Last weekend I was in the kitchen stirring up a storm in the cauldron preparing our family favorite, lamb roast.
A friend commented, watching you makes it look like cooking is meditation, you put so much focus into what you do.
Hadn’t ever thought of cooking as a method of finding inner peace. The more I thought about it, the more it felt therapeutic.
Suddenly the beautiful hues of the bell peppers, broccoli and aubergine sitting on the cutting block reflected the sunlight.
All came together for that perfect mental picture.
My friend’s comment may have been casual and complimentary, yet in a moment it brought me back to a much-channeled awareness of the moment.
It made me mindful! Even though I may have been focusing on the meal I was preparing, however, it may not have been a meditative moment for me.
In the days that followed, I became more mindful of the cooking is meditation principle.
My eyes began to take notice the amazing hues of the veggies, the white gurgling fresh milk, and the golden honey trickling on the waffles.
I started to feel the overwhelming energy of the food being cooked in the pan as I mixed in ingredients and stirred the broth.
The gentle sizzle of the butter was vibrating in my ears – as it sets off in the frying pan to add taste and crispiness to the garlic I tossed in later.
It relaxed my body, and quietened my mind, it soothed my spirit and got me centered.
Also read the best ways of getting the most out of your work time read: Mindfulness at Work
I learned that the ‘mad about cooking’ enthusiasts have for a long time now recognized that kitchen time, cutting and splicing and sautéing and stirring is indeed therapeutic.
Much like meditation, says food writer Ellen Kanner, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost, “Preparing a meal is unlike anything else I do in the course of a day, it’s a nourishing, centring act that gets me to slow down and focus.”
Indian film star and fitness guru Shilpa Shetty can’t agree more as she says, “I find cooking very therapeutic. As a creative person, I relish cooking because it’s such a creative process. You can cook anything out of anything.”
Some of the best cooks needn’t follow a recipe or a cookbook as they know instinctively by the mere touch, feel and aroma if the salt is right or the bread is baked.
All of us have that friend or Aunt who knows how to cook a finger-licking delicious meal, no matter what the ingredients are. The recipe is mostly invented as if it is an artist painting on fresh canvas – you never know what will be cooked next.
In fact, the medical community is increasingly taking the cooking is meditation mantra to a new level. Baking, for instance, is a great example of cooking being meditation, if done the mindful way.
Donna Pincus, Associate Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University explains it well. She says, “Baking actually requires a lot of attention. You have to measure, focus physically on rolling out the dough.”
She added, “If you’re focusing on smell and taste, on being present with what you’re creating, that act of mindfulness in that present moment can also have a result in stress reduction.”
Psychiatrists and counselors are now using cooking a tool to treat people suffering from mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Cooking is used as part of the treatment for a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions. For example depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, and addiction.
London psychiatrist Mark Salter, “Cooking and baking activities are therapeutic for patients with depression. They stimulate cognition, get people working on memory tasks and allow patients to connect with a feeling of nurturing and protection.”
In fact, Salter goes on to give the meditation cooking connect a bigger spin saying, “I’d argue that cooking and baking have another benefit, the possibility of sharing, and the enrichment of interpersonal relationships that occurs as a result.”
Cooking with a partner or for a partner is a great time for bonding. Moreover, if the cooking is done together it leads to twice the mindfulness communication and corporation.
So while one cuts the veggies on the block the other can knead the dough or get the oven ready.
Cooking with your partner also gives you the chance to make what the other likes. Therefore it is a spinach and corn in cheese sauté for one and potato bake for the other.
Cooking a meal and sharing it means setting aside differences and grudges and focusing on the task at hand.
Family therapist Lisa Bahar, LMFT, LPCC, encourages her clients to practice meditation in the kitchen. As an example, she describes peeling and sectioning a tangerine for a fruit salad, “Start by observing its skin—the color, the touch, the smell,” she says.
Then, as you peel and section the fruit, notice the moment-to-moment sensations. Watch the spray of juice when you break through the peel.
Finally, pop one of the peeled tangerine sections into your mouth, and savor the juiciness and flavour.
Here are some tips to help you meditate while you sliver slice and sauté and achieve as much mindfulness in the kitchen as you can :
Before you begin to cook look around you at the kitchen notice the colors sound and smells that surround you.
Tune in to the sound the oven as you light it. The fridge as it whirrs in the background and the gleam of the kitchen knives on the counter.
Close your eyes! Take a few deep breaths. In your mind look around to try and picture the space you are in with all its harmonies and contrasts.
Open your eyes and quickly assemble the ingredients you need. Stay in the moment and feel all of them, lovingly holding them in your hand.
The shape of the tomato the rough outer peel of the onion the aromatic smell of the fresh basil.
Take it all in close your eyes for a moment. Thank the Universe for the journey of all these ingredients and everyone who made this possible.
The farmers! The working hand on the farm and the trader who bought it from him. To the shopkeeper who you bought the veggies from.
It’s with an attitude of gratitude that you begin your cooking.
As you are chopping and cutting stay focused as the knives are sharp. However, try and go beyond to listen to the washing of the veggies in the sink.
The sound of the knife cutting through the veggies to the board.
The feel of cheese as you grate it and it falls into the plate below
However, as you flip the lid of the pot, feel the vapours rise and hit your face laden with rich aromas.
It’s all happening out there and you are mindful of the process.
Often there is little to do after placing the food in the oven or on the cooktop as it cooks.
I find this the perfect time to meditate. I sit in a chair not too far from the oven or the cooking range. Closing my eyes I breathe in deeply taking in all the sounds and smells in the kitchen as I follow my breath. Try this a few minutes at a time and stay alert to the changing smells and sounds in the kitchen.
Feel the temperature in the kitchen as it rises and the aromas of the food as it cooks or the bread as it bakes. Just enjoy and be in the moment, these are your perfect moments of mindfulness in the kitchen.
Read to learn about meditation and mindfulness watch our How to meditate videos
‘Cooking is meditation’ practice should not end when the meal is ready. Moreover, as you eat – notice how all the ingredients came together to bring you the flavours and taste you simply adore.
And yes eat slowly. The slower you eat the focused and mindful the process of eating will be.
Cooking is meditation is a fine mix of matter and mindfulness practices, The benefits are a promise of health and opportunity to return to me. And I would not miss that for anything.
Do you feel that cooking is a meditation process as well? We would love to hear from you on it as well Let’s connect leave your comments below.