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Mastering the art of mindful cooking

You may associate cooking with that chore you have to do before and after work in order to not pass out from hunger. But cooking mindfully can help transform a repetitive and sometimes rushed experience into something new.

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Here’s how meditation can help you in the kitchen:

It can help you become more patient

Making a new dish can be frustrating. When I’m whipping up something new, I have to dig through my cabinets to find all the right ingredients, and it’s a bit of a struggle to get organized. But that’s only if you see the process of preparing to cook as a hassle before you get to the real cooking. When I’m able to stay present through the process, I don’t see the meal prep as a means to the end, but rather something as interesting and important as the rest of it. When I’m creating dinner on the fly, it can be rewarding. I have no idea what the end result will taste like, and if it turns out great, I can give myself a hearty pat on the back. Due to my lack of cooking expertise, it doesn’t always turn out as planned. And that’s OK. Before I began meditating, I would chastise myself for doing a horrible job. Now I try to glean lessons from every kitchen misstep, and more importantly if I’m being present while cooking, it was a worthwhile experience regardless of the end result.

You might pay more attention to what you put into your body

This is embarrassing, but I used to heat up frozen burritos and eat them once a week for dinner. (Don’t tell my mom.) I’d throw a frigid bean and cheese tube on a plate and into the microwave, and then I’d get to eat a burrito that was both hot and cold—depending on which bite I took. I try to cook most of my meals now—being in the moment while I’m chopping up vegetables, waiting for the pan to heat up, and stirring my food feels nice. Especially because I know I’m making food that’s good for me.

I wonder if I would’ve kicked the frozen burrito habit earlier in my life if I’d been more mindful back then. I’ve read that when you cook mindfully, you pay more attention to what you’re putting in your body. Because of that, you might be more likely to eat cleaner, healthier food, the result of which makes you feel better. If you’ve eaten a frozen burrito in the last 24 hours, I hope you heed this lesson sooner than I did.

It can be the part of your day where you let your mind be free

One of my favorite parts about meditating every day is right at the end of a Headspace session when Andy encourages me to let my mind be free. Normally my mind stops thinking about much of anything. I find plenty of moments when my mind is able to be free like this while cooking, too. When I’m being truly present in the kitchen—especially if I’m creating a dish I’ve made before—it feels like freedom from my thoughts and emotions. There’s no thinking; my hands and mind are seemingly in perfect concert with one another, and I’m able to enjoy every step of the process. Recently, I ordered one of those home-delivery meal services. A few days later, what I thought would be a fully prepared meal arrived at my house. I figured I’d be eating within 15 minutes. Instead, I opened the box and saw nothing but absolute chaos. What I thought was going to be a quick, fun experience actually looked a little daunting with complicated instructions to boot. Before I began meditating, I might have given the food to a neighbor to let them enjoy it. I would’ve chalked it up to not having the time, but in reality, I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with it. What if I messed the recipe up? What if it wasn’t worth the time? But instead, I was present while making the dish, allowing me to focus on each step as if it were the only thing I had to care about in the world. And 45 minutes later, all those steps turned into a meal. And a delicious one at that. Maybe meditating will enable you to eat healthier and cook things you never imagined. It has for me.

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