Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Today I baked. Not because I wanted to, but because I needed to. Why I needed to, continues to reveal itself. My initial reason was because I am not feeling well. Odd, you may be thinking. But for me, feeling sick is a daily thing. The severity may change, but not feeling well remains fairly constant. On days like today, it's important for me to just get up and move. This not only keeps my spirits up, but it actually works as a sort of physical therapy. Moving muscles and joints that would rather stiffen up and make my day miserable. Today, stirring a bowl of cookie dough was a pretty good workout. But as I moved through the exercise of the day, it became more and more apparent there was a deeper lesson to be learned.
I estimate I have been baking cookies for about 30 years. Somewhere along the way I memorized all the favorites and could bake a batch of cookies from scratch without a recipe in sight. In fact, I pride myself in this mastering of the culinary in quite a few regards. Just ask my family! "This is SO good! You'll have to give me the recipe!" I might hear. Only to retort with the utmost humility, "Oh, thank you! But I just threw a few things together, so I don't have a recipe." (no pretension there!)
The truth of the matter is, it's been a long time since I have actually baked what I would consider a "good" cookie. I remember when the girls were little, cookies came off the rack like there was no tomorrow. Now, it seems, I'm throwing stale cookies away with half eaten cake. I could probably convince myself that I have an extremely health conscious family and they are displaying amazing feats of will power. But the disappearance of 24 cans of pop in one day leads me elsewhere. Honestly, they just don't taste like they used to.
So, in the quietness of my own kitchen, I did what needed to be done. I searched the internet and found a five star recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. No more assumptions. No more throwing ingredients together in my own time saving manner. No more "a little of this and a little of that"! I followed the recipe like my life depended on it. Carefully lining up all ingredients prior to execution. Using only universally approved instruments of measure, I sliced off the top of the flour so perfectly it would have made any home economics teacher weep. It was definitely an exercise in self-control.
Because I was attempting to bake these cookies mindfully, I made it a point to work slowly. Paying attention to things like where the recipe came from, what the flour felt like, what instruments I needed, how fortunate I was to have such a beautiful kitchen to work in... As I looked at each ingredient, at each tool, at each bowl; as I thought about the floor that I stood on, the heat the radiated from my stove, the lights that shone above my work station....I could not help but to think of the interconnectedness of it all. And before I knew it, I was lost, swept away with thoughts of people, of lives, of stories. The farmer and his family, that planted the fields, harvested the crop, sold the grain. Their lives. What did they have for breakfast? What sacrifices did they make? Did the farmer's daughter lay in bed one night, tears in her eyes because during harvest she missed her father so? And what is the story of the stock boy who placed the bag of flour on the shelf? Or the assembly line worker that put the rubber piece on the end of my spatula, or the fingers that sewed the edges so perfectly on the towel that I wiped my hands on? Stories upon stories, lives upon lives. The number is infinite. You can take a simple spoon and trace it's genealogy back to the beginning of time!
We are not just connected, we are one in the same. There is no me without the farmer. There is no me without the stock boy, without the ground that I place my feet on or the sun that shines on my head. It's as simple as that. It's as simple as the days when I would look into the play room of my children and say, "If you don't get along, it's not going to work." To think that anything is MY-ne is like thinking that you can breath without air or survive without water. At a distance we may convince ourselves so. The fact that one and a half acres of rain forest is lost every second doesn't really seem wreck my day. But believe me, we are only seven degrees away from losing the air we breath.
Really, why do we attach ourselves so passionately to the idea of "my" anything? MY toy. My car, My house. My life. My, my, my. It only creates pain and suffering, this personal ownership and attachment to things. To borrow an example from an article I recently read, look at it this way. Imagine yourself in a conversation with a group of people and you hear stories of someone's watch being stolen, someone's car breaking down en route to an important meeting. Maybe someone's spouse cheated on him or her. As sad as these stories are, you may still enjoy your evening with friends. Now imagine this: My watch was stolen. My car broke down. My spouse cheated on me. It takes on a whole new meaning when the story becomes MY-ne.
By letting go of the misleading assumption that we somehow exist in this world for and by our own self, not only teaches us the interdependence of everything and everyone in this world, but it transforms life into experience that is both meaning-full and peace-filled. A life less suffered, a life more beautiful.
And maybe, even maybe... one with better tasting cookies!