I can multi-task with the best of them – talk on the phone while I mix bread dough, watch a movie while I fold laundry, read a book while I ride in the car, etc. It helps pass the time which makes things seem more enjoyable. In the back of my mind, however, I often wonder what I’m missing along the way.
A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about this sort of thing while watching a trailer for “How to Cook Your Life” and remembering a scene in the kitchen where Edward Aspe Brown is talking about mindfulness. He goes on (more or less) to explain what he’s written elsewhere on the same subject. In fact, for the non-video types, there’s a fantastic article over at Shambhala Sun called “Let Your Passion Cook” where he writes:
When I asked Suzuki Roshi for his advice about working in the kitchen, he said, “When you wash the rice, wash the rice. When you cut the carrots, cut the carrots. When you stir the soup, stir the soup.” Though very similar, this is not the same as, “be mindful in the kitchen,” which makes it sound like you have two things to do: washing and being mindful, cutting and being mindful, stirring and being mindful. What would that mindfulness part look like? Probably a bit stiff, as your impulse will be to move slowly and carefully so that only a moderate amount of energy and emotion arises to meet the circumstances. In other words most people hear be mindful as keep yourself in check.
Yet what is magnificent and magical is finding out how to manifest the cutting of carrots with your whole body and mind; how to wash the rice with your eyes and your hands, connecting consciousness with the senses and the world—not just going through the motions.
Of all the things Brown has said (in the movie and the article) this still stands out to me as plain as day (and as bright as newly fallen snow if I may venture into multiple clichés for a moment) so that now I’ve taken to repeating in my mind, “wash the rice,” whenever I catch myself wondering far away from where I stand. It’s not perfect (and I don’t always remember), but like I’ve said before, more often than not change comes in fits and starts and looks a whole lot more like work than miracle.
Here’s to the practice of everyday life!