How To Practice Mindfulness — In Your Kitchen

By Headspace

Where is your mind when you’re cooking? Is it busy planning tomorrow’s schedule as the knife moves closer and closer towards your fingers along the length of a carrot? Is the mind still wrapped up in some excitement from earlier in the day, replaying a conversation over and over again as you put the rice or pasta on to cook? When we are looking forward to the future or back to the past, then by definition we cannot be in the present.

Cooking provides a wonderful opportunity to be present, mindful and aware, as opposed to being distracted, stressed or overwhelmed. It’s an opportunity to train the mind, to understand what it means to be in the here and now, with a healthy sense of appreciation, patience. It’s also an opportunity to get back in touch with the food that you eat.

So here are two short exercises in mindful cooking from the meditation experts at Headspace to help you find some “me time” in what is sometimes considered a monotonous task.

The two exercises are aimed to suit the different types of food you might be making. If it’s an oven baked dish, for example, then you have nothing to do but sit back and remain alert to your senses as you gently focus on the breath. But, if you are boiling, grilling or frying then you’re going to need to remain somewhat active and involved, as you stir, shake, flip or fry.

Remember, to get the most from these exercises, it’s a good idea to switch off your phone and remove any other potential distraction from the kitchen.

Slow Cooking (Little To Do)
1. Placing the food in the oven, grill or casserole, set the heat, the timer, and make sure there is nothing else you need to think about.
2. Sit in a chair not too far from the oven and relax into it. You have nothing to do but to stay alert to the changing sounds, smells, sensations and thoughts as you gently focus your attention on the breath. Try it just for a few minutes at a time to begin with, perhaps returning to the kitchen every 10–15 minutes or so to repeat the exercise and notice the changes.
3. There’s no need to worry if your mind wanders off while you’re doing this, but as soon as you realize it has, just bring your attention back to the breath. Then shift your attention to the other senses, such as the smell, the increasingly warm temperature in the room or the rumbling in your stomach as the digestive juices begin to flow in preparation for the meal.
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4. Be as accurate as you can in recognizing the different smells, fragrances, flavors and foods as they cook. Imagine you are trying to pick up every last scent, every last nuance. It’s surprising just how much you can recognize when you really put your mind to it.
5. As you become aware of these things, notice where your mind wants to travel. Does it drift off to memories past, perhaps associating the smells with previous meals? Or does it race ahead to the future, perhaps imagining what the food is going to taste like? This doesn’t require any analysis or thinking, it is simply a matter of being aware.
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