By BOBBIE LEWIS
When people ask me why I keep kosher, which greatly limits what I eat, I answer that one of the reasons is that it helps me be mindful about food. I can’t put just anything into my mouth. First I have to be sure that the food itself is kosher. Then I have to be sure I’m not mixing meat or poultry with anything made from a dairy product. For me, this elevates eating into a holy act that connects me with the Jewish community and with more than 5,000 years of Jewish history.
Interested in reading more? I do plan to devote some future Feed the Spirit columns to the meaning of keeping kosher.
But, today, I’m turning farther East—to tell you a little about Buddhist mindfulness and food. When I read one chapter of Geri Larkin’s latest book, Close to the Ground, recently, I got a new appreciation for the idea of mindfulness. You can meet Geri today in a new in-depth author interview.
A factor in enlightenment
Geri is a well-known Buddhist writer after nearly two decades writing books for various publishers. In this, her 11th book, she turns to the nuts and bolts of enlightened living. She draws on a 2,000-year-old portion of Buddhist teaching that lists seven factors that can contribute to enlightenment, including mindfulness, energetic activity and joy.
Geri doesn’t give readers long sections of Buddhist analysis. Instead, she tells delightful stories of experiences that made her, and the people around her, vividly aware of these seven factors in their own lives.
In an interview, Geri said she was determined not to get “too Buddhist-y” in the book.
“Many Buddhist teachings and practices take years to appreciate and develop. It takes a long time in life to approach what might be called mature spirituality, but we have to start somewhere. And we all can start, every day, with small things we experience and choose to do,” she said.
Mindfulness in meal preparation
Carefully preparing meals can be an experience of mindfulness. Geri’s first experience in real cooking was at a Buddhist retreat, when she was asked to chop a box full of onions. She didn’t even know enough to peel the onions first, and hacked away at them with a dull knife, onion pieces flying everywhere.
Geri says since then she’s prepared countless meals, she’s eaten food at many retreats and she’s been served many meals as a guest. “And I can always tell when things were prepared mindfully, when the cooking itself was a spiritual practice,” she said.
She adds, “Whenever I want to know how I’m doing, vis a vis mindfulness, including today, all I have to do is look at an onion I’ve chopped up. The same is true for all fruits and vegetables. When the pieces are even and neat and piled somewhere carefully, mindfulness is in the air.”
Along the way, Geri became an accomplished cook. Her latest book includes this recipe, which will serve 4 to 6, depending on how hungry everyone is. (And many thanks to loyal reader and Read the Spirit contributor Debra Darvick for taking the time to make the recipe and photograph the result.)