never again fooled by the imitation flavored drink in a carton.

A lesson from my garden to yours, via my newest book,  Paradise in Plain Sight. Order signed copies of all my books here.

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another 10 tips for a mindful home

January 12th, 2015    -    No Comments

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The artwork you see here was inspired by my 10 Tips for a Mindful Home, one of the most popular things I’ve ever done. Originally written as a sidebar for a magazine, it was pirated from the printed page as a photo and circulated about a million times around the web. It’s rather humbling that I’ve penned three whole books but my most useful work may well be the 200 words on this list. That’s because in our hearts we know we have to practice mindfulness where we are, not where we want to be, as we are, not as we wish to be. At my invitation, the artist Miranda Wulff Altschuler is now offering an exquisitely beautiful, practical, and affordable 11 x 14 poster of the 10 tips on Etsy. I love what she says: “Hang this print in your kitchen or living room. Hang it in your bedroom to see upon waking. Hang it anywhere you need a gentle reminder. Keeping a mindful home is simple (but not easy).”

What a brilliant wake-up for the New Year and every new day in it.

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compassion doesn’t need doing

February 18th, 2013    -    11 Comments

dirtydishWe do-gooders think quite a bit about compassion. We want to have it, feel it and share it. There is so much we think we need to do to make the world a better place. But compassion doesn’t need doing. It exists already in the harmony of things just the way they are. Discord comes from our doing. Compassion comes from undoing. It greets us when we undo our boundaries and erase the lines we said we’d never cross. Compassion waits in the space between us, the space that only seems to separate us; a gapless gap we close by reaching an arm’s length in front of us to wipe a tear or wash a bowl.

You won’t find compassion in the brain. You will find it in your hands.

We can only love the world we wake up to. Start right here.

Good morning.

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the best chocolate cake

February 14th, 2013    -    53 Comments

DoubleChocolateSnackingCakeForkMy father-in-law was a simple man, and the things he said could ring with unintended clarity.

Every time he ate something, like a piece of chocolate cake, for instance, he would say, “This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted!” He meant it, and it was true, because it came from the exuberance of a mind emptied of critical thought. A mind like that can seem silly and childlike. It is, and that’s what makes it so wise.

Last night I finished a small book that was the best chocolate cake, and I’d love for you to taste it. At the start, you might not think this kind of cake is for you. Nearing middle age, a man faces himself honestly, courageously, admitting that he is gay, a liar, a cheater, a thief, a phony, a creep, a mindless alcoholic and ugly drug addict, and here’s the sweet spot—despite his serial failure at suicide—he wants to live. Does this sound even remotely like your kind of chocolate?

He envisions for himself the sort of idealistic quest that is the stuff of parody. He travels to India in search of enlightenment. What you find in India is, well, India. And what you find on a quest is yourself. But he tells his story with such beauty and feeling, such flavor and artistry, that I could not resist the whole thing.

At the end of the book, he is finishing his trip with a trek to Nepal in the company of a young guide and porter. His months of meditations and mantras, vows and renunciations seem to have failed. On the trail he is back to being angry and resentful, feeling foolish and even exploited. The objects of his spite are the two poor servants who are attending him. Does this sound even remotely like what happens daily in your kitchen, your home, your neighborhood, your world?

I remember the promise I made to myself to keep my heart, mind and senses open for the rest of my stay. My journey was coming to an end too fast. There was no more time to drift off in daydreams, or to lose myself in petty complaints. But all that resolve had flown off like a bird from an untended cage and the hours given over to anger and self-cherishing are now gone forever. What sights, sounds and joys did I miss as I sealed myself off from the world?

This is the practice. Watching my actions, watching my words, watching my mind every day. It does not only occur at holy pilgrimage sites or on retreats or in the presence of great spiritual masters. It occurs everyday, with the people who are with me right now, in this time, in this place.

“Hey, Chris!” my guide waves to me with a big smile. “Your dinner is ready.”

He wipes off a seat on the rough little bench and hands me a bowl of stew and when I look down into the steam and the goodness of it, I already know it will be the best meal I have ever tasted.

I really, sincerely, wholeheartedly recommend The Narrow Way by Chris Lemig. Buy yourself two copies: one for you, one for a friend. Leave a comment below and you could win the copy I’m giving away on Friday.

Update: The winner of the book is commenter #12, Robin Gaphni, whose blog is Grief & Gratitude.

There is still time to register for the Beginner’s Mind One-Day Retreat on Sun., Feb. 24 at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in LA.

 

a life in a day

October 30th, 2012    -    5 Comments

Would you walk us through a typical day in your life?

Oh dear! It’s just like yours, literally. I’m the first up and into the kitchen. (I love a quiet house at dawn.) I feed the dog, make a breakfast that my daughter is likely to ignore. I check e-mail, and begin the daylong practice of responding to whatever appears. I quickly make the bed, get dressed, drive my daughter to school, take an exercise class and then I’m home again for the dog walk. I have a grand scheme of what I’d like to do each day, but am usually overtaken by small practicalities and urgencies. Sometimes the big thing on my list is something as little as pruning the azaleas! I do a little bit of writing here and there, sometimes for the blog, an article or something longer. Words sing to me all day long, and every now and then I catch one or two! My daughter is out of school at 2:30, the afternoon falls, I cook dinner, run the vacuum, finish a load of laundry, take my daughter to gymnastics. Before bed I sit on my cushion, and this is how I keep company with all the ancestors who have come before me. Then I let the day be done. I never regret what I haven’t done. Even as I write this I am overwhelmed with gratitude that this right here is my life. Who could want more?

. . . Read more of the interview on Mama Here Now.

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prayer for a wife becoming

October 15th, 2012    -    12 Comments

I’ve noticed that how we load the dishwasher says everything about the difference between my husband and me.Hand Wash Cold

May you be quiet
leave unsaid
let it lie
go to bed
crack a smile
pour a cup
find the toilet seat up
go the mile
Say hello say goodbye
share the kids share the cry
Come to know without proof
that the planets, aloof
Keep perfect orbit alone
by one light through one sky
never end
just begin
treat the stain rinse the dirt
let it drop
glass and plastic on top
scrape the plates
leave no trace
end the day in pure grace
find your rest
hearts be blessed
You can lose
You can live
You can turn and forgive
Then start over, always over
again.
Amen.

A companion to Prayer for a Mother Becoming.

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5 tips for meaning in cleaning

August 14th, 2012    -    26 Comments

It seems to settle deepest at the end of summer, in the stark raving middle of withering heat and drought, in the geologic layers of dust, grit and cobwebs that converge at this time of year. It’s dirt, and my house is full of it. It’s a good time to remember these 5 Tips for Finding Meaning in Cleaning:

1. Make it meditative. Focus on the doing, not the getting done. The motion of simple, repetitive tasks can make you more attentive and calm – the back and forth of the vacuum cleaner or dust rag, the concentrated effort of spot cleaning, the methodical sorting of laundry – chores are meditative, as long as you’re not thinking about how much you hate them. The key to mindfulness is not thinking something lofty, but thinking nothing at all, and it doesn’t take any thinking to clean the sink. Throw open the windows and doors! Spring cleaning is spring break for your brain.

2. Find what you’ve been missing. We spend most of our lives ignoring what’s in front of us and looking instead for something more. The life we already have doesn’t seem like it’s worth our time or effort. The life right now is the only life we have, and when we don’t take care of it, we reinforce our feelings of inadequacy. Seeing things clearly is the foundation of wisdom and the path to genuine fulfillment. Plus, you’ll find your car keys faster.

3. Enfold your life in dignity. Carry out the garbage and it carries over into every part of your life. A cluttered closet reflects the distraction and disorder between your ears. The state of your bed is the state of your head. The daily rituals of housecleaning enfold your life in dignity, because they are nothing other than the way you care for yourself. read more

heat in the kitchen

November 16th, 2010    -    17 Comments

Of course you want the turkey to be done. You’d like the mashed potatoes to keep warm, the stuffing to stay moist and the gravy to taste homemade. You’re hoping the pies turn out, the guests turn up and the TV gets turned off. You’ll be grateful to have it over with, but can you take a week of hectic cooking and turn it into a mindfulness practice?

The sages did, and still do.

I have a new photo-post up at the Huffington Post this week, “7 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Mindful,” and it’s worth your while to notice. Follow these instructions step-by-step and see what comes of it:

1. Click on the link to read the post on Huffington.
2. Once you’re there, click on the blue thumb to “like” it.
3. Click on “Facebook Share” to share it on FB.
4. Click on the red “Retweet” to share it on Twitter.
5. If you don’t mind a few ruffled feathers, join the cackle of Huff Post commenters by adding your own.
6. Come back here and leave a comment on this post telling me anything and everything you’ve done. For each step taken you earn a point in my prize drawing.

You must know I would never tell you what to eat or how to make it. I’m simply illuminating the power of your own evenminded attention.

For each step you take, you’ll earn a point toward a drawing for a fabulous gift: an autographed copy of the organic cookbook Food to Live By, an inspiring and passionate 400-page cooking cornucopia by Myra Goodman, the co-founder of Earthbound Farms. The winner will be drawn this Sunday.

Good luck and good appetite!

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what mom didn’t get

May 11th, 2010    -    13 Comments

When my sisters and I used to ask my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, her birthday or Christmas, she would say something like, “panty hose.” Or, she’d ask for stationery, stamps, measuring spoons or Tupperware lids. (Not needing the bowls, you see, but the lids that always came up missing.) These answers were ridiculous to us. We cracked jokes about them. We cracked jokes about her. We didn’t believe anyone could be so unimaginative, so uninspired by the opportunity to improve herself. She was only interested in the trifling, mundane things. We assumed that she just didn’t get the concept of getting, and that she lacked a grand vision for her life that could only be realized by seizing every opportunity to procure shiny, new things.

Mothers can be a mystery to us in so many ways. It took me more than 40 years to comprehend a fraction of my mother’s life. But I’ve been coming around on this front. My mother wasn’t what I thought she was. She never stopped improving things or keeping things going. She took every opportunity to make things better. She knew all along what I’ve only learned lately. Once you put yourself into the effort – your whole heart, your undying love – there’s really nothing else you need.

When Mother’s Day comes around, and even more on every day after, I remember the things my mother asked me for most often. And then I do them. In doing these five little things, I’m giving my mother her heart’s desire: I’m taking good care of myself, so she can finally sit back and rest easy. read more

Your mind on Tide

January 17th, 2010    -    5 Comments

My mother taught me many things, but she didn’t teach me much about homemaking. To learn how to keep house, I had to study under the tutelage of an eighth century Chinese enlightened master.

I’m so pleased to see my new article “Do Dishes, Rake Leaves” in the March issue of Shambhala Sun magazine, and I’m especially pleased to see it under my full name. If you haven’t yet read it, put it on your list of things to do this weekend. If heaven forbid you don’t subscribe to the magazine, put that on your list, too.

And if you don’t have a list, here’s a handy one to start with.

My new practice robe

January 3rd, 2010    -    10 Comments

I hung up my priestly things and came home after a week’s retreat.
Inside the door, I said my hellos, reached into the closet and put on my practice robe.
I said, “This is no reflection on you, but this is what I must do.”
He said, “I know. So I did a little bit and then left the rest for you.”
I sorted the laundry to calm the eye.
Ran the vacuum to clear the mind.
Mopped the kitchen free of stubborn stickiness.
Freshened the fish tank. Changed the towels. Emptied the trash.
Tomorrow I think I’ll clean out the rain gutters.
I know my place.
I know the way.
I am home and happy.
Having the good life is simple when you practice the one you have.

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