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Hazelnut sesame granola clusters

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In Praise of Leftovers

(Read caption) Hazelnut sesame granola clusters mixed with brown rice syrup.

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Happy New Year! Predictably, I've started out with a lot of health resolutions. Even I am not divulgent enough to display my little chart here, but some are easy, some are harder. And by "health," I mean it all--body, mind, spirit. Go overboard with fruits and veggies, send mail, get outside, sit up straight, meditate and read poetry more often. I've learned the hard way that it's not about conquering all those resolutions. It's about putting them out there. 

I've read a lot of poetry this week, remembering how its economy of words gives me something to hold onto when the day's anxieties hit. Coleman Barks, the preeminent translator of Rumi, relates this story:

Meditation, or any solitary practice (a walk before dawn, a poem every morning, sitting the roof at sunset), gives depth and expands the soul's action.

A man in prison is sent a prayer rug by his friend. What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crowbar or a key! But he began using the rug, doing five-times prayer before dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug, just at the quibla, the point where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him in his cell and how it works. He's able to escape. Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom.

I just love that – anything we do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place. And you know me – I put cooking into this category. Increasingly, cooking is something it's possible to get away from. You can do "food preparation" instead, removing things from boxes and warming them up. You can buy all your carrots already cut up or eat most of your meals out. But when we do that, I think we're missing out, not just on the health benefits, but on the meditative ritual cooking can be.

I paid $4.00 yesterday for a bunch of rainbow carrots grown in this county. Splitting the red one down the middle, I saw two more layers inside--orange, then yellow. A whole riot of color! Standing there with my knife on New Year's Eve, arranging those beautiful carrots on a platter, was another chance to be mindful, to think of the farmers that tended those carrots, to be grateful for this region we live in, and to enjoy the small movements of running the carrots under the sink, twisting off the tops. Of course I don't always slip into this state while cutting vegetables! But these moments aren't as accessible to me when I'm not in the kitchen. It's one of the places I feel most free.

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