I am always inspired by the domestic work of women in the early years of our history. Without the conveniences we have come to take for granted, every day efforts to cook and clean took time and careful attention. Deeply connected to their work, I believe there had to be a flow, not unlike the flow of energy we study in yoga.
Yesterday, I decided to make homemade pizza for dinner. The plan was worked out early in the day and the afternoon was spent gathering ingredients. Finally, apron on, I began to work. The process really isn't that complicated in this century, as we have modern, energy efficient ovens and fast acting yeast. Still, preparing the veggies and putting it all together takes time...and here I found a little yoga in my kitchen.
First, chopping vegetables is, perhaps, the most meditative thing I do in the kitchen - aside from washing dishes, and since I own a dishwasher that is much loved, my dish washing experience is fairly limited. Vegetable chopping, however, takes time and is filled with a rhythm all of its own. Onions take a little more effort than, say, mushrooms. And peppers crunch when the skin hits the knife. Oh, and the smells! In these moments, I'm not thinking, I am truly being...completely in the present, connected in all of my senses. I feel calm and at ease.Then comes the dough and with it comes Gentry, my daughter. Dough making is specific and vigorous. Almost like asana (yoga poses), it takes effort and focus. I stir, she pours...she kneads, I knead...she rolls, I wrap...you get the idea. We don't talk much...connected to the task at hand, anticipating how one ends and the next begins.
Finally, we put it all together. Now, I get to step back and watch Gentry. I don't tell her what to do or how to do it, I simply give guidance without judgement..."More cheese?" "Did you oil the pan?" "Don't forget the mushrooms." She has listened, observed, practiced, and now is creating her own experience. For me, this is pure joy.
Don't get me wrong, we aren't particularly serious about our pizza making. It's great fun and filled with a lot of flour on the floor and usually interrupted several times by one of us scolding Sister, the dog, who frequently visits the garbage can! We giggle and are generally pleased with our progress (oh, pride!).
Think about your yoga practice...class begins in meditation, it moves through breath and challenge, ideally you feel free to explore your edge in each pose in your own way, and I hope that it brings you joy. Unfortunately, many people believe that these experiences are limited to class or time spent on the mat. But we don't have to look far to find these moments in our day to day. They've been around for hundreds of years.
I believe the more simple your life, the more of these moments you will find. I'm quite sure that Appalachian women cooking in their country kitchens in 1890 had never even heard of yoga, but the rhythm of their lives created what I like to call "the zen of living." Baking, cleaning, sewing, gardening...the day to day wasn't easy, but it was full of meditative moments, physical and mental focus, and that unique brand of humor and joy that comes from a life simply lived.
The pizza was wonderful, by the way...fresh and rich and yummy. My husband declared it was the best he had ever had and everyone helped clean up without complaint. Peaceful domesticity!