There are so many good reasons to develop your practice of mindfulness and connecting to your intuition, and one of my favorites is cooking. For me, intuitive cooking means that I become present while cooking and allow my senses to direct me in the kitchen. This is quite different from what I used to do in the molecular biology lab, where everything had to be absolutely exact down to the microliter, and if it wasn’t it meant disaster. In fact, this is the exact opposite – general amounts, a little of this a little of that, deviations from the recipe (and/or no recipe at all) left and right, all combined to make the right balance of flavors and tastes. The overwhelming majority of times I do this it’s met with rave reviews from my family, and it’s a much nicer experience for me as the cook as well.
So what’s the secret behind cooking this way and how does one let their intuition do the driving while in the kitchen? It’s actually simpler than you might think and really comes down to being fully present in the moment while you are going about the food preparation. This may seem easier said than done if you’re like me and have a busy household with several kids all with demanding sports schedules, but it’s actually the perfect antidote to all that craziness. Here’s what works for me . . .
I usually start by thinking about what I’d like to create. If I have more time and am planning a more complicated meal, I think about how I want it to look, taste and combine as a whole to come together nicely. If it’s a mid-week quick and dirty, I still think about the overall composition, but with less detail. I typically keep in mind a balance of ingredients that hit the major nutrition quadrants – protein, veggies, grains and fats. I visualize what I want it to look and taste like – you don’t have to go into a major meditation on this, just picture it in your mind. If I’m using a favorite recipe, or am searching one of the common websites on-line, I read through the list of ingredients and instructions a few times to get the overall feel and timing for what I’m creating. Next I get all of the ingredients out so I don’t have to go searching for them once I’m hitting my stride in the preparation. I like seeing everything out and together to help me get a feel for how I’m going to combine them. What else would make this dish yummy that wasn’t listed in the recipe? I think back on other meals I’ve had that were especially good and might add an ingredient or two to give it some more pizazz.
Now it’s time for the actual preparation, which inevitably includes chopping/dicing of some sort, and provides a perfect opportunity to climb into the moment and get present. In fact, it may just happen without you trying. You know when you’re doing something mundane like washing the dishes and find yourself in a relaxed state of awareness where your thoughts seem to freely coalesce into insights? That’s where we want to go. As I start to chop, simmer, stew and combine, I allow myself to relax into the moment and really enjoy what I’m doing. I usually find myself making deliberate movements, taking my time and focusing on what I’m doing. As I focus, I feel myself shift into the present and the stress of the day starts to slip away. It’s become my end of the day meditation, and has turned evening mealtime into something I look forward to as opposed to feeling like it’s a burden. It’s my “me” time and I love it. Even though I’ve got the 3 kids with their own individual needs, no one is going to fault me for focusing on making them dinner!
Once I’m in the shifted state, feeling relaxed, present and de-stressed, the rest of the evening goes much better for all. Happy mommy = happy household. What happens with the meal is that when I’m in that relaxed, yet alert state of awareness I am a much better cook – because I’m tapping into that place inside of me where my intuition and creativity live. I’m adding ingredients, making additions, and creating from a place of peace and contentment. Because I have studied Reiki, I also inevitably do a little energy work on the meat I’m adding into the meal as well. This is optional, of course, but I find even a short acknowledgment of the sacrifice this animal made for my family and humanity makes a difference in how I feel about consuming it. And since I believe my thoughts and emotions create my reality, it pays to be mindful of the ingredients I use and how they are effecting the overall experience. If you haven’t used energy work before, just say a little thank you and take a moment to feel gratitude toward the animal and its sacrifice – it will also have the benefit of connecting you to your food more closely.
As you sit down and enjoy your meal, whether alone or with your family, try to stay in that relaxed state of awareness and feel your appreciation for what you have in front of you grow. You’ve created something beautiful and that is something to be proud of. And if your kids refuse to eat some of it (like mine do half the time) just know that you’ll have leftovers for tomorrow and it will make your life that much easier tomorrow!