The alarm in the kitchen has been going off for five minutes.  I have three dishes in the oven, two soups on the stove, and the salad hasn’t been made yet.  Half cut vegetables are sprawle d across the kitchen table.  If someone walked into the kitchen at this moment, they would have a hard time believing this is the kitchen of a mindfulness center.  With so many incomplete projects going on, it is almost impossible for me to bring my attention to following one through to the end.  Haven’t I learned yet?  Haven’t I experienced this enough times to avoid putting myself in the same draining situation?sprawle d across the kitchen table.  If someone walked into the kitchen at this moment, they would have a hard time believing this is the kitchen of a mindfulness center.  With so many incomplete projects going on, it is almost impossible for me to bring my attention to following one through to the end.  Haven’t I learned yet?  Haven’t I experienced this enough times to avoid putting myself in the same draining situation?

It is hard to believe that a year ago I was cooking for just myself, in a college apartment, here in Burlington.  I would strive to cook using the simplest and most local ingredients, because I have a deep respect for the land and the food that the land magically grows.

Even though I was committed to living in a way that was locally supportive and food conscious, I found myself questioning what I was doing: “What is the point of making a beautiful meal just to eat it alone?”  “Is all the work I’m doing helping the world change for the better?”  These questions of course applied to my daily culinary routine of cooking wholesome eatables, but also to the general direction of my life.

I was in my third year at the University of Vermont pursuing a dual-degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders and Psychology. Strangely enough, the recent semesters had found me maxing out my credit hours with alternative health courses.  Yoga, Ayurveda, and Eastern Traditions filled empty spaces of my schedule.  I connected with the material effortlessly and found myself thinking and talking about this new world with whoever would listen.

Things were great; academically I was on track with a 3.88 GPA, I was pleasing my parents and feeling “in” with the flow of society, and I had time to explore alternative health modalities.  However, I still felt I was missing something important in life.  I wanted to be able to fully appreciate my surroundings, I wanted to be able to flow with life harmoniously.  It seemed like my lifestyle, and everyone around me, was not willing to slow down to appreciate the simple things in life.  There happened to be no classes on the subject either.  I was hungry to explore my spirituality.Steamin'Lunch

Here, in the kitchen at the Center for Mindful Learning, I open the oven and realize that the granola has been in for 10 minutes too long! … “Wow! Again!? I burnt it again!”  The outside edges are black, and the middle is edible.  Well… edible for someone who doesn’t mind the taste of carbon.  If I were not the head cook at the center, I would throw it all in the compost.  But here, there is a practice to let nothing go to waste.  I salvage the middle and can’t help but throw the burnt edges in the compost.  This is a good compromise, right?!  I was originally going to throw it all out.

5 minutes later, I find myself propelled by the integrity of the CML community to let nothing go to waste.  I crouch down next to the compost and dig the burnt granola out of the (recently cleaned) bucket to serve for breakfast the next morning.  If I deal with the consequences of my actions fully, there is a better chance that my actions in the future will gradually lead to more happiness.  Who knows, maybe it’s a good thing I burnt the granola, I know the other residents here will appreciate the resourcefulness.

I discovered CML for the first time in the early fall of 2013, when I accompanied a dear friend to an evening meditation.  The atmosphere was calming, a relief from the bustling life of a college student.  That first visit, I realized that others my age were living in this monastic training environment, engaging in a life where they were supported to live mindfully throughout the entire day.  I couldn’t believe it, it was not only possible, but it was happening right here in Burlington.  I knew I had found something special.

The Center’s community meditations rose in importance over my collegiate affairs. I found that I could apply CML’s teachings on mindfulness to every situation I found myself in, and the teachings helped me develop healthier habits which enhanced my social life and academia.  In less than a year of attending the Center’s meditations, I knew I really could learn about life here.  However, I wondered if I too had the courage to immerse myself, fully, in what I felt was the essence of life, or if I would continue on through the motions of contemporary society, with graduation and the immediate pursuit of a professional career.

I was in the UVM Library (where I spent the majority of my time in college) when I opened a letter of acceptance from CML.  It was brief and to the point, “welcome to the program.”  I was overjoyed, ecstatic – the library was too congested for my joy.  With a smile that poured from my face, reflecting the heavens, I walked briskly outside, fell down into the grass and felt relief ran through my body. I realized that the next year of my life was going to be devoted to self exploration and the natural flow of life I so longed for.

HotDish

salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon arriving three months ago, I was given the responsibility of head cook. I have the important and humbling job of making sure that the body and brain of CML get the energy they need to function to their highest potential.  In other words, I like to think that I am the stomach of the CML organism.  When I cook here, I am giving energy to unique and compassionate people.  They assimilate energy from that food and can mindfully engage with the world.  My question of what can I do that will help benefit the world is beginning to be answered.  Cooking nutritious food with local ingredients is great, but it is necessary to continue the energy cycle and manifest compassionate actions in this world from that healthy food.  I believe this is a worthy pursuit in life, and this is what we are achieving at CML.

PorchLunchSpread

 

It is now 1pm, lunch is supposed to be starting and I’m still in the kitchen as Jacob, another fellow resident, comes in to ask if there is anything he can help with.  I give a frenzied exhale as I realize that it’s over, everything is done, the kitchen is a mess, but lunch  is out.  As we walk down the stairs to the lunch table, Jacob asks, “good day of work?”  I reply, “Great day.”

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Ben Barnet

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