Perhaps it was because I spent a good part of the day in the kitchen baking loaves of bread, that I began to think about why the process of bread making is so spiritual for me. With most of the breads that I bake, it always starts with a little yeast mixed with water and sugar. Water, in most spiritual traditions is life giving and spiritually cleansing. Conversely, it has been suggested that as people evolve spiritually, they have less craving and a lower tolerance for sugar. Perhaps, that is why when preparing the yeast mixture there is a significant amount of water and yeast, but very little sugar.
Bread is one of those foods, which you can find present in any culture in the world and used in the spiritual traditions of many faith traditions. The magical ingredient in bread is the yeast. According to the research, Louis Pasteur first discovered how yeast works in 1859. The power of the yeast is activated in its interaction with the water and the sugar. Interestingly, we get to see in the bowl or glass you mix these three ingredients in, the same things that happen to the flour when we add it and in our lives.
After mixing the yeast, water, and sugar, one can watch as the yeast feeds on the sugar producing carbon dioxide and causing the mixture to get foamy and bubbly. When you add the yeast mixture and other fluids to the dough, it does the same thing. The yeast feeds on the starches in the flour creating carbon dioxide, which expands the glutens and cause the dough to rise and expand.
The next few steps involve kneading the dough, allowing it to rise, punching it down, and then allowing it to rise again before it is baked to perfection. It dawned on me that this is how the universe works with us; we are activated by the mixture of ingredients. We then experience some kneading to smooth out our beliefs and values, then we are allowed to rise, but just when we are at the verge of getting too puffy, life hands us an opportunity to be punched down and any egotistic puffiness to be removed from us. The second time we rise, it is for less time, and then we are baked to perfection
It is as if bread represents the yin and the yang in life. Yeast, the leavening agent, is thought of in most spiritual traditions as transcending the physical world. At the same time, this puffiness has also been equated to having an inflated sense of self and ego. The yeast is necessary to make the bread rise, but if it overinflates then the bread can sour. The spiritual yeast in our lives is necessary for us to grow and evolve, but too much can prevent us from evolving and elevating spiritually.
The punching down of the bread (us) is necessary to achieve that balance between our desire to evolve and grow spiritually and the desires, which draw us away from the spiritual journey. It is only once the bread is put into the oven and baked to perfection that the battle between the various aspects of the yeast is held in permanent balance.