“Where there is a plant, there once was a seed; that is its past. Now a blossoming flower, the seed is no more, though it clearly once existed. Be as the plant.” –The Still Mind
“Where there are rain clouds, so will be a storm. Where there are inharmonious circumstances, so will be the appropriate emotions. When there are no more clouds, there is no more storm. Let it also be so with the mind” – The Still Mind
The word “zen” carries with it the semantic import of “mindfulness”. Being mindful is something that we all can stand to employ more of in our world and our lives, and it is something that anyone can do. So, what exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art of being present right now, other than in the other to ends of the space-time spectrum, otherwise known as the past and future. After all, what else is there? One can worry about the past and the future all they want, but they both are not HERE now, for NOW is here now. Thus, being mindful is the surrender of oneself to the now, and the wholehearted indulgence within its fruitful womb.
As a tribute to NOW, why not challenge yourself to be mindful at a time when all your mental faculties come together to impart upon the body the gift of nourishment – i.e. while cooking.
Cooking involves more than just putting ingredients together to produce a dish to be eaten. Below the surface, to get to the stage where a plate full of steaming food sits before an eater, it must be cooked, and it is in the process of cooking where the magic of the dish is birthed. To truly cook, one must smell the spices, the fragrance of the green onions radiating their aroma in hot oil. One must listen to the sound of the knife as it slices vegetables, making contact with the cutting board. One must FEEL when to add what ingredient, and when the dish is complete and ready for service. Try it with your next home cooked meal, and see how the experience will impact your eating experience as well. Notice the difference of just being with yourself as you take yourself on the journey of assorted raw ingredients, to sizzling lip-smacking goodness.
During mindfulness practice, it should naturally instill an air of calm throughout the muscles of the entire body. With mindful cooking, a dish made entirely of the freshest and most natural ingredients lends to the overall feeling of pleasure that mindfulness can bestow. One can smile inside because they know with this, they are treating their body with the respect that it deserves, as well as giving the senses an opus of real flavors and aromas to induce a neurological lotus blossom.
Feel free to share this post and the idea of mindful cooking (and mindfulness in general) with anyone that you know who may benefit from it, and in turn hopefully they will then pass it on.
Thus is the art of zen cooking… Of zen living
Needing to be “held together” in the first place is a clear sign that there is something being grasped for that doesn’t fit with one’s surroundings. “What keeps you going?” “What holds you together so you don’t go crazy?” What we don’t see in these simple questions that we tend to inquire of people when we are trying to get to know them, is that it is a verbalization of the fact that it is known that one has attachments constructing a “self.” It is a verbalization that one’s self is something that needs some form of mental glue to keep things from falling apart and being lost.
We can grasp for things all we want. Like a polar bear clinging to a piece of melting ice in the ocean, he is surrounded by a sea of water. The ice will melt eventually, and there will be nothing else that the polar bear can do but to let go. Survival will be trivial, for death is almost certain. However, if he happens to catch a fish before he dies, it will be the greatest meal he ever had. No past, no future, only right now, and right now all that exists is the eating of the fish.
Day in, day out, clinging clinging clinging. Run run run. Running around to satisfy the clinging. A need for more clinging. More running around; always chasing. An entire life of running and clinging is only good for creating more of the same in the future.
Too much trying. Too much effort.
Put it down.
Awakening can happen in a single moment. Zen masters have been known to use loud noises and shouting to awaken their disciples. In that moment, there is no thinking, no judgements, duality, good, bad. All becomes quiet; still.
The same can happen when we are startled, in a moment that calls for quick response by the body. When we are startled, there are no thoughts, just being startled. Even for the tiniest instant, everything had been put down. The interconnected systems of the body are simply reacting to a stimulus — going through a process. There is no room for extraneous thoughts and trivial worries. To reach this point in daily life is the ultimate stillness; the happiness of no happiness. No extremes. No place for thoughts to abide. Thoughts pass like clouds over still water, reflecting in the pond when they are there, and having no reflection when they are not.
When asked of a Zen master, “what is the nature of reality?”, he replies, “the monkey jumps from the high branch… the branch shakes,” and may leave one confused about his answer. Maybe he is avoiding the question, you reason with yourself. Maybe he does not know. But the answer that one seeks may not always be the answer that one gets. “What is the nature of reality?” inquires about something that is everything, including that very question itself. It isn’t an avoidance of the question, but at the same time it is. The question which you seek to have answered can only truly be answered in this way, because it is just more white noise on the ‘Existence Channel’. It is the universe interacting with itself. No logic-based thoughts, and analysis. That won’t answer the question. Any words that a master could use to describe it would be meaningless, and just more chatter on the channel. It is like one sonic pixel asking another sonic pixel about sonic pixels. His is an answer of thusness. There are no words. Only 無 Wu (Mu in Japanese); nothing, but at the same time everything, like the color white.