Potato Salad and Peace
At the end of a busy Friday of seeing patients, fielding phone calls, and doing errands on my lunch hour, I had a few quiet minutes to chat with the two wonderful women I work with. The topic was potato salad. Gina was going to make potato salad for a big family reunion. Christine shared that she used red potatoes, boiled them with the skins on and left parts of the skin on to add color to the salad. Gina uses white potatoes, no skins. I use either depending on what I have handy, and add lemon juice as my friend Joey does, (hers is the best in the world). As I left the office, I realized how comforting the ordinariness of this interaction was. On the way to work I had listened to news of Japan, on NPR feeling the heart break of people who had lost loved ones , or still did not know where they were. During the day as I worked with my patients I heard many other sad stories, people losing jobs, homes, their health, and the fascinating stories of their histories. I worked to stay centered and calm as I listened and the same time keep my heart open, accepting the sadness and joys of life as it is right now. Times are difficult for many people right now and I allowed this in.
To simply share recipes at the end of the day brought me into the peace of the present moment which appeared to be the peace found in potato salad and the way three different women cooked and cared about each other, and their families. In the sharing was unspoken, all the times we had made potato salad for all the different festive occasions in our lives and all the times to come. The sharing of food and recipes has always been a way to connect with our life force and commonality, and I felt that connection with them then.
As I drove home, I thought about the first time I felt the profound relief of applying Mindfulness in my life, because it had to do with cooking! I had been going through an intense time of suffering with my family, a time when there had been great conflict and anger. It was with me all the time -as I went to work, ate, spent time with friends, tried to but could not sleep; it was always gnawing on me in my mind. It felt that by thinking about it all the time I could do something about it, could change it and solve it.The situation itself caused me great pain, but my constant thinking about it made the suffering much greater.
At this time a young friend of mine recommended Thich Nhat Hans’ book, ‘Peace is Every Step’,a small powerful book that introduced me to the practice of Mindfulness. The first place I practiced mindfulness was during one of my favorite activities, cooking. I remember distinctly that while I chopped the carrots, I simply focused on the color, smell, sounds and feelings of what I was doing,(My hands on the carrots, the knife) and I experienced peace for the first time in many months. I then began to try it in all kinds other places in my life; brushing my teeth, eating, walking my dogs, driving, listening. Then I began a mindfulness meditation practice on my own. This was a bit frustrating because I had no idea what to do with my busy mind , a mind that seemed to produce mostly very painful thoughts. This same friend suggested that I go on retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh for a week, which I did. Having actual instruction with live experienced teachers gave me the strength and tools I needed to get the benefits I had heard that meditation can provide. This changed my life and set me on the journey that is teaching Mindfulness to others in the hopes that I might help them find peace in every step as well.
To learn more please attend one of our Mindful-Way retreats or contact us for classes, CD’s or one on one sessions. www.mindful-way.com