“Finding Yourself in the Kitchen: Kitchen Meditations and Inspired Recipes from a Mindful Cook” should be sipped, not devoured in chunks. Zen priest Dana Velden‘s book is a gathering of short mindfulness practices and essays based in the kitchen.
Velden, a food writer based in Oakland, Calif., provides a handful of detailed recipes. But most of the book is about paying attention while cooking. The book has a fan base. Goodreads readers give it 4.1 out of a possible 5 stars. On Amazon, it has 5 out of 5 stars with 40 ratings.
My favorite mindfulness practice in the book is soji, a 20-minute period in Zen temples where the whole community cleans together. It usually happens after morning meditation. Each person gets a simple cleaning task, such as sweep the floor. Everyone does their task silently and without hurrying to finish it.
You clean or sweep or dry dishes mindfully until someone rings a bell. Then you stop. And go onto the next thing, usually breakfast.
Velden suggests that we consider approaching some of our tasks on our to-do lists with a soji perspective. “What would happen if it wasn’t so much about finishing but more about simply doing? What burdens can be put down when we redirect our energies not toward the goal, but to the process itself each moment along the way?” she writes.
She also says that soji teaches people how to get tasks done when they don’t want to do them. She uses the principle to tackle jobs she dreads around the house. It’s an interesting concept, although I wonder if my family would feel comfortable in a house full of half-done tasks. Could be that’s better than not-done tasks.
You’ll find more resources for practicing Christian mindfulness here.
The British magazine “Oh!” had an excellent idea in its latest issue: Make a morning playlist.
In Pandemic Year Two, many of us are trying hard to get back into the swing of life. Yet life does not seem to cooperate. “I thought this would be over by now” is the national mood.
So why not start by picking 10 songs that always lift your spirits. Put them in a playlist on Spotify or any other method you have. And use them to combat gray mornings.
For example, I find that I can work myself into a giant funk while getting dressed for the day. So I started listening and singing alone to uplifting praise music. It helps.
You can find some other ideas for your own list from these Spotify playlists:
Have fun! Let me know what your favorite songs are.
You are not imagining it. People are meaner on Mondays.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people display less civility and kindness on Mondays than they do the rest of the week. But the study does contain some good news for those of us who practice any form of mindfulness.
Mindfulness stabilizes this situation. People who practice it are able to maintain a stable level of kindness and courteous behavior across the week.
This is no surprise to me. My form of mindfulness … Christian mindfulness … gives you a solid foundation and handrails to walk across difficult days. It’s a stabilizing force for the kind of inner peace that only comes through a relationship with Jesus.
Staying in the present moment in the presence of God brings a continual source of strength. You learn, as many do, that the only thing you can control is yourself. Christian mindfulness actually gives you the graces necessary to be able to do that in a kind way on a fairly consistent basis.
It’s the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. I remember that day:
- Sitting in my office at my computer when a colleague named Jeff LaRue poked his head in my office and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
- Realizing this was not a small plane crash.
- Interrupting my CEO in a client meeting in the conference room to say that planes had crashed into both towers and the Pentagon. “Could we turn on the TV here?” The client was annoyed at my interruption.
- Listening to the church bell, located across the street from our office tower, begin to toll. It continued to toll all day. The last time that happened was Pearl Harbor.
- Watching the first tower collapse from the same viewpoint where I last saw the towers two weeks before.
- Heading home to be with my high school student, calling my other child in a college dorm room, and contacting my husband who was on the road.
- Working on a proposal while watching the television in my living room.
- Finding out that my husband didn’t realize the extent of the situation until he got to a hotel and watching it on television.
- Looking at the sky which now contained no airplanes.
- Waking up the next morning to wonder what would happen that day.
The United States was probably at its best that week. We were determined in the face of fear. Many bad decisions later, we aren’t at our best. But we know that Christians can always be determined in the face of fear. Our side has already won.
The Sept. 11 reading of Sarah Young’s wonderful devotional “Jesus Always” points out that the world has always been at war. Yet we do not have to be afraid. Jesus has achieved the victory that allows us to have a hope and a future. But we are still not alone in the world. The dark side is still setting off explosions as it moves in defeat. So we are cautioned to have self-control and be alert.
Is it possible to be alert without feeling all-consuming fear? Yes. But we must be determined and ask for grace to achieve that state. Paul of Tarsus tells us that we are at our best when we recognize that we are weak and allow God to move through us.
So what does determination look like when we know that we are weak? Here are seven indicators:
- We expect God to help when we are doing His will.
- We believe in the importance of our role in the kingdom of God.
- We focus our attention on the work we are doing.
- We listen to God’s word and seek his will for next steps.
- We avoid distraction.
- We ask for help when we need it.
- We keep going even when things get difficult.
None of us alive on 9/11 predicted the next 20 years. But God did know what would happen. Walking with Him in Christian mindfulness may help us to make the next 20 more successful for the kingdom.