Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How To Cook Your Life

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie that you liked the first time around, but the second time you came across it - that's when it spoke to you?

About a year and a half ago, Jay and I watched How To Cook Your Life, a documentary following Edward Espe Brown, a Zen Buddhist monk and chef, as he teaches people how to cook healthy food while nourishing their spirituality. Zen Master Dogen wrote a cookbook of the same name which  "taught that it is possible to discover Buddha in even the simplest of kitchen duties, such as washing rice or kneading dough, and so reflect on one’s own actions and behaviour in the world." At the time, I really liked it - Brown is an endearing, complex and funny character and the subject matter was interesting. What stuck with me after that first viewing is something he said when teaching his students in the film - "when you wash the rice, wash the rice" - essentially a cooking-related lesson in mindfulness and staying in the present.

Over the last several months, as we've made changes to our lifestyle and philosophy, we've noticed that certain things appear to be connected - where we read about permaculture, Zen philosophy often comes up. Take for example, One Straw Revolution, a must-read book for anyone interested in permaculture and organic gardening - many say that Zen beliefs are a central theme in Fukuoka's approach. Buddhism promotes compassion for each other as well as the Earth, less interference with nature, a focus on simple, healthy foods. Obviously, these are all ideas Jay and I can get on board with. Noticing this link between simplicity, permaculture and Buddhism, I decided to watch the movie again last night.

We found ourselves nodding throughout the show, agreeing with Espe Brown that our Western culture as it relates to food is totally out of whack. That we, in fact, have very little relationship to our food. That we are so focused on being on the go, on saving time, that we can't even be bothered to cook anymore. As he says in the movie, when you're cooking "your hands get to be hands again". Isn't that so true.

The film's focus on simple, organic food, preparing it with gratitude and mindfulness, wasting as little as possible, and slowing down enough to enjoy the fruits of your labour - how can you argue with that?

These are great lessons to take with you outside of the kitchen and into your life - be present, be mindful, respect each other and the Earth, value yourself enough to nourish your body and spirit rather than fill your body and mind with junk, enjoy simplicity, slow down. I think its possible to change how we think about food, about the earth, about our lives and I'm enjoying watching these little pieces fall into place in our own home and family - better food, less stuff, more time together, a mindful approach to life.

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