Dear Would-be Meditators: I am going to teach you to meditate.
You can, instead, read spiritual books and discover the proper methods. (They will tell you to sit cross-legged or comfortably on a straight chair and watch yourself breathe in and out, in and out, in and out.) You may follow their advice if you wish. But I am here to tell you that you can meditate while you Do Anything. Including canning tomatoes.
The goal of meditation is to be 100% present.
With whatever you are doing.
Therefore, while we can tomatoes, we are going to be 100% present with canning tomatoes.
It is fine for the first one minute. You are peeling tomatoes and whenever your mind wanders–and it will, I swear it will, I guarantee it will–until you’re thinking about your latest challenge or worry or what you’re going to wear tomorrow or eat for dinner tonight–bring it back to what you’re doing.
Bring your mind back to the tomatoes. Those vibrant red globelets which you are peeling.
Do not despair when your mind wanders off for the 52nd time. Do not. Bring it patiently (or gosh-darn it, lasso it!) back to the present moment. Bring it back to the canning. Bring it back to the Now. Bring it back to what’s really 100% in front of you in the moment. And do not beat yourself up. Do not internally throw rotten tomatoes at yourself.
Bring yourself back to the peeling, the boiling, the canning. Over and over and over again.
Do not disparage your garbage. Look at it. Look at the mess you’re making. Look at the crazy peels of Life. Be aware of that which your Mind wants to minimize. Stay with it. (C’mon now, I know you’re lost again! You’re thinking about your conversation with your husband or friend yesterday, aren’t you?) NO. Stop.
If you really want to meditate, bring yourself back to your Life. Bring yourself back to your tomatoes. I know you can do it.
The ancient ones said when we see ourselves clearly we’ll see that we are fully Empty. When we look again we’ll see we’re fully full. How can we be full and empty at the same time?
That is the mystery toward which meditation points. No matter if you are Christian or Jewish or Native American or atheist, meditation can point you back to the Mystery of Who We Really Are.
And you can discover this while you can tomatoes. Or garden. Or work at your dreaded job. Or do whatever you are doing in this one wild and precious moment.
The fruit of your meditation is none of your business. You keep returning to what you’re doing. The knife. The canner. The jars. The breath. What’s outside the window.
You don’t worry about succeeding or failing. (OK, OK, your MIND will worry about succeeding or failing, but you will slowly begin to glimpse something beyond the thoughts which label and judge and determine what’s acceptable. Something beyond what you thought begins to emerge. It may begin to emerge today–or tomorrow–but it really doesn’t matter when. In the meantime you’re with what you’re doing. Fully. 100%. OK, 60%. But you’re aiming for 100% and not worrying if you’re off in Thought Land at least 40% of the time.)
How are we doing, Canners? (I mean, Meditators.)
Are we in the Moment?
Are we Present?
Are we gently but steadily feeling ourselves with the tomatoes rather than Lost in Thought Space?
Are we noticing things we’ve never noticed before? Like beautiful little water bubbles?
Oh no, we’ve forgotten to add the lemon juice and salt! Are we beating ourselves up? Are we laughing, instead? Are we realizing that–perhaps–this batch didn’t need lemon juice or salt at all?
Perhaps we’re suddenly realizing that our life is Full. Totally full. And that we are not really at the center of it. EVERYTHING is at the center. Tomatoes and jars and canners and prongs and blogs and readers and EVERYTHING is our life. We are Everything. (We smile as we realize it, and we smile as we realize that we may forget this in five minutes and remember it again when we can our next batch of tomatoes. We may, dear reader, oh we may!)
And now comes the clean-up. Shall we do it cheerfully, knowing that what is dirty in life may perhaps be our greatest gift of all?
Some day next winter we shall pour our jar of tomatoes in our chili or spaghetti sauce and we shall remember this day. But we shall be too busy meditating as we eat our pizza or stew, chewing slowly, being present with our teeth and swallowing, the oregano and thyme, the snow falling outside the window, the glow of our winter lamps.