The Zen of Cooking

I love cooking. I love baking. I love finding recipes and making food that people enjoy. And yeah, I really love eating it too!

But certain things I hate doing. Like chopping potatoes. It seems to take FOREVER! Especially if I’m chopping it into little pieces to make fried country potatoes or hash. Normally I try to rush through it as fast as I can, usually managing to cut myself in the process.

But today…something was different today.

I stopped. I slowed down. I took each slice of potato separately (instead of trying to stack three or four slices together that all slide apart every which way). I made slow, deliberate cuts in each piece. Chopping them slowly and carefully.

Instead of being frustrated that it was taking so long, I found I was enjoying the process!

It became a sort of meditation. Making myself slow down. The sound of the knife as it chopped through the white flesh of the potato. The feel of it scraping across the cutting board. The sight of the bowl of cut potato slowly rising until it made a little mountain with ‘boulders’ that kept rolling off the side.

Breathe In. Slice. Breathe out. Slice.

How many of us can say we take the time to enjoy what we are cooking? Not just the things we make after, how they smell or taste. But the act of cooking itself.

The smell of the herbs as they heat up in the pan. The smoothness of the garlic as I chop and press it. The spice of the habanero and jalapeno peppers as I toss them in. The sound of the food sizzling in the pan. The feel of the wooden spoon in my hand.

So many times I’m rushing my cooking, my mind on so many other things. Trying to get it done so we can do other things on our busy schedule. Or just cooking to get it done so I can get to the funner aspect of eating.

Yet maybe I’ve found a new way to enjoy cooking. Letting it slow me down.

Today made me ask why I don’t slow down more. What gets in my way that I can’t enjoy the act of cooking? Of life? Because let’s face it. Very rarely do I (or a lot of other people) really let ourselves experience the world around us. When was the last time you just sat and watched a flower? Or a river as it rushed by? A bird in your backyard? Or just sat in meditation for more than a minute, letting your thoughts drift and balancing yourself with the world around you?

The answer? It’s been a while. But I want to change that.

I need meditation. I need balance. The more I seek it, the more energy and happiness I feel in my life. I know, people make it seem all mystical and something hard to achieve. All the mantras and poses and whatever else that they try to sell you online.

But really meditation is just slowing down. Focusing on a task to the exclusion of all other thoughts in your mind. Engaging your senses and allowing yourself to feel, see, touch, taste, smell. To forget about this practice and that test and that bill that’s due next week or an appointment you promised to make. To let your mind drift, slow down.

I always try to make meditation so hard. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be something as simple as slowing down.

It may seem odd to find your zen cutting potatoes. But that’s exactly what I did.

What’s your Zen?

Snow days and Catching Up

So I haven’t blogged for a really long time. I was kind of getting tired of social media, to tell you the truth. Everybody yelling and having an opinion. Everybody arguing over ‘what way is the right way’. Why am I blogging? What about my life is so interesting that anyone would care? Its not like this is actually going to ever be a business. I started putting a lot of pressure on myself, and the more pressure I put on myself to ‘be something to someone’ or ‘make something out of it’, the less I actually wanted to write. But then I remembered the reason for starting this blog. It’s a journal of my life. My adventures. My stories. My thoughts. And if someone else gets something from it, cool.

That’s it. That’s all.

A lot has happened. I started school in August at the age of 36 to finally finish my bachelor’s degree. I’m loving being back in school, as I’ve always loved learning. Yet it’s really driven home how much I have actually grown up, being around the ‘younger kids’. Yes, I really did catch myself saying that. Kids. I honestly have to say I stopped and shuddered when I said that. But its the truth. On one hand, its great to see their optimism and ‘we can change’ the world attitudes. But listening to some of their opinions, I honestly am going ‘yeah, yeah, let’s see what you think in 10 years after working a job and watching all your hard earned money go in taxes that always seem to be going up and nothing seems to be getting better’. Ok, I’m a little cynical about government and taxes. Who isn’t?

I am loving school. I’m going to Metro State in Denver, which is a beautiful campus. Next semester, I’m even trying a tai chi class. Something I’ve always wanted to try.

This past weekend it snowed, and being cooped up in the house allowed me to get caught up and catch my breath. Got some photos edited that have been sitting on my desktop for months. Got my schoolwork caught up. Got some work done for the new Trials club I’m helping to co-found (which has been super-exciting to be a part of). The boyfriend and I cleaned the house from top to bottom (trying to ferret out whatever virus keeps making us sick). And I finally got to a place, sitting in front of the fireplace, where I wanted to blog again.

Because that was why I had originally started my blog, all those ages and incarnations ago. Just to write. Just to put down my story. An online journal that I could decorate with photos and videos. Sharing my story because it was fun.

I was just telling my boyfriend how happy it was that it snowed. While I enjoy the milder weather of Colorado (can’t complain when you can ride your motorcycle year round), I miss the winters of Iowa growing up. Getting snowed in for days at a time. This weekend, curled up by the fire, I had nothing to distract me from writing and reading and enjoying myself. I was forced to stop, to slow down, to relax. Too many weeks of school and chores and projects blend into weekends riding and running around (and more projects). Weeks turn into months turn into a year until I finally collapse from exhaustion because I’ve been too busy to listen to my body tell me I need to slow down.

Sometimes I think I need to have a snow day even when its sunny outside. To forget this modern idea of ‘you must be busy all of the time’. To shut the world out and say ‘no, I’m taking some time for me and I’m not going to be ashamed about that’. To not have an excuse to not be doing something.

Monday Meditation: The Power of Disconnecting

Soft music plays on my computer. Incense burns beside me, white sage and lavendar, to calm and cleanse. The crystals are arrayed in a grid before me. Tiger’s eye for focus. Selenite to cleanse. Citrine for happiness. Carnelian for energy. Amethyst for clear thinking. Snowflake obsidian for protection. Dragon’s blood for creativity. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath in. Letting my mind drift, falling into the music. Clearing it of all the clutter that bogs the modern mind. All the negativity and drama. All the fear and uncertainty. It’s like a shower for your mind. Coming out clean and refreshed.

I posted a little while ago about my discovery of crystals and meditation. I admit, I used to laugh at it. I was taught to fear it. That is was evil. That it was going to send me to hell. But growing up has taught me a few things. That the only truly evil thing in this world is to live with a closed mind. To not be open to new things. Because sometimes the thing you need the most is the thing you never thought you would do.

Like a lot of other people in this world I’m caught up in electronics. I’m on Facebook way too much. I’ve been haunting Instagram lately, trying to get my photography out there. And even though I try, you can’t help but be caught up in the latest ‘oh my god can you believe this’ drama that the media cooks up. The fake news, the people that believe it, the storm that never seems to go away.

Sometimes its nice to remind myself that I need to disconnect. To get away.

Yesterday I went trials riding with my boyfriend and some other friends. The place is off the grid. No phones. No messages. No media. Just a whole day in the sunshine. In the mountains. Talking. Laughing. With nothing but the bird song and the thrum of the motorcycle engine. Working to perfect that wheelie. Speaking of which, finally got my nose wheelie! Working to get up that rock without hitting that skid plate. Working every muscle in my body until I’m exhausted. Happy. Cleansed.

Tomorrow I’m going to go horse back riding. No phones. No messages. No media. Just me and the horse, talking to each other. Working together. Feeling the power of this 800 lb animal beneath me. The energy of it. I always end up exhausted and dirty, but feeling amazing.

Tomorrow night I’m doing yoga. Started doing it two times a week with the boyfriend. 45 minutes of no messages. No media. No phones. Just stretching and listening to the calming music. Feeling the energy flowing through my body. Feeling the muscles stretch. Discovering the muscles that haven’t stretched in a while!

And meditating in the mornings. As I was meditating this morning, I felt driven to write this little piece. Because I’m realizing how connected I am to my phone. I was on it first thing this morning, before I even got out of bed. And why? What was so important? Nothing, really.

It’s easy to get caught up in drama. In news. In negativity. I don’t realize how much of that stuff I carry within me, long after I’ve shut off the phone. How much it affects me.

Not to say I won’t ever get on Facebook again. Obviously I will. I’ll message people, talk to them on the phone. I’ll watch a TV show tonight. Because there’s nothing wrong with technology. With the modern world. With entertainment. I mean, this blog is my journal. I want to grow my photography, and that takes social media. I’m going to school to be a technical writer, and most of that’s online nowadays.

It’s when we get too caught up in the negativity. In binge watching (oh yes, I’ve lost many days to watching TV). In obsessively scrolling for the latest ‘news’ from our friends. In the fake news and drama that it becomes hurtful. Harmful. Wasteful.

But I wanted to write this piece as a reminder to myself. And to whomever else might need it this morning. We need to take time to cleanse ourselves. To disconnect from the world. To wash off all the negativity and drama that life sometimes feeds us. To stop that ‘blah’ feeling, the one that seems to drag us down but we don’t know what it is.

So find the things that cleanse you. Maybe its exercise. Maybe its curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Maybe its crystals. Or meditation. Or playing a game of pool with your friends. Whatever it is. Just disconnect from the phone and go do it.

Find the energy that feeds you. That cleanses you. Disconnect and find your own peace.