Where's Your Smile?

Plum Village Monastics Mindful Cooking

On our most recent stay at Thai Plum Village, in November last year, Hang and I were helping the monastics in the kitchen to prepare dinner. I was given the task of washing and chopping up carrots, pineapple and herbs for a huge pot of "canh chua" (sour soup). As I was focused on my chopping, one of the nuns walked past me and asked me, "Where's your smile?". It helped me realise that I had a grumpy and serious face and I was not finding joy in my chopping. So I brought a big smile to my face and kept chopping. A few minutes later the nun walked past me again and pointed to her mouth and said again, "Where's your smile?". She did this about 4 or 5 times! Each time I would smile for a few breaths and find joy in my chopping, and then my strong habit energy of having a grumpy face when cooking would come back! It was wonderful to have her there to remind me to smile and find joy in my chopping. 

Mindful smiling while cooking is a practice that I do at home now. I catch myself with my grumpy face, feeling impatient that I have 10 tomatoes to chop or 20 mushrooms to wash, and I smile a gentle peaceful smile. It brings me back to my breath and the present moment, instead of being lost in my thoughts, and I start smiling so deeply at the tomatoes and mushrooms. I begin to talk to them with love (in my mind), like "Hello tomatoes, where did you grow? How much sunshine did you receive, how much rain fell on you?" and I see how they have been nourished by the earth, clouds, rain and sunshine. My heart fills with gratitude at these delicious vegetables. They are a wonder of life and will now nourish our bodies and give us energy and strength.

Mindful smiling while cooking brings me so much joy, and it's a practice that I'm bringing into my other daily activities now, like washing my face, showering, and doing the dishes. As soon as I smile, my mind and heart are full of positive thoughts and gratitude. And it also overspills onto the people around me :-)

We invite you to choose a daily activity to practice your mindful smiling. It could be an activity you love or maybe challenge yourself with an activity that you don't care for. We'd love to hear how you go!

Bowing to you deeply,