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Cooking: A Form of Meditation?


Either I am a tightly wound ball of stress around my family or I am talking too much about my pursuit to become a better person because for my birthday a few weeks ago, my 14 year old son gave me a book titled: Practicing Mindfulness, 75 Essential Meditations to Reduce Stress, Improve Mental Health and Find Peace in the Everyday. Most likely, it’s a case where both previous statements are true. The fact that Zachary searched for this book specifically, and bought it with his own money made it all the more meaningful and poignant to me. When I opened my present, my first thought was: “This is one of the most thoughtful gifts Zachary has ever given me.” That was quickly followed by, “Oh sh#t, I must really be a mess if my son thought I needed this book.” Inevitably, for the rest of the day I was in my dark rabbit hole of uncertainty and self-doubt. Was I sharing too much about myself and my struggles with -or in front of- my kids? Am I too often dwelling on my flaws instead of celebrating my strengths? Am I smiling enough around my kids? Am I modeling someone that is happy and well-adjusted? I tried to console myself by acknowledging that I wasn’t given a book titled: 75 Essential Ways to Stop Screwing Up Your Kids.

After much soul searching (and meditation), I have come to the realization that I am proud that my kids are seeing the real me. They are not getting a “perfect”, “air-brushed” or “filtered” Facebook (or Instagram or Pinterest…) me. They aren’t watching me slap on a smile and pretend that everything is delightful, when in fact, I might be exhausted or sad or angry. There are days where they are witnessing me work through some uncomfortable emotions and struggle with things that are hard for me. But, they are also in a front row seat to see me come out on the other side stronger, more resilient and better equipped to deal with the complexities and disappointments that are real life. I don’t want to pretend to have all the answers for myself or for my kids and I don’t come close to pretending that my life is perfect, nor should they. It is deeply important to me that my kids understand that living a life that is fulfilling and meaningful is both hard and rewarding. It is scary and exhilerating. It is tiring and rejuvenating. If we are willing to work at it, life can be beautiful most of the time and ugly only a teeny, tiny bit of the time. I want them to see me throw my head back in genuine laughter and be struck speechless during life’s most stunning moments. But, it is equally (if not more) important that they see me face adversity, get disappointed, accept failure and feel thoroughly depleted and get back up and try again and again and again.

I first started meditating a few years ago and I was immediately infatuated with the results. I learned that while we cannot control our lives and those around us (believe me, I have tried), we can control how we react to adversity, disappointment, uncertainty, over-stimulation, stress (the list goes on and on…). All I had to do was focus on my breath, bring my awareness to my body or stare at a spot in the distance and a feeling of warmth and relaxation would envelope me like a cashmere blanket. My breathing would slow down and I felt at peace. I was able to keep daily stress at bay and I, frankly, was a better mother. Particularly, I was a lot better at not taking my teens’ wild and unpredictable mood swings personally. However, I let life get too busy, I allowed my priorities to get shuffled and re-aligned and I stopped meditating consistently. Perhaps that is why Zachary gave me this book. He was gently reminding me that I am worthy of having peace in the everyday. He was elling me that it is possible and important to reduce stress in my life, for myself and others. And, he was showing me that I am capable of improving my mental health. It has been said that our children are our greatest teachers. Each and every day, I am fervent, hand-in-the-air student in their class on life. I am a junkie for my two thoughtful, loving, difficult, passionate, funny, moody, challenging and resilient teachers. For them, I am eternally grateful.

Not surpisingly, one of my favorite meditation practices in the book Zachary gave me is #29: Cooking With Clarity. I am so thankful that Zachary helped me rediscover that dicing, stirring, pouring and scooping can be a wonderful way to ground myself in the present moment and connect with the nourishing food I am preparing. It’s no wonder that when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I often find myself in the kitchen playing around with new recipes and ingredients. My Strawberry and Corn Salsa is not only a delicious way to enjoy local, ripe and in-season produce it’s also a wonderful opportunity to enjoy an active meditation that can calm and restore our tattered souls.

STRAWBERRY AND CORN SALSA:

(makes about 4 cups)

  • 1 pint of ripe, local strawberries, chopped⁠

  • 3 cobs of local corn, kernels cut off ⁠

  • About 2-3 TBSP fresh shallots, minced ⁠

  • About 1-2 TBSP fresh mint, minced⁠

  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced⁠ (for a less spicy salsa, remove the seeds)

  • 1 tsp kosher salt ⁠(or to taste)

  • 1 lime, zested ⁠

  • Juice of 1/2 fresh lime⁠

    Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and serve with Onesto Sea Salt crackers or your favorite chips.😋⁠

    • As hard as it is, try to set aside some time to make this recipe. Try not to simply rush through it. Pause and really savor a strawberry or two. Tear a mint leaf and touch a piece to your tongue and taste it’s flavor. Roll the salt crystals between your fingers rather than just dumping them into the bowl. Inhale the gorgeous scents of the fresh lime while you are zesting it. You’ll know what to do, let your ingredients be your guide…

With love,

Jane


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