During my first time as a visiting monk this summer, I got to experience how food is prepared at the monastery, and I loved it. (Well, “I” didn’t love some of it, but Life as expressed through this human loved it all.) Listening back to my recordings, I went from “a battle with the tomatoes” to a “lettuce-chopping odyssey” and many experiences in between. It was amazing to me to feel the principles of Practice being put into action throughout every process. I imagine/project that this is true from the moment menus are planned and seeds are planted to when it is consumed and everything is cleaned up.
One of my favorite parts was when groceries arrive at the back porch from the shopping trip and need to be sorted. All produce is washed before it goes into the kitchen. The care and mindfulness of removing stickers, sorting the packaging and washing the produce is beautiful. Some items are then laid out to dry; others are taken into the kitchen. This care extends to carefully labelling all items, placing them so they are accessible and re-using paper bags until they are no longer in any shape to be used.
There’s also this amazing piece where I can see my relationship to myself reflected in any part of the process. Preparing tomatoes is a particularly good mirror for me -- the process of choosing the tomatoes and knife and then chopping is an opportunity to watch how ego tries to take things over. And oh, the magical moments when “I” goes away and there’s just chopping tomatoes. The guidelines for each part of the process helped me to stay present and see when egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate was trying to hijack me.
I’ve come home from the Monastery with a newfound joy in cooking. I learned a little more how to follow Life’s lead and have found that it translates into a faith that things will work out when I’m in the kitchen and elsewhere. Then I can leave ego’s standards behind and invite Life in.