Kansas City Buddhist temple director creates mindful meals

By MARY G. PEPITONE, Kansas City Star, Sept 8, 2014

Kansas City, KS (USA) -- Mealtime is meditation time for Janet Nima Taylor, director of the Temple Buddhist Center in Kansas City.

<< Janet Nima Taylor, director of Temple Buddhist Center, reminds followers that “life is meant to be joyful,” including the preparation and consumption of meals.RICH SUGG/The Kansas City Star

She tries to be mindful during all the steps it takes to bring a meal to the table.

“It begins with an awareness when shopping for the ingredients and to have a sense of gratitude and awe for all that went into making, say, a head of cabbage: the seedling, the sunlight, the rain, the farmers that grew it, and on and on,” she says. “Food is meant to nurture us — both body and soul — and a sense of joy should extend not only to those with whom we share a meal, but even to the washing of dirty dishes.”

Residence: Kansas City

Special cooking interest: Creating mindful meals

What does it mean to practice Buddhism? In our wild and restless lives, it is a practice to find the peace that lies within. To practice Buddhism does not mean that you must forfeit your religious beliefs, it is a practice to be mindful in every moment of our lives.

Some humans perceive their bodies to be separate, solid and in a permanent state. In Buddhism, the perception is that we are all connected, living and ever-changing beings. When we begin to feel that aliveness within, the world becomes alive — and that extends to our food.

At a recent retreat, we brought our own lunches and sat in silence to eat. When you try to turn down the rushing thoughts and focus on what you’re eating, you really notice that a carrot tastes sweet or when your stomach is full.

But on the best of days, it may seem nearly impossible to accomplish everything, let alone sit down with your family or by yourself to truly relish the food you’re eating. That restlessness is the mind diverting us from the present moment, which is the only moment we find ourselves truly alive. We are not our racing minds, we just are.

That doesn’t mean we don’t stop thinking — our thoughts come and go. It’s about not becoming entangled in those thoughts. Do not be concerned about what is next, but — in this moment — be present with others and not distracted by an inner dialogue.

There is a practice called the tea ceremony, where one is called to meditate on a cup of tea’s creation and consumption. It is a simply powerful ceremony and it is not surprising that as humans, we have rituals surrounding food.

What exactly are momos and is there a food ritual that surrounds the preparation of them? The Tibetan momo is one of my favorite dishes, and has endless varieties. I was in Kathmandu, Nepal, last year, and relished eating momos at every restaurant we visited. Momos can be made with meat and/or vegetables.

Tibetan Buddhists are usually not vegetarian, since they survive in the foothills of the Himalayas on yaks, a long-haired “cow” found in the region. Tibetans eat yak meat, drink their milk, and use them as transportation and pack animals.

Momos are similar to Chinese dumplings in that they can be steamed or fried. When steamed, the outer shell has that beautiful consistency of being solid enough to hold the ingredients inside, yet soft enough to almost dissolve in your mouth as you take the first bite. Momos also include a myriad of sauces that can dramatically change the taste.

Every Tibetan family has their own special recipe, and momos are usually made together with everyone in the family helping. That is a ritual in that every one is part of not only making the food, but also eating together and cleaning up afterward.

This simple practice of involving everyone in the meal — from start to finish — is one that you can have in your own home, to whatever degree you can.

The round, happy statue of a Buddha is an image many associate with Buddhism. What does it say exactly when, as a society, we are trying to be health-conscious and lose the belly fat? Ho-Tai, or the Happy Buddha, is one of many statues in Buddhism, but is probably the most popular in the United States. He is usually depicted as a plump, bald man wearing a robe.

But, most of all, he is laughing and contented.

You don’t need to beat yourself up — in your mind — for falling short or not being “perfect.” Just be who you are and realize that we are all connected. Life is meant to be joyful. Don’t miss the joy in the food you eat today.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/living/food-drink/come-into-my-kitchen/article1324368.html#storylink=cpy