Mindful Cooking

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Now most of us are drifting far away from cooking every day as more and more ready to cook or ready to eat options are available. There are far more eateries and restaurants that were there a decade back. The food business is one of the industries growing at a very fast rate.

As the families became smaller and women started participating in the workforce, the cooking started to look more like an extra activity that should be avoided if possible. Everyone wants to use the time otherwise spent in cooking for more useful pursuits like more working hours in the office. More working hours mean more money, a better job, promotions and so on and so forth. Cooking became completely dispensable as compared to the latter because cooking for the family was not earning you anything. In many western countries, people now prefer to eat out. Cooking is applicable more to restaurant chefs than to anyone else. 

Their change was not completely wrong. Initially, as women started working, they had petty jobs with a small income. They could devote enough time to their jobs as well as their household work. But as women started getting better and more time-consuming work, cooking and household took a back seat and cooking suffered.

Most of us face stress because we have lost the experience of basic survival. We unconsciously depend on more and more possessions in order to live. And most of our time is consumed to acquiring and maintaining the same. Unfortunately, now most of these requirements are superficial and complicated. For example, a second car, a larger house with an extra guest room(even when there is no one to visit us), an expensive trendy dress etc. etc.

We have lost touch with reality. A person can live his full life in a few hours’ time inside a video game but the reality is not like that. When a kid brought up in the world of mobile phone, video games and television is exposed to the real world where one has to work with his/her own hands, where it takes time to cook food and eat it with his own hands, wash his own clothes etc., he might get a rude shock. Most of the people bought up in a virtual world employ most of their time and energy to acquire enough resources so that they can escape the real world. We want a dish-washer, washing machine, automatic cooking systems to save more time. This saved time we will then spend in front of the TV or mobile phone. This orientation is making us oblivious of the world around us and more and more self-absorbed, self-centred. We want more resources to preserve our ignorance.

Anxiety, stress, anger, greed and all most all the mental vices emerge from this state of preserved ignorance. Our desires become unreal, when they are not fulfilled we get angry and stressed. This unreal world creates a secret fear of the unknown.

Cooking is not a woman’s or homemaker’s job. Cooking is an essential process for human survival.  

In ancient traditions, was considered to be a pious or religious exercise. In ancient Indian culture, it is compulsory for the cook to be peaceful and happy while cooking a meal. Also, one should refrain from eating or cooking when anxious, sad or angry. It was believed that the negative energy of the cook is absorbed in the food and reaches the consumers. 
Recent experiments on the concept of water memory confirm the same. Water kept in a certain atmosphere and exposed to different kinds of prayers and music confirm that even water absorb the negative and positive vibrations. 
This is probably the reason why people would eat in religious gatherings and the food was considered to be divine. At the same time, it was considered inauspicious to eat in the local eateries as the cook might have mind on his mind while cooking. It is supposed to drastically change the quality of the food. Also, earlier it was considered inauspicious to eat in the house of a corrupt person because the quality of earned money will attract food ingredients with bad vibrations and such food will bring bad luck and ill health. 
Therefore cooking as important as a religious ritual and should be treated as such.  For most of us, because of a hectic lifestyle, cooking is akin to defrosting a frozen meal or assembling a ready to eat a meal. Or throw in some ingredients in a pot. Most of the cooking is thoughtless and soulless. It creates more restlessness and anxiety. So it is there an exponentially growing spiral of mindless cooking and increased stress. 
 Mindful cooking is something that you can practice. It will result in 2 benefits at the same time – the practice of mindfulness and soulfully tasty food.
 Imagine yourself cooking a simple vegetable curry. As you wash the vegetables, be aware of the dirt and how the water is removing the dirt. This vegetable is getting ready to be incorporated into a higher life form. It is going from plant life to human life.
 These are some of the ideas. You can have your own interpretations. Gradually these interpretations will make you more aware of the work that you are doing. Careful observation will become a habit. It will happen with natural childlike awe that we had once we were toddlers.

e ideas and interpretations of small acts of life help us realize the abundance of already existing meaning in life, rather than going in an endless futile search for it. The essence of life is to “know thyself” and not to “make thyself”. Ancient proverbs and precepts very beautifully convey the great philosophies of life. For example, there is ancient Indian saying – karat karat abhyas ke Jada mati hoye sujana, rasari aavata jata hi Sil par parat nisan
The proverb means that through constant practice, even a dull mind can become sharp, like the way even a soft rope can make a mark on the stone by constant rubbing. (Rope of the well can make a permanent mark on the stone wall of the well). Now, thousands of people must have used the rope for pulling water out of the well, but one in millions with an aware mind can observe a philosophy on a stone wall. 
Another proverb from Kabir says that the ones who go in the deep waters are able to get the pearls, but the people who keep sitting on the shore out of fear of drowning, get nothing. These simple sayings underline the wisdom that the eternal truth is all around us if only we are able to absorb it. Mindfulness can make simple things in our lives more meaningful. Such a life is incidentally peaceful and happy. 

This book aims to bring out some of the subtle beautiful thoughts that are woven in our daily chores. 

It is not the right approach to describe a method of cooking mindfulness. It is not a physical ritual. If it becomes a physical ritual, the mind will find a way to automate that process too and mindfulness will be out of the picture. Processes are the way to develop mindfulness but they can also become a habit that can block the need for mindfulness. You can develop your own process that is meaningful to your consciousness. The best way to learn cooking mindfulness is to give a picture of cooking Mindfulness in practice. So I will describe my process of cooking mindfulness that has helped me a lot. As in other cases, the described process of cooking mindfulness is my personal experience so I would like to describe it in the form of a story.

I decide what I have to cook. Then I take out the ingredients and place them together. I light the cooking gas with the gratitude that I have a cooking gas. I feel the warmth that is going to convert the ingredients into a wholesome meal. I understand that this meal is important to me and my family. It is going to bring health and fulfillment to my family.

I notice the smell of different herbs and spices
I hear the crackling sound of tempering
I notice the nice aroma rising food getting cooked

There are different things that can bring peace to the mind, like music, arts but it can be vice versa also. Peace can bring beauty to all things. The arts are meant to give us an experience of the peace and beauty that even a simple work like sweeping can bring us.

Cooking is an essential art which every human being should know. Cooking is a process that connects us to the basics of our lives. And therefore, cooking is one ideal process for practicing mindfulness.

This is a process that developed unconsciously as a part of being mindful during cooking. It might help or indicate a direction in which you can find your cooking mindfulness.

Initially, mindfulness helped me get over my fear of cooking. Many people who actually love cooking are already in the state of mindfulness. This is the reason such people cook when they want to relax. For me, reading a book or writing gets me to a state of deep relaxation. I am aware of what I am doing. However, this cannot be termed as absolute mindfulness because I forget what is happening around me in this case. For example, I used to read books while waiting for milk to get boiled and almost every time, it will get spilled. So it is merely a case of increased concentration instead of mindfulness. If you also feel that you can read a book or watch a short video while cooking or waiting in a queue, then you are just trying to fill the vacant space instead of being mindful about it.

It is natural for us to be able to concentrate on the things that we like. But on a flip-side it causes us to dislike other things with equal intensity. Mindfulness brings the patience to look at a seemingly uninteresting or dull space for a long time. A shooter or a hunter will appreciate the value of this patience – to keep staring at grassland or forest area till the prey arrives

I feel this is level one. In the next level, we are able to look at our deep-lying fears and strong emotions. And get over them.

Cooking mindfulness is more than just being present. It must appear extremely dull to be just present. However, mindfulness is a state of Eureka or ultimate discovery every moment of our lives. The person who created the proverb “don’t cry over the spilled milk” was being mindful of the hidden treasure inside a simple incident. Newton had a moment of mindfulness when he saw the apple fall. Archimedes was mindfully aware of the water pushing his body upwards. and he ran naked, being excited by this discovery. It makes me wonder that we have so little awareness that even a moment of mindfulness can change our lives, as well as the lives of millions around us. All the major discoveries were actually not a product of laboratory experiments but of a few moments of mindful awareness. Therefore, mindfulness is far from being dull and boring. It is the gateway to the most exciting insights that can change our lives.

Cooking mindfulness

The ritual begins by offering gratitude towards the gifts of nature in the form of fruits, vegetables, grains etc. All our cooking ingredients are derived from mother nature’s bounty. This ritual just takes 2-3 sec to just feel the joy of abundance in your heart!

I prepare the ingredients (cutting, dicing, kneading etc.) with the awareness that these food items are going to be absorbed by our bodies and bring health and happiness to all the family members.

As I throw spices and other ingredients in the frying pan, I recite the words”Brahmaarpanam” (offered to the creator) or “Vishnuarpanam” (offered to the one who sustains). Fire is considered to be the messenger of the gods. I pray that all the ingredients are purified by this cooking process and made divine, to bring divine bliss to all the consumers of this food.

This is an ideal description. Sometimes, I still get lost in negative thoughts. However, now I am aware that I should not throw anything in the frying pan while thinking a negative thought, so I recite the above short verses and hope that food will be purified of my negative thoughts.

When you are too low, hearing positive music or even sermons might help. 

The most important fact is that this entire process is mental and there are no material rituals aligned with it. Everything is in the mind. From outside, you might never find it any different from any other cooking style.

The immediate results of this process can be seen on the cook. He/she will feel satisfied and at peace, happy to achieve something divine in the simple process of cooking.

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