Bringing Joy & Presence to the Kitchen

“When you prepare food, do not see with ordinary eyes and do not think with ordinary mind.”

This quote is from a document titled “Instructions to the Head Cook,” written by Eihei Dogen in 13th century Japan.  Dogen is one of the most revered teachers in the Zen tradition.  His temple, Eiheiji is one of the premier training temples in Japan today.

I find it an encouraging and inspiring reminder for the 21st century; how to cultivate an attitude of caring, a spirit of generosity and of focus, right here in my kitchen.  I can do this while chopping vegetables, steaming kale, or washing dishes.  Meditation, bringing awareness and focus to day-to-day activities, can be done anywhere, even in the kitchen

Dogen goes on to say, in his instruction to the cook, that you should bring three minds to your work in the kitchen: Joyful Mind, Grandmother Mind, and Big Mind.

Joyful Mind is somewhat obvious, but not always easy to practice — enjoy what you do in the kitchen.  Be present, have fun, create an atmosphere that is playful and alive.  Bring your knives and vegetables and pots and pans alive.

Grandmother Mind is the attitude of unconditional love of sincerity and of acceptance.  Imagine planning, cooking, and cleaning with this mind, working with others with this mind, and serving food with the mind of grandmotherly love and acceptance.

Big Mind is the mind that is wide and open, accepting things as they are.  There is an expression in the Zen tradition that says The Way is easy; just avoid picking and choosing.  When you give up grasping and rejecting, the Way unfolds before you.  This is pointing to the spirit of Big Mind.  On one level, impossible.  On another, this is how are lives really are, beyond picking and choosing.  And yet, what should we make for dinner?

Experiment.  Bring into your simple activities of working in the kitchen —  the mind of joy, grandmother mind, and big mind.

14 Lessons from a Zen Monastery Kitchen
Intuitive Cooking: 5 Ways to Find Your Inner Chef
Work (and Life) as a Sacred Activity

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga2 years ago


Thomas P.
Thomas P.3 years ago to cook!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago


Jaydee F.
Jill F.4 years ago

I really enjoyed this article. I eat healthily but I sure don't like to cook. I do feel inspired now though! :-)

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks, good article.

Kirsten B.
Kirsten B.4 years ago

This is a good description of living in the Now.
Thank you for sharing it.

prinda subramaniam


HELEN V.4 years ago

I loved this article. When i prepare food in the kitchen, I usually do it accompanied by music which I love. Sometimes I actually sing or dance when I am alone in the kitchen preparing food.
Most of my friends say that I put something in my salads which make them taste like no others.. it all comes from the feeling..and love.

Roxana C.
Roxana Cortijo4 years ago

I don't cook (my husband does) but I do try to be mindful while doing the dishes and keeping things clean and in order. Not an easy task -being mindful- but always rewarding.

Danuta W.
Danuta Watola4 years ago