Of course you want the turkey to be done. You'd like the mashed potatoes to keep warm, the stuffing to stay moist and the gravy to taste homemade. You're hoping the pies turn out, the guests turn up and the TV gets turned off. You'll be grateful to have it over with, but can you take a week of hectic cooking and turn it into a mindfulness practice?
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The sages did, and still do.
Mindfulness practice is exactly like preparing a holiday dinner. In fact, one of the most profound and practical texts in Zen, "Instructions for the Cook," was written nearly 800 years ago for the monastery kitchen staff.
That ancient teaching inspires these 7 ways to prepare your Thanksgiving meal more mindfully.
Know Your Food
This isn't just a reminder to read labels or to choose local or organic ingredients. Contemplating the origin of your food makes you thankful. How? You can't really know all the ways your food comes to you, but you can appreciate the innumerable labors that support your life.
Make Grandma's Stuffing
Or Aunt Nancy's deviled eggs. Or Uncle Bud's deep-fried turkey. Emulate the masters. Reviving family recipes honors your ancestry, but more than that, it makes manifest the inconceivable truth that this one meal is the fulfillment of infinite lifetimes.
Watch Water Boil
A hot stove is a hotbed of mindfulness. Guard the pot as you would your own life and avoid mishaps. You will witness the miraculous transformation of string beans into a bounteous treasure. Food prepared with single-minded attention tastes better, because attention is love.
Angry? Frustrated? Holding on to stale grudges or bitter resentments? Leave extra seasonings on the side. Food is flavored by your attitude of mind, so keep yours even and sincere. The kitchen is no place for a grouch or a snob.
Bring Back the Kids' Table
Observe the harmonious order of things, and put what is suited to a high place in a high place, and what belongs in a low place in a low place. Those suited to a high place will settle there; those suited to a low place will settle there. Invite natural dignity and joy to reside side by side.
Serve Others First
Benefiting others simultaneously benefits you. Devote yourself wholeheartedly to the offering and then see for yourself. Nothing is quite as gratifying to the cook as a piled-up plate that comes back empty.
Do not worry about running out of food and you will not run out of food. If you have unlimited mind, you will have unlimited happiness — and turkey sandwiches for the next three days.
Karen Maezen Miller is an errant wife, delinquent mother, reluctant dog walker, and expert laundress, as well as a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher, or sensei, at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. She’s also the author of Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life, recently published by New World Library.