A mirror of the cook’s mind
The kitchen, when viewed through a certain lens, is a mirror of the cook’s mind. How well is it organized? How efficient is it? Does it maintain its own existence in equanimity or does it fall into disarray?
As I have worked in the Shala kitchen, I have experienced the multi-tiered processing of my mind. Often times thinking tends to be linear, that is, from A to B. When thought flows in a linear process we concern ourselves with ostensibly separate parts and generally do not notice the “big picture” until something has gone wrong. But in the kitchen thinking must morph into a web-like structure, networking thought and process together into a cohesive whole. This type of understanding allows for our thought processes and our subsequent actions to spiritualize— or to manifest and align according to what is actually happening.
Observation and the big picture
Working in the kitchen as a way to meditate on my own mind showed me that developing a particular state of observation is necessary in order to see any process in the context of the “big picture”. This state of observation evolves into an ability to intuitively sense the relationships between the many levels of activity in the kitchen (and in my mind), and to embody constant state of maintenance of those levels so that things flow smoothly.
Having a teacher, a process map, and a willingness to go through trial by fire are a few necessary tools to help one realize such a state of maintenance. It is also important to be able to communicate clearly and change roles when necessary. Learning to play a role that is part of a larger whole can be incredibly frustrating, but if everything follows a structured process and people know and play their role, the people remain free. However, if one becomes identified in a way that is separate from the functioning of the whole she is swamped in the process and energy is squandered, which causes mistakes and imperfection.
Developing the kitchen mind
I have only come close to realising the state of maintenance and perfection through trial by fire: that is, by making many, many mistakes. On countless occasions I have been paralysed by becoming emotionally invested in the outcome of a meal. In doing so the kitchen began to fall into disarray, and as such it was a direct reflection of the conflicted inner workings of my mind. But by having a teacher who consistently sees the big picture and is willing to point out where I have become lost or distracted, and a willingness to take constructive criticism, I have seen my mind transform. Whereas once behaved like one of many balls being jolted around a pinball machine, I now enter the kitchen with “kitchen mind”- – as the Pinball Wizard – – directing and willing all the parts of the machine into a harmonious flow that sometimes approaches perfection.
Working and training in the Shala kitchen can beat your mind into freedom. It is a challenge that, if accepted, will exercise and condition your mind into a well-trained, well-balanced organism capable of mental marathons.
– Written by Read