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Challenges in the Kitchen by Mary Cook

The attitude of sacrifice regarding material circumstances teaches us to confront those challenges that open up possibilities for us.

The teaching "Material Circumstances."

I was assigned to kitchen duty while on a retreat. I don't like cooking and don't do it well. There is other work that I am much better at, but I decided toaccept my situation as a challenge and see what I could learn from it.

The first thing I encountered was my instinctive reaction to reject what I don't like. Even though I wanted to accept the kitchen work, a part of me grumbled and, if I was not alert, overwhelmed me with negative thoughts.

I asked myself, "What's the use of performing a task grudgingly?" As I considered my difficulty, I saw that the force of my reaction usually took me by surprise. After several days of effort and experimentation, I found that I could distance myself a little from my habitual reaction of "Oh no!" when kitchen duty rolled around. I could acknowledge my dislike to myself, but did not have to be swept away by it. This trick of stopping and distancing myself from a reaction let me enter the kitchen with a degree of equanimity.

Another aspect of myself that I became conscious of is my desire to shine at what I do, and I realized that I have a tendency to select tasks with this in mind.

I was intrigued by these two glimpses into ways of thinking buried deep within myself. As I am usually unconscious of them, I am probably being influenced by them in many other contexts, beyond the kitchen and the retreat.

As my attention shifted from my own preoccupations, I became more aware of the other members of the kitchen crew. Some of them obviously really enjoyed cooking! I wondered: Could some of their skill and enthusiasm rub off on me? It's not likely, but it is possible.