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Working in the Kitchen: A Retreat Unto Itself

25 Sep 2022 10:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By MORGAN ALLEN


When I first heard about the opportunity to practice selfless service to the FCM community by helping in the kitchen during retreats, I jumped at the chance. I had been looking to become

more involved with the community in a way that felt comfortable and appropriate to me. My wife and I and our two children enjoy cooking at home and sharing meals together and this sounded like a great fit.

What I did not expect was how much the experience would deepen not only my connection with t

he sangha but my practice on the path.


As with most of us, I strive (and often fail) to bring mindfulness to daily life, to the simplest of tasks such as brushing my teeth or chopping broccoli. The distractions of home and my racing mind often make that simple concept exceedingly difficult. In the FCM kitchen, everything is treated with reverence, care and respect so just by walking in you are automatically in a physical and mental space that brings mindfulness to the forefront. 


Each session begins with the invitation of the bell and a gatha to remind us that every moment can be a meditation if you let it. And that practice becomes even more pronounced when there are 10 pounds of broccoli to chop, 20 cups of brown rice to wash and cook and 30 carrots to grate. I have never cared so much about grating carrot!


Every precaution is made to prepare the food in a respectful and safe manner for both the preparers and those who will consume the dishes. So there again, you have a lesson presented to you, if you are open to receiving it: food prepared with clean, wholesome ingredients and attention to cleanliness and health becomes not only a practice of selfless service but a way to honor the earth and all it provides for us while not depleting her resources in too great a manner or contributing to those practices which further her continued warming.


Then, at the end, after appreciating what the earth has given our community for nourishment, you are able to share that with the sangha as they are amid the deep reflections of their retreat. You provide their bodies nutrition so that they may provide their minds another form of nutrition.


I came to realize that sitting on the cushion is not enough, a concept I knew but often need reminding of. Retreatants need meals to support their deep practice and so do I every single day. If I can support my body and what goes into it and be more mindful of how I take those nutriments from the earth, then my practice will inherently become truer.


Selfless service in the FCM kitchen is a retreat unto itself -- an opportunity to hone your mindfulness skills intensely and acutely so that you may take them into your own kitchen, your own life. It is a wonderful pairing, if you allow it to be, of caring for the sangha as well as yourself. You give the gift of nourishment to others, but I found the true gift to be how I felt walking to my car afterwards and the brightness that seemed to follow me for the rest of the day (and hopefully longer).


The next time I pick up a knife I can’t help but be reminded of my time in the FCM kitchen, which then instantly will drop me into a more mindful place right there at home. That is something to be cherished.


Morgan Allen, of Land O' Lakes, joined FCM in August 2021. He is controller for RPM, a full-service advertising agency for live entertainment and Broadway shows.


Florida Community of Mindfulness, Tampa Center
6501 N. Nebraska Avenue
Tampa, FL 33604

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