How to meditate. I mean–How to Can Tomatoes.

Your tomatoes.

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.

Here’s how.

Blanch your tomatoes in boiling water for less than one minute to loosen skins.

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.

Simple, right?

Your naked de-skinned tomato stands ready for the Next Step.

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. 

Your naked succulent tomato is now chopped into bits.

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.

Tomato skins lie innocently in the sink, awaiting the compost bin.

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.

Your Empty Jars wait, after water bath sterilization.

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.

Your chopped tomatoes simmer merrily on the stove, releasing a rich fragrance of cooked tomatoes.

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.)

You remove the tomatoes from the stove and prepare to Can.

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?

You admire the water bubblets on your canning lids and bands which are soaking in hot water.

Are we noticing things we’ve never noticed before?  Like beautiful little water bubbles?

You add lemon juice and salt. Or you forget them.

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?

You process your cooked tomatoes in a water bath. Your jars are full. Life is good.

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!)

You clean up.

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.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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22 Responses to How to meditate. I mean–How to Can Tomatoes.

  1. I lke your post. It was funny and great. I like to meditate and I am learning how to can my vegetables. Thanks.

  2. Lucienne(Alluvja) says:

    This is great. Thank you for this free master class 😉

    Just like to add one more necessary ingredient : I just LUV tomatoes so I sprinkle lots of love potion over them !

  3. cindy says:

    :o) thank you.

  4. OM says:

    Do I HAFTA be fully present for the cleanup part????? Yikes!!!!
    Love you, my Garden– er Kitchen, Guru!!

  5. Marianne says:

    Wonderful, Kathy! Nice reminder. Thanks.

  6. Susan Derozier says:

    Ohhhh that first picture had me smelling fresh tomatoes from the vine and tasting the sun in their juiciness. Your blog reminded me of one of my favorite writers, Thich Nhat Hanh! Thank you for taking us into the moment! Wish I could be there this winter for your batch of chili!

  7. Brenda Hardie says:

    I love this post Kathy! Your pictures are exquisite and your words are inviting. I love the present moment meditation…I use it often. In many different activities, yep, even during canning! 🙂

  8. I really do love your blog!!! NIce, relaxing post that reminds me of my mom…. 🙂 Thanks !

  9. Dawn says:

    Always wanted to know how to can….I think my Mom did some when we were little, but how she did it with 4 little ones is beyond me and I don’t remember her doing it when we were older. Of course this year we only had 4 tomatoes total so far…and we ate them down mighty quick. So really have nothing to can anyway! But someday… and there’s always next year’s garden.

  10. Susan D says:

    What a wonderful combination of tomatoes and meditation …. just reading the blog and entering the enticing pictures was its own “present” meditation. Thank you, as always, for your surprises and for being the Source of Joy 🙂

  11. Your post made me smile 🙂
    I don’t think this kind of meditating would work for me….. unless of course I duct-taped my mouth shut, because otherwise those tomatoes would never even ake it into the pot for blanching!

  12. jeff v says:

    About fifteen years ago I was working for a contractor at the Heinz ketchup plant in Fremont Oh. It was canning season and the job was one of those that “had to get done” . We worked around the clock to finish up. Imagine your canning operation multiplied by a thousand, water , vinegar infused steam , tomatoes , tomatoes everywhere. I was so tired and tired of smelling tomatoes . We finally finished the project early on a Sunday morning. I drove home half asleep , dragged my butt in the house and lo and behold what was my wife doing?? canning tomatoes. I have never looked at the process quite the same since. It was like revenge of the killer tomatoes come to life! Needless to say , I don’t find the process meditative but I do still apreciate it.

  13. holessence says:

    “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.”

    Fully empty AND fully full = balance. Ahhhhhhhhhh

  14. Carol says:

    Oh gosh. My mind doesn’t like to stay in one spot very long, which makes it very hard to meditate. It’s much better at flitting.
    Our tomato crop this year is adequate for eating, but there will be no freezing of tomatoes for winter stew and chili this year. In the meantime, I’m loving my tomato sandwiches and tomatoes in my salads.

  15. Colleen says:

    Thank you Kathy, this is wonder-full 🙂

  16. Kathy says:

    Thank you all you canners and meditators! I am glad you enjoyed this post. It was a joy for me to write. (I love combining spirituality and everyday life.)

  17. Robin says:

    Chop wood, carry water… 😉

    I really enjoyed this post. This is the time of year that I get in a lot of meditation. Canning. And meditation. lol!

  18. Barb says:

    I am present here and enjoying the moment, Kathy. Very much. I’m thinking of you.

  19. Kathy says:

    Thanks again! Tonight I made a home-cooked spaghetti sauce with garden zucchini, onions, green pepper, basil and tomatoes on fettucini. Mmmm…. And then I meditated. The best of all possible worlds. 🙂

  20. Tammy says:

    Beautiful and it transported me to my childhood. I love canned tomatoes but alas, our season came and went quickly this year.

  21. Yes a process for one, with lots and lots of thinking time. A labor of love, with simple appreciation when you at last put them to use.

  22. Kathy says:

    And tonight we’re on to a supper of–can you guess?–goulash! With more tomatoes. We’re expecting to turn into tomatoes soon. **smile**

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