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Food as a Spiritual Practice

Food as a Spiritual Practice

By the age of 10, I had learned that when one eats what other folks have prepared for you to eat, and if you comment on it with some kind of pleasure, the rewards are profound.  I would have to say my brain lights up!

By age 20 I had become a knowledgeable and practicing vegetarian.  Yes, you can still eat pizza, which truly combines some of my most favorite tastes into bliss.

When I got married I brought with me my three spiritual practice books:  The Joy of Cooking, The Tassajara Bread Book and Tassajara Cooking.   One contained all the basic things I needed to know and conversation tables and the other two were from the first Buddhist –Zen Monastery in the United States.

I also bought myself a stone mill to grind hard wheat berries and a 100 pound bag of Canadian Wheat in sealed storage containers.

When I took my Certification training in Mediation the world renown instructor said, “The best advice I can give you when mediating in a new place is eat the local food and enjoy it with outspoken pleasure.”

My mother was an okay cook, who later in life resented doing so much of the cooking for her family.

I discovered early on that I could heal many problems with food.  I loved to knead bread.  I made my food love and eating success into my spiritual practice.

I did cooking every day.  With the skills I learned practicing with cooking, I could find pleasure in chopping wood, cleaning, and especially laundry.  (Never mastered ironing)

When three of my family members were discovered to have Celiac Disease, I turned my energies into make healing foods for them. I would truly say out loud without any reservations, I am one of the leading experts on this malady and how to cook and heal with food – in the world.  I gave them all my love and ignored my needs and my wants.

I have come back to ME.  I am coming home to my food love and love of eating.  I am working very hard at healing my whole self.  I am putting my muscles and mind to work at making the most beautiful and loving food for me; that I can find pleasure and reward that sets my mind to symphony crescendo.  I am grateful to be so smart and creative that my hands and heart can read my knead.

Here is the ZEN Story that inspired this practice:

A young monk was assigned to make the bread for the monastery.  While he was kneading the bread he began to wonder at just what might be the perfect food for one to eat.  He decided that it was the apple, which required no cooking thus would be the perfect food to eat.  This monk then chose to practice this decision by eating only 1 apple a day for a whole year.  He also had water but no tea.

The young monk lost a bit of weight the first few weeks of his practice, but it was not too much. He remained healthy and was able to do his work and his other practices assigned to him.  At the end of the year the Master asked him what he had learned. His reply:  “to enjoy one’s apple.”

The Tassajara Cooking book by Edward Espe Brown begins with this writing:

Cooking is not a mystery.
The more heart we put out
The more heart we put in.
To bring cooking alive
We give our life.
Giving our life willingly we don’t
Get put out.
Washing cutting cooking cleaning,
Exploring ways to give life to our life.
Not knowing already how and what to do,
Practice feeling it
Out of what is not known
Through the warmth and anxiety,
Not sticking to a particular way,
Insisting it is the only way
Even though it is quite good;
Open to feeling the various possibilities,
The tentative ways of giving life to our life.

To feel out our left hand, our back, our toes,
To feel out our breathing, our movements, our stance,
This is our freedom, this is our wisdom.
The mystery is that it is possible to do
What we don’t know how to do.

What practice do you do just for your own reward and pleasure? I truly do enjoy your comments and look forward to them.

Other related posts you might enjoy:
Breakfast with Buddha
Ladybugs
Animal Vegetable Miracle

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18 Responses to “Food as a Spiritual Practice”

  1. Dot Says:

    I’m so glad you’ve gotten past the self-sacrifice and are taking good care of yourself. And what a great way to do so! As for me, I don’t have a spiritual practice, but walking in beautiful places is something I do purely for myself. Actually, having spent my childhood and young adulthood in self-sacrifice, I do a lot of things purely for myself now. 😀

  2. Patricia Says:

    Dot,
    It is nice to be the focus of my attention – and working towards my peak of creativity with deliberate action. It is just the economic situation that is disrupting the journey and I am trying to creatively work around that….No, I am not just trying, I am actively releasing that stress.

  3. Talon Says:

    Lovely post, Patricia. Simple pleasures are so fine – and the acts of cooking and eating are sharing love.

    I smiled at your ironing comment – it’s my least favorite chore in the world so I could relate!
    .-= Talon´s last blog ..Make like a tree… =-.

  4. Patricia Says:

    Talon,
    Thank you for coming on by and your kind words. I truly think vacuuming might be my least favorite but I can meditate while doing it – iron is right up there with not liking! and can not focus anywhere else…

  5. Sara Says:

    Patricia — As cooking is to me the way ironing is to you, I read this post with thoughts of my eldest daughter and my boyfriend who both love cooking.

    My thing is more cleaning/oiling wood furniture. I have lots of old hand me downs, which I will clean with this special wood oil. It probably sounds silly, but I get a real charge out of seeing the wood soak in the oil and darken. I also love the smell of it. In some ways, it’s like cooking. You use your hands, lots of oil and it smells yummy:~)

    Still, as usual, I enjoyed this post because it’s you writing it. I copied the intro to the Tassajara Cooking book because I thought it was great. I want to send it to my daughter and give it my boyfriend.

    Thank you for this wonderful post:~)
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Picture Story: What do you see? =-.

  6. Patricia Says:

    Sara,
    Thank you for the kind words. I can get to a focused and enjoyable state cleaning too…just not as quickly as cooking. Are we not lucky to have these regular practices in our lives?

  7. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    “I am one of the leading experts on this malady and how to cook and heal with food – in the world. ” Would you consider writing a blog about it?
    .-= vered | blogger for hire´s last blog ..Stupid Beauty Trends =-.

  8. Patricia Says:

    Vered,
    I don’t know because folks like Davina make there money from this information….I have always given it away free?

    …and then there were all those years of cooking and cleaning with the right things to heal…and making sure Drs did not prescribe anxiety medication…hmmm

    …and I am always amazed at all the folks who don’t really want to know or take care of themselves….hmmm I am contemplating…

    and now there are kits of all kind…hmmm

  9. SnaggleTooth Says:

    Now that I’m by myself, (a decade now) cooking is very simplified. I’ll cook only one food item after work, then eat the leftovers together as a meal later in the week. I’ve been oven challenged, n really miss it! Been trying to bake in the toaster oven, but it’s trial n error.
    My grandmother’s holiday recipes will always give me the most comfort, I think. (don’t know how I’d convert those for Celiacs)Wish I had the oven… My next try will be pumkin pie in a rectanular bread pan-

    I do remember the Joy of cooking on my Mother’s shelf. Thanks for the wonderful Tassajara prose!
    .-= SnaggleTooth´s last blog ..Yel Low =-.

  10. J.D. Meier Says:

    Food is one of my best experiences in life. When I travel, I make it a point to eat the local food and soak up the culture and history.

    Is Celiac Disease preventable?
    What are the keys to curing it?
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..4 Stages of Competence =-.

  11. Evita Says:

    Hi Patricia

    This was a very healing reflection…yes go back to yourself and discovering back all sides of you.

    Getting back in touch with ourselves is such a healing in itself.

    Love the story about the monk! Thank you for sharing.

    As for me, cooking is a joy because I am putting in time for me – to nourish this – my physical body – and more and more I don’t even call it cooking as I am eating more and more raw. And that feels really good too.

    A lot of people are afraid to cook or say they can’t, but for me cooking is all about expressing personal creativity… all of us have that!
    .-= Evita´s last blog ..Green Beaver: A Canadian Natural Personal Care Product Company =-.

  12. Patricia Says:

    Snaggletooth,
    I know what it is like to live without an oven – I did 3 years with just a MW on top of the refrigerator and a clawfoot bathtub…and it was tough and taught a lot of creativity! I am researching a table top convection oven right now – My mum had one when she moved into her small apartment and it just worked like a wonder…
    I am wondering if the recipe for Impossible Pumpkin Pie is on line…no crust and works well in many shapes.

    I think pumpkin pie works in tart pans too…which would fit.

    Simple food is the best for one I think…but sometimes that does not qualify for comfort!

  13. Patricia Says:

    JD
    The “experts” do not believe that Celiac Disease is preventable, I question that since I have found Canadian research that shows the dis-ease is 98% passed on….so if you know your parent or grandparent has Celiac D. you might be able to not eat Gluten’s and dairy for a generation and modify the genetic disposition out of the system.

    CD is huge in our state like MS and is part of the mystery…CD is huge in countries dependent on wheat like countries that are dependent on rice have high rice allergies and intolerance.

    Generations off do not discover they have CD until they get ill from something else – Rheumatoid Arthritis or pneumonia…
    The genetic modifier in my husband’s family was his grandfathers exposure to chemicals in the logging industry and then the release of toxic material from Hanford….

    Canada found dozens of people in Mental Hospitals misdiagnosed as various depressions and anxiety diseases and when they eliminated gluten they had amazing recovery and were able to get on with their lives.

    CD folks need lots of exercise – daily….need to listen to their body messages – need to understand the other allergy problems associated with the genetic change, understand depression and
    eat with great care.

    Not having a spontaneous heart attack or spontaneous blindness from macular degeneration seems worth it to me to understand…but most folks try to avoid knowing…so they can be “normal”
    I think when you listen to your body and eat what it needs then one can live normally and fully – we all need different foods.

    Then to answer in the energy medical realm – why not heal it completely?

    My partner avoids conflict, so he doesn’t like to know what his body is telling him or make change….he does let me feed him and he will eat on program to avoid confrontation with me…
    I have put his Rheumatoid Arthritis in remission 6 times now, but his brothers and niece who all have the same problem are just into taking the pills – all day long.

    I have long answers – sorry…I get so frustrated trying to get folks to make change…I see why Drs just hand out the pills..

    Stages begin with eliminating all gluten and dairy from the diet, this is very hard to do….Only eat organic free range chicken or turkey. Avoid grasses…..eating raw and organic is a good way to begin.

    Drink warm rice milk to sooth the cilia in the whole body…avoid antibiotics and synthetic vitamins like the plague….30 minutes aerobic exercise every day…

    Listen to classical music – softly everyday – those little cilia are in the ears and sinuses…..one it trying to take down inflammation for every nook and cranny of the body – lots of water…

    I will be glad to share more information via email…

  14. Patricia Says:

    Evita,
    I also love the rhythm in my hands when I am chopping and stirring and the lack of pressure about cooking too…I have been eating raw since August to work on healing my body, but have found I need to cook the winter beans!

    I make a very hearty whole wheat, oat honey bread which I have been having as a bun with a salmon patty 1 time per week to increase the omega 3s and B vitamins that are water soluble and do not stay long in the body…since October and this has helped with the craving issue on straight raw/vegan for me….

    The Monk’s story is wonderful – I think of it often.
    writing the blog is assisting me in getting more human contact into my life because as much as I love to eat – I need more human interaction and discussion to problem solve and move forward in my vision.

    Thank you for sharing with me :)

  15. Davina Says:

    Hi Patricia.
    Oh, I wouldn’t sell yourself too short. Yes there are a lot of nutritionists out there earning a living at this sort of thing. But there is room for everybody. Plus, you have years and years of valuable hands-on experience that could prove useful to a lot of people. I closed my nutrition business over a year ago… you can step into that space :-) I say, if you’re passionate about it and it “feeds” you, go for it!
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..93 Million Miles From Home =-.

  16. Patricia Says:

    Davina,
    I am truly in burn out with attempting to assist people with food and then they don’t follow through or have so many excuses – and then the “know it alls” just drive me up the wall…

    If I can model something here that supports someone – then that is good…I am attempting to get the skin products company to put ads on my space and the glutenfree dot com folks to put up a link…along with the vitamin company I have worked with for 18 years….I do not have enough subscribers…

    now I am focused after the ebook on building subscribers so that I can make some money with my expertise…

    The State will not give be a Counseling Lic. after 7/1/2010 and are not grandfathering me in after 20 years of service because they need to get the 8 year old self ordained Pastoral Counselors off the roll books and I did not do a Doctorate or write 5 best sellers….It was my choice to cook instead of study in school?

    Hope you are feeling better…I have been thinking about you all day and wishing it is so..

  17. Kay Lilland Says:

    What do I do just for myself?

    I groom my hair with No. 2 guard on the clippers! So freeing! My mother almost worshipped my hair–among my earliest memories.
    My first husband groused every time I had a haircut.

    Hooray for a buzz-cut!

  18. Patricia Says:

    OH Kay you make me smile a big smile!