Before the winter solstice comes about in a few days, the desire to hibernate and sleep is heavy upon me. I have found myself taking naps in the afternoon, looking forward to tuning out the world and resting my body. The biological urge is strong and getting up out of that slumber is somewhat disorienting, I forget where I am, my life, even who I am for a few moments.
Orienting back, preparing dinner, cutting each vegetable with solemn presence seems to remind me that yes, this is me, my life, the one I chose to be born into and create.
I had a profound experience in preparing food on a Reiki retreat, and that experience has yet to be duplicated, but here is what I remember:
“In the early morning on the second day (of the retreat), I took potatoes and onions to be cut up out into the woods to another cabin so I could chop them without disturbing the rest of the house.
With a timed light that had to be reset every 30 minutes, I chopped the potatoes with total presence.
I gave complete appreciation for the potatoes, and even more appreciation for the onions, which continually made me cry. There were no emotions with those tears, just a normal response to the fumes of the onion and giving respect for the power of nature.
I returned to the sleeping house and rested quietly until the first stirrings of the morning were heard.
The meal planning and preparation for me were self-imposed grounding and centering tools.
It makes me cry in appreciation of my intuition to make the decision to take on that extra burden rather than default to an easier path of having meals catered.
The kitchen, with all it’s quirkiness, became my inner sanctuary.”
But I will say, that being in the kitchen, now during these dark days, is still a sanctuary, a place for the simple and yet profound creation of sustenance.
Basic needs, food and sleep, occupying much of ordinary reality, but with mindful presence, they can become tasks that allow us to go deeper within.
Eating out immerses me in ordinary reality. I’m surrounding by the comings and goings of waitstaff, and digesting not only their energy, but that of the chef in the kitchen. What kind of day are they having? That intention is going into my food. Where is the food coming from? Cans? Fresh?
We all have our restaurants we like because the food and the atmosphere nurture us. Maybe even allow us to leave ordinary reality for a little bit while we take in the creations on our plates.
When I first tried Indian food in an out-of-the-way place somewhere beneath the streets of lower Manhattan, I was a teenager. I distinctly remember having the experience of pleasure for each new mouthful of exotic bread and curries that I shared with my friend. I was transported to another place, not just India, but some other expansive place just by that dinner.
Since that time, I’ve traveled the world to many countries, and exotic food, for me, is difficult to encounter, having eaten much in many places. But the freshness of food can also create a similar experience.
This past summer, while on the enchanted island of Santorini, in the Greek isles, I was in a simple restaurant overlooking the whitewashed houses that clung to the side of the rugged cliffs, the top of an ancient volcano. I ordered a simple salad of tomatoes, lettuce, feta cheese and olives. Each bite was like taking in the countryside and blue sea I was staring out to. I felt I was in communion with that salad. The waiter brought over a glass of retsina, the local wine that is aged in oak barrels. I felt as if I was traversing out into the vineyards. That meal lasted days within me, even though I sat there for under an hour. In writing about it, I can transport myself back there, as I can with other transformative meals I have had throughout my life.
Recreating them in my kitchen isn’t always possible, because the ingredients are what I am able to buy in my local environment. But every once and awhile, I’ve been told, the way in which I have prepared a meal has been infused, not only with Reiki, but with my intention of happiness and love and the diners who have been fortunate enough to have a taste have called the dinner unforgettable.
I call it an opportunity to transcend ordinary reality into something more.