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Seeing virtue encompasses two aspects: the relative and the absolute. When you taste what you put in your mouth, you may notice sweet or sour, earthy or sunny, and along with these relative characteristics you can sense something essential, something from beyond. This something is not a thing. Go ahead and taste it—the virtue inherent in your careful, attentive, receptive experiencing of the moment. When your awareness is in the dark, and you are opening your perception, you can also taste your own inherent goodness and the virtue of others working with you. You may meet sincerity, kindness, wholeheartedness, vulnerability, grief, anxiety, determination, stubbornness. And you may meet mind itself: vast and spacious. Awesome!

You can shift your effort, shift your attention. From doing it right, aiming to gain approval, you shift to meeting and working with the ingredients at hand. Looking to see what is available, you dream up what to do with the ingredients, while honoring their virtue. Our ordinary effort is to dream up a picture of how we want things to be, and endeavor to make it come true. Now, in the dark, you feel your way along, and your wisdom flashes: a salad, a soup; the virtue of spinach, apple, and walnut speaks to you. The body comes alive, because you are doing something. Yes, it’s good to stop and sit and allow the usual impulses for motion an opportunity to move inwardly instead of outwardly—beautiful work there. Yet hands love to be hands. You give them life by allowing them to find out how to do things—how to wash and cut, stir and knead, ladle and mop. Your consciousness comes out of its nest or den in the head and finds its way into activity. These are the hands that have an eye in the middle of the palm which can see and connect with the object of touch. In this connection is health and healing—you are learning to work with the virtue of things, and receive the blessings of being human.

Everybody knows that cooking can be stressful. When your awareness becomes overwhelmed, stop for a few moments and make a mental (or even written) checklist of what needs to be done. Revise your list in accordance with reality: how much time and energy you have, and what is the one thing to do next, so that you can give that one thing your undivided attention. When stressed, stop and check, before proceeding step by step.

As Suzuki Roshi mentioned, “When you are in the dark, you don’t know where you are going, but when you carefully feel your way along, where you find yourself will be okay.” To your health and happiness, joy and well-being, in the kitchen and out. Let’s taste the blessings of the moment.

Originally published in the March 2010 issue of the Shambhala Sun.

Arugula Salad with Avocado and Cashew Nuts

A sample recipe from Edward Espe Brown.


Audio: Edward Espe Brown on Mindfulness in the Kitchen

The author of The Complete Tassajara Cookbook talks with Shambhala Sun Associate Editor Andrea Miller about the aesthetics of food, cooking “in the dark,” his relationship with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, “insipid tomatoes,” and more.

Browse the March 2010 "Mindful Living" issue

Featuring Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Judith Simmer-Brown, Karen Maezen Miller, Daniel Goleman, and many more — all addressing how to bring mindfulness into all the major aspects of your life.

The Mindful Society

Here you'll find some of the finest articles on mindfulness, from our extensive archives, plus Shambhala SunSpace exclusives, and more.

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