Several months ago, I began having this series of dreams about being on the Next Food Network Star. My culinary point of view is that being in the kitchen does not have to be stressful; it can be zenful. The name of my show in my dream was going to be The Zenful Kitchen. Over the last several months, I have had this same dream. The only difference being that, like the show, there was a decreasing number of people against whom I was cooking each week. This past week, I had the dream one last time and the focus group and the judges all selected The Zenful Kitchen as the winner of the Next Food network Star.
I thought the dream was neat for a couple of reasons. One was that I was going to have an opportunity in my dream to share with people what it is about the kitchen and the experience in the kitchen that is zenful. The other was that all the sets and the living quarters were completely accessible so I could participate in each of the competitions using my wheelchair.
Immediately after winning in my dream, I woke up because I could hear my friends cheering for me in my sleep and it sounded as if they were in my bedroom. I came to my Facebook page and wrote about my dream and several of my friends encouraged me to create the online version of The Zenful Kitchen. This is how The Zenful Kitchen came into being.
So why did I decide to call this The Zenful Kitchen? Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk, wrote this about Zen. He said it is “A special transmission outside the scriptures; No dependence on words and letters; Direct pointing to the mind of man; seeing into one's nature and attaining Buddhahood.” Being able to attain a zenful state is the ability to realize a state of enlightenment in one’s own time. “Zazen melts away the mind-forged distances that separate man from himself; leads one beyond himself as knower, to himself as known. In Zazen, there is no reality outside what exists here and now. (http://www.amacord.com/taste/essays/zen.html).” When I am in the kitchen, whether it is washing dishes, preparing a menu, peeling grapefruit, or chopping onions, they all contribute to my being present with the universe in a way that I experience no other place.
I think my first zenful experience in the kitchen came after reading about Brother Lawrence’s discussion of eating a tangerine in the collection of his letters Practicing the Presence of God. To be honest, I am not sure I had ever been that mindful about what I was eating before then. It was just food. Some tasted better then others, but it was just food. After reading his book, I ate an orange being mindful of every sensation of eating that orange. I was mindful of the smell of the orange, the texture of the orange peel, the juice that sprayed up as I peeled it. For the first time in my life, the whole process of eating an orange became far more then just eating an orange. Eating an orange that day with a state of mindfulness and awareness became a multi-sensory experience, which allowed me to appreciate that particular orange for the complex, and amazing gift that it is. Every orange I have eaten since then I have come to appreciate in the same way. No longer am I just shoving orange segments in my mouth. Eating an orange now becomes an experience where I am mindful of every aspect of the experience.
All this writing about oranges has made me wish I had one. Maybe it is time for me to have that zenful experience with a grapefruit. J