There is a lot of mystery around what meditation is and what it means. I’ve been meditating somewhat regularly for the past three or four years, ever since I read Russell Simmons’ book, “Do You!,” (an incredible inspiration for any wanna be entrepreneur). For me, meditation is basically a prolonged period of intense concentration. It doesn’t sound particularly relaxing but the fascinating thing about concentrating intensely on one specific thing for a period of time is that you cease to stress about anything that would ordinarily make up the background chatter that is present in your mind when you’re not in deep concentration.
I began my meditation practices by concentrating heavily on my breathing (and I still do this from time to time). Breathing is a very relaxing thing to concentrate on – it has an innate peacefulness that makes it easy to concentrate on for 15-20 minutes. Ever since we started Coup de Taco though I have very rarely sat down for a typical cross-legged, breathing based meditation and instead I’ve found relaxation and the ability to center and ground myself while I’m cooking.
There are times in the kitchen when I’m cooking three or four dishes at once but every once in a while I get to focus on just one dish. Recently it’s been the Cuban black beans. I don’t really have a specific recipe for the beans and so I have to cook based on the smells, sights and taste of the dish as I progress. Instead of thinking while I’m cooking, I just look deeply into the pan. For five or ten minutes I don’t let anything enter my mind besides the very sight of the beans. For those minutes the world around me fades into nothingness and what’s left is just the beans. Even my own sense of self diminishes and I feel part of the beans rather than a person who is acting upon them. The beans become very alive to me – the color of the dish pops out starkly against the silver-gray of the pan. The smell of the dish becomes very potent and I can sense very subtle progressions in smell as well as sight as I pour each ingredient into the pot. I am guided naturally from ingredient to ingredient without a set plan – I am just moved by the smells and sight of the dish.
Importantly, the stress of my day fades away completely for these five to ten minutes while I’m concentrating on the dish because there is nothing else in the world to me at the time. For the moment, beans are everything and the rest of life is a dim white noise, barely noticeable in the background. If I was worried about the truck or a new dish or paying our employees, all of those things fade out and all that’s left is the smell, taste and sight of black beans simmering. It’s worth allowing yourself those five to ten minutes a day to concentrate strictly on one thing that brings only peacefulness and no anxiety. Best of all would be to concentrate that intensely on everything you ever are doing in an effort to beat back the background banter of your mind, which is the source of your anxiety.
For me, it’s very difficult to maintain that level of concentration all the time but at the very least I grant myself those few minutes of meditative cooking to release my mind from the anxiety of the rest of my life. It may just be five minutes of bliss but it sets my mood for the rest of the day.