Archive for January, 2019

Dogen How to Cook Your LifeI was looking on my bookshelves for something to start a new blog on and I noticed how many books I had that had something to do with food and eating from Aaron Fisher’s great book, The Way of Tea, Edward Espe Brown’s book, No Recipe Cooking as Spiritual Practice, and Jan Chozen Bays book, Mindful Eating, and finally Zen Master Dogen’s How to Cook Your Life, From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment.  Since we have so many people that are studying Buddhism I thought this might be a different, fun, and informative topic to dive into since we all have to EAT.

Let’s see how we can add some additional Buddhist practices to our lives around the food we eat and share and make.  Shunryu Suzuki Roshi is quoted in Edward Espe Brown’s book, No Recipe, as saying:

“You’re the cook.
When you wash the rice,
Wash the rice.
When you cut the carrots,
Cut the carrots.
When you stir the soup,
Stir the soup.
When you cook, you’re not just working on food—
You’re working on yourself,
You’re working on other people (page xi).”[1]

Thus you can use the opportunities you are given each and every day while you are cooking, or reheating, or eating, or writing a recipe, or choosing something from the menu at a restaurant to practice “working on yourself.”

Aaron Fisher writes in Chapter 1 of The Tao of Tea:

“The best tea sets are in harmony with each other; the best tea is made when the water, tea, and one brewing are in harmony; and the best sessions are created when the host and guests are all in harmony with the environment, tea, water, and teaware. Harmony, more than anything else is how we steep the Tao, brew the Truth, and pour it for others (page 21).”[2]

Finally, Jan Chozen Bays writes these words in her introduction for Mindful Eating a guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food:

“And with a huge and sometimes obsessive preoccupation with health and eating in this brave new world, it is equally easy to fall into a certain kind of ‘nutritionism,’ which makes it difficult to simply enjoy food and all the social functions that revolve around preparing, sharing, and celebrating the miracle of sustenance and the web of life within which we are embedded and upon which we depend (ix-x).”[3]

Thus we begin our adventure into the world of the Tao and the tea, and the food that sustains our lives, our minds, and our bodies. Bon Appetit!


[1] Brown, Edward Espe, No Recipe Cooking as Spiritual Practice, Sounds True, Boulder Colorado, 2018, p. xi.
[2] Fisher, Aaron, The Way of Tea Reflections on a Life with Tea, Tuttle Publishing, Singapore, 2010, p. 21.
[3] Bays, Jan Chozen, Mindful Eating, Shambhala, Boulder, Colorado, 2017, p. ix-x


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Once again I opened up this wonderful book “Teachings of Zen” getting ready to write the next section of my newest blog.  It is the first week of our new year 2019 and I was thinking about what I accomplished in 2018 and what I might accomplish in 2019 and then I read these words:

book cover Teachings of Zen Thomas Cleary“You do not plunge into sentiments of the ordinary, nor do you fall into the understanding of the sage. Empty and spiritual, serene and sublime, you do not tarry anywhere but attain fulfillment everywhere.

At this time you should know there is a final statement; only then are you a mature person. Completing the task of the mature person is called transcending the world in the midst of the world, highest of all. Hai-yin (page 142).”[1]

The first paragraph resonated with me as I thought about the juxtaposition of these two ideas. The ideas that we hold in Zen Buddhism are just exactly as Hai-yin describes: empty and yet spiritual, serene and at the same time sublime.  It is exactly like all of our lives the opposites that seem to attract each other, the time on the cushion when we attempt to “empty” the mind and yet think of our spiritual character and that being the reason we are trying to “empty” the mind.  Yikes!  The juxtaposition of the conundrum of the teachings of Buddhism.

And yet Hai-yin ends these thoughts saying: Empty and spiritual, serene and sublime, you do not tarry anywhere but attain fulfillment everywhere…. Completing the task of the mature person is called transcending the world in the midst of the world, highest of all (page 142).”[2]

Your challenge of this year will be transcending the world while being in the midst of it.  Let’s not be bogged down in this process and adding to our troubles and woes.  Let us just be aware of the juxtaposition of life and stroll through it with ease, peace, and compassion for self.  Let’s look down on our selves as if we were out of our bodies simply watching and listening without judgment.  Let’s transcend our fears, likes, and dislikes and remember it’s “just this” and nothing more and nothing less.

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

[2] Ibid.

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