A couple of months back I was rushing home to get dinner on the stove. Eating late isn’t something I like doing so I wanted to get things done before a certain time. Mindful cooking is something I practice all the time but tonight there was no “time” for that. I got home and rushed into the kitchen, quickly pulled out all my ingredients and got to work.
My mind was somewhere else completely, I was thinking about my finances and a client that still hadn’t paid me for completed work. My thoughts bounced from one to the other, needless to say I wasn’t being very mindful at the time.
I continued chopping up onions on autopilot while I was living in a completely different world in my head. When I looked down I saw red, slightly confused at the sight, I realized that I’d cut myself. Nothing brings you to the present moment faster than realizing you nearly chopped off your finger.
That’s my little horror story of an example where not being mindful in the kitchen while using a sharp knife led to an injury. Something that could of easily been avoided, but we all know how life gets sometimes.
We have a wonderful opportunity in cooking to be present, mindful and aware. The daily stresses you have been carrying can melt away as soon as you prepare nourishing food for yourself and for loved ones.
A mindful kitchen requires a mindful chef to operate inside of it. Keep your kitchen well organized, clean and neat. It’s easier to be alert and avoid injury if you know where everything is when you need it.
Being aware of your movement in the kitchen, the sounds made while cooking and your intentions with every step toward the end product of a nourishing meal is how to practice mindfulness in the kitchen.
Conscious cooking allows you to train your mind to be in the here and the now. It’s also a chance to get back in touch with the food you prepare and eat, this is true nourishment.
Before you begin cooking think about your intentions for the meal. Whats your game plan in the kitchen tonight? Do you want to make sure that you cook a nutritious meal, a healthy meal, a fun meal or an interactive meal? Play around with the different ideas of what a meal can be.
Become aware of how you feel in the moments before you break out the pots, pans and knife set. Allow yourself to become aware of your mood and mindset before starting to prepare your food. Taking a moment to become aware of your mood and feelings helps to get your mind in the right space.
Many of us, myself included, sometimes feel that cooking is a chore and forget to see that it’s really a privilege and a chance to be creative. Its also a wonderful opportunity to take care of yourself and the people you hold near and dear to your heart.
When you take a minute and think about your intentions, before you start your process in the kitchen, you can see and understand that what you are doing is important. It deserves your full attention.
Here are some intentions I think about before I cook my meals:
My intention in the kitchen right now is to:
Food is often treated as a means to an end, how many times have we all mindlessly thrown something on the stove, cranked up the heat and waited impatiently for it to be cooked.
I chop the food, I cook the food, I eat the food – Autopilot activated
Cooking mindfully helps us to move away from the mindset of eating for the pure sake of eating. It’s undoubtedly an easy trap to fall into as I’ve been there many times. Appreciating your food will give you more perspective in the kitchen and bring to light that food is more than just a means to an end. When we show food appreciation we inadvertently treat ourselves better.
Pick up the vegetable you are about to prepare and feel its texture, appreciate the weight of it in your hand. Wonder where it came from and how much effort went into bringing this one vegetable to your kitchen.
Think about the time it took to grow this vegetable, how much money was spent on harvesting it? Who was involved in this process, how many hands did it pass through to get to you?
When chopping up or slicing your food notice the aroma, the vibrant colors and textures as you cook. What does it sound like when you are frying and cutting?
There is so much to appreciate while you cook, I often appreciate the fact that I can simply and freely move around my kitchen. It might seem insignificant while you are busy, but imagine not being mobile and not having the ability to cook for yourself? The things we do on autopilot are often the things that are the easiest to overlook.
The point of cooking mindfully is that you are fully immersed in what you are doing. By simply cooking you are allowing yourself to be in the present moment. You are doing this ONE thing. That means that you need to turn off any distractions.
No podcast or youtube videos in the background. No radio or television blaring out in the corner of the kitchen. This is your time that you spend with your food and the preparation of your food.
Being mindful in the kitchen will need your full attention, now im not saying that listening to music is a bad thing. All I’m saying is that if you cut out the noise and get rid of the distractions mindfulness becomes a bit easier, not only in the kitchen but in life itself.
Learning to cut out distractions in the kitchen will help in all areas of your mindfulness practice. You learn that we surround ourselves with distractions all the time. Sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that we don’t need all the noise. Less is sometimes more.
Now with all that has been said above this is the most important point. Enjoy yourself, relax and experience the process of cooking. Its really not realistic to think that you can cook mindfully at every meal. This is life, we fall in and out of awareness all the time. Just like any new habit it’s going to take practice. Enjoy the process of learning this new skill, make it fun and take it slow.
Sometimes you’re going to want to listen to some music while you are in the kitchen, that’s ok. Got a podcast you’d love to catch up on and the only time you can listen to it is when you’re cooking tonight, go for it! We are human and we can’t be perfect. Simply enjoy the process and don’t take it
too seriously, you will find what works for you in your own time.
Cooking with mindfulness teaches us to approach food in a different way. We learn to see food in a healthier light and understand why we should appreciate it more and not treat it as a means to an end but as a gift. There’s a mindful chef in each of us!
Below is a quirky Ted X talk given by Cynthia Lair. I love the way she presented this and I appreciate her ideas and teachings around the area of mindfulness.
The food is begging you to be here now
I hope you will try to cook mindfully every once in a while and I hope that this article can help you to do that. If you feel like you are really enjoying the process of cooking with mindfulness you might want to start eating mindfully too. These two mindful practices go hand in hand and they both provide many benefits to your health and your happiness.