There is a beautiful saying that reads “cooking is love made visible.” This is something I agree with wholeheartedly. The act of cooking is not only preparing food to eat, but providing the body with nourishment made richer by the love and intention given by the preparer. In zen monasteries it was only the most advanced monks who were given the privilege of working in the kitchen. When I prepare food for others, I see this as a great responsibility and honor.
This classic story from Southern India communicates the belief that the love and intention given to the food through the preparer is transferred to those who eat the food. Eating is not only a physical act, but it is spiritual alchemy as well.
There once lived a husband and wife who had prayed to God all their lives to have a son. Lord Shiva finally granted them their son, but only on one condition, that he would not live past his 25th birthday.
Their son grew to become a healthy, handsome, intelligent young man. When it became time for him to marry, his father went to great lengths to find a suitable bride. Finally, he found the daughter of a devoutly religious family and, feeling satisfied, made the arrangements for the wedding. At first, the young man’s mother worried that it might be cruel to marry him to a woman, knowing that she would be widowed so soon, but his father insisted that everything would work out fine.
The couple married and the years passed. The dreaded birthday came and went without incident. Day after day passed, and the young man’s mother was relieved, but puzzled. How could it be? Lord Shiva himself had fixed the date. The father, seeing that his wife was concerned, suggested that she come along with him to their son’s house, and maybe they would find the answer.
They arrived before dawn and stood outside a window where, in the dim light of the small kitchen, they could see their young daughter-in-law preparing breakfast for her husband. They watched as she churned the butter, and with every rotation of the churn, she chanted, “Shiva.” Throughout the rest of the preparation of the meal, the name of the god was on her lips. Finally, the meal over which she had labored for several hours was served and her husband ate it enthusiastically before going off to work.
Though Lord Shiva himself decreed that their son’s life was to be limited, even Lord Shiva must heed the prayers of his devotees. Through the way that the woman prayed to the god as she cooked, her prayers went right into the food itself. As long as the man eats the food prepared prayerfully, his life will be spared.
Food at a physical level is our source of nourishment for our physical bodies, however it is also filled with an unseen energy or life force called chi to the Chinese or prana in Sanskrit. Many other cultures believe in this concept as well. Through the act of preparing the food, this life force is transferred from the preparer to those that will eat the food. This is why it is important to prepare meals with a loving energy in a relaxed atmosphere. Here are some ways in which you can prepare yourself for the act of intentional cooking.
~ ritually wash and bless your hands
~ say a simple personal prayer
~ take several deep breaths to calm the mind
~ play soothing music
~ visualize healing white light flowing from your heart through your hands
~ maintain a calm, prayerful state throughout the preparation of the meal
So the next time you go to the kitchen to prepare food. Take a few extra moments to set a calming environment, clear your mind and think lovingly of those who will be eating the food. Taking these small steps will infuse love and life force into all that you prepare.