Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Cutting Cranberries

"The most Zen-like part of the whole baking process was cutting each individual cranberry in half as the recipe directed, and keeping one's full concentration on the somewhat tedious task of splitting two full cups of cranberries."
In his Instructions For The Cook, Zen Master Dogen wrote "Put your undivided attention into the work, seeing just what the situation calls for.  Do not be absent-minded in your activities, nor so absorbed in one aspect of a matter that you fail to see its other aspects."

"Put your undivided attention into the work" is translator Thomas Wright's interpretation of the Japanese expression shogon joshin, while "seeing what the situation calls for" refers to the expression makoto, that is, the true situation seen without prejudice.  Dogen's use of shogon joshin and similar expressions referring to the attitude and spirit of the practitioner include both a sense of "undividedness" or concentration in every situation, as well as an attitude of sincerity and of working without prejudice.  

So when cutting cranberries, we shouldn't be letting our minds wander on to the next step in the cooking process, much less to other matters,  but we should just be fully present in the act of cutting cranberries.  We shouldn't cling to a goal of achieving two full cups of cranberries, bearing with the task only for the sake of the outcome, nor should we cut one more cranberry than is necessary to fill two cups.  We should be so present in the act of cutting cranberries, and every other action that we undertake for that matter, that the distinction between the cook and the ingredients begins to disappear.

Anybody can cut a cranberry in two.  The trick is to cut a cranberry into one.  

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