Out of all the contemplative cooking methods I know (and there is always some ego involved in our methods), the one that is the most powerful isn’t a method at all; it’s a state of being: Interdependence.
And for that you have to go out.
Like any recipe, this is a delicate balance--a balance between going out with your heart and staying in with your mind.
My mind is an unreliable narrator, at best: “I can’t go to BuddhaFest this year, There is so much to DO. I have an herb garden to plant, people; recipes to craft; these dishes are a stupa high and no one is helping me; I’m already helplessly behind for the summer; my butt’s too big for this caftan; just once, could someone NOT leave a light saber or a stuffed animal on my meditation seat?”
This is just a big etceterut, which you may recognize. The one where your head says, the more I do, by myself, the more progress I will make.
The thing with contemplative cooking is that, in the process of kitchen-floor sitting and then using everything that comes your way, you’re always seeing these places in yourself that aren’t cooked yet.
My mind thinks it can make it go faster by turning up the heat on my practices, on my urgency, but as Ram Dass reminds me, "You can only go at the rate you can go.”
I am just now coming to understand that he meant at the heart rate you can go.
You see, Interdependence, the experience of being with others—or of simply allowing ourselves to be here, just as we are--throws a heart-shaped potato into our oversalty dish of suffering (an interdependence effect we will talk about in part 2 of this post, Sweet Potato Sharon Salzberg & the Galactic Galette).
And most of our suffering is just heaping cups of salt and trouble we borrowed from all-too-willing “neighbors” anyway, the stories in our mind, conspiring with us to continue to suffer.
And the experience of interdependence is a phenomenal addition, any way you dish your personal practice, be it Buddhist or not.
It’s where I, person least likely to chant, first chanted with Krishna Das—and was only able to place the profoundly uncomfortable new feeling as joy, with other people, much later. It’s where Sharon Salzberg got under my tomato-thin skin and split the ruby red of my heart open--AGAIN. It’s where Tara Brach helped me gently pull the second arrow from my own breast, retracting it with the silk threads of my own pierced Mogul’s vest. It’s where I experienced a lasting moment of stillness and complete acceptance and love in the eyes of Ram Dass (via Skype), that I have tried to get back to every day of my life since that time.
Eric Forbis and Gabriel Riera, BuddhaFest's Co-Directors, are a sweet, understated (and underrated) presence like a spare streusel topping with three rasps of nutmeg, but here is a crumb, with their characteristically humble mouth feel:
"We created BuddhaFest to serve the dharma.”
And they do.
Imagine serving from this place...that can never run out.
It’s not about Buddhism, per se. It’s about interconnecting to your buddhanature, which is the one in-gredient we never run out of. that allows us to nourish and be nourished.
It’s about learning to eat at home in your spiritual heart, your buddhanature, no matter where your unruly physical kitchen-mind resides. No matter how messy and unprepared it feels.
There are film fests, and honey fests, and bacon fests, and even Don Knotts fests (it’s true; I’ve been there), but what we are celebrating Here is not some mere consumable experience. It’s not a person or a thing.
Because the Buddha within us is the world’s great, endlessly sustainable resource.
But you have to balance Heart + Mind to see it.
Everyone from Meher Baba to David Foster Wallace has observed that the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master—but that’s a dualistic kitchen staff structure at best, and it throws the brain and the gut into spasms of sixes and sevens. There really is something in between.
Neither simmering servant, nor scalding master, the heart is this interconnected pantry of possibility.
Frankly, it’s taken me years to realize that a lot of the contents of my mind alone are just baloney, and I think that in recent years we’ve all realized just how toxic and unfilling baloney is. For me, a girl who’s been afraid of nitrates since the 3rd grade, there is a second mind-dart akin to what Tara Brach kindly calls “the second arrow”—the one we point back at ourselves after the first’s more impersonal wound.
I have been scared of my mind my whole life (probably long before the 3rd grade discovery of nitrates), and I’ve been on some level angry at myself for being afraid; so I’ve been darting in and out of its darkness, afraid to go all the way in.
Which is why when, in meditation, I stumble on a fear of letting go because things might blow up, I might get up and pour, say, simmering sauce ingredients into my blender, which will surely expand and explode everywhere out the top hole of the Oster, every single time, proving my point. It’s just how it works.
I wouldn’t call these recipes for disaster, but I might call them recipes for resistance to the way things are.
Interdependence—whether it’s sitting quietly during a film or talk together, meditating, or just getting out of the kitchen-mind and into the flow of real life, is the middle grounding, and it keeps us out of the Lonely Crowd mentality of separation.
BuddhaFest, trust me, is no Lonely Crowd. Though I’m a fake extrovert, I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life, and it’s not always easy to feel ease in a crowd, much less in my own skin. Crowds are prime place I often feel a sense of keen separation from others, trapped inside my own skin (and my anxious mind). Past BuddhaFest presenter extraordinaire Rick Hanson, who knows a lot about brains and how they work and don’t work so well sometimes, once gave me some very useful advice when I was afraid to attend a conference (just to attend, not even to present), regarding “crowd control” of the mind: If you see yourself as a fish—busy in your own midstream of experience, as everyone else is, nothing really touches you. You can swim freely, anywhere.
Among, with, free.
You can also just glide when you realize you’re all sitting in the same metta boat. (Metta, a Pali word, translates loosely to love. But it’s a loose kind of love that is the essence of pure kindness.)
Because, no matter the flavors of our practices, we're all in the same boat headed for the far shore, and there is plenty of leg room for everyone. Lucky for me, there is also a virtual galley kitchen.
Plus, you really can pull weeds and plant seeds—here, cilantro—anywhere. You can do it in a crowd. At BuddhaFest. You can do it, especially, in the places our minds believe are the smallest of impossible spaces, like those between appearances, between atoms, which are really where all the space of being really lives.
The metta boat is headed to, and also from, points of light like BuddhaFest. A swelling all over the world now, like a great gullywasher of consciousness.
And then your sweet husband-- just happy to be with you, at BuddhaFest or anywhere else--walks in as you start overthinking this post, and says, “You’re not a monk in a cave, Stacia.
Get in the boat and let’s go be."
On my plate (and yours soon): Tara Brach and the Summer Solstice Evening tonight; Mindful Leadership; Sharon Salzberg on The Power of Generosity and Ram Dass via Skype tomorrow night.
With huge gratitude to the interdependent team at BuddhaFest!--and to myself, for getting out of my kitchen-mind and into my heart to go.