Saturday, July 24, 2010

Western Bread and Eastern Thought

While kneading dough on my counter I was pondering the reasons making bread calms and centers me. I have recipes for no-knead bread; no mess, no hassle, no time spent, but it is these very things that I find so fulfilling. I love how all of my senses are engaged. I have no cares heavier than the cool flour powdering the air as the dough forms beneath my palms. I have no fears the sight of the dough rising to its purpose cannot assuage. I am far from doubt as the aroma fills the house. I am peaceful and contented as the crust crackles and I savor the first delicious bite.

Lao Tzu wrote, we shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. I find my self empty, waiting to be filled, in the smallest of moments; the winding of wool on the swift, noticing the light shifting from eastern blue to western gold in the rooms I wander, and listening to the laughter of loved ones so lovely it makes me pause and miss them even at arm's length. This reverential simplicity, these fleeting wabi sabi moments, fill me with the meaningful feelings; patience, faith, love, humility, gratitude, trust, acceptance, leaving no room for suffering I do not need.

These simple acts have two things in common: transience and possibility. They are as fleeting as doves, perched upon the edge of becoming something else altogether; the yeast and flour sustaining bread, the wool a comforting garment, the light another day moving us closer, laughter reminding us life is finite. But as beautiful as these thoughts are, nothing is definite; the bread could burn, the wool knot and fray, the storm keep the light from us for days, the laughter turning to a sob. Thich Nhat Hanh said, "People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar."

I must strive to approach life as a collection of these simple moments and allow myself to be emptied over and over, to let go of my fears, to be brave in the darkness and fill myself with light. I must illuminate my own path. My dough has risen now; another simple moment has moved before us and I am grateful you paused to share it with me.


Mom said...


Left-Handed Housewife said...

I love the notion of "reverential simplicity." Those are the best moments--when you notice the everyday beautiful. Holy, holy, as they say.

Wonderful picture!


magnusmog said...

Lovely post. Thank you.

LaTina said...

Ditto. I love kneading bread.

Great post.