Mindfulness and Kitchen Knives

Two winters ago, I took a meditation class and learned more about mindfulness than I ever had before.  I learned how to experience it, and how to strive for mindfulness not just during an hour of sitting, but throughout my day no matter what I’m doing, from flossing my teeth to listening to a client.

One of our exercises was to be mindful of every doorway we went through, not for any esoteric reason but simply to practice being mindful.  I learned that I am exceedingly unmindful of doorways.   Another exercise was to be mindful in the kitchen while making food.  This exercise grabbed ahold of me, and since then, I enjoy cooking in a way I never have before.  I love feeling the texture of foods, savoring the variations in color and smell, and feeling my hands work.

Last week, I was grappling with a stressful situation in my professional life, trying to  sort out the dynamics and understand how I could elevate what was happening to a more productive and peaceful place.  The plainer truth is that I felt grumpy and angry, and hadn’t reached a place of resolution or peace for myself yet.  At 5:30, I ended my work day (always a conscious decision because I work at home) and went into the kitchen to cook.

On Mondays, I make two quiches that last us most of the week for lunches and/or breakfast.  I usually love the process of chopping, sauteing, assembling the flavors and textures, always seeking to get the mixture and end result just right.  I am in the moment, delighting in red peppers and black pepper and pungent sage.  This time, however, my grumpy mind wouldn’t let go of the work problem, shaking it like a dog with a chew toy.

I decided to sharpen my knife at the start, hoping it would transition me from work to cooking.  I said to myself, “I really have to be mindful now – this is really sharp!”  Well, you can see where this is going…

Five minutes later, in the  middle of dicing onions, I sliced through the top of my thumb, over and through my nail.  Holding my bleeding thumb under a torrent of cold water, I realized that at the moment of the accident, I was caught up and far away, reliving the work scenario over again.  I wasn’t present, I wasn’t mindful, and I had a bloody wound to show for it.

All week, I’ve needed to be mindful of my thumb – protecting it, keeping it bandaged and dry.  Not having the use of it has made me mindful and grateful for the simple elegance of an opposable thumb.  When was the last time you appreciated your thumb?  I know now that I typically take mine for granted.   My bandaid has become a tangible reminder to stay present, to be mindful.

Check it out for yourself (as my teacher likes to say):  choose something to be mindful of in your day such as going through doorways, taking three deep breaths each time your phone rings or beeps, washing your hands, or whatever you choose.   If you’re interested in taking the meditation class I took (in Milwaukee), drop me a line as there is another starting tomorrow night.   And if you’d like to learn more about the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and mindfulness, check out this months issue of Shambala Sun magazine for some fascinating reading.


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