Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Week Two: Leave no Trace...in this kitchen

Week Two: Saturday, May 16th, 2015: Leave no Trace...in this kitchen.

This Saturday our house was empty. Not literally (we aren't aiming for THAT level of simple), but figuratively: the human occupants were otherwise busy. The girls were visiting their bio-dad, Joe was working doing support for a bike ride, and I was at my first Zen Buddhist sesshin. Finally getting to this blog post this morning.

One of the portions of the sesshin was the meditation meal ritual, the oryoki. This word translates to 'just enough'. Food is prepared in silence. The three small oryoki dishes and the utensils (chop sticks, spoon, and spatula), bundled together with cloth, tied with a knot resembling a lotus, are set out. Once everyone is seated, blessings are given, an offering is made to Buddha, and the meal begins. Each bowl holds just enough for a small serving. Once everyone has finished eating, the bowls are scraped down with the spatula, so that nothing is wasted. A small amount of hot water is used to wash the bowls, reusing to wash each item, and then drinking the water. The bowls are then dried and again, bundled in cloth with a lotus-like knot, and stored for the next meal. In a multi-day sesshin, you would use your same set of small bowls for every meal, so keeping your set clean is very important. You leave no trace. Everything is back where it began.

As luck would have it, I have also been listening to "How to Train a Wild Elephant (& Other Adventures in Mindfulness)" by Jan Chozen Bays. One of her exercises is the 'Leave no trace' exercise, where you leave your kitchen just as you found it. Nothing in the drying rack or dishwasher. Nothing on the counter tops. Similar to the LNT environmentalist ideal and/or what should be practices when backpacking or camping, you leave things as you found them and do no harm. We are horrible about leaving a sink of dishes until the next morning. Sometimes even the next night. We are so busy (and lazy?) that we put it off. We have more important things to do. The result is that we mindlessly grab another clean glass or bowl or spoon, while the last one we used sits dirty in the sink.

When doing this activity, we have to be mindful of what we are using in terms of food and dishes. As in oryoki, we take just what we need, knowing we need to deal with the left overs. We wash whatever dishes we used after the meal. Ella is washing out her morning breakfast bowl right now...drying it and her spoon, and putting them away. Last night, when we had more dishes from dinner, one washed and one dried and put away. The drying rack (we do not have a dishwasher), is put away for the week to see if we can live without it (although I may miss the sculpture like stacks of creatively balanced dishes). So far, so good. The kitchen is immaculate when we enter it...and when we leave it. We have put up small signs 'Leave no trace in this kitchen' along side our prayers of reverence for the water and reminders to be present when washing dishes.

In other news, we continue with one drawer/one shelf at a time. We have purged several trailer fulls of stuff we no longer use often enough to keep (and trailer, I mean bike trailer. We do not have a car either). The house is already feeling more calm and clear. Not sure what activity we will do this Saturday, but more than likely we will continue on this path.

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