In the days preceding Earth Day 2012, many of us are reflecting on the state of our planet and our contributions to its loving care. This act of contemplation can generalize into awareness of other meaningful parts of our lives, including our love for food. The practice of living the organic lifestyle already connotes a deeper awareness of where and how our food is produced, but are we still mindful of our food once we start interacting with it?  Does cooking (our medium for playing with our food) become a monotonous chore or is it our opportunity to experience our food in a profound way?

If we desire a deeper connection with our food, we can readily achieve this through the practice of mindful cooking. Broadly defined, mindfulness is a conscious, nonjudgmental awareness of the vivacity in each moment. Mindfulness is also the practice of recognizing the conditions of happiness that are already filling our lives. It is a continuous savoring of the elements that matter most to us.

When applied to the realm of cooking, mindfulness can amplify the intensity of our experience by impelling our senses. Since cooking is a daily practice, the habit of mindfulness can more easily be fostered. Author and mindfulness practitioner, Ed Brown expounds further on the notion of mindful cooking. He describes mindful cooking as an exercise in coalescing our passions and our emotions; it is the act of letting these flavors of who we are participate in the flavors of our food.

While there is no prescribed “recipe” for practicing mindful cooking, there are a some basic suggestions that can aid in the development of the habit. According to The Mindfulness Bell, mindfulness around food begins with the practice of preparing the mind by ruminating over the five contemplations listed below.

Five Contemplations:

The Contemplations are spoken before cooking or before meals in the Order of Interbeing

  1. This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard, loving work.
  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
  3. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.
  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.
Once the mind has been prepared, the next step is to pay attention to the observations, feelings, and sensations that arise in each step of the cooking process. This attention will reward us with the multi-dimensions that cooking reveals and will elevate the experience beyond the mundane. Cooking will then become the medium for our happiness.
*Mindful Monkey image from Come Back to the Table
*Buddha image from Meditation Tips