Self-Compassion is Like Cooking
I regularly think about how my practice of self-compassion resembles what I do in the kitchen. Cooking and self-compassion are art forms. Mindfulness, experience, imagination, and flexibility are as useful in the kitchen as they are in emotional life.
Mindfulness of the senses enables me to taste how flavors combine, to feel textures with my hands and mouth, to smell aromas, and to see how various colors and shapes interact. From time to time, the ability to hear the smoke alarm comes in handy too. For self-compassion, I need mindfulness of the senses to perceive and explore emotions in my body and to also detect challenges and resources in my environment.
My experience eating various foods and cooking with a variety of techniques has built my skills. Notably, my skills of discernment help me know what ingredients and methods can be used to create certain effects. Similarly, my various emotional and practical experiences have given me skills including the power to predict how my emotional reality may be affected by my surroundings and the actions I choose to take. This enables me to protect myself from harm and also to soothe hurts when they occur.
Imagination and flexibility help me to venture outside habitual and traditional ways of combining and preparing foods in order to be express myself in exciting ways. Sometimes things do not go as planned—I may be missing an ingredient I’d like to incorporate or a tool I want to use. If I welcome limitations from the world outside myself, if I keep a collaborative and improvisational spirit, I can create beauty with my food regardless. Often I find that external limitations free me internally, and I surprise myself with what I am capable of. Just the same, imagination and flexibility enable me to show myself love in fresh and poignant ways rather than mindlessly going through the motions of self-care. They allow me to respond with authenticity and tenderness to my constantly changing needs, challenges, and resources.
Sometimes the smoke alarm goes off, no matter how well I know my way around the kitchen. I pull the dish out of the oven, I open the windows, and I reassess my options. But I find myself back in the kitchen before long, freshly aware of my lack of mastery. No art is about perfection, including cooking and self-compassion, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.