Few of us have an actual hearth anymore – that central location bordering an open fire that serves as light, heat, and cooking spot. The hearth is the central symbol of the home and love, nurturing and safety. And the hearth keeper—the cook-- holds both the inner and outer worlds simultaneously.
On farms in China and Japan, the cook is often considered so valuable that he is excused from working in the fields so he can devote his energies to cooking the midday meal. In monasteries, cooking is regarded as an art. Only the monks of long-standing practice and wisdom cook for the temple.
In Latin, focus means hearth. I think we’ve lost that focus, lost the center of our home that is so important to true contentment. Honoring the hearth is a state of being that radiates outward, nourishing other parts of our lives.
That’s what my little Hestia statue now reminds me daily: to weave more home and hearth ritual back into my daily life.
It’s easy to lose our focus, to not pay attention. Listening to TV or talk radio, scanning emails or Facebook on our phones while we chop and stir in the kitchen, these are all habits that get in the way of the practice of consciously tending the hearth.
Bringing ritual back into the kitchen is actually a way of coming back to the center of yourself. But how does one begin to change something as intimate as eating habits?
I’m starting with healthier foods, closer to the rhythms of the seasons, and in synch with my hunger schedule. Nothing elaborate. Cooking fresh ingredients, simple meals. Taking the emphasis off of what I can put in the microwave and eat right now. Eating always with mindfulness, rather than ravenous mindless snacking because I’m lazy and waited too long to fix something.
I’m also going to bring awareness into what goes on in my kitchen, and make it a sacred space.
- Light a candle for Hestia when we begin cooking
- Stand in the kitchen, just for a moment, without doing anything, to take inventory of my mental and emotional state. Am I feeling scattered, worried or angry? I am about to make something with my hands, and that is a power in itself. Offer up any irritability in an offering. Then release it.
- Limit distractions. My phone is merely a tool. I don’t need to use it now. Facebook and messages, even phone calls, can wait.
- Honor myself as a cook. Even if dinner is leftovers and a piece of bread, respect the food and its preparation.
- Decorate the room with crystals, greenery and fresh herbs in pots, plus a pleasing natural fragrance. Experiment with what brings me a sense of calm.
- Finally, clean the kitchen as if it were my temple. I already know a sparkly clean kitchen makes me happy. Keep it that way always!
What rituals do you perform mindfully now in your hearth and home? Are there practices you’d like to add?
May your home be a place of comfort and refuge to you too.
Happy Valentine’s Day.