“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.