Throughout my childhood, my mother tried to instill in me a sense and need for meditation. I went through the rigamarole of taking yoga classes, going to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living courses, attending lectures on J.Krishnamurti's teachings, and a failed attempt at going to a G.D Goenka's 21 day Vipassana course, where all you could do was remain silent. These activities were mostly fun ways of keeping me occupied over the summer holidays. I never took up any of this in my later adult life, except the passing phrases of getting back in shape by doing yoga.
So, have I learnt anything about meditation from any of this? Probably not. Today, I meditate by a very simple everyday means- cooking. I can imagine most of you squealing at the thought of calling cooking a 'meditation'. For most people, it is far from being relaxing. A lot of people take it to be a burden, like Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulder. You know, that thing you do on a daily basis just because you and your family have to eat. All the cutting, chopping, cleaning, washing vessels adds to the burden. For me and a countable bunch of people, cooking is highly meditative and relaxing. It is the one activity I turn to in order to get my mind away from the stress and strain of routine.
I let my mind wander as I chop the red onion into thin, long slices wiping tears off my cheeks, or cut Thai green chillies into pieces and accidentally snub my nose. Then, as I heat up the oil and grind some garlic, the mustard splutters up and distracts my wandering mind and naive thoughts. By now, I'm thinking of some new blogpost, forming ideas and thinking of new ways of looking at things. The spices go into the kadai and mix mellifluously with the gravy. Here, in the hot oil, every spice is rendered equal. A song has now crept into my mind and I'm humming or trying to get a gamaka in place. The vegetables now go in and it all begins to smell wonderful, the accompaniment to my melody. The birds chirping outside reminds me of the final garnishing, and I reach for the bottom rack of the fridge to bring out a fresh sprig of cilantro. The smell of fresh cilantro and what it does to my mind and senses, they dance in joy. By now, the thoughts have escaped to a world of their own, far away from my kitchen and the delicacy cooking on the stove. The cilantro goes on, I mix it all up and the dish is ready to be gobbled up.
This one hour of my day is the best one hour and sometimes even a very productive one, if I have been thinking of some piece of elusive data evading analysis. There are many poems, blog entries that have originated while I was making food. I think for me the principle is simple, learn to love what you do and it will love you back. Cooking is my passion, not an activity caused out of everyday, monotonic routine hood. If you love cooking, it will love you back.