Meditation in Action: Cooking
How to bring great joy and meaning to your everyday cooking through meditation
One of the biggest disappointments of my adult life was that most of my every day life seemed to be filled with necessary but completely ordinary, boring tasks. Working, cooking, cleaning, paying bills and getting things fixed and what was left of my day after all this were a few swift moments I was too tired to really enjoy.
When I discovered Buddhist meditation, my eyes opened to a new way to live, in which all of life could become extraordinary, fascinating and meaningful. Buddha taught that happiness is a state of mind – its actual source is mental peace, which can be found within our own hearts when we gain control of our minds and guide our thoughts to be peaceful and positive. This is what meditation is, simply focusing on something that makes our mind calm and peaceful, concentrating on a thought, intention or feeling that calms the turbulence in our minds and clears away all inner clouds.
We often think of meditation practice as a sitting practice – we find a quiet moment, close our eyes and let the world dissolve away while we go inwards to embrace a few moments of peace. And this is a very important part of meditation, of course! But not the only part. Our meditation practice can also be very actively integrated into our daily “tasks.” We approach our activity while holding a peaceful and positive way of thinking, one that brings new meaning to that task and joy to our heart.
You can integrate meditation with anything you want. Working, chores, problem-solving, you name it – nothing is off the table. One activity that I have enjoyed transforming in this way is cooking. For many years cooking was something I felt I really didn’t have time for and avoided at all costs, until I got married. My life circumstances changed quite a bit and it became clear that I could no longer avoid cooking! But by then I was a meditator so I started learning all the ways I could make meal preparation more of an inner art than a chore.
There are numerous ways we can integrate Buddha’s joyful wisdom into cooking. The way that I wish to share with you today is very simple and effective, and well suited for when we are cooking for our families or friends. When you read it you may even be thinking that you already do this from time to time… because it makes so much sense.
Before we start cooking, we generate a loving intention to cook this meal in order to benefit those who will be eating it. We can think about how much our diners wish to be happy and healthy, and how wonderful it would be if they could enjoy such happiness and health. Let this thought touch your heart. We recognize that at this moment we have the opportunity to nourish them with good food and our loving heart, and we develop a strong intention to do this for them.
If we hold this intention while we prepare the food for that meal, nothing about that cooking will feel boring or a waste of time. We will put our love into that meal, and it will taste like it! Not only will we create a special experience for our family or friends, but we will feel much more satisfied and fulfilled, peaceful.
Buddha taught that holding love in our hearts for others, and acting to benefit them, creates deep peace within our mind. This deep peace is the source of our happiness, full stop. If through cooking meals for our loved ones, we manage to strengthen our love for others, every time we enter the kitchen we will be making great spiritual progress.
My teacher, the Buddhist Meditation Master Geshe Kelsang Gyatso wrote in How to Transform Your Life, “Activities such as cooking, working, talking and relaxing are not intrinsically mundane; they are mundane only if done with a mundane mind. By doing exactly the same actions with a spiritual motivation, they become pure spiritual practices.”